72 miles. The ride from CityPlace in West Palm Beach to Dolphins Sunlife Stadium was really fun! We had done our fundraising and prepared with a few good windy rides on weekends leading up to the event. Jessica had done this before from Boca to the stadium, this was our first attempt at 72 miles. Our longest training ride was 51 miles.
We arrived at CityPlace looking for the regular valet service, but due to the positioning of the start line, valet was closed for the morning. We arranged to have a service pickup my car and bring it to Miami for us to use later. That part worked well. The stress of rushing through the setup process and getting ready to ride wasn’t that bad. Jessica was in a good mood and prepared for the long miles ahead. We decided to start with the lead group and “stay at the back.” The lead group consisted of Michael Mandich, DCC organizer, George Hincapie and riders that had done the 100 mile ride to WPB the day before.
We stayed with them for 9 miles, then got dropped. Speeds were fun in a group, even into a SE wind of 7-10 mph. We stopped briefly at the Boynton Beach Inlet Park, then we left with another small group heading south on A1A to Spanish River Park in Boca Raton. Jessica and I proved to be good riding companions, we knew where each other was, had similar signals and both took our pulls for too long! Our group was happy about that. We had a lady with us named Carol, Carlos and his friend Mike. Sometimes we came upon others that joined us for a few miles then fell off pace. We went to Spanish River Park, got more fluids, took the photo above, and made our way off the beach and hidden slightly from the wind. South through Boca, Highland Park and Deerfield Beach, where we encountered our first real vehicular traffic and signal lights. Since we were behind the lead group but ahead of the moderate group, we didn’t enjoy the police escort car or traffic light pass-throughs we had before. Entering Ft Lauderdale on the familiar A1A marathon route, we hit more traffic and I became frustrated with some of the other riders’ tactics and ability to “call out” road hazards. Jessica saw this and rode ahead to be behind the guy that was becoming annoying to me. I thankfully let that pass and was feeling better about that by the next rest stop – Birch State Park on the Intracoastal. A rest room break, ice, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cold neck gaiters were very nice!
Leaving that park we headed south on crowded A1A to Las Olas Blvd. We caught the bridge at Las Olas and continued west with the wind, finally. We got turned around in downtown to line up for use of the tunnel under the New River – a neat experience! Then south to just before the highway where we were led onto completely closed I-595. All four lanes blocked for cycling traffic only – this was the highlight of my ride! We fanned out 5 wide to allow event photographers to snap pics of our group. With the wind, this was a great time on wheels. A few groups doing shorter rides cam up on us near the end of our time on the big road, then we joined in and follwed them (with their car and police escort) to the Dolphins Training Facility at Nova University. A quick stop for ice and we were back on the roads, in crowded cycling conditions, for the remaining 12 miles to the stadium. Jessica and I were close to each other in parallel pace lines, then sometimes following each other. The long line of cyclists slowed and stopped at a few traffic lights, where we bunched up but got back to a good pace shortly after the light went green. At one light, we spoke about slowing our pace, letting the group go ahead and being just us for the finish line pics in the stadium. We agreed to get off the 20mph pace and go between 18-19. Moments after that chat, here I was chasing Jessica who was moving at 21mph back in with the group! I cannot believe her high energy level so late in the longest ride she had ever done!
We made the final big turn onto a road heading east that led us towards the stadium. One lane turned into three and our “bike only” lane was bumpy and roughly finished. I joked as if we were mountain biking! I could see the stadium as we were now less than 2 miles from finishing. We spaced out of the big group, made two left turns and could finally hear an announcer. We went under a “Finish” area and down a long finish chute where photographers snapped pics of us riding next to each other. Finally done, we both smiled and felt the rush of a huge accomplishment. Well done on the fundraising and riding, I see us doing this event again next year!