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Bazemore and Dunn begin bike trip across Florida

By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
Bazemore and Dunn get last-minute
instructions before the ride begins.

Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore and ESPN drag racing analyst Mike Dunn began their eight-day bicycle ride around Florida Sunday with a 109.2-mile trek from Ft. Myers to Bartow. The nearly 800-mile experience – known as Gator Hell Week – invites all comers to ride as a group across the Sunshine State for fun and recreation.

Sunday's opening leg took place under sunny skies with mild temperatures and highs in the mid 70s. Several riders joined Bazemore and Dunn, including one couple on a tandem bike and another pair sharing the riding duties of a single bike. A stiff headwind tested the riders throughout the second half of the day but everyone made it to the first stop safely.

Due to the interest generated by a pre-event story about this ride on NHRA.com, Bazemore and Dunn will report in each day to give NHRA.com readers a chance to share their experiences in the saddle.

A small group of NHRA drag racing fans even greeted the dynamic duo at the start of the ride to get autographs and cheer them on their way. Interested parties are encouraged to visit HellWeek.com to acquaint themselves with the route and lend support along the way.

Baze and Dunn's Hell Week: Day 1
Bazemore enjoying himself during the 109.2 mile first leg of the trip.
Bazemore: I've actually been kinda nervous the last couple of days because I haven't ridden much over the last two and a half weeks due to a touch of the flu and the holidays and all those various excuses. But we got there and met all the people and that got us pumped up. These are all endurance type of athletes. They don't go very fast but they can go forever.

We shoved off early and, for me personally, the first 30 miles were hard due to the lack of riding over the past few weeks. Then we got to the middle 40 and I really started to feel good and enjoy the ride. But by the last stretch I started feeling it. This was the furthest I've ever ridden by a few miles although I have to say I feel a lot better than I have after other rides.

Our average speed was pretty fast. Mike and I rode near the front pretty much all day. We were going between 19-22 mph for a long time until we got to the point where we turned east, which put us right into a headwind. That slowed us to 17-18 mph. Then, by the end of the day when we were all kinda suffering, we cruised in slow at maybe 15 mph. Overall, our average was just over 18 mph, which is a good pace.
Dunn completed his first ride of more than 100 miles Sunday.

This was Mike's first century [cycling jargon for a 100-mile ride], which in and of itself was cause for celebration. It's crazy to go from never having ridden 100 miles in a day to going to Florida and doing seven centuries in a row. Of course, no one ever accused Funny Car drivers of being the most intelligent people in the world. We're dumb, but we'll be fit and dumb when this is over. But seriously, Mike rode really, really well.

The true test will be tomorrow. The first hurdle is just sitting on the bike. You have to condition your body to spend that kind of time on a bike and it's amazing how quick that goes away when you don't ride. We'll know early on if it'll be an enjoyable day or one full of pain. If you get over that then you'll need to get out there and see if your legs feel strong or like lead weights.

Day 2 is 99 miles from Bartow to Brooksville. We'd love to see some drag racing fans along the way. If you see us, give a shout or honk your horn. We'll see if we make it.

This story is copyright 2003 National Hot Rod Association. It may not be reprinted or retransmitted in any form without the express written permission of NHRA.com.

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