Garth’s excellent Colorado cycling adventure

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In case you didn’t already know it, my wife Andrea is awesome. For Christmas she surprised me by signing me up for the Bicycle Tour of Colorado that started on June 19th. This is a brief account of that adventure.
Pre-ride: The Isle of Capri Hotel & Casino in Black Hawk is about 4 miles from the start and had cheap rooms. The problem with that is Black Hawk is a pit of a town.. really. A pathetic nothing but gambling town. No grocery store, no pharmacy type store, no pool or fitness room in the hotel. Nothing. To make matters worse, riding bicycles is against the law in Black Hawk. The only good part is Black Hawk is 8,000 feet above sea level giving us a chance to acclimate to elevation. Our first day there, Thursday, we went for a drive on the route the bicycle tour would follow. Yikes! Big climbs right from the start. We drive to a ski resort thinking it was unique to see snow in June and find that running at 10, 000 feet just doesn’t go so well the on the first day. The day before the start of the tour, Saturday, we put our bikes together and go for a 30+mile ride to Nederland, get great coffee and meet Heather Irmiger decked out in her team Subaru/Trek kit.
Day 1: This was only a 56 mile ride to Estes Park. Only 56 miles I think so I’ll ride like it’s a 56 mile ride. I like the climbs but get carried away too often, up & down hill. At the end of the ride I plan to not pedal so hard on the downhills, I’ll try to conserve some energy, because I am beat and somewhat disenchanted with riding. I am NOT looking forward to the next day.
Day 2: I feel better now, almost looking forward to riding – almost. This was billed as the best day of the ride. A 60+ mile ride up the Trail Ridge Road into the Rocky Mountain National Park with great roads and beautiful scenery. In the morning the road was closed due to a snow storm so it was unclear as to what we would do. Not until about 7:45 did we get word that we would proceed to aide station 2 and perhaps then the road would be open. Early during this climb I noticed I am being shadowed by a guy who thought I had a good pace and after speaking a bit we decided to stick together, keeping each other reasonable and not stick with each cyclist that may go by. It was hard, real hard not to go with the few folks that went by, but in the end it worked out great. Towards the top it was snowing but not so hard, and it was not very cold.. it was truly beautiful.
Approaching 3 miles from the top however, pretty snow turned to driving hail which felt like needles penetrating my skin. Visibility dropped to maybe 30 feet. One eye was hurting with some sharp pain so I keep it closed, which didn’t matter anyway since that side of my glasses were useless. My hands and feet quickly turned numb and shivering gave my bike a terrible wobble. At the top I entered the visitor’s center to try & warm up. It was filled with another 50 cyclist that had the same idea. Thirty minutes didn’t seem to help much so I put on another coat & hat that I had been carrying and headed down. Wobble wobble all the way. At some point after getting all the way down I grab a hot chocolate from a store and shortly after I can feel my hands & feet for the first time since just before the summit. I roads are quiet – I see only 2 other cyclist in the next 17 miles. Turns out the park service didn’t let any more folks down because of the conditions so they were bused down while others who had ridden back to the start in Estes Park were bused from there. This was truly the worst day of cycling I have ever had but also one that I’ll never forget.
Day 3: Lots of pace line work until Muddy Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass. The climbs seem to go on forever but sadly end at the top. Screaming 7 mile decent into Steamboat Springs.
Day 4: Long, long, long flat windy section before some climbs. The weather is great but climbing for an hour in the sun takes a lot out of a person.
Day 5: No riding, we take a whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado which is at it’s highest in 27 years.
Day 6: Up Vail Pass on the bike path. Up, up, up. I am feeling better every day so I’ve got a good pace going up and stick with the guy who came up from behind. On the way down was the first time I felt that ‘descending skills’ were required. Now this is a bike path, about 8 feet wide and since it is descending a mountain it is surely not straight. So many curves including 2 180 degree turns that so need to be alert. I was either pedaling or on my breaks, leaning into the turns and passing so many folks.
Day 7: Loveland Pass was the major climb of the day, about 8.5 miles and 2600 feet of elevation ( I had no working computer on this trip, got this from mapmyride ) to the top. The trip down was regulated by a truck that I couldn’t safely pass. Good thing perhaps. Then we get on I70 and descend another 17 miles where on the way down I actually passed a truck that was in the slow lane. Yeah, he wasn’t going all that fast, but the fact that I was in my top gear spinning 100+ rpm and actually passed a vehicle on the highway entertains me. As we approach Central City we have one more BIG climb ahead of us and my riding partners don’t make it easy. On the climbs I am always looking behind me to see if anyone is catching me. If I don’t see anyone I keep a nice pace that only hurts a little but three quarters of the way up I see an Expowheelman gaining and have to dig a little deeper and hurt a little more. At the ending party we got one free beer and had a 20% grade back up to the parking lot. Perfect!

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