Ah, Spring! When young man's thoughts turn to love, middle-aged man's thoughts turn to the stupid IRS, and a cyclist's thoughts turn to "Where the hell did this wind come from?"
In Florida, the cyclists love to boast how tough the wind is where they ride. Having ridden just about everywhere in this state, I will concede that it is normally the worst on the east coast of Florida. I think that the hardest century that I've ever done was one of the first ones I rode, which ran up and down the so-called Space Coast around Melbourne, and that was so tough because I let myself come unhitched from the pack and did 70 miles of it pretty much by my lonesome.
Florida cyclists like to say that the wind helps them prepare to climb mountains. That's a load of crap, mostly because good technique for climbing is nothing like good technique for working into the wind. Those of us who climb regularly learn that it's best to sit more upright, so your chest can expand as you suck in as much air as you can get. In Florida, you instead get to work on your time trial position, bending as low as possible and minimizing your body's turbulence. It may make you strong, but it sure ain't practice for the long climbs.
On the other hand, the wind here will train you to draft better in a paceline. Letting a gap upon up in the group when that Cat 2 freight train fellow at the front is cooking along at 27 mph into the wind will get you shot down here. You also quickly learn how to keep a rotating paceline tight, and just how important positioning is when the group has to echelon in a cross-wind.
These differences are not just because the wind is stronger here ... mostly because the wind isn't always stronger here. The differences here are really more the result of the terrain.
You see, when you don't have to curve a road around mountains or hills, that road tends to go straighter for longer stretches. This means that, when bucking a wind in Florida, you're going to be bucking it for at least a couple of miles. In Tennessee, we might end up fighting a headwind on some roads for a mile or two, but usually you'd fight it for maybe half a mile when you came around some big bend, and it would ease off a little when you tucked into the lee of that other big hill up yonder.
This past Saturday, I rode just over 20 miles with RandoGirl. She had a late morning appointment, so after I dropped her back at home I went back out for another 30 miles.
The wind was blowing between 15-20 mph out of the east, so I headed east and suffered for an hour. It was miserable. It hurt. I was tucked as low as I could get, grinding away with everything that I had. Finally, after about 17 miles, I turned west on Golden Gate Boulevard.
And that's the one good thing about a strong Florida wind. If you can put together a route where that wind is at your back on one of those bike-laned boulevards, you get to cruise back at 28 mph for half an hour without even working. It may not be quite as good as a long descent off a beautiful mountain on a clear fall day, but it ain't bad.