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.