Thursday, December 17, 2009

my favorite ride of 2009 (interdigitate)

Mike at The adventures of Mike and his Bike bike issued a challenge last week for any and all to write about their favorite ride/challenge of 2009. I had a lot of great days on a bike this year and had to give some thought as to what would be my “favorite”. I have already written about both tours I rode this summer, and while each had numerous high points, there were also a few things I might change.

On those tours I had some wonderful days, including riding through the Colorado National Monument, over the Grand Mesa, Slumgullion and Wolf Creek Passes. But for a day that had multiple challenges, spectacular scenery, beautiful weather, and an ending in a picturesque town surrounded by mountains, it would have to be Durango to Ouray, day 6 of the 2009 Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour.

Seventy miles and almost 7000 feet of climbing! We started the day in the cool morning air, fog rolling off the Animas River as we rolled out of Durango. Gentle rollers were the trend for the first 10 miles, then the climbing started. A couple thousand feet over 10 miles before it leveled out. And we hadn’t reached a mountain pass yet! This was just the first rest stop of the day, near the Purgatory ski area at Mt Durango.

Next, we headed up Coal Bank Pass at 10,640’, gaining another 2000 feet in less than 5 miles. What goes up must come down, and our first descent of the day gave back about 1000 feet in a couple of miles before climbing again to Molas Divide at 10.902’. The next 5 miles was a screaming descent down to Silverton at 9,308’.

The final climb of the day was over Red Mountain Pass at 11,100’ gaining about 1800 feet over 12 miles. This was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen from a bike seat. There were numerous places that you could look back and see where you had come from, and it was breathtaking. Getting to the top of the third pass, and fourth climb of the day was a great feeling of accomplishment. But there was still some fun left to be had.

A 3300’ drop from the top of Red Mountain Pass into Ouray, which tour organizers had described as “very steep, narrow and technical”. This stretch is called the Million Dollar Highway, and the views are easily worth that. After a day full of climbing, the last 13 miles was all downhill, literally. I spent much more time braking than pedaling, navigating one hairpin turn after another, needing to slow further as I entered Ouray coasting at 30mph past the 25 mph speed limit sign.

Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of America” and we spent our last night of the tour enjoying its charm and hospitality. A couple good meals, a nice cigar, and camping in the cool mountain air were a perfect ending to a great day on the bike.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree that this was a great day on the bike. There seemed to be a thousand good photo opps that last 13 miles but who wants to stop very often when you are going downhill! When we arrived in Ouray, we immediately went to the ice cream shop for a big chocolate malt. An excellent recovery drink.