Switchbacks. Sweat. Sweet!


From left, Rodney Reber, John Hustoles and Cliff Leonard battle the steep "green monster" hill during the second leg of the Tour de Felasco on Saturday in San Felasco Hammock State Preserve. The 50-mile bicycle eco-tour is a fund-raiser for the park.

BRIANA BROUGH/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 10:13 p.m.
A year ago, Jessica Ames of Gainesville embarked on her first long mountain bike ride at the annual Tour de Felasco at San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park.
It didn't go well. "I made it to the lunch stop. Then I sat down and cried," Ames, 23, said.
But equipped with better shoes and a better bike, Ames again tackled the tour with her boyfriend, Robert Bounds, 31, Saturday. By the time she made it to the lunch stop - about 30 miles into the ride - she was still smiling.
"I'll be really happy if I make it to 40 (miles)," she said as she dipped crackers into some hot chili. "But if you haven't died by then, it seems like you might as well keep going."
Ames was one of about 450 bicyclists who braved chilly morning weather Saturday to ride the 50-mile Tour de Felasco through the picturesque preserve that covers about 7,000 square miles of North Central Florida northwest of Gainesville.
The riders could choose to go the entire 50 miles, or opt for shorter cuts through the forests and prairies. Some hard-core cyclists even chose to ride the 50-mile track twice.
The ride attracted a couple of big names in mountain biking - Edmund "Ned" Overend, who is recognized as one of the pioneers of the sport, and David "Tinker" Juarez, a dread-locked Californian whose credits include being a two-time Olympian and a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
"I was really impressed with how good of shape the trails were in," Juarez said after completing the 50 miles in about four and a half hours.
Juarez, 44, who recently moved to Central Florida to be closer to his girlfriend, said he has been making the rounds of the trails in the area and said San Felasco offered the best ride of any he's tried.
He said he's happy to find such good riding near him, although he will miss his Los Angeles mountains.
"The older I get, the more I want to ride," he said. "I feel half my age when I'm on my bike."
But even for those who don't make cycling their full-time job, the ride Saturday offered a nice, casual atmosphere to enjoy the trails and meet up with friends.
Renee Blaney, 38, met up with some people from South Florida who she frequently sees at rides. They sat around a table during the lunch stop sipping steaming coffee and spooning heaps of chili into their mouths. They all agreed that the eating is a perk of a beautiful ride.
"You have to eat," Blaney said. "You burn some serious calories riding."
"You get a little delirious," said Matt Goforth, 29, from West Palm Beach.
They all said they look forward to the last stop, around the 43-mile mark, where volunteers provide sweeter fare.
"Once they get here they are tired. They don't want healthy trail mix and stuff," said Danaya Wright, a volunteer stationed at the last stop. "They want chocolate and Rice Krispie squares. And Oreos. I think if we could inject it into their veins they'd be happier."
But despite the pain that inevitably accompanies five hours on a bicycle, Oscar Manrique, 32, of Miami described mountain biking in one word.
"Addictive." Alice Wallace can be reached at (352) 374-5036 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com

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