ESTES PARK, COLORADO
It’s the shortest day of the week at 49 miles and the day that cyclists will fall hard; hard in love with the majestic state of Colorado. West to East, across the Continental Divide, Trail Ridge Road hugs high alpine ridges with stunning views near and far. Cyclists will be treated to 11 miles above 11,000 ft. with many scenic overlooks and beautifully maintained roads all the way to Estes Park. Rocky Mountain National Park affords the most iconic ride in our Centennial State; and one you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
I left Daven Haven and rolled out to the headquarters. It was 59 degrees. I assumed a vest for Trail Ridge Road with arm warmers would be enough.
Almost immediately after turning onto U.S. 34 to go into the park the temperature dropped 25 degrees. That is if it ever was 59 this morning. We could see our collective breath as we rolled into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Admission was free if they could see the RTR wrist band or bike tag. I rolled through the gate. Freezing. The temperature dropped to 34 degrees. My fingers were freezing. I regretted not bringing along long fingered gloves.
I pulled into the Aid Station #1. The line for Flippin Flapjacks was incredibly long as was the line for the porta-johns. I left.
I began the climb up Trail Ridge Road in earnest. I was getting warm. I unzipped the vest and let it dangle. I was feeling good.
When I reached Medicine Bow Curve, a sharp right hander above the tree line, I turned into the wind. It almost blew me over. It was strong (estimated by me to be 40 mph) and cold (mid 30s). I pulled over simply to put my vest back on. I had to turn my back to the wind to get it zipped. Then I was off pedaling into the wind.
It was harder pedaling into the wind than climbing. Reaching the Gore Range Overlook many people thought we were at the summit. We weren’t. I turned the corner and was hit with a wicked cross wind. I’d rather have the head wind than the cross wind. It was hard to control the bike even while going uphill.
The next couple of miles could best be described as rollers. And then the descent began. A very dangerous descent. The winds made it wickedly dangerous. The bike had the wobbles.
I wanted to let the bike go (which means go really fast) but it was prudent to proceed down with caution. Darn it. Once reaching the tree line the winds were mostly blocked. Then I could ride more freely (think: no brakes). I stopped to watch a group on horses cross the road. Then made my way to Estes Park.
At the RTR Headquarters I spent a bit of time with Clare from the Hot Shot display. She explained to each and every rider who approached that what we think about cramps is completely wrong. She introduced us to her product which was part cinnamon and part chili pepper. It will fool the nervous system and make the cramps go away.
While there I won a T-shirt. The DJ who appears at one Aid Station every day found it too windy up on Trail Ridge Road. He was in the parking lot. And he offered one of his Tour T-shirts to “the male with the longest hair.” There were already two guys there. One, a 12 year old boy, but his hair wasn’t very long. But there was a 20-something who did have longer hair. I sort of felt bad. But not.
The afternoon cycling session was Allen Lim, PhD. He is a sports nutritionist and founder of Scratch Labs. He spoke about where cramps came from. What he said, an error in the nervous system, tracked what Clare has said earlier.
After the session I met with Allen. I told him I had two questions. The first was about Floyd Landis on Stage 17 in 2006. Was it the Jack Daniels? Damn, you had good oatmeal? Or holy s–t?
To his credit Allen told me, along with Ron and Erlinda Kiefel, everything about that day in France (and not repeating it here). I also asked about cramps and he confirmed, without endorsing, what Hot Shot was offering. I’ll be carrying that with me.