The day was to begin with a 15 mile climb up over the 10,200′ Lizard Head Pass. But actually it began with a $10 pancake breakfast at the Elks club in the town of Telluride.
It was a chilly 48 degrees, or less, as we rolled out of town. I went by the high school and could hear the P.A. announcer and, just as I passed by, I heard the playing of the National Anthem begin. It was the opening ceremony for Ride the Rockies and I was just out of distance.
The first five miles, downhill, were cold. I looked on with envy at every rider with a jacket, full-fingered gloves, and leg warmers. I was cold.
At five miles in we turned on CO-145 and the road immediately turned up. The profile showed a 10-mile climb but there were some descents built into this climb. Not many, including myself, were prepared for the road to turn up this steeply this quick. But no problem.
People were soon pulled over removing those warm layers. Turns out I dressed perfectly for the day.
We were on the climb to Lizard Head Pass at 10,222′. I wore my Cyclists Combating Cancer kit and forgot that it is also in honor and memory of Jake — I have written on the back In Memory of Jake the Hero 2004-2012. One guy came beside me and said “Good job for Jake” which caught me completely by surprise. Then I remembered, Jake was with me.
At the top of the climb, which was long but not hard, I pulled over for some pictures. It was here the tour D.J. was set up and he played some music and talked a lot. I saw some broken eggs but he was sponsoring a race for a t-shirt. The t-shirt was perhaps 200 yards up a hill at the rest stop on a branch of the tree. Only a somewhat barren, somewhat grassy steep hillside stood between anyone who wanted to race to be first to touch the t-shirt.
I wondered why anyone in cycling shoes would run on that surface. But a woman took off. And after 50 yards or so with no competition, a man and a woman also pursued. Around 100 yards the man passed her and she sat down, completely out of breath. This was the 10,000′ level after all. He won a shirt.
The profile showed a 60-mile descent to Cortez, which was a lie. The first 15 miles after the pass was a real downhill though. I got in a tuck and soon started flying past people. But the road was a chip and tar or chip and seal road with a couple sweeping curves which didn’t seem too safe to just let it roll. Still, I hit 50 mph before bringing the speed back down.
The road trended down after that but one had to work the pedals. It was not a 60-mile coast.
Yesterday in Telluride, Chris told me about a natural hot tub in Rico which I realized after I passed through, I missed. But Rico is a neat little town.
At Dolores, 64 miles, I skipped the aid stop and rolled out with a number of cyclists. There was an uphill facing us and I felt good when I hit it, passing everyone then just cruising the rest of the way to Cortez.
When I got in I saw Wayne Stetina who told me his speed for the day was 23.1 Pretty impressive (mine was still 18.1) but he told me he had to shepherd a rider over Lizard Head Pass.
My roommate, Scott Olson, and I, made our way back to the school for the cycling seminar which featured George Hincapie. I was able to meet George and Connie Carpenter Phinney.
George spoke about his career but offered the same excuse as most cyclists of the era that they were caught up in the era. He said the guys that finished second or third or fourth never complained about the winner because they knew everyone was doing it. Sad. But he did offer hope for the future racers, specifically Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney. And his picks for the Tour: Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Cadel Evans.
In Cortez I had the worst experience in a motel. Ever. The room reeked so badly of smoke that no amount of spraying could correct. It made for a very miserable night. I’ve never been happier not to be in a motel room. We stayed out of the room as much as possible and would leave at the crack of dawn.
We can ignore the first mile of this trip as it looks like I was hitting the ski slopes. I wasn’t.