And on the 28th day of July of the 2011th year of our Lord, Ted King declared, “There shall be a blog entry.”
And it was good.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow myself to welcome myself – and you by association – to Assspen, Colorado. I arrived a little over one week ago in order to grow accustomed to breathing really thin air for the upcoming Tour of Utah, which as you all know runs August 9-14, followed by the absurdly thin air featured in the subsequent USA Pro Cycling Challenge, formerly known as the Quizno’s Sandwich Toasting and Eating Spectacular. That’s on everyone’s calendar for August 22-28. “Absurd” is an apt description for this highland Colorado air because many of the Tour’s stages probe into the near realms of celestial orbit like this one below, high atop Independence Pass.
Day one here in Colorado and teammate, overall great person, and American cohort in this Italian cycling profession Timmy Duggan met me atop Indi’ Pass. Coming directly from from sea-level just 12 hours prior, this photo doesn’t seem to capture that I passed out immediately after Timmy’s missus snapped the pic’.
(Aaand that is a lie.)
As indicated by that photo as well as this entire subsequent entry, my shoulder-healing-prowess is locked into high gear. The formerly fractured clavicle continues to fuse with lightening precision – thanks be to milk! Additional thanks to the good Doctor Jupiter who pinned me together.
So day one consisted of a massive BBQ including Timmy and fam’, a massive ride, and a household jam packed with people and board games and, believe it or not, water pong – an excellent dose of fun for athletes in training looking for high altitude hydrating involving ping-pong balls, plastic cups, and H2O.
All the while quoting Dumb and Dumber incessantly, my adventures throughout Assspen tend to involve two wheels and look like this:
After climbing Ashcroft to the end of the road, I continued along a rutted-out dirt road until my 23c tires couldn’t handle any more.
The riding in these parts is simply excellent. The open roads are relatively void of cars, they’re well maintained, the views are exquisite, and the terrain is a challenge rivaling the best in the world. But if you really want to explore, I have one word for you: DIRT. As in, dirt roads. This pic below is about 10 miles out of town on a silly steep section of dirt – my GPS showed 17% at the steepest pitch. I did make it to the top, albeit with ample spinning of tires, but then circled back ’round to take the pic.
By now we’re on day two or three and I made a piloted my bike around a large loop up to Carbondale and back. Not knowing the route, I set out on pavement, which devolved to dirt, which segued precipitously to the most bombed-out, gnarly section of enormous gravel that I’ve ever ridden. By this point, I was committed to completing the loop, which is just as well because riding up the dirt (photo does NOT do the conditions justice) would have proven impossible. I should mention it was a 5 mile section. Long story short: believe it or not, I made it long enough to blog about it now.
Here’s another one nearing the top of Ashcroft. I don’t dabble in Photoshop; I merely meander in the color settings on my camera. Photo accent yellow.
Here’s another word, besides dirt, to expand your horizons when on two wheels: FLUFF. As in, Fluffernutter. I’ve spoken about Nutella briefly over the years, I’ve sung the praises of speculoos at great length, but now I’m telling you that marshmallow Fluff is where it’s at. Among other great aspects of this whipped heavenly delight, is that it comes in 5lb tubs in case you needed the reminder.
But there is only so much time you can spend in Assspen before the allure of nearby Coloradian hamlets beckon. In this case, Crested Butte. By now I’m about a week into my time at Assspen’s 7,909ft and the weather until this point has been flawless. So I penciled in planning to ride to CB on a Tuesday and with a return trip on a Wednesday; it is therefore fitting that these two days had the first chunk of deleterious weather hanging in the forecast. I therefore did what anyone else would do in that situation with 200+ miles of mountainous riding on the immediate docket: I sucked it up. (And packed a raincoat.)
Mid-ride, I also attained one of my life goals by being a guest on public radio – Vermont Public Radio, in this instance. Joining Gary Kessler, who puts on the greatest subtly quaint race on the planet, the Green Mountain Stage Race, as well as a Middlebury fellow alum and one of America’s greatest mountain bikers, Lea Davison, you can be wholesome and listen to us jabber away right here.
With four hours yet to go and no rest for the weary, I continued on my merry way. From whence I came…
…and to whereth I pedaleth…
Oh yeaaah, the sky is not ominous at all.
By now the road has turned to dirt for the majority of the final 30 miles to Crested Butte and the previously dry air has turned to inclement air rife with drizzly precipitation. Ergo, the dry dirt roads have turned to wet dirt roads, which is also referred to as mud, which leaves a sandy red stripe up by backside.
Previously, it’s worth mentioning that I managed to snap this photo at 35k-an-hour amid police, EMTs, a wrecking crew, and various other service folk. My guess is this tractor trailer took the corner slightly hotter than he intended. Thankfully I am sure the gully in which he overturned really appreciated the spewing of 15 tons of fertilizer.
At last, I arrived in CrustyButt. Ever been here? This town is steeped in awesome. To those who haven’t yet visited, the best anecdote I can think of for folks who enjoy the virtues of bicyle riding is that virtually every storefront has a bike rack chock full o’ bikes. Plus the mountain bike hall of fame is here, plus there are a plenitude of awesome restaurants a smattering of great bars, and as my BFF4E Garrett Peltonen says, “plus Heidi from The Hills is from there” so you just know it’s a fantastic place.
A staple of Crested Butte is the Secret Stash pizza joint. Supposedly their most popular pie and the one I opted for as seen below is the Notorious FIG. An amalgamation of three ooey-gooey cheeses, chopped figs, slightly toasted prosciutto, and drizzled with truffle oil. Oh my sweet goodness it’s good.
This is the mountain, who’s name I lack, that is located due east of town around 8am yesterday. It rises above town and clearly indicates to all who visit that CB is a mountain town. Dank, thick fog characterized the morning which cast an ominous start to the day.
…but no more than thirty minutes later the sun and my pretty face made everything in Crested Butte considerably brighter.
No time like the present, this day was meant for me to learn the roads of USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s stage 2 from Gunnison to Aspen. I wanted a mere five hours and 150km, rather than the 7 hours and 209km as scheduled for August 25. Therefore I started on the 22km dirt climb to Cottonwood Pass. Gooo…
Up. And more up.
No ride is complete without a support vehicle. I think the third time I’ve ever had this. HIGHLY recommended. No I didn’t write this, but yes I fully endorse it.
And at last I arrived atop Cottonwood. Below, that’s looking backwards from Taylor Reservoir 22km back along a very sinuous DRY dirt road.
As we can all agree, everything is better in panoramic. Especially mountaintop views of the Rocky Mountains. From the previous photo, this is now looking 180 degrees in the opposite direction, gazing east (I think) atop Cottonwood Pass. Or in cycling-speak, this is “about 78km into stage 2 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.” Duh.
And now the two rides. Riding to Crested Butte:
And riding back to Assspen:
A little more than one week before jetting off to Utah. I think there are plenty of adventures still in store. Adiossss…