Friday, July 17, 2009

BTC Day 6, Cottonwood Pass.

The day would start in Crested Butte and end in Buena Vista. It was only 75 miles or so. However, toss in some dirt road and 12,000 feet to make this a can't miss Epic Day.

the ride out of CB started with a short 7% climb right out of the school parking lot. I had some odd tightness and soreness in the legs, which I blame on Crested Butte. I spent way too much time on my feet, walking around and enjoying that fabulous little town in the mountains.

Luckily this would be the only climbing we did for the next 20 miles. It was downhill and fast to the first rest stop. Something I really needed to shake everything loose. The decent took us down to 8100 feet. It was all uphill from there. We would gain 4000 feet in the next 30 miles.

The rest stop was near the little river town of Almont. Actually, you could call this a little three river town since three seperate rivers converge here. This is in the Gunnision National Forest and I thought the views from here to the top were the best of the trip.

The next 20 miles, or so, to the second rest stop twisted in and around the canyons of Gunnision National Forest. The sun was still coming up and I cannot explain how amazing it was. I wish I could find the words to convey it. We would climb up to roulghly 9100 feet to Taylor Park Reservoir and the second rest stop.

The road up Cottonwood Pass was dirt. Hard packed, but by no means smooth rolling. Tim has a great little video he took when we first hit the dirt that shows the "bumpyness". Despite rain the previous night it was not messy and barely splashed any mud on the ride. The next 14 miles would be on this road, gaining aproximately 2800 feet as we climbed to over 12k.

I am not sure where Tim and I parted ways on the climb. We both understood that we each had to ride our own ride to reach the summit. If we parted ways, we parted ways. Neither of us would ever leave our wingman intentionally, but sometimes on the road up it happens.

I felt like I was flying up the dirt road. Likely due to the large number of riders I was passing. Let me just say, not one rider passed me on the way up, but maybe the fast guys slept in again?? As I passed other riders I let them know the elevation and grade. They all seemed to enjoy having that knowledge. We would exchange words of encouragement as well. With each one of these exchanges I gained power, strength and excitement. I was alone, but not alone.

My legs were painfree and my mind was clear. Dare I say a cycling zen moment??

10,000 and counting...

Nearing the top....

But still Climbing...

My Favorite. Looking back at where I came from. Amazing...

The Summit, looking down the dirt road approach.

Yes I was rocking the Belgian National Champ Jersey. Hey, maybe that was the motivation and reason for my zen like ride. I mean, I had to represent.....or not. Not sure why I look so odd, but I will blame it on the climb.

While at the top taking in some PB&J I was approached by a man who asked:

Ohio Belgian: "Are you Belgian" he asked as he pointed at my kit.
me: "Uh, no. I'm from Chicago dude."

Come to find out he and his family are from Belgium, but currently live in Ohio, and were in Colorado on vacation. They were amazed at all the cyclist coming up the dirt road to the summit. After several fun minutes of discussion about what was going on he asked if he could take a picture with me. Of course, I said yes and his son lined it up and snapped away with some very large and fancy looking camera. I must have still been dizzy from the ascent and totally failed to pull out my own camera to capture the moment.

Climbing Stats: Cottonwood Pass

--13.54 miles of dirt road to the top
--2,730 feet climbed on that dirt road
--9.4 mph average
--148 bpm average with 160 bpm max
--79 rpm average cadence
--12,126 feet above sea level

The descent was the most technical yet. At the top it was fast with sharp u turns. I was hesitant to say the least. Near the bottom it straightened out and I let loose a bit. It is crazy how fast you lose the elevation you just spent hours achieving. Crazy I say! As you can see by my long arse post this day was amazing for me. One I will never forget.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 4/5 - Crested Butte

A few post-ride and rest day shots from Crested Butte. The perfect place for a day off the bike. Some folks went for a ride, some folks rode the ski lift, some folks went white water rafting. We drank a bunch of coffee and rested. Coffee!

Post ride appetizer. Stash wings.
Post ride pizza. Philly Pete's Zaaa. Philly Cheese Steak pizza. SO GOOD.

The late afternoon view from Elk Avenue.
Mr iPhone at the coffee shop.

The view from the coffee shop.

A good place to have a few pints with the locals. And a good lunch burger to boot.

Breakfast at McGill's. I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the caprese omlette. It was gone too quickly.
Fun sculpture of Knight and Dragon.

Day 4 - Montrose to Crested Butte

After the into-the-wind trudge into Montrose on Tuesday, I was really looking forward to Wednesday. We had 92 miles on the docket to ride up to Crested Butte. I’d never been to the old mining town, but had heard and read wonderful things about how chill it was. We rolled out around 6 to cool clear weather and within a mile or two were smacked once again with a couple of harsh realities. First, we were back on US-50, which we’d been on since Grand Junction. Busy road. Second, the headwind pouring down from Cerro Summit was strong. We had been warned this might happen.

Around mile 5, Arron floated up the road and I let him know my legs weren’t ready to go. I settled into a reasonably comfortable rythym and started passing/getting passed by riders before the uptick in grade to Cerro.Summit. I could see Arron in the bright yellow/red 2007 RAIN jersey. He was ~50 yards ahead, then ~100, back to ~50, and then ~200. I was thinking he might be gone all day, which was no problem.

The road steepened for about 4 miles to Cerro Summit. For most of that there was a slow lane, so cars/trucks were passing with relative ease on the left. I tried to find someone with a pace I could follow, which took a little while. Soon a couple in matching BTC jerseys passed and I latched on to their wheel. The man took off leaving me to trade pulls with the lady to the top of the climb. Somewhere along the way we passed Arron. It was like the rides in Wisconsin where my legs don’t accelerate at the bottom of a steep hill, but finding a good cadence will have me passing people who passed me earlier before we hit the summit. At the top my average speed on the day was 9.6 mph.

The descent off of Cerro Summit was fast and fun. The first aid station was at the bottom. I met back up with Arron there and we continued on the rest of the day together. The second big climb of the day was up Red Mesa. It was less windy than Cerro, but there was no right hand slow lane, so we had to go single file and pass slower riders with care. I think this went up higher than Cerro Summit, but I’d have to check.
Another great downhill took us into the amazing landscape of bluffs and canyons along the Gunnison River. We passed by entrances to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, too. The second aid station was along a huge reservoir in the river.

The section of US-50 to Gunnison followed the river and felt relatively fast, even as we were steadily gaining altitude. We turned north at Gunnison and were finally done with US-50. We kept alongside the river passing through Almont. After a final aid station we did a short climb. Around the top of the climb we caught sight of a lone peak and a woman we passed let us know it was Mount Crested Butte. Excellent. With our destination growing on the horizon, we slowly made our way up the road to the town of Crested Butte and our day off the bike. More on Crested Butte in a separate entry.

BTC Day 4 Montrose to Crested Butte

BTC Day 4, Montrose to Crested Butte, 93 miles

On paper this didn't look to be too tough of a day. Cerro Summit at 7,950 feet and Blue Mesa Summit at 8,704 feet were less then the first two days and no where near the last two 12K summits. Like the games of sport, the day was not played out on paper.

We rolled out into a nasty headwind on a route that went up hill the first 15 miles. Nothing like 1700 plus riders riding along at 12 mph or less. I found a decent tempo early and attempted to maintain it to the top of the first climb.

I said I tried, but did not, or could not keep a steady pace. Halfway up that first climb I started to suffer. The legs were heavy and turning the pedals wwere a real chore.

Tim dropped back a bit stating he just wasn't feeling it yet. It didn't take him long to "feel it." In classic Tim fashion he blew past me midway up Cerro and reached the top first. He was focused and motivated as he glided past......

The two climbs didn't have amazing summits, but the views on the way up and down were fantastic. They provided some longer switchbacks that this Midwest Flatlander loves. They give you instant feedback, well as instant as something can be at 10 mph, when you can look back and see where you came from. Not to mention the long line of riders still trudging up the climb.

The payoff for today was Crested Butt and an OFF DAY. I know Tim will cover that well and leave it to him. We had a great time in CB for sure.

those switchbacks.

Tim wait for me!!!!

Lake Views

Rest Stop

Tim pulling us to Mt Crested Butte.

Yeah for Rest Days

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 3. Grand Junction to Montrose.

A.K.A., the journey to find the Colorado National Monument option and the death march.

I think Tim will do a better job of documenting the fun of day 3. I did not take many pictures and I did not retain many thoughts from this day. It was odd.

The BTC did NOT have the optional route through the park marked when we departed. It took us two hours to find the park. When we got on track we rolled up on an accident, 87 Bronco versus BTC Cyclist. It did not look good, but we did not stop as there was already a large crowd and plenty of assistance.

We stopped at the entrance to the park loop for a couple pictures and removal of arm warmers. I just didn't feel it. I was already mentally tired, still physically tired, and not ready to climb.

These feelings lasted a couple miles. Then we started to climb up to a section of switchbacks. Despite the heavy traffic, due to us entering the wrong entrance due to the BTC dropping the ball on the route markings, this section was awesome. As we climbed up the road we could look back and down at where we had just come from.

Tim was clearly loving this. He was once again zooming up and down the climbs taking numerous pictures. He looked fresh and energized as we climbed the 8% grade and almost 4000 feet of climbing the 40 mile loop had to offer.

Since this was a loop the first 20 miles were climbing and the second 20 descending. The descent was a little tricky due to road construction and traffic, but not extremely technical. We rolled out of the park and all I could think was; "How the heck could this be optional!!" The Colorado National Monument was AMAZING!

Immediately out of the park and we were into the wind with just the two of us. It was slightly uphill as we headed back to where we started, Grand Junction. The rest of the day would be Highway Miles. I was begging for the first Rest Stop and wondering why oh why were the miles ticking off so slowly....

It was. At the first stop we discovered that numerous riders went in numerous directions this morning looking for the Colorado National Monument loop. Some had an extra 25 miles already in their legs. Tim and I had 12 or so. Not a big deal right? Did I mention it was hot? There was a headwind? And we were traveling the next 60 miles along one single highway?

Let's pick up the pace here. At mile 85 I wanted to stop. I wanted to SAG wagon it. I saw no point to continue along the highway into the headwind. Did I mention it was 100 degrees out? There was no scenery to be seen. The rest of this day could only hurt. It had no benefit, but plenty of risk (mentally & physically).

Out of character, I sorta mentioned these thoughts to Tim. I pointed out that numerous strong riders were and had called it a day. We had 85 miles and 6000 feet of climbing. No shame in that.

"No. I have all day to finish." End of that.

Eventually we finished this 112 mile journey. A journey of two separate rides. The good and the bad. Part of the reason I ride is for the challenge. This day was an mental and physical challenge to the extreme. Looking back, I am glad we rode on, but initially I was pissed. A massage and dinner at DQ helped me get over it.

Well, I guess I had more to say about this day then I thought. Time for photographic evidence.