Saturday, the last day of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour, had us going from Hotchkiss back to the starting point at Grand Junction, with a twist. Instead of staying on CO 92 all the way to Delta, where we had gotten off of US 50 a week ago, we hung a right on CO 65 and headed for Cedaredge, and the Grand Mesa beyond it. If you're only going to ride up one mesa, it should be a grand one.
The route for the day would take us over the Grand Mesa, down a great descent, through a stunning canyon, onto the shoulder I-70 for about 5 miles before a long, hot ride through the outskirts of Grand Junction. And, everyone was deciding on what, if anything, they would do about heading for home after the ride. With that in mind I was up early for breakfast and to get packed one last time. I said my goodbyes to Theo, who was going to put our bags on the Penske truck to be picked up at the finish, and Scott, the bike mechanic who had taken care of us all week.
The ride was downhill for the first 20+ miles. Riding with Bud, and Dan and Janie we were making good time. We were working well together and picked up some help along the way. John from Austin, and Paul and Steve from Pittsburgh joined our little paceline, and we made it to our first aid station quickly, without having worked all that hard. Great way to start a long day!
Then, we were climbing. Just going slightly up hill in a straight line at first. Then the road turned and rose, which it would do several more times for about 20 miles. I don't think the pictures can do justice to the breathtaking views. As we rode higher and higher, we could see more and more of the valley below us.
When you get near to the top, the road takes you away from the rim of the mesa and onto rolling hills through forests and over 200 natural lakes. You can't see as far as you could on the climb up, but there's still plenty to see.
When I saw this sign, I knew I was near the high point. Pictures at the top, nice descent, and a long, hot ride to Grand Junction were all that was left.
The descent was longer, faster, and better than I had remembered. With the exception of a couple miles that had been repaired with chip-seal that felt kind of loose, you could get some good speed and maintain it for a long time. Before we knew it we were rolling through the canyon to the last aid station. One more snack and a refill of our water bottles and we were touring once more.
Mercifully, the 5 miles on I-70 is downhill and if you stayed to the right of the rumble strips, not that bad. But, it was still good to get it over with. By the time we hit Grand Junction the remaining water in my bottles was hot, so when Dan suggested stopping at a convenience store for a cold drink, I was on board. Another couple miles to the school and the four of us who rode in asked Hillary to take our picture. Then it was time to clean up, pack up, and hit the road towards Kansas. Another great CRMBT in the books.