Florida Challenge 2004 HPRA HPV races - An Early Spring Race Experience

An Early Spring Race Experience

By Dan Glatch 3/15/04

Last night, as we unloaded our car, the cold winds and sleet that welcomed us home reminded us what a paradise we had experienced last Saturday. Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was balmy; upper 70's to mid 80's, with tolerable humidity, bright sun, a nice breeze and no pesky bugs. The 500M course was flat, smooth, with a good straight-away and a 180-degree turn on the back side, and the start/finish stretch was lined with trees that provided shade for the racers and spectators (yes, everything was green here, no bare trees!).

People from around the eastern-half of our country had converged on the scene. Two "local" bike shops that sell recumbents had demo bikes to try, including the new Rans Force 5 (a nice, new "high racer" that will compete with Bacchetta's line). Bacchetta, a Florida recumbent company, and sponsor of the event had its full line of bikes, including demos for people to ride, and cool "Killer B" Bacchetta racing jerseys for sale (I had to get one). A total of 37 racers from: Wisconsin (me), Illinois (Sean Costin), Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Florida, (did I miss any?) competed in most of the HPRA classes. Some, like Ray and Sherri Brick, who now live in South Carolina, competed in multiple classes (Sherri was in Women's, Multi-rider, and Streamliner!). There were at least 10 Bacchettas racing, making the stock class very "stock", and fast. Also, there was the largest group of tricycles I have seen at a HPRA race, which the organizer, Shari Bernhard, decided to give a separate class for the day's events (most were Cat Trikes, a good-value tadpole-type trike). Garrie Hill, co-dictator of HPRA, and general good guy, and his son, Theron, a new hot-rod in the streamliner class, came down from Ohio to compete and help Shari organize and run the events. 


Drag races
The first event, the "outlaw" drags, started promptly at 10am. "Outlaw" drags meant that everyone's vehicle numbers were placed in a hat and matches were drawn randomly. I was racing a Bacchetta Strada, loaned to me by Wheel & Sprocket. This bike is a "high racer" type with two 650mm wheels, high crank, and laid-back seat, resulting in a very aero, comfortable and road-rideable bike. I was pitted in the first round against a trike, which I thought from past experience should be a cakewalk. As he shot away from me at the line, despite my use of a holder, I realized I was in a race. 

Although I closed to two lengths, he still won handily. As the day went on, it became clear that these trikes and riders were fast. It was a trying event for bike cranks, however, with two twisting loose on their bike's front boom, and another shearing its spindle. Sean Costin made it to the final eliminator only to spin his lightly-loaded front wheel and go down at the start. He was racing one of his old FWD long-wheel base bikes. In a just-for-fun rematch he won by less than a length.

I faired better in the next event, the 1 kilo time trial, placing somewhere in the middle of the contestants. Sean shined again, with the best time at that point (I did not hear if his time held--check the results page). After two laps of hard pedaling around the 500M course, a racer is pretty spent, so I appreciated the next event, lunch.

After a 1hr lunch break, we got into head-head class racing with the last man out (LMO) races. 

Here I got to do a little pack racing with drafting and sprinting, although the faster racers opened too much of a gap for me to close, so I ended up with another mid-pack finish.  Actually, there were two heats of stock racers, because there were so many entries in this class. This kept each race fast and interesting. In the tandem and streamliner classes there were not enough racers, so these ended up being one lap shoot-outs (there would have been more streamliners, but the Hill team had fairing mount problems). Our race director, Shari, did well on her Bacchetta Giro in the women's race, but could not catch the leader on her Bacchetta Strada. The official Bacchetta race team member, sporting a blue Killer B jersey and racing a titanium Bacchetta Aero, Bacchetta Company's, John Schlitter, aced this event, nipping Sean and others at the finish line.]
John Schlitter takes a fast corner

The day's finale, the lap races, proved to be grueling after all the other events. I felt my limited training (exercycle riding, weights, and only a few short rides after the snow melted back home) as the leaders on their Bacchettas, titanium Wishbone, and Sean on his FWD long wheel-base bike, pulled away. I found a smaller, slower group, that included John Tetz on his FWD low-racer, and I drafted them. With three laps to go, I tried to pull away from them and move up the field, but they reeled me in and then pulled away. The race with the trikes once again proved to be fast and competitive, while the Bricks could not touch their nemesis in the tandem class. Sherri had to pull out of the streamliner race, leaving Theron and a fully streamlined racer from Florida to fight it out. This streamliner had a Coroplast body with a bubble canopy, and required yoga training to enter and exit, but proved quite capable, despite the strong winds and a 180 degree turn on the course. 

After the racing was over, people took demo rides on some of the bikes brought by Bacchetta and the dealers. I got to ride the new Rans Force 5, a high-racer that uses a triangulated frame like the other Rans bikes, but has a configuration like a Bacchetta Aero. It had the new Zephyr seat, which was OK, but it did not seem to fit me as well as the regular Rans seat, or Bacchetta's or M5's seats. It was definitely more compact and aero than a standard mesh seat. The bike's ride seemed good. I hope to get a chance to try this new bike out more once W&S gets their order in.

At night, an award dinner was held at a local restaurant (the seafood is, of course, good out here), in which a lot of nice prizes were given out; I won a Bacchetta seat-back pack from Bacchetta (for driving the furthest to race), others got certificates from Atlantic Bicycle, another sponsor, and other nice prizes for winning events or standing out in some way. Thanks to Shari Bernhard, the race director for organizing the day, and Garrie Hill for race marshaling and event help. 

Bacchetta Recumbent Rally

The day after the Florida race, many of the racers and non-racers got together at Markham Park, at the western end of the Fort Lauderdale area. This is a fine facility with camping, watercraft access, a well-equiped (and busy) model aircraft airport, and, of course, good bike trail access. Bacchetta again came with their trailer of bikes, including a small-frame Giro demo for my wife, Mary, to ride. After making sure she was fitted well to the bike and comfortable riding it (she normally rides a Rans Stratus long wheel base bike), we were off. The main group started off at a reasonable pace, but this was only Mary's third time on a bike this year, a bike she was not familiar with, and this would be her first real "long" ride at 25 miles, so the main group pulled away after a few intersections. We heard later that some of the leaders were doing 22+ mph as the ride went on! Shari Bernhard had provided good written directions, so we just went at our own pace and enjoyed the scenery. Fort Lauderdale is built on an intercoastal waterway, with rivers and man-made canals cutting through the city, making for scenic riding in an otherwise flat area. The route was mostly on well laid out bicycle lanes that took us through some very exclusive residential areas in the western suburbs of Fort Lauderdale. The roads were lined with palm trees, hedges, beautifully landscaped yards, and the roads and sidewalks seemed to meander in curving routes through all of this. We saw a number of conventional bike rider groups in the area, and one group of nearly 50 riders "engulfed" us, forcing us to stop until we could find each other again. When we got back to the park, we joined the rest of the riders and relaxed in the shade, snacked, and enjoyed the nice weather.

Why Not Do a Southern Spring Race/Ride?

Consider taking a spring vacation and combine it with an early-season HPV race or bike ride, like my wife Mary and I just did. We both wanted to go some place warm, so Florida seemed like the destination. Had our schedule allowed, we might have been able to hit the HPV race in South Carolina on the way home. We decided to drive down to save money, especially since we were bringing a bike along. We broke the 24 hr route to Fort Lauderdale down into two days and took turns driving to make it manageable. After the race and ride in the warmth of Fort Lauderdale, we drove around the state over the next week, snorkeling in Key Largo, beach combing on Sanibel Island, catching the newest attractions at Disneyworld, seeing the NASA Space Center and rockets, and stopping at Savannah, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee for sightseeing on the way home. Fort Lauderdale by itself is a vacation, with beautiful beaches, rivers and canals to be explored by river boat rides or kayak/canoe, restaurants, shops, and scenic areas, like downtown Hollywood, or the broad walk (has a bike lane) on Hollywood beach. A fellow racer, who used to live in the area, told us to go to Tark's for seafood. This is NOT a 5-star restaurant, but a piece of Americana--a seafood diner known for its clams, although we liked the grouper and conch fritters we ate.

Mary really enjoyed the warm weather. And there was plenty to do, even during the HPV racing--she soaked in the sun and watched the wild parrots chattering above our race course. I think I may be able to convince my wife to go again, maybe next year!

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