Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tour of Colorado: Day 1

Hi everybody. We got back from our tour on Saturday, and I've been working on some webpages to illustrate where we were and what we did. I'll post a link for each day at the end of each post.
We drove up to Snowmass Village on Saturday, June 25. That was when check-in was happening. There were lots of bikes everywhere. Amazingly, the check-in went very smoothly. I figured with about 1500 people trying to check-in at the same time, we'd be standing around for a while. We had dinner that night, and then went to bed. People decided that in front of our window was the perfect place to party, so sleeping that night was kind of difficult.

We decided that 7:00am was the appropriate time to start riding, so, to get breakfast cooked and eaten, we were up at 6am. It might have been earlier; I can't remember. We brought a toaster with us and I ate waffles, a bagel, and some Ensure. That makes for about 1100 Calories. Good Times!

The ride started with a difficult climb right out of the parking lot. It wasn't that steep or very long, but without any time to warm up, the legs were feeling pretty stiff. After that, we coasted down into Aspen. It's a nice little town, but I don't see what all of the fuss is about. I guess it's because it is close to the ski hills.

After we made it through Aspen, the climb up Independence Pass began. This is roughly 20 miles of climbing, starting at about 8000 ft up to over 12,000 ft. It actually wasn't that bad of a climb, but I like climbs. Several people that we passed by might disagree. When we were nearing the top, I saw Kurt (who thought he was going to drop me on the climb, Ha!) talking to this guy who was riding a unicycle! That was pretty cool to see. He says that the hardest part is riding down the hill.

The 3 of us made it to the top of the pass within a few minutes of each other. It was really rewarding to see the sign at the top showing the elevation (12,095 ft.). Everyone was snapping pictures and getting a bite to eat at the top. I'm pretty sure I burned off my breakfast about halfway up the hill.

After we refueled it was time to ride down the other side of the pass. I like climbs; I do not like downhills. I'm a wuss when it comes to going down hill. It was much colder at the top of the pass than in Snowmass, so we "kitted up" with armwarmers and vests. We started down. It's amazing how fast you can pick up speed on a light bike and a steep descent. There were several times that I exceeded 40mph. On these long downhills, it is important not to ride the brakes the whole way down. You quickly wear out brake pads, and can actually heatup the wheels enough to pop tires. I stopped after a few switchbacks because I was getting cold and freaked out. Rick stopped with me and we shot some pictures. We rode down a bit more and were still cold. We stopped and put on our plastic rain jackets. Usually we avoid putting these on because they just trap heat inside like a sauna. But for the downhill they did a good job of keeping the wind off.

We finally got to the not-so-steep downhill section, and zipped along at 25-30 mph. Rick almost had his head knocked off by "Truck F." It was one of the tour support vans that decided to pass us at a very dangerous time. Luckily no one got hurt. It was a un-eventful flat ride for about the next 10 miles until the rest stop. We stopped and grabbed some food and water, then set off again. We tried not to stay at the rest stops for very long; your legs tend to tighten up so that when you get moving again, then feel really stiff and heavy.

There were only 16 miles to go at this point, so we figured it would be an easy hour to the finish. After about 5 miles a vicious cross-wind kicked up. It was probably a sustained 35-40 mph, with 50-60 mph gusts. This makes it hard to stay upright, let alone keep any kind of speed. A few miles later, the wind dropped a little, but then the rain started. We aren't sure if it was sleet, or just hard blown rain. Whatever it was, it stung! Kurt stopped to put his rain jacket on, and I passed him. I'd taken mine off before the rest stop, and didn't feel like stopping to put it back on. I was already wet; I wasn't going to get any wetter. I pushed on through the rain until the wind stopped. People from the tour were pulling off of the road left and right, trying to find shelter. I just kept going, actually really flying at some points. No body passed me the rest of the ride. When I finally got to Leadville, the sun had come out and I was pretty dry by the time I reached the end of the ride. Except for my shoes and socks. Those were still really cold and wet. When Rick showed up a few minutes later, we decided to go to the local Pizza Hut and get some lunch. That really hit the spot after a long day.
(Lots of pictures; you've been warned!)

I don't vouch for the accuracy of the climbing/descending numbers. Trip time, distance, and average speed should be accurate.

Trip Stats:
Total Distance:64.87 miles (104.40 km)
Total Time:6:30:23 (4:47:38 moving time)
Total Climbing:14252 feet (4344 m)
Average Speed:13.53 mph (21.78 kph)


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