As you learned last year, I love favorites lists. They help me clarify what I enjoy doing, they help race promoters adjust their offerings and they spread the word about events you might not have heard of. This was a unique year because I actually had sponsors. Help from Bicycles International, Luksha Reconstruction and SixSixOne products motivated me to hit a few more stops around the state. These included several places I had never been before. This year's list includes some personal victories and a couple unique locations. Here are my top seven favorite rides/races of 2015.
Autumn is the busiest time of year in Florida for many reasons. The snowbirds return, businesses get busy and both CX and XC kick off their seasons often pairing races on the same weekends. This forces all of us racers to choose one or the other. For the last two years I chose CX. However, my piggy bank only allowed for a couple forays. They were run by Zach Fout of Cycology Solutions so I was able to enjoy a high level of quality in both the course and the competitors. My personal performance was crippled by illness but you can bet that I took notes for next year - Edinburgh CX Challenge.
I always wanted to race a Regional Championship. The austere title alone gets my blood pumping. Gone Riding is the premiere MTB racing organization in Florida and SERC is one of their many events. The turnout was nominal and my bike decided to fall apart but the trails did not disappoint. Hailes is private property that contains some of the most beautiful inland features in the entire state. It's a place you must visit at least once. That is why this is - A MTB Race for those who Don't Race.
Adverse weather sometimes makes for perfect racing conditions. This was the case as Tim Reifschneider did whatever it took to put together an off road time trial. As it happened we braced ourselves for a rain storm at the Carlton Reserve. It looked like lightning was going to cause a second cancellation but a few brave souls decided to go for it. The result was a sloppy fun race on BoldlyGo that was made all the better as it got wetter - Timmy's Lightning Swamp Time Trial.
The Withlacoochee forest is probably the second most comfortable chunk of woods in the Sunshine State. There were several sections where I almost forgot I was in Florida. I will return to this event someday, in better health I hope. As it was I suffered a little more than needed and came up short on the ride but it was still worth the effort, after all - How do you Measure Progress?
If you have never been to Santos then you simply must go! People told me that for a long time and this year I finally listened. Not only did I get to race on their well crafted trails but I also camped right near the trailhead. The Hump Day Hustle was set up by the Santos Bike Shop and they really did a great job. The best woods in Florida plus an awards ceremony at a local eatery. We even had dinner with National Champ Ryan Woodall. Had I done better in the race this might have topped the list. Who knows, maybe next year - The Hump Day Hustle.
This will take some explaining. Last Year Piggy's was my Number 1 pick. That year I completed the 40 and broke through to a new level of confidence. In 2015 I complete the 60 mile route and as the online promoter put together an aggressive outreach program that doubled the number of riders who attended. However, it me took 6 distracted hours to complete the course. I was a success as a promoter but a failure as a rider. This year Piggy's Revenge will be even bigger but I will be volunteering - Redemption in the Ruts.
At the Tour de Picayune my roles were reversed. They asked me to help promote this race as well but I blew it. It drew only 40 riders. However, racing 50 miles on a singlespeed fat bike over seven hours through scorching singletrack and deep sand was my greatest accomplishment as a mountain biker. Due to the small turnout the Tour is no more. They might replace it with a gravel grinder (Which should be more successful). Still, I will never forget the pain and suffering I overcame to complete that course and finish in the top ten. It was amazing! - Tour de Picayune.