I’ve frequently mentioned that the 30 and 40 mile routes we typically ride have been getting too short. What used to take two hours is now taking a fraction of that time, leaving us feeling as if we really haven’t gotten in a good riding session. We’ve been tacking on additional loops like the FGCU loop and the airport loop, but frankly, the old routes have been getting a little stale.
With that in mind, we inaugurated a new Saturday cycling tradition, “The Vanderbilt 70”, a metric century, and then some, ride out to Vanderbilt Beach in Naples. The new route continues to use our preferred cycling boulevards, but instead of using shopping centers as the midpoints, we extend the ride all the way to that big old bathtub known as the Gulf of Mexico. As an added incentive, not that the beach wild life isn’t incentive enough, just a mile or so down from the beach, is one of Naples cycling meccas, Naples Cyclery and the Fit & Fuel Cafe, where you are always sure to find many cycling enthusiasts eager to swap stories and join you on rides.
Señor J and Young Pup and I kicked off the first official, unofficial Vanderbilt 70 early this morning from the Sweetbay Market located at the northern end of Tree Line Boulevard. The morning was chilly, somewhere in the high 40’s, but the forecast called for a picture perfect Florida day with temperatures in the mid 70’s and best of all, little to no wind.
We headed off southward with little fanfare, maintaining a lower pace of around 20 MPH giving our chilled bodies a chance to acclimate a bit as well as our legs a chance to warm up. Both Señor J and Young Pup were well bundled against the cold with tights and base layers, Señor J more so as he stuffed his jersey again with some newspapers and wore a jacket, while I, confiding in the forecast, braved the initial elements with just a base layer…my blood still has some remaining antifreeze from living in Chicago for so many years.
Our pace picked up after a couple of miles, settling in at 21-22 MPH. We quickly passed the airport, GCTC and FGCU and did a leisure climb over the I75 bridge, resuming our pace down Three Oaks. By now the Florida sun was, to use Emeril’s catch phrase, kicking it up a notch, creating one of our patented perfect days as we continued our pace through the country club trifecta and down Three Oaks/Imperial Parkway/Livingston Road (is it me or does a road changing names three times in under twenty miles seem silly to you too).
A gentleman, who had briefly ridden with us before joined us around the 26 mile mark…if you ride these roads as much as we do, you slowly get to know everyone. As before, he split off from our group after just a few miles as we turned onto Vanderbilt road and the home stretch to the Gulf. As we approached the beach there was a hubbub of activity as the HITS Triathlon Series was being held. Now these guys and girls are really nuts, as they find it pleasurable to combine swimming (2.4 miles in open water), cycling (112 miles) and running (26.2 miles). The swimming is part would be tolerable, but run 26.2 miles….no frikin’ way!
After soaking in the view at the beach for a bit, we headed over to the Fit & Fuel Cafe to refuel and take a breather. The place was packed with a multitude of triathletes and cyclists, most enjoying those oh so delicious freshly made parfaits. In fact all three of us had one too! The combination of yogurt, granola, strawberries and blue berries is always a great pick-me-up in the middle of a ride.
We geared back up and got on our bikes for the return trip home. As we headed out of the parking lot, we met up with two Canadian cyclists who were more than happy to join us on the return ride home. As it turns out Bill and Ben’s…hmmm do I dare give the the silly names of Wayne and Garth…return route was virtually identical to ours, so our three man inaugural ride became a 5 man affair. They were a perfect fit to our threesome as their average speed matched our closely and with a beneficial tailwind blowing, our return ride was looking to be a quick one.
We settled into a brisk 23-24 MPH pace for a good chunk of the way home, eventually slowing it down to 21-22 as Señor J’s hamstring was still bothering him from our cold ride a couple days back and Young Pup was running into that not so friendly wall again. A couple of unplanned stops for two rather bizar flats, a very rare front flat on Señor J’s bike and, of all things, a fishhook puncturing Bill’s oops I mean Wane’s rear tire, gave Young Pup a welcomed breather.
After three and a half hours of cycling, our inaugural Vanderbilt 70 ride had come to a close. It was a fun outing on an absolutely fantastic day with good friends. We also made some new friendships in Bill and Ben who, by the way, look forward to riding with us often (Ben rides about 100 miles a day…last year he clocked in nearly 24,000 miles!). Although Young Pup brought his dreaded wall to the party, he still managed to set his best average ride time ever at 19.28 MPH, besting his previous high by nearly 2 MPH….that’s a huge improvement. I’m sure he’ll be leaving that wall behind for good after a few more rides with us. Señor J is also to be commended for flogging through the 70 miles with a very painful leg. I’m sure he’ll be fine after a few days rest.
Ride Time: 3:35:59
Stopped Time: 1:54:30
Distance: 69.40 miles
Average: 19.28 mph
Fastest Speed: 28.09 mph
Ascent: 549 feet
Descent: 523 feet