Wednesday, August 25, 2010

end of the road

I was on the road by 6:00am on Saturday. I had a century ride ahead of me, losing about 700 feet in elevation from Granby back to Edwards. But, there was a 2200 foot climb of Gore Pass slightly less than halfway through the ride. And, before it was over, I would learn that CO 131 Summit, about 80 miles into the ride and 8,250 feet, was nothing to sneeze at, especially 80 miles into the ride.
The temperature was 40 degrees when I started out in the morning. A blue sky and slightly downhill grade made for an enjoyable ride to the aid station in Kremling. The road turned upward for the next 8 miles, then the climbing really started. The grades weren't bad, but it was a steady climb for 7 or 8 miles. It was a pretty ride, but the views were mostly of the trees we rode through.
Aid station 2 was at the summit of Gore Pass. Still early in the day, less than 60 miles to go, and all the big climbs were done. The "wrenches" had their tent set up to aid with any mechanical difficulty riders might be having. Luckily, they were not needed by too many this morning.
The next few hours were fast, short descents, followed by a couple of short climbs. Overall the descents were much longer than the climbs. I love a ride like that, but eventually in cycling, what goes down, must come back up.
We passed through some pretty, red-rock hills, and over the Colorado River not too far from it's beginning. The temperature had climbed into the 70's, I was making good time, and it had been a pretty good day.
Then CO 131 Summit reared it's ugly head. It was warm, steep, and long enough to hurt after 80 miles in the saddle. I had lost count of how many times during the week I had to think "just keep turning the peddles". This was another one of those times. I stopped to rest and have some water, of which I only had a little left, where a group of riders was just getting back on their bikes. One of them told me they thought it was less than 2 miles to the top. I said " If it's longer than that, tell my wife I love her". When I saw the final aid station at the summit, it could have been a mirage. I was so glad to see the volunteers, like Misty and her people. This is one of the few pictures you would see of Misty without her tennis ball. I also met Paul at the top and we rode down together.
After a rest, snack and full water bottles we had about 16 miles down to Edwards. I got everything into my car, grabbed a towel and a quick shower, and was on the road by 3:30pm. I drove more than halfway back to Olathe, getting to Oakley, KS by 10:30pm. That left a more manageable 5 hours to get home Sunday morning.
I rode 432 miles in 6 days on the tour, and 20 miles doing Berthoud Pass on my own. I was tired and sore, but very grateful to have completed so many great rides. Loveland Pass, Mt Evans, and Trail Ridge Road were all highlights, but the whole week was spectacular. I love Colorado, and hope to be able to go back again. And I really need to check out some other states too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

rocky mountain national park

During our rest day in Estes Park we were informed that the road work through the park was nearing completion. We would be able to ride on freshly paved roads and have no sections of dirt to navigate. We were also informed that the Park Service had requested that we be through the gates by 6:15am. They didn't want 150 riders strung out along Trail Ridge Road with afternoon storms rolling in. We were camping less than 8 miles from the park entrance, but I was up early, had a light breakfast, and was on the road by 5:00am. No problem getting through the gate on time, and I had the added bonus of being in the park as dawn broke in the Rocky Mountains.
Before it was light I saw an elk standing on the side of the road. A car coming in the other direction saw it just as it drove by, and squealed it's brakes as it slowed to look. That got the elk ambling off before I could stop and get at my camera. It was still pretty cool. The early morning was chilly, but I had all my gear with me, and was comfortable.  As we climbed, the views stretched out on the horizon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Occasionally there was a break in the trees and you were able to see the road cut into the mountain ahead of you. I thought the sign announcing you were now at 2 miles above sea level was neat, but we still had more than 1600 feet to climb. The high point today would be 12,183 feet, and we would be above 11,000 feet for more than 8 miles.      
I made it to the first aid station at mile 21 by 8:00am. We were at a pulloff that has to give you some of the most spectacular views of the park that you could hope for. We were in the 11,000 feet+ section, and just a few miles from the high point. The road rose and fell over the next several miles, but never went down too far. We were told that there was a herd of elk ahead, but it was hard to spot them up the slope in the distance and still keep your bike on the road. I saw a photographer with a long lens leaning on his car and stopped to see what he was shooting. Several elk were lying, and standing, up the mountainside.               
Once the road turned down, it really turned down. There was some great descending for mile after mile. There were some switchbacks that required caution, but there were several sections that were ideal for a speedy ride down. As we neared the other side of the park the road levelled out some, but still trended downhill all the way to Granby. We did fight a little bit of a headwind, but the ride was a good one.       
Even with several stops for pictures, and sometimes just to gawk at the incredible scenery, I still finished the 62 mile ride to Granby by early afternoon. Sherpaville was still being set up, but the organizers set up the tents for shade, put out some cold Cokes and chocolate chip cookies out for our refreshment, and as riders came in we sat in the shade and compared notes on the great day on a bike we had just experienced.   
I had lunch at Hub Grub, got a pic of Theo, the Sherpa Packer, and took a brief nap during the afternoon rainshower, and read, visited, and enjoyed the views of the clouds and mountains from the plains of Granby.

I borrowed this shot from Theo's Facebook page to give you a look at Norm.  He's a 70-something gentleman who is the elder statesman of CRMBT. He is the only rider to have don all 4 years of this tour, and the hailstorm this year on the ride to Estes Park was the first time he ever has had to SAG.

One day to go to finish this year's CRMBT. I was still feeling good about my ride up Mt Evans, but this ride  through RMNP has to be one of the most beautiful days I've ever had on a bike. Tomorrow's ride doesn't present nearly the altitudes or obstacles we've seen already, but it is 102 miles to get back to Edwards, so it's one more early day in the saddle.