Friday, October 1, 2010

Memorable day on the bike - Bicycle Tour of Colorado 2004 - Day 2

As it turns out, I get to ride Trail Ridge Road twice, this being the first time and the second coming in 2010. I think the unique weather conditions in 2004 plus that being my first time on TRR is why it is indeed, a memorable day.

Day 2, Monday - Bicycle Tour of Colorado - Estes Park to Granby 63 official miles (67.8 on my odometer):

Today we rode Trail Ridge Road in Estes Park, “the” highlight of the 2004 tour. I had been concerned about the weather as Ride the Rockies was to go over Trail Ridge Road exactly one week earlier and could not, because of adverse weather.

Gary left very early and I departed around . It was overcast and cold. I was layered with more clothing than I would have imagined based on recommendations from the BTC forum. That included long fingered gloves and toe warmers.

I soon reached the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was very warm by that time but resisted the temptation to take off layers. Trail Ridge Road was amazing. Today it was essentially all cyclists with a few loud motorcycles and fewer cars. We were climbing in the fog. Some sections would appear to be downhill but my speed would only be 13mph. That wasn’t downhill!

Aid station 1 was totally covered in fog. I stopped briefly and then continued, “Onward Through the Fog” as the bumper sticker from Oat Willie’s in Austin proclaimed in the late 60’s.

Eventually we broke though into bright clear sunshine and looked down on the clouds, just like looking out the window of a 727. We were on the way to 12,183 feet.

Aid station 2 was beautiful, a clear view from a paved parking area. I’d only been there a few minutes when I saw Gary. We took some pictures, refueled, and continued up the climb.

The air was thin and cold. The frost on our clothing meant we were near freezing, but quite warm inside as we were climbing all the way. The landscape became barren as we passed timberline.

Trail Ridge Road has two summits. Aid station 3 was in between. Didn’t spend long there and after reaching the second peak, the long downhill began. Somewhere in here, Gary and I became separated and I didn’t see him on the road after this.

Traffic was a little congested at the start of the downhill, cars and cyclists all trying to decide how fast to go. It wasn’t long before things cleared out and I picked up my speed. It was cold at first, until some of the trapped moisture evaporated. I was passed early by a lady we had passed on the climb to the second peak. We had teased her about her arm warmers as they had a leopard skin print. As soon as she passed, I decided to keep her pace if at all possible.

I stayed relatively close and we flew down the mountain. The corners were all in good shape, but it made me feel more comfortable seeing another rider go though safely before me. Eventually the road leveled some and the lady started riding with a guy that she seemed to know. When I caught them, I joined the paceline. The guy took a long pull and dropped off. After a few minutes she sort of flicked her arm like it was my turn, but she didn’t slow or pull off. I didn’t do anything and she started flapping both arms/elbows like she was trying to fly so I went by and took a good turn a the front. We picked up another rider or two and arrived at aid station 4.

It was really warming up now and everyone at the rest stop was stripping down to the essentials. I took some layers off but didn’t overdo it as there was still more downhill to the finish. I departed on my own with about 16 miles to go. Rode with some older guy for a little while before he dropped off on a little uphill section.

I continued on my own until a few miles before the finish where I hooked up with another small group. We made a left turn and had one more little ridge to climb before dropping into Granby. The pace picked up and for some reason I had the urge to push hard going over the ridge, and kept a good pace until arriving at the finish.

The endorphins were really working now. I immediately went to the Super Dave tent, bought a protein smoothie/shake, and patted myself on the back for having a great ride.

Eventually I had to go into Granby and find my hotel. It was about two miles out of town but it seemed like twenty. Maybe I was more tired than I thought.

The bags were already unloaded so I got my room key and rode back to my room to change shoes. Couldn’t get the door unlocked so I went back to the front desk. They sent someone to meet me at the room. I rode back and the door was open when I arrived so I took the new key, changed shoes, and went back for the bags.

Upon arriving at my room for the third time, I couldn’t unlock the door. What was going on? I stood there perplexed when I noticed there were two possibilities, the deadbolt and the actual doorknob. I had been trying to open the deadbolt! When I tried the doorknob, it opened. Yes indeed, I was tired. Mentally I made a note not to make major life decisions after a long, hard bike ride.

Started the routine – shower, eat, rest. The hotel was far so far from town I just ate there. It was very good, a buffet especially prepared for us. Went back to the room and found Lee. He actually rode in some rain that came later in the afternoon.

We went back to the restaurant that night and had an excellent meal.

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