The morning started by climbing out of Golden. Literally across the street from the high school you're climbing at a 3-4% grade just to get out of town. Then you cross Highway 6 and you're climbing Lookout Mountain. The temperatures were mild and it was a beautiful morning as we climbed to better and better views of the valley behind us.
Buffalo Bill's grave, and eventually deposits you on Highway 40, which soon merges with I-70, and you're riding on the shoulder of the Interstate. We exited and got on the Evergreen Parkway, which sounds nice, but on a bike it's not a huge step up from the Interstate. I didn't care for that whole stretch, but sometimes to get from point A to point B, you do what you gotta do.
After a short while that just seemed longer, we turn onto Squaw Pass Road. The first "aid station" of the day was on the edge of this bucolic meadow. I think it was placed there to lure you into a false sense of security and make you forget that you still have another 15 miles or so of climbing just to get through the first third of the day!
I stopped at a convenience store and got a snack to supplement what I had with me, and sat and relaxed for a few minutes before riding on. We left Idaho Springs on Highway 40, which would take us all the way to the end in Winter Park/Fraser. First it meandered back and forth, north and south of I-70, but at least we weren't on I-70. After 10 miles we rolled through Empire and continued climbing towards Berthoud Pass. It was only 2-3% for 7 or 8 miles as we approached the switchbacks on the south side, but it was a miserable slog nonetheless.
By this point my legs were cramping, my head hurt, and my butt hurt. I was thinking that maybe I've done enough of these Colorado bike tours. I was feeling every one of my years on this earth. When it started to rain lightly I stopped and donned my rain jacket. I stopped again another mile or so down the road. I wanted to get out of my saddle. I wanted my legs to stop cramping. I wanted this day to be done. When Peter, the tour director pulled up and asked me what I thought, I told him I thought I was about done. I loaded my bike on his rack and he gave me a lift through the switchbacks to the summit. If he hadn't, I may still be there.
I didn't take pictures at the top, feeling I hadn't earned it. Berthoud Pass is one I've climbed from the other side. That was riding from Winter Park about 11 miles away. And that was the only climb I did that day. Facing it from the other side, 70 miles and a ton of climbing into the day proved too much for me that day. I guess part of doing a tour like this is enjoying the suffering. But that day, by that point, I wasn't having any fun.
I'll add this to my list of regrets. And before I go back again I'll ride a little farther, a little faster. I'll try to reach the place where I think I don't have anything left in my legs, and face a hill and make myself find a little bit more.