Hardscrabble Pass

CAÑON CITY

It was a beautiful morning as I rolled out of Cañon City. I really couldn’t wait to get out of the room I stayed in last night. I went and ate at the McDonalds up the street – the same as I had done two years ago with my roommate, Scott Olson, when we stayed here.

Old train station in Florence
Old train station in Florence

It was an easy roll to Florence – just 10 miles. Flat. And the home of the first aid station.

Horses
Horses

On the stretch to Wetmore, I was passed on a two-lane road by a pickup truck pulling a trailer. The trailer was about two feet wider than the truck and barely missed clipping me. I love Colorado roads but from a road rage incident the first day in Grand Junction to cars passing when it’s not safe, I would not rank Colorado as one of the safer places to ride.

RTR Jerseys
RTR Jerseys

I got to the second rest stop and it was packed. So I left. I hadn’t been drinking yet so my bottles were full. I allocated two hours to climb Hardscrabble Pass. We rode down this pass two years ago and I remember it being steep enough that I hit 48 mph and two riders went over the guardrail. I knew it would be a climb.

These guys passed me until I passed them
These guys passed me until I passed them

It was hard but not Grand Mesa hard. I thought for a while I was getting passed by two riders for everyone that I passed. But I think in the end it was about even.

Three guys went by me and I stayed with them for a while. I deliberately did not sit on the wheel of the last rider, instead allowing about 15 feet or so but stayed there. Then they pulled away but three to four miles later I caught them and I eventually blew by them. It’s strange how that can happen.

Wounded Warriors
Wounded Warriors

I believed that Ride the Rockies ended with a 12 mile downhill. So when I saw a sign for Westcliffe at 16 miles I started passing people. Lots of people. My legs were energized. And as I passed I loudly announced “12 of the next 16 miles are downhill.” At least for some it lifted their spirits.

I got to thinking about this Livestrong Bracelet. Other than I one on my wrist, I hadn’t seen any the entire trip. Ten years ago that would have been the fad, especially among cyclists. “Lance (who rode Monday, by the way) hates cancer and so do I. I will wear a bracelet.” But that fad is over. “Oh, he doped? I don’t hate cancer anymore.”

Livestrong
Livestrong

There is a DJ on course every day at one rest stop. He is always giving away T-shirts for people who will give themselves an egg shampoo or eat insects or answer trivial questions. One contest was first person to bring a hunting or fishing license. Another was for the first person to bring him a one dollar bill with three sixes in the serial number.

I made it to the top of the climb in 1:45. And went to the last aid station on course. I saw the DJ.

I envisioned him to be a little like Wolfman Jack. Big booming personality behind the mike but maybe a little distant with people. At the final aid station I told him that I had an idea for a “contest.” He barely acknowledged me. I told him I wouldn’t claim the prize but that he should offer a shirt to the first person who comes forward wearing a Livestrong bracelet. The music stopped and he said “OK, it’s time to give away another T-shirt. It’s time for an egg shampoo.” I left.

Amish Westcliffe
Amish Westcliffe

It was mostly a 12 mile descent to Westcliffe. The main street was lined with people cheering. Last year finished in Golden and before that in Colorado Springs. I am sure that in both places people didn’t know about RTR or they wanted them out of their town. Not so in Westcliffe.

Martin, Barry, Andrew
Martin, Barry, Andrew

It seemed that the entire town came out just to cheer. Even the Amish. It was really pretty amazing. I saw two Amish boys and stopped to talk to them. Martin and Andrew. They lifted my bike and said it was OK to take their picture.

Roadside Art
Roadside Art

I continued on to the finish line. More people cheering.

There was something to be said for having a small town as a finish town. It’s great to be appreciated. In all, I rode 520 miles on route plus an additional 24 the day before in Grand Junction. It was a great week.

The End
The End

 


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