Stelvio Pass

BORMIO, ITALY

I will claim ignorance. As a cycling fan, I am embarrassed. Or I should be embarrassed. I knew nothing about the Stelvio.

Caitlin Steele, Sonja Schmidt

It was just a few weeks ago during the Giro d’Italia that the Stelvio pass made cycling news for days. The weather was so bad that the Giro either did or did not tell the teams that the descent would be neutralized for safety. The leaders flew down it, everyone else went reasonably and lost chunks of time.

 

Today, we would climb the famed passo Stelvio. And I knew nothing about it.

James Shanahan

We left the hotel in Moena by shuttle and drove a couple of hours to Prato. Once there, we offloaded at a hotel by an intersection of the roads. Sure hope Trek Travel had permission because we took over all the rest rooms for changing.

Hotel near Prato where we changed clothes

We rolled at out an intersection and I went first this time. I had no intention of being first up the climb and within one hundred meters I pulled over as my spokes were hitting the speed sensor on the fork. Everyone rolled by me as I readjusted the sensor and then rode tempo to catch the back of the group, but only after also adjusting the bike pump which was being hit by the crank.

The first four kilometers were pretty flat or trending up at one or two percent. Once at the base of the pass the road turned up in a beautiful forest with no idea why lies ahead. It was warm and I was sweating pretty heavily.

Hotel on the lower slopes of Stelvio

Having been last I caught and rode with Caitlin Steele and Colin Giffney. I have ridden with them quite a bit this week. We chatted without hardly noticing the steepness of the road in the forest. When we went by the Trek Travel guides they were astounded that we were just chatting away. We were supposed to be out of breath.

L-R: Caitlin Steel, Collin Giffney, Barry Sherry

Colin and Caitlyn stopped at a planned water/rest stop and I rode ahead, passing Bud Hoffacker and Anne Marie Redmond and then caught Chris and Jim Ashton. I’ve ridden with Chris and Jim quite a bit this week as well.

Near the top of the forest one sees the first sign – Tornanti 48. That is turn or switchback number 48. Only 47 to go. It would be another kilometer before the next turn.

 

Eventually we left the forest and could see nothing but road and hairpin curves ahead. I tried not to look for the summit but could not help it. It was so beautiful.

Jim and I started using the switchback numbers to talk about what we were doing and where we were living at that age. It made the time go by real fast. We were joined for a while by James Shanahan, our Trek Travel guide and Chris and he rode about 50 meters ahead while Jim and I talked.

Chris and Jim Ashton

Nearing the top we watched two snow plows coming down the road. This morning the road up here was snow covered. But with our two hour shuttle followed by a two hour climb, the road was clear although still wet in a lot of places.

At Turn 3 James stayed behind watching for other riders coming up the road. Chris, Jim and I rode ahead until Turn 1 when I pulled over and made 10 or 12 beautifully packed snowballs. The snow was the perfect consistency for this purpose. I lofted one down two switchbacks below and it landed near James’ feet. Then another. And another. He looked up and thought I was trying to throw snowballs all around him. I wasn’t. I was trying to hit him but my throws sucked.

L-R: Jim Ashton, Barry Sherry, James Shanahan

One more switchback and I reached the top. It was cold although the Trek Travel van was parked just before the summit and it seemed to be 10 degrees (5.5 C) warmer on this side than at the top or going over the other side.

 

Lunch was on our own at the top. Although there were two restaurants which offered warm seating inside, James recommended “Richard,” an Austrian who sets up a grill and cooks bratwurst. That was good enough for me.

Richard’s Bratwurst

Haven ridden up the pass with Chris and Jim, we descended together. On this side there were tunnels. In fact Garmin lost its satellite connection for a while as we zipped in and out of the tunnels.

Both Chris and Jim are excellent descenders and I fell in behind Chris’ line. We were flying as we entered a tunnel. It was dark and featured a sharp right-hander followed by a left hand curve at the exit. The eyes did not adjust from snow covered mountains to dark (with sunglasses on) instantly.

Looking towards Bormio

I followed Chris’ flashing rear light as we went wide in the turn. It was wet in the tunnel with snow melt. Chris went wide so I did too. As he recovered and went back to the right side of the road I was still over the center line when a car, with no lights, appeared in front of me. I touched the rear brakes and my biked fishtailed right in front of the car. I adjusted and brought the bike back under control and missed a head on collision by six inches or so. We did not enter a tunnel with speed after that. Chris apologized profusely.

Jim and Chris Ashton

There are a number of switchbacks on the Bormio side of the mountain as well although not 48 of them (I think there are 40). One of them, as I would discover later, passed within 10 meters of Switzerland and there is a road at another switchback that goes to Switzerland. The border there was about 100 meters away.

We didn’t know to stop to visit Switzerland but for me it was a moot point as I will be in Switzerland later in the week. We followed the road to Bormio then checked into out hotel for the night.

Just down from passo Stelvio on the Bormio side

Stelvio Pass is the highest paved pass in Italy. It is a classic climb that, quite frankly, wasn’t that hard. Of course, I wasn’t racing. But at no point did I think of it as too hard or had to fight myself to keep going. I doubt I get to ride this again but I would love to. It is a great one.

Cold, Wet, Sleet

MOENA, ITALY

After yesterday’s big effort on San Pellegrino (it kicked my butt) the prudent thing would be to go easy, possibly even taking the day off. Some did. I did not. Not everyone showed up for today’s ride. I did.

Climbing up towards Sella
Climbing up towards Sella – Part 1

We rolled out at 9:00 a.m. Well, they rolled out at 9:00. I had to go back to my room to get my Garmin. I left and chased for 3km before I got back on.

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We had a quick rest stop in Canazei. James Shanahan, our guide, encouraged us to ride (as opposed to standing around “resting”). The weather did not look good. Unlike yesterday when I was first to go, I was last to roll out from the rest stop. I was going to take it slow. I rode for a while with Colin Giffney, a New Zealander.

 

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Like the roads we climb, this waterfall down in the mountain
is much steeper than the camera captures

We chatted about the difficulty of biking on the “wrong side” of the road. About his grandsons. About the Sydney Zoo (he took his grandsons). I asked if they have all American animals. (See, in our zoos we have koalas, and dingos, and duckbill platypusses/platypi*.) Colin had a new camera which kept giving him a disc error so when he stopped to take pictures he always had to reboot.

The climb up the Stella is 5.5 km at 7.9% grade from the crossroads to the Pordoi. We started in Canazei which was another 5.5 km of climbing.

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At the base of the first climb in Canazei

I caught up to Nick and Caitlin Steel from California. Nick is a beast of a rider but we rode at Caitlin’s pace and really enjoyed the climb. Reaching passo Sella, the winds kicked up and it began to rain.

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Climbing up towards Sella – Part 2

Caitlin decided to turn back, which was a prudent decision. Colin did too. Apparently half the group did too. Prudent. I didn’t. Not prudent.

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Source: http://www.thomsonbiketours.com/
We did not see stunning views because of the weather

 

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We did not stay long at the top. Just long enough to grab a jacket and put on some warm clothes for the descent and crappy weather.

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passo Sella – Just before the rain

As we descended off the Sella the rain turned to sleet. The ice pellets stung as they hit.

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At the bottom we began our second climb. In the opposite direction I was passed by a Team BMC car followed about five minutes later by a BMC rider. I don’t know who that was but was probably Daniel Oss or Manuel Quinziato, both of whom are from the Dolomiti region in Italy. (Unbeknownst to me, Tejay van Garderen passed our group yesterday on Passo Fedaia. But it didn’t look like Tejay.)

CWS_19

 

The second climb was over passo Gardena, a pretty easy climb except for the cold blowing rain. It is rated as just 5.8 km with an average grade of 4.4%. I had passed some riders who were up the road and we waited at the pass. But then Bud Hoffacker and Anne Marie Redmond took seats in the SAG wagon. Prudent. It was a nasty bitter day.

 

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That meant I was last on the road. Well, I was along with Sonja Schmidt, our guide. I took off first on the descent although I stopped for a photo op. In the pouring rain. She passed me and had two full switchbacks on me as a head start once I was done taking pictures. I’m not sure what she thought when I caught her in those weather conditions.

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Beginning of the descent from passo Gardena

Sonja and I reached the bottom in Corvara and began another climb with switchbacks. This was a 6 km climb at 5.8% to passo Campolongo. We caught Jennifer Gands. I noticed I was mashing and Sonja was spinning. I asked her what size gear she had on the back and she said 30. I was running 27. She said “would you like a 30?” Well, yes. Later she switched the cassette and the rest of the week would be a tad bit easier.

CWS_09

 

The three of us rode to the summit together where the most serious decision of the day would be made.  Trek Travel had lunches for everyone inside a restaurant. I was cold and soaked and did not want to sit down for an extended period. At all really. While everyone still remaining went into the restaurant, James gave me directions and off I went on the descent before the final climb. Solo.

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James had said if I turn onto a road full of switchbacks, I’d know I was on the right road. He didn’t say 32 switchbacks. The rain stopped about halfway up but the wind picked up. Each switchback meant a different direction for the wind. The headwind was nearly impossible to pedal through. But the tailwind was almost strong enough to coast up the 6% grade.

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Helicopter Landing Stop Lights in Arabba

It was a long climb and I feared I would be brought back by Nick. I don’t know if my psyche could handle being caught two days straight after being spotted one hour. The climb up Pordoi is 9.2 km and averages 6.9%. Apparently it has 33 switchbacks so I must have missed one.

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Passing a fenced field of cows, there was one poor cow standing out on the road by herself. She was probably scared, not knowing how to get back in the field. And I was scared go go past her. I crept over to the far left, never making eye contact (challenge), and got by.

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Photo Credit: Trek Travel

Those switchbacks seemingly went on forever. Eventually I could see a building that looked like a hotel at a pass. It was a hotel, but it wasn’t at the pass. There was another three km to ride after that but I could finally see the summit. The real one.

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Photo Credit: Trek Travel

After going over the summit of pass Pordoi, I had a pretty fast descent down 28 switchbacks, the first 12 of which we rode this morning before turning up to Sella. I was cold. Freezing. Soaked. Showing beginning signs of hypothermia. But I would make it down safely.

Colin told me he was in full hypothermia mode. He was shaking the entire way back and he had turned back after the first climb (Sella). It was cold.

 

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Once back to Canazei it was a matter of retracing our morning route. There were some sweet descents on the road. I didn’t realize how much climbing we had done to arrive at Canazei. Arriving back at Moena, I was two kilometers short of 100 so rode out and made it a metric century. Then hit the shower. Rarely have I enjoyed a hot shower so much.

___
*There is no universally agreed plural of “platypus” in the English
language. Scientists generally use “platypuses” or simply “platypus”.
Colloquially, the term “platypi” is also used for the plural, although
this is technically incorrect and a form of Pseudo-Latin, the correct Greek plural would be “platypodes”. Source: Wikipedia 2014

San Pellegrino

MOENA, ITALY

My impressions thus far of riding in the Dolomites, a sub-chain of the Italian Alps, is they’re longer than the climbs we have in the eastern U.S. and steeper than the climbs in the Rockies. That makes for a formidable challenge.

Leaving Moena I left the group go up the group so I could take this photo
Leaving Moena I left the group go up the group so I could take this photo

We rolled out as one group at 9:00 a.m., 17 of us following James Shanahan, our Trek Tour Guide. Around 10 km into the ride my water bottle cage was very loose. I motioned I was dropping out and the group rolled on. I did a quick fix on the cage and then rode tempo back, catching back on.

James Callahan and Sonja Schmidt
A view of the Dolomites and James Callahan and Sonja Schmidt

At 12 KM in we had a short water break. I arrived last, checked both bottle cages again, then got back on the road. James liked that, he was not a fan of long breaks, so he and Gary Zentmyer joined me up the road. Eventually I pulled over to take some pictures and noticed a sizable group was now climbing behind me. I took their pictures then caught back up to Gary and eventually passed him, riding with the father-son team of Chris and Jim Ashton.

Lake and snow shed at passo Fedia
Lake and snow shed at passo Fedaia

It was a sweaty ride to the top although the temperature dropped fast at the summit. At the top was a dam and I didn’t stay at the van for a break but instead rode across the dam apparently missing Team BMC and Tour de France rider Tejay van Garderen.

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Tejay Van Garderen (left) being trailed by Colin Giffney (Yellow) Credit: Trek Travel

The Trek Travel van was there with our supply of clothes and I grabbed my head cover, knee warmers, long fingered gloves and a jacket for the descent.

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A day dedicated to Jamie Roberts

The way down was through a lot of switchbacks and one straight section. If only I knew my conversions. I was displaying kilometers since those were our turn by turn directions. I hit 84.5 kmh which is about 52.5 mph. Still, it may be the second fast time I have ridden. On a bike I’m not used to.

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Soaking wet hair at Lago di Fedaia (passo Fedaia)

As we rolled into our lunch town of Alleghe, I told our guide, Sonja Schmidt, that I would not be eating lunch, instead preferring to roll on. Gary had made that decision too. Sonja’s main concern for us was lack of support. She asked us to call her when we got back to the hotel. Of course she assumed we could ride faster than they could eat lunch.

Descent from passo Fedaia to Alleghe
Descent from passo Fedaia to Alleghe

Gary and I began the 11 mile ascent by stopping and removing the outer layers we were wearing. Except for my head covering. As we started climbing Gary pulled away by 100 yards. Since I “beat” him up the first climb (Fedaia) I wasn’t sure how this would go. So much depends on length, grade, tiredness, and motive. I thought I would catch back up to him.

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Beautiful lake at Alleghe, Italy

Into the town of Falcad Auto I realized I was sweating hard and remembered I was still wearing my head cover. I worked to remove it at speed. I did but to buckle my helmet I had to stop. I saw a sign for Moena and followed it. Not sure why but it backtracked a little bit and I lost more distance on Gary. I was thinking I went the right way and wondered if he did although looking at the map later, either one was right. I just didn’t know it at the time.

84.5 kph = 52.5 mph
84.5 kph = 52.5 mph

We were on the climb of San Pellegrino. This climb was tough. The switchbacks were numerous and steep. They were all nestled in a deep forest so there were grand vistas. I saw a sign for 15% grade and another for 18% grade. The bike wasn’t set up with the climbing gears I have and I struggled. Big time.

18% Grade. Credit: Trek Travel
18% Grade. Credit: Trek Travel

On one switchback I saw Gary two turns above. Maybe it was 300 yards, I don’t know, but they were straight up. I was hoping he didn’t look back and see me and want to wait for me as I was too tired to try to stay with anyone.

Oh, MUCH steeper than it looks
Oh, MUCH steeper than it looks

I fought the “Quit Monster” today – that voice that says stop and walk. I did not yield. It hurt. A lot. I kept going albeit slowly. I no longer moved the chain to the third gear to stand and climb. When I stood I stayed in the first gear. Once over the real steep section, I pulled over with 3 km to the summit to change the position on my seat. Once I got going I saw one of our riders coming behind me. Geez. They just spent an hour eating lunch. Was I an hour slower? I sucked.

Reaching the summit of Pellegrino, drenched, I again dressed with full gear (warmers) for the next descent. It was a nice ride down and a great way to end the ride. When I got back, Garmin showed I had gone 90 km. I thought another 10 would round it to 100. That’s only three miles out then back.

Pellegrin12

But there are no flat roads. I started out by “up” so I could come back and there was no more power in the legs. I went 3 km more (total) then called it a day. Too tired to add a measly 10km more but at least claiming “victory” in my 53 mph descent.

So awesome it even has its own drink
So awesome it even has its own drink (Photo from Woodbridge, Va.)

To make it worse, I just went to Climbybike.com and see they have ranked our ascent of Passo San Pellegrino as the 94th most difficult climb in the Dolomites. Crap. What is worse that is out there waiting for us?

Classic Climbs of the Dolomites

MOENA, ITALY

I came to Italy for the Trek Travel trip called Classic Climbs of the Dolomites. I arrived in Milan yesterday, and wasn’t too impressed, mostly because everywhere I walked I had to breathe in second hand smoke. It was worse than Heinz Field after a Steelers win.

Train Station Milan

I took the train today to Verona then switched to Bolzano. I met our Trek Travel guide, Sonja Schmidt, at the train station where we were shuttled out to Nova Levante.

After grabbing our bikes, James Shanahan, had us introduce ourselves by offering a safety announcement. I chose watch out for cars, even while off the road, offering up the case Jamie Roberts who was killed June 13 in Kentucky.

As I did we were showered upon with tears from heaven. Lots of tears and it felt good.

I missed an announcement at having an “avid” option and the whole group rolled out as one. We began a 5.5 mile climb, pretty easy. We mostly rolled together. Then we rolled over the top and down a number of switchbacks to Moena and our hotel for the next three days.

This is uphill although it may not look like it

Not much more to say. Met the group. Short ride. Looking forward to tomorrow

 

Moena, Italy

Royal Gorge

CAÑON CITY, COLORADO

DAY 9 (UNOFFICIAL) – RIDE THE ROCKIES

Last year the Day 6 route on Ride the Rockies was to be Salida to Cañon City across Royal Gorge. However, there was a major fire burning and we were rerouted.  
I extended my stay this year for a day to ride the missing portion from last year. Ideally, I could ride point to point from Colotaxi to Cañon City.  But I couldn’t pull that off logistically so I did the next best thing. I rode backward to the gorge loop. 
Royal Gorge Train
Last year we were looking at a mostly downhill ride to Cañon City from Salida so I knew I’d be riding uphill today until I turned around. And I started with a seven mile climb. 
Arkansas River from US 50
I passed one entrance for the Royal Gorge Bridge. I kept riding and crossed the Arkansas River. There I saw the second entrance with the sign “Bridge Closed Will Reopen.” I stopped at a rafting company and asked if the sign was real. The young lady assured me it was and directed me back three miles, uphill, to the visitor center. 
Sorry Folks. America’s Favorite Family Bridge is Closed for Maintenance

Arriving at the visitor center it appeared to be a restaurant. I saw a waitress. I didn’t ask anyone for help. I just decided to ride as far as to the gorge as I could ride. 
Fire Damage from 2013 Fire

It’s a gorge. My first thought was that I would ride downhill from the summit I had just crested. And the road went downhill at first. But then I was climbing again. A lot. And it made sense. The bridge is at the top of the gorge. 

I saw a closed Gorge Railroad. Also a couple of other boarded up businesses. At the end of pavement was a dirt road to a picnic area. Straight ahead the road looked like it might go to a bridge. But it was fenced off. So I rode on dirt. 
Dirt Leading to Picnic Area and Overlook

Arriving at the picnic area I saw rocks and dirt and a 1,000′ cliff. I carefully maneuvered my way down the rocks to a vantage point to see the gorge and bridge. We were high up. We were far away. It was windy. I was wearing cycling cleats.
The Bridge and Gorge from Far Far Away

Today was important to honor Jamie Roberts. Her name was on my calf and I made sure I would get here. No matter what.
Overlooking the Gorge and Honoring Jamie

It was windy. Again. There was a headwind out and a tailwind back. The bike rolled back towards Cañon City. I hit 49 mph but was very uncomfortable trying to push it higher. It was three days since I checked or added air to my tires and I did not have a pump. I thought the tires felt low and I wasn’t sure if an under-inflated tire was in danger of overheating and popping. The wind shifted and I was really afraid of pushing it. Riding is fun but I must keep it safe. (Like 49 mph is safe but 50 mph is dangerous.)
Looking Downstream at the Arkansas River

I didn’t ride across the Royal Gorge Bridge, and now probably never will, but I saw it from afar. Most importantly, I honored Jamie. 
Royal Gorge Bridge in Background

Texas 4000

CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO

 DAY 8 (UNOFFICIAL) – RIDE THE ROCKIES

Bradley Allen and I were talking last night about the Texas 4000. When Brad asked if they came through the area I looked and discovered the Rockies route was in Colorado Springs and traveling to Denver. I sent a quick text to Vanessa Beltran on the Ozarks route and she sent me their route. 
Brad Allen

I called Brad and suggested we do a road trip. He agreed. 
We drove to find the Texas 4000. When we did we turned around, at first looking to drive far ahead, park, then ride backward so we could ride with them. As we passed them, Brad rolled down his window and rang his cowbell. The riders were surprised and appreciative. I think. 
Texas 4000

We didn’t drive too far – maybe 3-4 miles when we saw the Texas 4000 lunch stop. We parked and introduced ourselves. We were told there were three groups on the road. We had passed the first six riders and rode back to find a group of three and a group of five. 

We set off into a vicious headwind. I followed Brad’s wheel but there was no draft. He went hard (I think) and I followed. My heart rate was higher than it had been at anytime climbing the passes. We were at 6,000 feet and maybe that’s a good excuse. (I did not have my heart rate monitor and regret that was the one day I didn’t. My heart was coming out my throat.)
Brad Allen and Texas 4000 Riders

After seven and one half miles and 30 minutes chasing into the wind I waved down a passing car and asked if they passed the Texas 4000 riders. They hadn’t. I thought it was pointless that we continue. I feared the other riders came from a side road that we had passed. I thought they may be at the lunch stop. Or they all ate lunch and were back on the road. We turned around. 
Riding for Jamie

Now we got the tailwind. I was glad to pull Brad. We flew. Brad was stroking my ego by occasionally dropping back and making me ease off. I was hitting more than 40 mph on the flats. It was the wind. 
Legs being photographed

It seemed like it was no time before we were back with the original six riders and today’s staff. We met all the Texas 4000 riders. All six that is. I almost immediately noticed most did not have their calves written on. We told them about Jamie Roberts although they knew as Vanessa had shared the message. And they all got to writing Jamie’s name on their calves. 
Texas 4000 Rockies Route plus Brad and Barry

We talked. Took pictures. Never could figure out where the other riders were. When it was time to roll out I decided I would ride with them for a little bit. 
Texas 4000 Rolling

The miles weren’t long. But the effort was hard and the reward was great meeting the Texas 4000. Seeing them embrace Jamie’s memory warmed my heart. Godspeed my friends. 
Packing for Jamie

Berthoud Pass

IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO
DAY 7 (UNOFFICIAL) – RIDE THE ROCKIES
Today was supposed to be my redo of Ride the Rockies Day 1. Bradley Allen picked me up at my hotel and we drove out to Idaho Springs for our start. The RTR ride started in Boulder but the Colorado State Patrol closed Boulder Canyon to vehicular traffic on Sunday. We would not have that luxury and best to keep it a safe ride and not ride through there.
Idaho Springs

On Sunday the riders rolled out in good weather with no idea what was ahead. Severely dropping temperatures, wind, rain and snow. Few riders made it over the 11,000 foot Berthoud Pass to Winter Park. Many made the climb but were not permitted to attempt the dangerous descent. And perhaps the majority were stopped at Empire and were told the course was closed. We had no such problem with the weather today

Barry and Brad

Twelve days ago I rode with a group of cancer riders in Pennsylvania. The one rider I rode with on both days was Jamie Roberts. I really liked her. We had stopped in at my sister, Betsy’s, house for ice and a bathroom break. I learned this morning Jamie was killed after being struck by a pickup truck in Kentucky yesterday. This hit me hard. Real hard.

Riding for Jamie
Last night while we were at dinner I was reliving my first couple of days with Team Portland and riding in Pennsylvania. I showed Brad a picture on my phone of the riders when they stopped at Betsy’s place.

Jamie Roberts, Betsy Sherry, Barry Sherry, Dan Johnson

Just as I was going to bed I checked Facebook and saw a couple of posts suggesting something horrific happened to one of the cancer riders. I messaged Trish Kallis but got no response. I went to bed wondering what happened.

In the morning it became clear when Sarah Eddy posted an article from the Baltimore Sun that a rider had been killed. And it was Jamie. I was crushed.

Jamie Roberts
Credit: Jamie’s Facebook Page

Bradley arrived and texted that he was at the hotel waiting. Through tears I was inside sharing the article on Facebook about Jamie. And when I came out of the hotel he asked if I was OK. Clearly I wasn’t.

I don’t think Bradley realized she was my friend when he was given a name but when I didn’t come out of the hotel immediately and he checked my status update, he knew for sure.

Bradley brought a Sharpie and we both wrote Jamie’s name on our calves. After parking in Idaho Springs (7,526′) we found a couple of cyclists to take our picture. I had been to Idaho Springs once before, if you don’t count yesterday. That was in 2007 when I rented a bike at a small store and rode up Mt. Evans. The store is gone, replaced by a Kum & Go.

One of the riders told us to forget our cue sheets and to follow US 40. He was wrong. We started out of Idaho Springs and saw that 40 merged into I-70. It was probably legal to ride on the shoulder but certainly no fun. And not real safe. The RTR directions were still marked on the road making it easy to follow.

The “Original” Hard Rock Cafe
Empire, Colorado
I wasn’t prepared for the amount of climbing to Empire and to the base of the climb to Berthoud Pass. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for the wind. It was wicked at times and always in our face.
Last General Store
It was Closed

My mind was consumed completely with Jamie. This was truly a day dedicated to her memory. Riding wasn’t fun today. I was consumed with sadness

Crossing Berthoud Pass

The climb was long but not especially difficulty, especially going as slow as I was. Up ahead Bradley had to wait for me. Often. The temperature dropped on the climb.

Looking back towards Empire
At the summit we took a picture being sure to show our dedication to Jamie’s memory. We also discovered we were at the Continental Divide which was a bit confusing to me. I crossed it at Rabbit Ears Pass and thought I crossed back at Loveland Pass. I’m thinking I crossed it one more time at I am unaware of.
Jamie on our minds and legs

Having “lost” the race to the summit I cautioned Bradley not to follow me down the mountain if I do something stupid. And off we went. His ultra-skinny body had its advantage in climbing but I roll faster downhill. I took off and eventually waited for him then we rode the lower slopes together.

Berthoud Pass – 11,307′

Arriving Winter Park we picked up my rental car which I had driven here on Sunday, went to lunch, then drove to the Loveland Pass ski area. We had hoped to ride to Idaho Springs from the ski area for an additional ride and more miles but it turned cold (55) and looked stormy. We hadn’t brought cold or foul weather riding gear.

Looking towards Winter Park

I climbed some big passes and tough climbs during Ride the Rockies. But today’s ride was the toughest.

Loveland Pass and Golden

GOLDEN, COLORADO
DAY 6 – RIDE THE ROCKIES
I rolled through downtown Breckenridge at 6:45 a.m. It was still quite chilly. Cold, actually. We took the trail out that we had ridden in on yesterday. Those last ten miles of “flat” that I struggled with so much yesterday? I coasted the whole way today. I struggled because I was going uphill yesterday. Glad to know the reason I sucked was because it was uphill.
Swan Mountain

 

I was expecting a climb to Loveland Pass but we first began with a climb up Swan Mountain. Nice little warm up. As we were climbing someone in a Jeep screamed “asshole” among other things. It was the only road rage I witnessed in Colorado.
And what goes up must come down. We descended over the top to about the same elevation we started from. The ride down was nice but I knew that meant we had to climb again. I’d prefer to start climbing and keep climbing.
Still haven’t tried these but very popular on Ride The Rockies

I was and I wasn’t looking forward to today. I really wanted to get the climb over with and coast to Golden. I rolled out of the first aid station not sure how far it was to the summit. Roadside signs warned no vehicular traffic except for Hazmat trucks. (This was the Hazmat route to avoid the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70.) We otherwise had the road to ourselves. As we climbed higher I saw some trucks had been pulled over for staging an escorted convoy.

Upper Section of Loveland Pass

I kept my heart rate low all day just pedaling within myself. The climb wasn’t particularly difficult, a lot of 6-7% grade, but it was long. Passing the A Basin there were skiers on the slopes.

Skiing at A Basin

I reached the top of the climb and immediately joined the line for a picture at the summit.  That took 15 minutes.

Made it to the top

The descent was beautiful with gorgeous vistas and sweeping curves. I did not bomb this part but at the bottom was Loveland Ski Area. As I made the turn there was yet a downhill ramp. I tucked and hit 51 mph before having to brake hard for the second rest stop.

Trail next to I-70

We were next to I-70 but had a separate bike path through the woods. I could coast comfortably and safely at 30 mph down to Georgetown. It was gorgeous in the woods and some pines had recently been cut giving it a great aroma. But the path ended and we again shared a road, also downhill.

Trestle for Georgetown Loop Railroad

Believing the ride was entirely downhill to Golden and ignoring those spikes on the profile map, we had a rest stop in Idaho Springs. Shortly out of Idaho Springs we climbed Floyd  Hill which was a two mile 8-9% pain-in-the-butt climb. I saw many people walking, perhaps a combination of tired legs and heat. My Garmin was showing 99 degrees coming off the pavement. It was the first time we dealt with heat the entire week.

After a nice respite of downhill we began another climb towards Lookout Mountain. Here we entered and rode on I-70 for two exits. That was an experience. Once we exited we had some rollers over to Buffalo Bill’s grave site and Lookout Mountain. And a needed water break.
Leaving the stop at Buffalo Bills it was all downhill to Golden. This time that was the truth. Steep. Hairpin corners. Two guys passed me and I let them go. I remember Wayne Stetina telling me last year that he never bombs a descent he hasn’t seen before. I figured they had ridden it before but I wasn’t taking any chances. All downhill to the finish in Golden. Plus, I was stuck behind a car most of the way and didn’t want to be “that guy” who passed a car with a double yellow line.
Golden from Lookout Mountain
 Whereas last year I met four pros, this year I didn’t meet any. But I enjoyed the company of Mike with one arm, met interesting characters along the way like the two “chicks” on Tennessee Pass ringing cowbells, and saw the staff from the Davis Phinney Foundation. It was a very good week.
Golden. The End.

EPILOGUE – Arriving Golden I parked my bike and enjoyed a Smoothie. I attended the closing ceremonies and did not win a bike or anything else. Without transportation to the hotel, and why I didn’t find a hotel in Golden I do not know, I called Yellow Cab of Boulder. I was promised a cab would arrive in 20 minutes.

Pedal Your Own Smoothie

As I was gathering up my bike to meet the cab I noticed a couple eying my bike. They saw the FUCANCER sticker and asked if I knew Jan Stover from Virginia. I did. We had a pleasant conversation and they stated they would take me to my hotel “except I have a bike.” The wheels come off. I can make it small. Oh well…

Barry with Brad Allen

One hour later. Two hours later. No cab. I called each hour only to be promised one was on its way. The first call was at 3:20. By 5:15 p.m. I called Bradley Allen in Boulder and he said he would be there within the hour. The 4K alumni are awesome. He came, took me to Westminster and we enjoyed a nice dinner. It was a great way to end the official week of Ride the Rockies.

By 6:20, three hours after I called, the cab never showed. I would never call Yellow Cab of Boulder for anything.

Two Cute Chicks

BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO

DAY 5 – RIDE THE ROCKIES

AVON TO BRECKENRIDGE

Leaving the Comfort Inn I found myself with Mike, an amputee who ride with one arm. Mike is apparently a legend in Denver cycling. He is a strong climber. We stayed together for about a quarter of a mile when we got to the traffic circle and I peeled off to take a photo. This would save face much easier then actually being, you know, dropped.

Avon CO

It was a 16 mile climb to the first pass, Battle Mountain (9,231′) but only the real climb was the last four miles. My legs felt good on the climb and I passed way people more than passed me. I even reached  the top then descended back a little to try to get a good photo op.

Descending to Red Cliff Bridge I had a little too much speed coming on it to stop to take a photo before the bridge. But at the bridge is a road that descends along the edge of the gorge to the town of Red Cliff. I told the volunteer standing there “I bet there’s a photo op waiting down that road.” I went down it a few hundred yards and when I was down he came down to shoot me too. Right after the bridge was Aid Station #1. I kept going.

Red Cliff Bridge

After the aid station was 12 more miles of climb to Tennessee Pass (10,424′) and the winds picked up significantly. We seemed to be creeping down in the valley and I stopped at a “Point of Interest” which was a World War II Winter Training Camp for the U.S. Army.

Eagle River near Avon

Seeing the sign for the summit the road kicked up significantly. Like the first climb, my legs felt pretty good. I passed a woman I thought was Lisa Smith, who I had met earlier, but it wasn’t. She was struggling a little and I encouraged her with “one mile to go.”

Then with about 1/2 mile to go the real Lisa caught me. I thought she’d blow right by me, she is a tremendous climber, but we stayed together until the summit. I stopped to use the porta-john and visit the Davis Phinney Foundation. Lisa kept on going.

Lisa Smith

Ringing cow bells were two kids dressed as chickens. And I have seen them on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. So I grabbed a photo with them then after rest stop. Then it was off for Leadville.

Barry and Two Cute Chicks

We were promised an 11 mile downhill. It wasn’t. But it was mostly easy pedaling. As I came upon a T and a turn to the left I saw signs for Leadville to the right. After talking with a State Highway Patrolman, he encouraged me to ride into town. He told me how rough a place it was. Gambling, drinking. “Still is,” he said.

Leadville

I met two local cyclists and told them I had five minutes to see Leadville. I asked them what I should do. They told me to turn around. They called it Deadville. But I continued on and was glad I did.

Leadville

I was leaving the rest stop when Roger and Jeanie Schultz pulled in. I told them their friend, Lisa, was well up the road.

It was 11 miles to the summit of Freemont Pass (11,318′). It seemed to be a long 11 miles and the first five miles was flat or trended downhill. Or I was seeing things. My legs no longer felt so good. Still, I worked my way past more people than passed me then saw a sign for the summit in four miles. The road kicked up in grade, a lot of 4-5% grade.

Climbing towards Freemont Pass

I passed a young lady riding a road bike with a straight handlebar. Or maybe she was on a mountain bike with skinny tires. She was easy to remember. I was struggling somewhat and about two miles from the summit she passed me.

As she passed I had no response – not that this was a race and I had to match her. She continued on. So too did a doctor I had passed earlier. He had a tag which stated MD and I thought he was from Maryland. Duh!

The last mile and one half or so before the big switchback features a long straight section which, to my eyes, looked like it was going downhill. My legs didn’t think so and my Garmin confirmed it was 3-4 % grade. That was followed by a sharp left hander and one could see the cyclists struggling up the road ahead to the summit.

Rounding the corner the road kicked up to 6-7%, maybe more. And I soon passed the doctor. And because she was identifiable, the girl on the straight handlebar bike, my goal was to pass her. She was 200 yards, then 150, then 100 yards from me. I picked up my pace and with 150 yards before the summit I went flying by. Dignity remained intact.

Summit of Freemont Pass, aka Climax, Colorado

At the top was Aid Station #4, this one featuring the Ride the Rockies DJ. I bought a brat and sat down by an old mine train to eat it. It was the first time I bought food on course.This was also the best weather we would have all day. In the 70s at the 11,000′ summit.

The Official Summit Sign

The descent wasn’t necessarily steep at the top. In fact, there were a couple of slight uphill sections before the real descent began. Frustrated because I had not gone more than 45 mph on this tour, I was glad to have open road. Most cyclists were riding the shoulder and I moved into the travel lane which was smoother and absent road dirt and sand. I did not want to risk an accident moving at speed from shoulder to lane.

Ice on the lake at the top of Freemont Pass

I’m not sure what it was signed – maybe seven miles at 7% – but I got in a tuck and kept picking up speed. When I saw 52 mph I thought that was fast enough. I feathered the brakes a little to keep it near 50 mph.

I FLEW by riders on their descent. I’m sure all were surprised and I’d like to be riding about 35 mph when someone is going 52 mph just to see how it looks. When passing I always moved more to the center of the lane even though they were on the shoulders.

52.1 mph

At the bottom the road intersected with I-70. But there is a separate bike road (more than a path, really), in which we rode downhill to Frisco. This was a great path alongside the river with many beaver dams, a few flooding our roadway.

Flooded path from beaver dams on both side

With just seven miles to go (I think it was longer), I blew by the last aid station and continued to Breckenridge. The trail became dead flat. And windy. This was my hardest section of the day. But we made it to the bike corral and got directions to the Doubletree Hotel.

At dinner I walked through town and chose the Kenosha Steakhouse which has a patio overlooking the Blue River in back. The waiter asked if I wanted to sit out on the deck and I told him I had been fighting the wind enough today. I’d stay inside.

Steamboat Loop

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO

DAY 3 – RIDE THE ROCKIES

This was a first for me on a Ride to Rockies trip – two nights in the same town with a loop ride back to start. On paper, this would be the easiest day of all and it looked that way. On paper. No named passes or mountains. But it wasn’t that easy.

Near Steamboat Springs

Rolling out of Steamboat Springs the route went through some ranch country. Here “rollers” aren’t the ups and downs that they are back east but three to four miles up followed by three to four miles of downs.

Oak Creek CO

At the first stop in Oak Creek, I met an amputee, Mike, who lost his left arm at his shoulder. He was kind enough to show me his bike. One brake level controls both brakes with a device called a problem solver. He has straight handlebars with mountain bike type shifters (levers), He is a strong climber as I found out. And a fearful descender as braking with one hand and not fully being able to balance completely at high speeds, he “creeps” down the mountain no faster than 20 mph.

Mike

I flew by him on a descent and waited at the bottom as he passed by. A climb began immediately. I had to let some other riders pass and then I started the climb. He was perhaps 150 meters in front of me and I thought that I would bring him back. I didn’t. He increased that as we climbed. Well done Mike!

My bike started creaking under heavy duress (climbs). Each pedal stroke brought a groan from her and people could hear me pedaling. It was annoying. At the second rest stop I took my bike to Wheat Ridge Cyclery. The mechanic agreed with me it was probably a dirty bottom bracket and spent about 15 minutes cleaning it.

As I rolled out of the rest stop we began an immediate and serious climb. And it creaked even louder. I made it to the summit of the first climb, hit another awesome descent then began the big climb. This had sections of 11-12% grade and put many riders in difficulty. Most were used to the constant 6-7% grades but not something this steep.

White Horse on the range

I pulled over and thought maybe the noise wasn’t from the bottom bracket but from the rear wheel. I took it off, put it back on with force, and the creaking went away for the rest of the day. At least I got my bottom bracket cleaned.

Beautiful bike path along and in the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs

Descending into Steamboat Springs we rode along a beautiful but flooded Yampa River Core Trail. Passing through downtown, just as we were to return to the main RTR area, the winds kicked up and it looked like a storm was brewing. I opted to head back to the hotel but not before a quick stop at Wendy’s. 

F. M. Light and Sons
You see signs for this all the way here

There I met a 70 year-old man who came to Ride the Rockies from Gallup, New Mexico. By bike. Quite impressive. I had seen him last year and wondered if he was part of RTR. He was.

70 years old and still pedaling strong

It was a day that many riders opted to use as a rest day. I was here to ride and so was this 70 year-old.