I got to spend ten days in the high altitude Coloradan mountains the past week. A great host family who my dad knew from the old days took us in and let them join their family riding "bandit" during RidetheRockies. Thank you so much Morrissey's!official RidetheRockies six day tour.
Our friends live in North Boulder so we rented a car and drove four hours south to start the ride in Crested Butte. The actual day one of RTR started in Gunnison, about 27 miles south of our hotel, so the first day would be a big day of riding.
|First night sleeping at 9,898ft!|
We would be riding the rest of the week back north weaving through and over mountains so we dropped off that car. We only had one vehicle for 17 people the rest of the week but it was a 14-passenger van that hauled all our bags so I would say it worked out pretty nicely.
Crested Butte to Gunnison to Hotchkiss
111 miles at close to 7 hours of bikin'
We started off as a pretty big group around 8am and made good work of pace-lining but were derailed by I think multiple flats. Either way, we got to Gunnison around 10am and everyone and thing was gone. Most stores were already closed and all the tents the officially riders stayed in had been bagged and hauled away. The town would have seemed pretty nice but it was 4-lane roads of ghost town so we quickly grabbed some breakfast and headed out into a phat headwind. A headwind for the next 84 miles.
I complain about headwinds on the way home from Hinckley to my dad (~8.4 miles from home) so I'm sure even my dad was not to thrilled about riding with me for the next five hours. Luckily he had Julie to talk to. I tried to keep to myself well enough though. His goal was to catch someone. Anyone. It took 38 miles and a whole bunch of steady pace-lining before we saw any sign of RTR people when we started picking off bonked-what-have-i-signed-up-for folks.
"I'm from New York City. My friends from Colorado told me this ride was flat today."
I was also under the impression this was an easy day I told her. One category four climb and another category three climb seemed pretty manageable for this sea-leveler. But the day still lasted forever due to the wind.
Our accommodations waiting for us weren't the nicest either so we were all kind of in the dumps about this whole riding mountains thing. That is until we heard some of the horror stories from up the street in the "retreat" (no running water) and how the sprinklers went off in the baseball field full of campers.
The week was looking like an uphill struggle (semi-literally)
Hotchkiss to Carbondale to Basalt
84 miles at close to 5 and 1/2 hours of riding
Since everyone wanted to get out of our accommodations asap, we left relatively early for ourselves, 7:22am. This gave us the ability of getting water at the aid stations (didn't feel guilty using RTR water since you could see the garden hose running into the bucket) and not having to locate our 14-passenger bus somewhere on the road. Let me tell you this, 7:22am in RTR terms is like leaving late. People are nuts in Colorado. We were cruising pretty early with a good group including texas strongman Joe Udell passing hundreds of people. Something clicked (not my cleat) and I felt really good climbing on this day. It worked out well as there was a category two climb late in the day that kicked some early starting folks in the you-know-where.
Unfortunately I broke a spoke (brought extras though!) and a cleat at the same time. I still don't know how but I can manage anything. Anyway, dad and I still passed no less than five hundred people on McClure Pass (maybe ~6 miles) with one foot clipped in and rear wheel relatively out of tru -__- Sometimes it is nice to be all mr. racer and blowing by people, but man, I really felt bad for some people. We were going about eight or nine mph in our 39-28s at like 70rpm (ie don't want to go any slower) My point is this was going to be a super, super long week for them. We rolled it back pretty good breakaway style with Joe into Carbondale and bought some smoothies and repaired my wheel. We waited for the rest of the group while the temperature heated up.
This is where my dad's first bonk ever occurred. Since there are like 45 bike shops per square mile in Colorado so were we dropping back from the group running into stores to see if they had an older speedplay cleat for younger robert. We eventually got on the phone with a place in Basalt (where our motel was) that was the speedplay dealer of middle-west southeastern western Colorado or something, and they happened to have a set of cleats for me.
Now, approximately three miles behind the group and only twelve miles out of town, we set off on some ever-so-slightly uphill bike path. But it turns out, it was never ending also. We had run out of water and were standing up for three big pedal strokes a time just so we could relax for one. We were both pretty fatigued but I think more just sick of being in our bike clothes for past eight hours, eight minutes. But hey, who's counting?
We eventually made it after asking for directions multiple times. That alone should just show how shot my dad was, one never to ask for directions, or rather yelling, "HOW MUCH FURTHER TO BASALT, WE ARE SHELLED?!"
Basalt was a really cool town and the bike shop we went to had my cleats so that was super neat.
Basalt to Twin Lakes
64 miles at 4 and 3/4 hours
My legs were sore this day. Not like I did a race the day before and they are on the verge of cramping, just sort of not there. I am thinking that is what feeling old is like. We kicked off the day riding up to Aspen on a towpath like substance. It was like 2% grade and my legs said stop so I told my legs to shut up. Then we went up Independence Pass. I made it until about three miles to go when my legs were starting to shut down. We had just passed through 11,500ft and we could see the final switchback which made it worse for me. The first fifteen miles of the climb I just stared straight into my dad's back and kept my mouth shut. The last three miles on the other hand I started complaining about how I feel like I could go faster, but couldn't. My dad then heard my wheezing and dropped (the hammer) the pace from about 7.2mph to 6.8mph. That was actually just slow enough so I could make it without keeling over. I eventually did make it up after some more complaining.
But the descent was totally worth it. We had probably three turns of the 180 variety on the final twenty two miles on the run into "town"
Town was non-existent (ie we had to get food catered (ps which is awesome)) so we got the van to drive us to Leadville so we could make fun of all the people camping while we got expensive ice-cream and got strava-faced by multiple dorks.
Twin Lakes to Leadville to Granby to Grand Lake
125 miles at just over 7 hours
|Add 16 miles uphill to the start and 15 more slightly uphill at the end!|
Three category four climbs, a category three, and a category two- but with a slight tailwind makes for an awesome ride.
There were some awesome descents, too, though. I will always remember this bike path we were rolling down at no joke 35mph for a good five miles. That has to be a category one climb going the other way, ON THE BIKE PATH PEOPLE.
Kind of funny in the morning, our host got a flat on the way out to Leadville and it was so cold (34° according to Garmin) his Co2 froze his valve core open. In the afternoon, the same guy had to go and ride a mile an a half more to get ice cold cokes because we were suffering from the heat (97° according to Garmin)
There are probably lots of small stories I am forgetting from this day but we did have to focus on the riding a bit more as we were volunteered as the three victims who got to do the whole ride. We were rewarded with a little more sleep and a nice head start the next morning though!
Grand Lake to Estes Park
53 miles in 3 and 1/2 hours
|Pretty neat picture Julie captured of some FRED's I DESTROYED.|
|One more giant switchback to the summit!|
|Little bit of haze from the fire on the top of the peaks.|
I ended up feeling really good and we crushed all those tourists. The descent was also super simple so I touched my brakes probably for thirty seconds total on thirty minutes of descending.
Estes Park to North Boulder
34 miles at a bit under 2 hours
We rode back to our hosts' house. There were mountains, rivers, views, you know, boring Colorado stuff.
Days 6 and 7
76 more miles exploring Boulder and the surrounding area.
|4.5 mile climb @ 7% that starts one block from the apartment.|
|Blue water clearing enough for reflections.|
|People working out on an amphitheater with quite a view.|
|White water rivers in the towns.|
|Cloud cover but it never rains.|
|Great people who don't mind dorky, old basketball shirts.|
I now can truly undersand why everyone in Colorado loves their life and why everyone else is jealous.