Sunday, August 26, 2012

crmbt-telluride to mancos

Friday 8-10-12

While I was having a leisurely breakfast, riding gondolas, and sitting with a good book Thursday morning, several riders had been out for a short ride. It was only about 15 miles to the top of Lizard Head Pass, the big climb on Friday's route. Some had made it all the way there, some had turned around short of the summit, but they all came back with this cautionary tale: road construction in preparation for the upcoming USA Pro Challenge was causing intermittent one-lane road backups, and even a short section where the CDOT had installed a traffic light. If riders could make it through the construction area before they started at 7:00am it would save them some time, and possibly aggravation.

Even though I had gotten to bed "late", I still planned on trying to be on the road by 6:30am. I was wide awake at 5:00am. The banana and pastry that I'd grabbed from the supermarket on Thursday were a quick breakfast, and Theo had coffee going, so I was fed, packed, and prepared for the day earlier than planned. At 6:00am I turned on my headlight and blinking taillight and headed out of Telluride on a cool, pleasant morning. I only saw a few cars and no other riders before I was past Mountain Village. Eventually I passed Lisa and her friend, and for a while we leapfrogged each other as I stopped for pictures.
 Thanks to my early departure I was through the construction zone with time to spare. Only a handful of workers were arriving for the day as I rolled past. As I approached the traffic light, Dale, a long-time volunteer was greeting riders with a warning that the light didn't last long enough for bikes to make it to the other end, so we needed to watch for oncoming cars on the one lane road. I slowed to listen to him and approach the two cars already at the light. As I rolled up to them the light changed and I sped up. When the light changed to allow cars from the other direction (there was only one) I was almost to the end and the road was still wide as it funneled traffic into the one lane, so I was through with no problems.
Through the construction zone, but still on freshly paved road, I immensely enjoyed the views of the peaks, the forests largely unaffected by the pine beetle which has scarred so many areas of Colorado, and the serene Trout Lake. As the sun worked it's way over the ridge, there was no place on earth I would have rather been at that moment.
I followed one rider into the aid station at Lizard Head Pass. Denise was a school teacher from Colorado Springs, splitting her nights on the tour between "camping" in school gyms, and staying in motels. We learned that we were the first riders through, except for James. Retired and living in Tuscon, James does bike tours all over, and always leaves really early and rides hard, and probably has never seen rain on a mountain. Being out in front of most of the tour made me feel like I was in a breakaway. But I still had to stop for pictures.
On this 83 mile day, after a climb of 15 miles to Lizard Head, we had a 50 miles descent to Dolores. A fifty mile descent! Woohoo! There were a few spots where it was nice to crouch down and let gravity do her thing, but there was a lot more of the kind of gradual downhill that lets you get into a big gear and pedal while flying down the mountain. Twenty-four miles into the descent there was stop for another aid station. Denise and I had been passing each other as she would ride fast, I would ride faster, I would stop for pictures, and she would pass me again.
 When the breakaway stops for pictures, they're going to get caught. By mile 50 a handful of riders were passing me by. Leaving early and stopping for pictures probably cancelled each other out, and I felt pretty good about the pace I'd made all morning. After one last aid station in Dolores, we had 20 miles left to get into Mancos. Matt and a group from Minnetonka were working in a paceline, and Amy and I thought we would try to hang with them. That lasted a couple miles before I had to drop off. Amy slowed down too, and we rode into Mancos at a brisk, but sustainable pace.
 We found Matt as we made our way down the road to the school, passing a cafe, bar, and more than one coffee shop. When we arrived Theo and the boys were just setting up the tents, so we headed back to the cafe and a group of us enjoyed various breakfast and lunch selections. The afternoon was spent visiting, singing along with oldies radio, and making sure we were just organized enough to have something to wear on our last day. Matt, Paul, Steve and I went down to the Columbine Bar for dinner. Taco Night was prepared by the cafe that we had visited for lunch. Served on the top of the pool table, 5 for $10 tacos tasted pretty good. Back at camp we stayed up a little later than normal, nobody really wanting the tour to be over. We had an early start and a long day ahead of us, with some folks headed for airports, or highways promising long drives. We also had one more day in the company of good people, amid beauty that only in small part could be captured by my camera.

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