Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tour of Colorado: Day 5

Thursday. Usually, the prospect of riding 100 miles all at once is kind of intimidating. I mean, that's a long way to go on a bike. I'd done it before, including the Red Canyon Century 2 weeks before BTC where we did a 18mph average. But this one had some climbing in it. A lot! But we just had a rest day, and were ready to go.

We started back in Crested Butte at (always) 7am. It was cold that morning. I think it was about 35-38 degrees when we left. For some reason, I just wore my shorts without my usual long tights over them. I guess I didn't want to get hot later in the day. Once on the road, we linked up with a few more riders, including a really strong guy who stayed at the front all the way to Gunnison. We managed to cover that in about an hour. That's pretty fast. I was also nice to know we had knocked off almost 1/4 of our total ride in an hour! Our hotel from the previous 2 nights was right on the turn we made in Gunnison, so we stopped in to visit the continental breakfast. It was by far the best aid station of the whole tour!

Back on the road, we got together with another bunch of riders and we moved along at a fast rate, almost too fast for my taste. I was having to work to keep up. We made it to the 2nd (official) aid station in less than 2 hours. This was shaping up to be a fast ride.

The next 12 miles were pretty flat and easy. We rode along some very nice lake and saw some really neat rock formations. At point we had to make a 90 degree right hand turn to ride across a dam. We made the turn, but could tell something was going on. We found out later that a rider had gone into the turn too fast, wiped out and slid into the guard rail. His carbon fiber for (part that holds on the front wheel) was broken in half, and he had broken his jaw in two places. He was lucky he hit the guard rail: it was a 200ft. drop off the other side. Could have been worse.

We started riding away from the lakes, and up into the hills. We were actually riding along the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Some spectacular views that just got better the higher we climbed. The road, and climb, seemed like it went on forever. I like knowing how much further I have to go before the summit, but there weren't any signs to indicate that. We just kept riding. As we went over the top of a hill, Kurt got into an aerodynamic position and coasted down. I prefer to keep peddling, and I passed him about halfway down.

I made the turn at the bottom and started climbing, again. I wasn't racing Kurt to the top, but I really had no idea how far back he was. I started talking to this girl on the way up who also had a GPS unit on her bike. We were being real nerds, talking about software and satellites, when Kurt launched a huge attack. He went by me really fast, and I figured that would be the last time I'd see him until the summit. I started riding a little harder, deciding I wasn't going to make it easy for him. The climb wasn't a steady uphill, but had several short downhill sections. It is frustrating to work so hard on a climb just to lose that altitude and have to do it all over again.

As I got near the summit, I decided that I wasn't going to catch Kurt and that I'd just take it easy. I saw some nice views and pulled my camera out of my jersey pocket and took some pictures. These two guys behind me thought that it was funny that I didn't stop or get off the bike to take the pictures. I put the camera away and I asked them if I could ride behind them for a bit. We were cruising pretty good on a downhill when we turned a corner and I saw Kurt really hammering on the next (and last) climb. I drafted the two guys to the bottom of the hill, made the left turn, and put on the gas. I stood up, and in my big gears started trying to crank up the climb. Well, that only lasted for about 200 yards or so, and I went slowly to the summit.

It took a little while for Rick to make it to the top, but he said that it possibly had been his most enjoyable bike ride ever. He just took it easy and spun a low gear the whole way. He talked to other riders and looked at the scenery, two things that are hard to do when you are either chasing someone, or trying to get away from them.

The view from the top was great. We could look down into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Very cool. After we left, the climbing wasn't done. Unfortunately, the batteries in the GPS died, and the ones from the camera died soon after. I was flying blind at this point. The three of us rode together for a long while, until the downhill started and Kurt and I got away. We were riding behind this camper/RV thing trying to draft off of it on the short climbs. Rick is smarter than that so he dropped back a little. It was fun sailing past other riders, being pulled along by the campers draft. We all regrouped shortly after that for the rest of the ride. Not much to say about the next 20 miles. We took turns riding on the front, and picked up a couple of other guys on the way to help out.

We were all glad when this ride was over, and pretty impressed with ourselves. We had managed to ride the 108 miles in less than 5 hours (excluding rest stops), which is an amazing pace, especially considering the climbs we had to do.
(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 (GPS died at 72 miles, so data is not complete):

Total Distance:72.40 miles (116.52 km)
Total Time:5:25:19 (3:48:24 moving time)
Total Climbing:14156 feet (4315 m)
Average Speed:19.02 mph (30.61 kph)


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