Sunday, August 30, 2009

crmbt - ouray to montrose

We were up by 5:30am on Saturday, the last day of CRMBT. The route for the day was a 38 mile, slightly downhill run from Ouray back to Montrose, where we'd begun one week ago. To make it more interesting, there was a left turn when you reached Ridgway, taking you off of highway 550 and onto 62 toward Dallas Divide. Instead of "coming on down the other side", we would come back down the way we came. Back on 550 we would have 28 miles to Montrose.

I snapped a few pictures of the moon in the sky over the Ouray skyline and some of the Victorian homes on the neighborhood. We had breakfast, got our bags to the luggage truck, pumped up our tires and were ready to roll. Pat was still dealing with contacts, and sunscreen, but he and Rick had decided to ride straight to Montrose, get cleaned up and get on the road to California. I told him that Alison was catering the BBQ lunch at the finish line and if they timed it right they could eat first. Rick would ride with the rest of us as far as Ridgway where the aid station would be the first and third of the day. The second would be at the summit of Dallas Divide.

We stopped and snapped some pictures as we neared Ridgway of the moon still in the sky, and the hot air balloon rising into the clear, blue sky. I couldn't help but think how unbelievable it would be to see this area from a balloon! We made good time to Ridgway due to the mountains that threw us into Ouray on Friday continuing their work and rolling us out of town and well down the road before we had to work too hard. We filled our bottles, ate part of a bagel and a banana, said our goodbyes to Rick and headed up. Teri wanted to ride Dallas Divide so she set off with Bruce and me through town and toward the peaks in the distance. We were away from the aid station by 8:00am and hopeful to make it to Montrose by 1:00 or 2:00 to get in on lunch before our long drive.

There was some finishing touches in the works on road repair, including uneven lanes and shoulder drop-offs in a few places. But, for the most part, it was smooth, new blacktop which made for a pleasant climb, and promised a more than pleasant descent! The balloon was still in the air, riders going both directions on the road, and not too much traffic to contend with.

The climb was about 11 miles from Ridgway to the top of Dallas Divide, but never too steep. Even stopping for pictures we were all making good time, and enjoying another gorgeous morning. We were told that it had rained much of the week before, and we expected rain in the mountains in the afternoon, but had made it through this week without any bad weather, and very little rain.

We all made it to the summit by 9:20am feeling great! A little sad that this was the last climb, but proud to have done all the miles we had done in the last 8 days. And we still had a good descent ahead of us and a ride to Montrose. Having just come this way, we knew that the turns on our descent were wide, sweeping curves, with terrific visibility and smooth pavement. Conditions were perfect for a fast run into Ridgway. We spent a little time taking pictures and visiting with other riders at the summit including Sean, a guy I met from Grand Junction. He was out riding Dallas Divide by himself just for fun. I love Colorado! He had some questions about the tour and the Copper Triangle. He had done RAGBRAI and could only get away for one week-long tour each year, but was interested in CRMBT for next year. He had tried to enter the Copper Triangle late the week before, but it was already filled. Teri and Bruce were ready to head down and she called out, in Rick's honor, "we're touring".

I couldn't help but smile as we screamed down the mountain. Tucked down as aerodynamically as it's possible for me to get, I was flying without working at all. When I realized I wasn't making up any ground on Bruce and Teri I stood up for a while and pushed to try to get more speed. I got a little closer but couldn't catch them until we were almost in Ridgway. I checked my max speed and it was 47.5mph. When Teri checked hers it was 50! Bruce had really been moving too, but couldn't stay with Teri when she got going downhill. We had just been at the aid station a few minutes before, so we decided to skip the third one and head for Montrose.

We were rolling slightly downhill again making good time and enjoying everything about the ride, except for the headwind. But Bruce was back in his element. He hammered away like he was back in South Dakota. I had stopped for a picture and worked as hard as I could to catch back up. I got to Teri, and the two of us worked to catch Bruce. I don't think we ever would have if he hadn't slowed, but eventually the three of us rode together in to Montrose. We rolled into the school parking lot to hootin' and hollerin' at 11:30. What a feeling of accomplishment! We loaded bikes in the van, grabbed a shower, and sat down to lunch, Alison and her team had brisket, chili dogs, beans, pasta salad, potato salad, and watermelon, and as usual, everything was great.

We said goodbye and thanks to Peter and Hillary. We thanked Kevin and Hugh, the guys from Denver Spoke, Theo the Sherpa Packer, Alison and her team from Cyprus Cafe. We said goodbye to Teri and other riders we had met along the way; Dave from Omaha, Norm, the 70 something years young guy who has done all 3 years of CRMBT after several Ride the Rockies before that. We were glad to be heading toward home, pumped to have completed some hard rides throughout the week, and ready to come back next year. I would highly recommend that cyclists experience a multi-day tour. There's nothing like waking up and knowing all you have to worry about today is "where do I ride?" and "what do I eat?" And, if you can make it to Colorado in August, ride the CRMBT! RIDE THE CRMBT!!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

crmbt - durango to ouray

This is what lay in front of us on Friday morning. Up early to be on the road by 6:00 with a ton of climbing ahead of us. Leaving Durango at 6500' in the early dawn with fog rising off the Animas River, our first climb was to Purgatory ski area on Durango Mountain. A few rollers for the first 10 miles, and then gaining 2000' over the next 12 miles. Aid station one was located at mile 28 before we started the next 2000' climb up to Coal Bank Pass at 10,640 feet. You give more than 1,000' feet of that back on the descent before climbing Molas Divide, 10,902 feet and the 2nd aid station. An even longer descent takes you down to and through Silverton, before the final 2000' climb to Red Mountain Pass at 11,100 feet and the final aid station. All that remains is a 3300' drop down into Ouray, the "Switzerland of America". The route book provided by the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour cautioned us that "Red Mountain Pass to Ouray is very steep, narrow and technical." They may have added: not for the faint-of-heart.

The beginning of the ride was relaxing. We knew it would be a tough day, but were promised one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Colorado. Highway 550, and the last 13 miles from Red Mountain Pass to Ouray specifically, is known as the "Million Dollar Highway", and we would not be disappointed.
The first part of the ride roughly parallels the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad line which has been in operation for more than 125 years. The route hosts the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, " the brain child of Tom Mayer and his older brother Jim. Jim worked as a brakeman on the D & R G W railroad which had run the steam powered locomotive between Durango and Silverton since the 1880's. Tom was a young bicycle enthusiast who grew up alongside the tracks to Silverton. Tom challenged Jim to a race to Silverton. As the train came by the house, the steam whistle screamed and Tom climbed on his trusty steel framed 10 speed and pedaled up over the rim of the old volcano and descended into the caldera to the mining town of Silverton. The train takes a shorter and easier route, but with limited speed, so it is truly a race between man and machine. When Tom became strong enough to win, the bragging rights were his, and the whole town knew it."

At the first aid station Rick was feeling the effect of the altitude even worse than earlier in the week. Above 8,000' he felt dizzy and nauseous, not what you want on a bicycle. Not great for climbing and worse for descending. So, after trying to wait it out, see if it would pass, he was put on a SAG and driven to Ouray. Once they got below 8,000' he felt fine. Teri ended up feeling the effects too and caught a ride in as well. She had told us she was afraid of heights, and after looking over the side of the road on Red Mountain Pass I thought it probably just as well that she wasn't on her bike there.

This day was full of climbing, but it was worth every pedal stroke. The scenery was fantastic, and the descents were awesome. Fast, short drop off of Coal Bank Pass, faster, longer run from Molas Divide into Silverton, and after the last good climb of the day the highway tries to throw you into Ouray. I pumped on my brakes often, took the lane as much as I needed to stay on the road, and moved over to let traffic pass when the road widened and straightened, which didn't happen much. The scenery was jaw-dropping, but that's mostly from peripheral vision as I felt keeping my eyes on the road would be prudent. My only regret is that I had filled my memory card, and my spare was in my luggage at the school. I should have deleted a few pictures and stopped as I neared Ouray for pictures of the town from above. But, at the rate I was going, stopping would not have been a certainty even if that's what I wanted. I think you could literally ride from Red Mountain Pass into Ouray without pedalling. As I entered the city limits the sign showed a speed limit of 25mph, and I was going 30, and I hadn't pedalled in several minutes!
Happy to be near the end of the day, and happy to have survived the last descent I found the turn for the school, which immediately went uphill, and was not paved! As I stood to power up the street, my back tire spun, and I got off and walked the last block. Couldn't have cared less. What an exhilarating day! There was enough room for all the tents on the school grounds, but just barely. Luckily, Rick had staked claim to some spots and spread our bags out so we had places to set up our tents. We grabbed lunch at a deli downtown, a couple blocks away, and went back to get showered and rested and organized for our final day.
Later we went downtown again and found a place for dinner. It was called the Silver Buckle, and while nothing fancy, the food was good and the service friendly. Our waitress had a wonderful English accent and when asked told us where she had been born, and where she had been educated. She told us she took no offense if her accent was mistaken for Scottish or Australian, as long as you didn't think she was French. I told her we had not thought that, because she had not surrendered when she approached our table. She laughed and asked if we knew what they called the 4th of July where she was from. "Good Loser's Day".