Saturday, August 20, 2011

crmbt '11 gunnison to buena vista

On Tap for Tuesday was climbing. From Gunnison to the summit of Cottonwood Pass we would gain almost 4500 feet in elevation. And about 3000 of those feet would be in the last 13 miles between the second and third aid stations.
This is a ride that I tried to do, two years ago in June on Bicycle Tour of Colorado. That year, by the time I reached Taylor Park Reservoir I was already drenched by a cold rain, leaving me with no desire to climb the unpaved side of this pass. And at the top the fog had moved in, reducing visibility to a few hundred feet. So, I didn't even get to enjoy a descent. That day was a bust.
Wanting to give myself every opportunity of a successful day this time, I was up by 5:30am , hoping to be on the road by 6:30am, even though the total mileage for the day was only 69 miles. A quick breakfast and on the bike, only to discover my front tire was flat! I took off the wheel and prepared to change the tube, but in the 40 degree Gunnison morning I could barely feel my fingers. I asked Scott, the bike mechanic if he would mind helping, and he changed the tube and found a tiny piece of wire from a retread tire that had caused the flat, one of about five in camp that morning. I tipped him, including a 6-pack of Fat Tire Blue Moon later, and I was on my way.
I remembered it as being a beautiful ride through the canyon from Almont to the reservoir, and I wasn't wrong. Campgrounds and ranches, rivers and trails, fairly quiet road and lots of sunshine made it a great morning.
We made the turn onto Cottonwood Pass Road and were on the dirt. For the most part it wasn't as bad as you might think. If you could find a hard packed rut to ride in it was almost as good as blacktop, even if it was on the wrong side of the road. But every so often you would hit washboard, or a soft spot, and they made it a little jarring.
The scenery didn't disappoint, though. Before the climb, Norm, who at 74 has done every CRMBT and four Ride The Rockies before that, and had done this climb, told me to be sure to stop and look back as I climbed. The views of the valley and the reservoir were stunning. Thanks, Norm!
Everything about this day was better than two years ago, and after some hard work to reach the summit, I was taking pictures at 12, 126 feet. And the visibility could be measured in miles rather than feet. We had earned what promised to be a great descent, downhill almost all the way into Buena Vista, twenty miles and 4200 feet down the road.
On a long straight stretch with 10% grades I got up to about 50 mph, and had to slow down when I caught a pickup truck! I heard later of others familiar with the road reaching speeds well into the 60's! Really, though 50 is fast enough. A little scary, but a little scary is okay. I actually had to hit the brakes to stop and get the shot of the Buena Vista city limit sign. I knew my way to the high school, so I detoured a block out of the way to K's Dairy Delite for a cheeseburger and chocolate shake. The register prints the name of someone famous on your receipt, and that's the name they call when your order's ready. My receipt read Mario Andretti. Nice!
I also got a picture of the Penske truck used to transport bags from one stop to the next. The last time I attempted Cottonwood Pass I rode into Buena Vista in the back of one of these! That made for a good story, but it was much more enjoyable on my bike. Dinner later with Tom, Bill, Denny, and Bud at a decent Mexican place made this a pretty good day!
p.s. Look for a preview of the US Pro Cycling Challenge tomorrow afternoon on Versus. Today's climb and tomorrow's will be part of the race which will feature Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, and runners-up Andy and Frank Schleck.

No comments:

Post a Comment