Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tour of Colorado: Day 3

Tuesday. Kurt predicted that this would be the hardest day of the tour. It wasn't the longest day. I don't think it had the most climbing. But it did end up being the hardest day.

We rolled out of Salida at 7, as usual. It wasn't as cold that morning as the others had been. The first 23 miles were all uphill, peaking at the top of Monarch Pass at 11,312 ft. Once we got away from Salida, you could see a continuous stream of riders working their way up the hill. The first 9 miles weren't that difficult, and our peloton-of-three all stayed together. After the 9th mile, the road started to get a little steeper, and the line of riders was slowing down and bunching up. Several times we had to ride around groups of 10 or more riders. The first aid station was at about mile 12, so we only got a taste of the big climb before we stopped to get some water and food. I didn't really want to stop at this one, as I finally was getting warmed up, but it was a good chance to take off my arm warmers and rearrange some gear. The temperature seemed to be going up pretty quickly, which hinted at what we had to look forward to at the end of the day.

After we left the aid station we started the getting into the real climb up the pass. Rick later figured out that Independence Pass rose at about 150ft./mile. This one, Monarch Pass, went up at about 250ft./mile. Quite a difference. We had a little downhill section after the aid station, which was a nice way to get the legs moving again. We climbed pretty steadily, ticking off the miles. At one point this guy came up behind us and was asking Rick about his "Dirt Camp" jersey. He said several things, but never got an answer. As he rode past us I said "I think he's in the zone!"

With six miles to the top I decided to test the legs. I stood up and rode away a little bit. Kurt wasn't too far ahead so I made him the target. It took a little while but I finally caught up. I think he was always a little surprised to see me appear on his back wheel. We rode together to what I was pretty sure was going to be the summit. Well almost. This hill topped out at about 10,800ft. so I knew there was a lot more to go. That and it wasn't 6 miles from where I'd seen that sign. More like 1.5 miles.

I had to work pretty hard to stay on Kurt's wheel. He kept getting little gaps on me which I had to keep from turning into big gaps. We finally got close to the top, and I stood up to stretch my legs. As I peddled, my legs felt better and better, so I kept upshifting gears, and went faster and faster. I didn't realize how close to the top we were. We made a turn to the right and I saw the people at the aid station. I upshifted again and cruised to the top.

After the aid station, we had a long (12 miles) downhill. There was construction being done on the road, and some of the lanes were closed. We went down about a quarter of a mile and had to stop and wait for oncoming traffic to clear. The guy holding the stop sign was really nice, and joked with the riders. When we were allowed to go, it was a free-for-all. No matter how fast you were going down the hill, there was somebody going faster. I usually try to keep my speed under about 40mph, so Kurt and Rick got a pretty big gap on me.

The next 25 miles or so were pretty boring, flat with a bit of a headwind. When we arrived at the aid station in Gunnison, we saw lots of people putting their bikes on the SAG wagon. This is a van with a trailer for hauling bikes that you can ride if you get too tired, injured, or have a technical problem. Most of these people were just tired of fighting the headwind and decided to make it into a Van Tour of Colorado. From the first day of the trip up Independence Pass, to the last day back at Snowmass, we saw some disabled riders using hand powered bikes. Imagine riding up a mountain pass with just your arms to get you to the top. I told Rick that after seeing these guys and girls doing this that there was no way I could ever wimp out and take the SAG wagon.

The headwind only got worse as we rode out of Gunnison toward Crested Butte. Our hotel that night was actually in Gunnison, but I wanted to finish out the ride. The road started going up also, from about 7700ft. in Gunnison to about 8900ft. in Crested Butte. At one point we had a really strong cross-wind, and it threatened rain. About 3 miles from town it looked like we had an easy downhill to the finish. This guy that we'd grouped up with (there were 8 or so in our group now) started cheering. He wasn't cheering when we started climbing again. When we actually could tell we were close to the finish line, he started cheering again, louder than before. I would have, but I was thuroughly cooked. We'd been riding for well over 6 hours, and I was ready to get off my bike. At the "bike village" where the campsite was, a local business was selling massages. Rick treated himself to one while I went hunting for schwag (free stuff).
(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:91.58 miles (147.38 km)
Total Time:6:30:23 (4:47:38 moving time)
Total Climbing:17425 feet (5311 m)
Average Speed:14.76 mph (23.75 kph)


Post a Comment

<< Home