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skibum
07-08-2005, 12:09 PM
I got back earlier this week from the Bike Tour of Colorado (BTC). I've just completed a write-up of the trip. I'm posting it in several pieces since it's so long. I tried to keep it short but there was so much to say that the length got away from me.

Day 1- Snowmass to Leadville via Independence Pass (elevation 12,095) - 68 miles

I call this my mental toughness day. There were a variety of conditions that made this a very hard day. It took all the mantras I could chant and all of the perseverance I could muster to make it through the end of the day. It was a cool morning with a light rain so I started the day with layers on, including my waterproof rain jacket. I was already suffering from the altitude -- a slight headache and breathing hard just carrying my bags to the luggage truck. The start of the ride was a short, but somewhat steep climb out of Snowmass Village. I was struggling through that climb and wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. Thankfully, that was the steepest climb on the whole trip. I found that the grade of the climbs we encountered was not as steep as I am used to in Georgia so, even though the climbs were long, I was able to just drop into a low gear and spin up them.

As I came into Aspen and the base of the Independence Pass climb, the sun came out and it warmed up so I stripped off my layers. I knew I would be going up hill for about 20 miles so I just started spinning and enjoying the scenery around me. About a third of the way from the top, I felt a chill in the air so I started putting my layers back on. The higher I got, the more the weather deteriorated -- gusts of wind with a mix of snow, sleet and hail. I wanted to rest when I reached the top but the weather conditions were making me so cold that I knew I needed to keep moving. As I lost elevation on the descent, the wintry mix turned to a light rain, the temperature climbed a little and the wind let up. By the time I made it to the bottom, the rain had stopped and I had warmed up. I still had about 25 miles to go but I figured it would be a piece of cake compared to what I had been through. Well, just as I hit the last rest top for the day, the weather took a turn for the worse again. Heavy rain with a strong cross wind. A bunch of riders were huddled behind a truck to get relief from the storm. I joined them for a few minutes while I ate a snack but decided I needed to move on before I lost my will to get back on the bike. After riding in the storm for a few miles, the sun came back out and I was quickly stripping off layers again. The weather was nice for the remainder of the ride but the combination of the altitude, the climbing and the bad weather I had encountered had taken a toll on me. I really had to push myself to make it through the last 10 miles or so. I had to take several rest breaks during that time and finally made it to the end.

skibum
07-08-2005, 12:10 PM
This was sort of a recovery day. The ride was mostly a slight downhill grade and the distance was shorter than the day before. I did discover something about riding in Colorado that I wasn't aware of before. When you're in the valley, it can get pretty windy! Sometimes the wind made it feel more like a slight uphill than a slight downhill. I managed to hook up with some other riders and we took turns pulling so that made the wind manageable. I don't tend to ride much with my BF because he is so much faster/stronger than me that it frustrates us both to try to ride together. But, I think he was worried that I'd be struggling with the wind because he waited for me at the last rest stop. He rode with me (and a bunch of others that joined in) to the end. He pulled our group the entire way -- almost 20 miles. It made it an easy finish for the day for me and gave me the rest that I needed to be ready for day 3.

skibum
07-08-2005, 12:11 PM
Today started out similar to day 1 with a big climb up a mountain pass to cross back over the Continental Divide. It was a much nicer day though and I just enjoyed the scenery around me as I spun up to the top. The descent down the other side was a blast. Since I didn't have to worry about wet roads and cold temperatures like the first day, I let my speed get up a little higher and had fun flying down the road. As the road levelled out, the headwind seemed to appear out of nowhere. Once again, I worked with other riders to help each other out in the wind. We surprisingly hit a spot where we had a tailwind for awhile. I was beginning to think that the Colorado winds played some cruel trick on you by switching directions to make sure you always had a headwind. There was a rest stop near the end of the day (about 13 miles left)and I lost track of my riding buddies so I was on my own for that last bit of the day. That was fine until the sky started getting dark as an afternoon storm approached. I tried to pick up my pace to beat the storm but there just wasn't enough energy left in my legs to go any faster. The last few miles were uphill and the wind started gusting so it was a real struggle to make it to the end. I didn't beat the storm entirely but only got caught in a light rain rather than the major downpour that followed. As I approached the finish, I could see my BF standing next to our tent. He wanted to make sure it was up before the rain hit so he set it up on his own without waiting for my help. What a great guy :)

skibum
07-08-2005, 12:12 PM
Day 4 was a much needed rest day in Crested Butte. We didn't want to sit around and get stiff so we went for a hike and participated in the festivities that were happening in town. I really fell in love with Crested Butte. I think I could live there someday.

Day 5 was the longest day but also felt like one of the easiest. The rest helped and I was probably getting adapted to the altitude by then so that helped too. It was slightly downhill or flat for the first 60 miles or so. It seemed like we were just flying down the road and the miles melted away. The climb for the day was over Hermit's Rest. It was a fun climb (wait, did I just call a climb fun??), sort of rollers that gradually gained elevation going up and then the same as you lost elevation going down.

As things levelled out, I could feel the headwind kick in again. Even though I was feeling good, I wasn't in the mood to battle a headwind for the last 20 miles or so of a long day. Thankfully, the wind didn't last long and I cruised through to the end, big smile on my face and the thought that I really kicked butt going through my head.

skibum
07-08-2005, 12:13 PM
We started the day with a slight uphill grade and, you guessed it, a headwind. I admire those of you who regularly ride in windy conditions because I found it to be very demoralizing -- you are battling against something you can't see and don't know how long it will last. I was thrilled to see the big climb of the day approaching since I knew the mountains would block the wind. The climb up McClure Pass was not long but it seemed harder than some of the previous climbs. Not sure if it was fatigue or a slightly steeper grade but my speed/cadence were just a little slower than they had been for the other climbs.

It was a gorgeous descent and slight downhill to finish the day. We rode along the Crystal River, mountains on one side of the road and the river rushing by on the other. It was so beautiful, I can't put it into words. The miles seem to pass by so quickly when you're distracted by the beauty around you.

skibum
07-08-2005, 12:14 PM
The final day of the trip was also the shortest day mileage wise. It wasn't easy though -- uphill the whole way. I think all the miles of the week had caught up with me. I was tired all over and was thrilled when I crossed the finish line. What a great feeling of accomplishment!!

My overall impressions of the BTC were very positive. It was well-organized. The route was fantastic and very well marked. I regularly saw support vehicles and police motorcycles while I was riding so I always felt like help would be available if I needed it. I heard from some people who had to SAG that there could be a bit of a wait since there were several times when many people wanted to SAG at once.

There was an option when you registered to sign up for their meal plan -- breakfast, lunch, dinner in any combination. We decided to skip that. We went for a simple breakfast of peanut butter & bagels, lunch was whatever we fueled up with while riding, and we wanted to eat dinner in the towns that we stopped in. The worked well for the most part. You had to be patient at dinnertime because the towns were small and there were a lot of cyclists wanting to eat all at once. I think I would have liked doing the breakfast plan. I was pretty tired of peanut butter by the end of the week so it would have been nice to have some variety in the morning.

The only thing I wouldn't give high marks for is the rest stops. This was my first organized tour so I don't have anything to compare it to other than century rides so maybe my expectations were too high. There just wasn't much variety in what they had -- fruit, PB&J, pretzels, occasionally some trail mix. And, occasionally, when I got to a rest stop, they'd be out of the PB&J. Well, they'd have peanut butter left, you just had to put in on something else because they'd be out of bread/bagels. For drink mix, I heard rumors there was Gatorade but I only saw it at one rest stop on one of the days. Other than that, they had Cytomax which I'd never had before. I tried it on the first day but it bothered my stomach so I avoided it unless I really felt a need to having something besides water. I brought my own drink mix and energy bars so I never had a lack of proper fuel. I just expected the rest stops to provide more than they did.

As far as my own preparation, I think I trained well for the ride; my bike was set up with gearing that let me handle the climbs without too much difficulty and I brought the right layers to handle the weather conditions I encountered. One thing I wished for on the ride -- a bigger saddle bag or some kind of backpack! I tend to be a minimalist while riding. My saddle bag is small and doesn't hold much more than some tools and spare tubes. Any layers I removed went into my jersey pockets. They were pretty full by the end of the day. One day I had to keep a layer on because I didn't have anywhere else to put it! They had bins at the rest stops where you could drop clothes,etc but I hadn't marked anything with my name so I wasn't sure I'd find it at the end of the day.

Overall, a great time and a great ride. I still get a big smile on my face when I think about riding in such a beautiful place!

CorsairMac
07-08-2005, 02:52 PM
I've ridden that area on my Harley so I know what you're talking about. I can't even Imagine riding it on a bicycle! and it rained every afternoon when I was up there on the Harley too.
As for the winds - welcome to my world! LOL........it's caused by the canyons which I'm sure you know. I read your journals with complete understanding and humour about the wind coming from every direction. Now you understand my avator quote! ;)
Sounds like you had a grand time! and good on you for the distance And the climbing!
Thanks for sharing!