The day that scared the peleton. I laughed.
On paper the first 24 miles were uphill including the last eight miles up Wolf Creek Pass, a climb with switchbacks which crosses the pass at 10,856′.
|Rolling out of Pagosa Springs|
It was cold – the usual 48 degrees. Or less. I only wore arm warmers to keep me warm.
My legs felt like crap. This was not a good omen for climbing. Despite the profile showing all climb it seemed like there was a lot of downhill and old men and old women were passing me.
|On the road to Wolf Creek Pass|
On the bus ride out on Saturday, the guy I sat with mentioned to me that recovery, or lack of it due to altitude, will show up in Day 4 and I wondered if that was going to dog me today.
|One rider said this ranch sold for $90M during the real estate boom|
I pulled into the aid station at Mile 16 which also signaled the start of the real climb. After using the port-a-john, and they were generally very clean throughout the tour, I started the climb. This didn’t scare me. I think.
|Nothing but admiration for these guys with hand cranks|
This was to be the climb of the week. I decided I would occupy my mind by making a game of it. I would count every rider that I passed and count every rider that passed me. And hoped that I passed more than passed me.
|Lauren Hunt (middle) of the
Davis Phinney Foundation
I just chugged away. It was 60 to six in favor of me passing riders. Then 102 to 10. I kept going. At the top I was briefly passed by a rider but passed him back before the summit finish for no change. In the end I was passed by 22 riders, including Wayne Stetina, and I passed 240.
The DJ at the top was having an egg shampoo contest. Well, no contest. Just if anyone was willing to smash an egg on their head and rub it in, he would give them a t-shirt.
On the profile sheet the descent looked like a 68 mile downhill. It wasn’t.
The ride off the pass was wild. It wasn’t quite straight as an arrow and didn’t seem terribly steep but it was long. The first six miles were the steepest but there was a good 14 miles or so before it leveled off.
I rolled off the top of Wolf Creek Pass and got in a tuck. Volunteers were warning us to take it easy and all riders I saw were on the shoulder. I took the lane.
Although not terribly steep, when one has long straight roads even at six percent grade one can pick up speed and I did. I hit 54 mph – a new personal best, and when I felt a little shimmy in the bike I decided 54 was fast enough. As I came to a tunnel I was warned of high winds at the other end and briefly applied the brakes. Heck, I stopped to take a picture.
On the first six miles I averaged a nifty 40 mph. If only all rides could be like this.
After the aid station at South Fork, Mile 44, I rolled out alone. It was getting hot, it would be in the low 90s, and it was windy. It was tough being out in the wind and a group of about 30, which violated the RTR rules of no more than five in a paceline, came by. The guy at the end invited me to join. I could not resist.
The train was driven by four Belgians — four Belgians that I had passed on the climb. But they knew how to ride in the wind and they drove this and gave everyone a free ride. I felt bad but being on 30th wheel I was in no position to go to the front and help.
After a rest stop in Del Norte (Mile 59) I rolled out with some folks that I had just ridden with in the big train. One guy did all the work and when we were passed close to the next station he had nothing left to stay with them. I went to the front and tried to bridge him. I bridged. He didn’t. But we were in Monte Vista.
In Monte Vista the Tour served hot baked potatoes. With green chili and salsa. Perfect.
The next 18 miles to Alamosa was dead flat. I joined the group that I had finished with and was the only time I didn’t feel accepted. I took my pulls. But the alpha male in the group was a woman, Jane, and it just wasn’t a friendly experience. I was looking for an exit strategy but we were on Highway 160 which was under construction and had lots of truck traffic. There was no place to escape to. I rode the group all the way to the school, having passed by my hotel, the Hampton Inn, miles earlier.
After some exploring, I finished off the day making it a century. Plus four.
|A New Max Speed for me|