Sunday, August 24, 2014

crmbt day 7 - woodland park to colorado springs

Saturday, 8-9

From Woodland Park to Colorado Springs is a quick, 20-mile, mostly downhill ride on the ever busier US Highway 24. Even with the last couple climbs in town to get back to the high school, this ride should take no more than a couple hours. Oh, right, we had a little detour planned for 20-miles up, 20-miles back. Pikes Peak, baby!
 I took these pictures the Saturday before the tour started when I drove out to Woodland Park to recon the route that would get us off US24 a little sooner, save us from one small climb, and deliver us to the mother of all climbs. I wanted some shots of where you pay your fee and enter Pikes Peak Toll Road because I knew that when I went through the gates in one week, it would be much earlier, and much, much darker.

A handful of us, including Steve and Paul, left the high school at 5:00am with all of our front and rear lights blazing and blinking. We got off of US24 onto Green Mountain Falls Road and followed it as it changed names a few time over the next few miles. Then a right onto Chipita Park Road for a mile or so. When we came to where I knew we would have to make a sharp right turn and immediately start climbing toward the toll booth, we came upon the surreal sight of dozens of bikes rolling through the dark, their blinking lights announcing their presence.

Peter greeted us as we went through the entrance; our tolls had been paid by CRMBT as part of our registration. And we continued to climb. Those responsible for Pikes Peak had requested riders be through the gates between 5:30 and 6:00am, to give us a chance to spread out and be a good way up the mountain before cars are allowed through starting at 7:30am. And, as we climbed, spread out we did!
 Looking down on US24 as morning broke.
 So many things to watch for.
 Harold and Vida at the day's first aid station just past Crystal Creek Reservoir.

I don't think that there are a lot of cars waiting to go through the gates right at 7:30am. But there are at least a few. We had the mountain to ourselves for over 2 hours. Then at 7:51 we were over halfway to the top when I realized: "We are not alone".  A minivan with Illinois plates rolled by followed by a few other vehicles. There would be stretches of no cars, followed by a group going by us, but the traffic wasn't bad for a Saturday in August.
After the Crystal Creek Reservoir aid station, 7 miles into the climb, we kept climbing, but with some sections where the grade leveled out, or even dropped a little, giving riders a chance to regain some speed and catch their breath. The next aid station would be 7 miles further up, and the final one at the summit. The last 5 miles to the summit was, at least for me, tough. There were a few steep sections where I looked down to see that my speed was down to 2.5 mph! In a couple stretches I thought that I could walk as fast as I was riding, so I did! Just to get out of the saddle, try to catch my breath, and continue to make some progress gave me a little lift, and let me think that I really was going to make it after all.
As we neared the summit we were treated to views that were nothing short of spectacular! For those of us upward-velocity challenged riders there was plenty of encouragement from other riders passing us on the way to the summit, and descending from it. A few words can really help when you're pushing so hard, bumping up against the limits of your abilities. After what seemed like an endless supply of switchbacks, we made it to the unpaved parking lot at 14,100 feet!
 I went to the gift shop/cafe and had tea (the coffee dispenser was empty) and donuts (no, I didn't ask if they were vegan, I just ate them). It's self serve and when I got to the cashier I told her I was paying for 2 donuts, but I'd already eaten one while in line. Deb (above) and David were at a table and called me over to join them. They told me about signing in at the aid station so CRMBT could put the names of all who made it to the summit on their website. Tourists who had driven up looked at us with what could have been awe, or pity. But they didn't exclaim "I can't believe you rode a bike up here" like I've heard on Independence Pass and other summits. If they had Glenn had supplied the appropriate response: "Yeah, it's faster than walking".
The descent wasn't the kind I love. It was beautiful and awesome, but way too steep and curvy to go fast. I had to keep pumping my brakes to keep the speed under control and stay on the road. Once  back below tree-line there were some nice sections where you could get some good speed, and make great time towards the finish line in Colorado Springs.

I stopped at both aid stations again to refill bottles and let my brakes cool. I also stopped and helped change a flat tire, of which I, fortunately, had none all week. Back on US24 we had much more traffic to contend with, but we were still going downhill at a good rate. Back in town I tried to stay on the cleanest part of the shoulder. It wasn't always easy. I was relieved to see Dale, one of the incredible volunteers, to tell us where we needed to turn. The rest of the way to the high school was on much more low-traffic streets, but they still held a couple of climbs to get there. After 160+ miles and 4 summits the last 2 days, those hills were almost my demise.

I finally did make it to the high school to find the showers were ice cold. I washed my hair and thought the rest of the shower could wait until I got to my motel. I found a Qdoba for lunch, checked in at the Radisson Airport, showered and took a 2 hour nap. I was so tired! When I woke, I watched TV for a while and didn't even have the energy to go looking for dinner. I ordered a pizza, and was back in bed shortly after dinner.

When I woke in the middle of the night I got up, made coffee and headed for home. One nap at a rest area, a few stops to walk around the car and do some stretches, and I made it home to my wife and puppies early Sunday afternoon. It was good to get unpacked and wash some bike clothes. It was great that I also had taken Monday off and had one more day to recover from one of the hardest, and most satisfying, things I'd ever done.


  1. Congratulations on making the summit and thanks for sharing the pics!

    1. Thank you, Clay. I thought of you more than once after we passed the reservoir. It was as hard as you said.

  2. Congratulations Jeff! It sounds, and looks like you had a great time. I enjoyed the write-ups/pictures. When you were telling of letting your brakes cool, I had visions of the patrol guy out there with his infrared thermometer checking your rims. I have found, and I do not know why, when I put in a hard effort or a hammer session, I get tired. Really tired. AND, I don't ride Pikes Peak! That is awesome you added that to impressive cycling resume.

    Thanks you for sharing,

  3. You summed this up so well, Jeff! At some point on the ascent, I wonder how many other riders thought like I did, that if I moved any slower, I'd do an "Arte Johnson" from the Laugh-In Series! Credit to Peter for adding this to the tour . . . very tough and something I would have never comprehended doing. A good example of CRMBT getting me beyond my comfort level and exploring new territory.

  4. at one point Kevin stopped me because I looked wobbly. It's hard not to have a little wobble when you are going so slow!