Although now three days in and thoroughly waterlogged, looking on the bright side we haven’t had a single bear attack nor been charged by a cow. (Note: there is real deal cattle everywhere on this entire route. Charging cows are dangerous. Their cow patties are like landmines.)
What’s more, our septet of optimists woke to mere overcast and no rain. We donned our clothes that were still one shade on the dryer side of sopping wet and decided to emphasize the word “Peloton” today. The Peloton Flies together. At the first vista of the day where off in the distance we can see our arrival point, Timmy and I break into bike-speak and explain to the group the efficiency and subsequent speed found in a peloton. I make note of staying within a foot (or two) of the tire in front of each rider for optimal drafting, and how Timmy and I have the horsepower to pull our group at considerable speed to the finish.
It quickly became a popular word, but our ability to remain a cohesive peloton was much more of a challenge. Within seconds of each regroup, our peloton of seven would explode to smithereens. This picture below is a stunner, but explains this issue. I’ve been waiting up the road a while in the breakaway, these four are the remnants of the shattered peloton, and two riders behind wrap up the noble groupetto. (Timmy and I didn’t teach them those other words as we were continuing to stress peloton.)
We did made swift time to the next hut as seen here and then the lollipop top is the sweet singletrack detour that Justin, Timmy, and I took upon arrival while the rest of the peloton took in the fleeting afternoon sun and chatted up the Future Farmers of America group that was playing capture the flag on the adjacent campground.
Below you can see the intricate map system that guides us day to day across the Coloradan wilderness. Google Maps and modern technology be darned! Even on the detour, we’re presented with options. While Timmy navigates the no-cow-mini-bridge, I’m showing Justin that an excursion riding along the pond currently next to us is wiser than riding through it.
I’ll be honest; after three truly gnarly days, it was nice to have something a bit more un-dramatic. Furthermore, our duo of chefs made a Fritto-nacho appetizer, accurately dubbed Fricchos, followed by an exquisite and 100% authentic pasta carbonara. This delicious dinner I estimate to be somewhere in the 5,000 calories per serving variety.
Day 5 — A Sunny Sunday — the end of a long long long long Divide Road Tunnel
A significant part of this week was meant to prepare for Leadville. I’ve had a big red Sharpie circle on August 13 on my calendar for nearly a year now. Sure, I raced Dirty Kanza in early June. I’ve done a pair of Grasshoppers this spring, and I did the Tahoe 100 qualifier for Leadville (in addition to getting my charitable spot with World Bicycle Relief. Seriously, have you seen this yet?) but other than that I’ve been riding my bike for fun, for exercise, for work, but certainly not pinning on numbers to race.
I’ve been on board with the World Bicycle Relief team at Leadville since as soon as Katie of WBR offered up the invitation. Soon Timmy was in and then my co-retired pal Craig Lewis got on board. My Dutch friend and fellow CorSo athlete, Laurens Ten Dam joined the squad. And then Joe Dombrowski, my former teammate at Cannondale, asked to get in somehow between Tour of Utah and racing the Vuelta in a few weeks. I helped get him to join the team, and now with the roadie competition is just bananas. Which is not to overlook the rest of the team, who are also an incredible group of people who equally realize the power of the bicycle.
My point being, Sunday we woke up and it was actually sunny. Like blue sky, a few white clouds, and a massive orb in the sky emanating heat. What is this bizarro world to which we have just woken? Apparently summer in Colorado.
With a newfound bounce in our step, we seven gathered our few damp, slightly smelly things and tossed them in our backpacks. Rather than the traditional eggs benedict or breakfast burrito that we’ve grown accustomed thanks to chefs David and Phil, we were more than happy with plain cereal and our last go at percolated coffee. We packed up shop, swept the floor one final time, and hit the road.
Timmy and I had been chatting about the prospect of a big ride all week. It was about five minutes into the day when we both saw that the road was tacky but fast, the wind was mild, the air was crisp, and most importantly, the SUN WAS OUT. We then convened with the rest of the group and decided that for Leadville training, he and I would backtrack the entire previous four days in one go, while the other five would finish the tour to Gateway, then get the scheduled shuttle from Gateway to Telluride, get our parked cars, and drive back to our start town of Ridgway. Timmy and I were going all in for a nearly 100 mile ride as opposed to a 30 mile descent from 8,000 feet to 5,000 feet.
This photo above was snapped somewhere in the middle of nowhere along the Divide Road which would be our Yellow Brick Road back to Ridgway. I figure tremendously engineered technology wants to hang out with other magnificent engineering, so my Cannondale Scalpel took in a picture with these earth movers. Efficient, foolishly light, and just beautiful to look at, this 2017 Scalpel has gone next level. SRAM outfitted this beautiful rig with it’s new Eagle 12 speed drivetrain and accompanying gold chain, which allows an enormous range of gears, but without sacrificing any missing gears between gears thanks to being a 12 speed set-up. I have it with a 36t up front so when I’m in the 50 in the rear I can climb like a billygoat and when I’m in the 10 I am putting power down up to about 40mph. I’ve been thrilled with the performance of the Speedplay SYZR pedals since I first got on them early this spring; as with all things Speedplay does, they’ve revolutionized the traditional pedal. It’s unlike anything else out there. Needless to say, stoke factor was high all week.
We rode. And we rode. And we rode…
We found out why the route is Telluride to Gateway and not Gateway to Telluride; namely, because Timmy and I climbed what seemed like the entire day.
But this six hour ride was exactly what we wanted and needed for Leadville. Just like the good ol’ days when Timmy and I were teammates, training and racing together. Only now we’re mountain biking across the Colorado San Juans.
And I will say that training with a 30 pound backpack on — while incredibly frustrating at the time — is some of the finest altitude training we could have asked for. And now with Leadville coming right up tomorrow, I think it’s time to put down the computer and focus on my race. Thanks for reading.
p.s. GO on the San Juan Hut trip. We had an incredibly fun time. Adventures, misadventures, rain, and sun is exactly what makes this trip a blast. Bring some friends together and ride bikes. You won’t regret it.