Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tour of Colorado: Day 6

Friday. This was the day that I had predicted to be the hardest. We would climb from Hotchkiss to the top of McClure Pass, about 41 miles. We were actually a little late starting that morning. The closest motel we could find was in the town of Montrose, a 45 minute drive away. I think it was about 7:20 when we left. It was a little warmer that morning, the temperature near 60 degrees.

The big thing that morning was the strong headwind that we had to battle with. It's not as noticeable when climbing, but when you get to a flat section or a downhill where you expect to be able to rest a little, a headwind can really take it out of you. Instead of coasting or easy peddaling, you have to work just as hard as you were on the climb. This is where having a goup of riders really comes in handy. The guy in front has to do the same amount of work while the others can rest a bit, but if it's done correctly no one is in front for very long. We'd change places pretty regularly, and passed many other riders. I don't know how anyone could enjoy riding this long by themself. That would be a lot of work, and boring.

The wind was getting to me a little, but not as much as for other people. I was leading our group when we went to pass this old guy. I called out "Left!" and he let out this weird grunting sound. I looked back at him as we went by. He looked to be struggling, but nothing unusual. As Rick went past, the old guy started cursing at him. He circled back on the guy intending to have some words of his own, then noticed that old guy was crying! He was saying things like "I hate this F'n wind, and I hate this F'n ride...". When Rick suggested that he try riding in a lower gear, old guy started cussing at him again. Oh well. Hope you enjoyed the SAG wagon, old guy.

We finally got out of the wind and started the climb to the summit. It wasn't too difficult of a climb, but my legs were tired from the last 4 days of riding. Kurt and I decided to ride with Rick as long as possible. As long as possible because Rick has this huge gear on his bike that lets him get up the hills more easily, but much slower. The gears Kurt and I have require you to turn over the cranks faster. If you went slower, you have to push down much harder, and tire your legs out. Anyway, we kept together pretty well for most of the climb. About 4 miles from the top I'd gotten a little bit in front of Rick and Kurt. As I went around a corner, I was some people off to the side of the road looking into the woods. I stopped and asked what they were looking at, and they said that someone had seen a bear! I decided that my Mom would really like a picture of a bear, so I got off the bike and started looking too. After about 5 minutes of looking I gave up, and started climbing again. By now, the other guys were pretty far up the road from me. I guess I wasn't going to win this hill.

The higher the hill went, the hotter it got. By the time I reached the aid station at the top, I was sweating buckets. I probably drank two water bottles once I got off the bike. It turns out that Rick was able to keep Kurt behind him all the way to the summit and get to the top first! I guess having that big gear paid off.

The downhill from McClure Pass to Redstone was a blast! It wasn't steep, which suited me, but we still went fast. I think we averaged close to 30mph the whole 10 miles. Redstone is a beautiful town. I think everyone stayed at this rest stop a little longer than they needed to, just because it was so nice.

The downhill continued for about 13 miles after Redstone, then turned into just a slight downhill grade. We rode steadily until a left turn took us on to a highway shoulder with 13 miles to go. Those were not very fun to ride. The shoulder was wide, but the highway itself was really busy and we had cars and trucks going by constantly. We finally arrived in Glenwood Springs, happy knowing that the last hard day of riding was over.

After we checked into the motel, Rick and I met Kurt at the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool in Glenwood Springs. I think most of the riders from BTC were in the pool! Here is a shot from their webcam:
(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:78.54 miles (126.40 km)
Total Time:6:35:49 (5:04:29 moving time)
Total Climbing:4474 feet
Average Speed:15.48 mph (24.91 kph)


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