Tag Archives: mountains

Six Gap Century, 2012, Dahlonega, GA

A couple thousand of riders roll out in a stream as day breaks.

 

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been nursing a hip injury that threatened my participation in Six Gap Century, the last event of my season. After some good and bad days, I was pretty sure I would be able to ride.

When I woke up in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I could tell it would be a bad day. It was painful. I took some anti-inflammatory, and iced it for as long as I could. There was no time to waste worrying about my hips or anything else. I had to give it a shot with what I had.

After getting everything in order, it was time for the final test in the parking lot. Could I ride without pain? The toughest part was getting my leg over the bike. I had to stick it out, and tilt the bike under the leg. Still painful, but it worked. Once I was on, I could turn the pedals without much issue. That was fine for the parking lot, but I still had no idea how it would respond on the climbs.

The crowd was massive as we gathered near the entrance of Lumpkin County High School. The announcer asked people where they were from as they passed. There were a lot of Floridians, a few Europeans, and the rest from all over the place. One guy said Mars. Real funny, buddy.

The weather was cool as we attacked the rolling hills heading out of Dahlonega. These were a good first test for my hip. I was able to ride, but not nearly as strongly as usual. The fluid pedal stroke just wasn’t there. Sometimes I would inadvertently twitch the hip, and feel a little pain. I would groan, grit my teeth, and continue on.

The descents were the next big test, and they were even tougher. Since it was only my right hip that was bothering me, I could not lean into the turns in that direction. When the road curved to the right, I was like an petrified, upright stick moving ever so slightly to the left to guide my body. When we turned to the left, I was able to lean all the way, and soar through the turn.

I rode mostly with Jody, a friend from back home. He knew I was injured and was kind enough to stick with me. I knew early on that I was not riding as strong. I told him that he didn’t have to wait. He wouldn’t hear it. All I was doing was complaining about my hip, which he related to a sciatic problem he had endured. The company and conversation helped get me through. Appreciate that, Jody.

Jody says hi.

After 20 miles of rolling hills, we hit the first Gap of the day. It was Neel’s Gap, and was the perfect one to start out with. The climb is long, around six miles, but not terribly steep. It ranges from 4-6%, just enough to get my climbing legs going, and not too much to kill me.

However easy the climb was, that one hurt. I felt the hip most of the way up. Everyone passed me, including Jody. I tried not to focus on it, but that was impossible. About two thirds through the climb, it loosened up enough to give me some mobility. A guy passed me, and I stuck on his wheel like glue, riding up behind him the rest of the way up. Jody was waiting for me at the top.

The descent would be the real trick. I had heard that Neel’s had some technical sections. Could I handle them? I wasn’t sure. It was on this descent that I tinkered with my technique and learned to descend under the circumstances. I had to pull my hip in towards the bike, and contort my upper body into the turn. It probably looked awkward, but it worked.

The next climb was Jack’s Gap, which I had climbed before on my way to Brasstown Bald. It has some steep sections, which I was able to stand up and get over. The rest was rolling and not a problem. There was occasional pain, but I could deal with it. It was nice to reach the entrance to Brasstown Bald, look at the steep road up, and head past it.

Unicoi Gap was next. It was a little easier than I remembered, and fortunately not too long. I remembered how exhilarating the descent into Helen could be, so I gave it a go. I bombed down with confidence, passing a lot of people along the way. The leaning system continued to work.

The next Gap was THE challenge. Hogpen Gap. I had previously not thought it too terrible, but that was with fresh legs and a lot of conversation. The climb feels a lot different at mile 60 than it does at mile 6.

Tougher part of Hogpen Gap.

Here goes. We crossed the US Pro Challenge timing meter, and were officially on the clock (not that I paid much attention to it). The first steep section smacked me in the face. Ouch. Brutal. It hurt, and would continue. I stood up, and did surprisingly well given my situation. I was trying to wait for Jody, who fell a little behind, but slow pedaling is not easy on big grades. I stayed ahead of him until the top.

There’s an old joke that the best cure for a headache is getting a stubbed toe. That’s the same logic for what happened with me on Hogpen. Even though I was limping when I got off the bike, the climb hurt so much that I forgot about my hip. As much as I struggled during the climb, it directed my attention enough for me to finally get my legs back. When I got to the top, however tired, I was back to my old self. I had my mojo back.

After a hair-raising descent down the steeper side of Hogpen, the next task was Gap #5, Wolf Pen Gap. A few more rolling hills, a right turn, and we were there. As far as difficulty goes, this climb was on par with Neel’s Gap. It was a little steeper and a little shorter. For most of the climb, we were covered under a large canopy of trees. It reminded me a bit of Schull’s Mill, Chimney Rock, Walnut Creek, or Highway 80 climbs in North Carolina. It was a pleasantly scenic climb, which somewhat helped to distract from the difficulty. I rode with Jody again, who was having a little bit of trouble with this one. The tables were turned, and it was me waiting at the top.

That left Woody Gap. “Woody doesn’t really count,” we were told a couple times by other riders. The only thing it had in common with the other climbs was the word ‘Gap’ at the end of its name. Even though the climb is 1.5 miles, you only gain a few hundred feet. It seemed more like a couple steep hills rather than a long climb. After descending down the other side, I could tell that it would be far more challenging from the other side.

Six Gap Conquered!

With the Six Gaps behind us, we rolled back towards Dahlonega. The hills seemed to go on forever. They were not too steep, but just kept coming and coming. We continually looked at our mileage and at landmarks for any sign that the ride was coming to an end. We were ready for this day to be over. Finally we descended the small hills on Black Mountain Road, and knew that the High School was nearby.

We crossed the finish line at just under eight hours, in 734th place according to the results. It was my slowest mountain century of the year, but I had a pretty good excuse this time. As Jody reminded me a few times throughout the ride, this was about finishing, not about beating a time.

Strava GPS Link

IMAGE GALLERY

Bridge to Bridge, 2012, Lenoir, NC

Déjà vu!

Last year the forecast for Bridge to Bridge (now apparently called “The Bridge”) was for a cool day with a slight chance of rain. We ended up having dense fog until we reached Grandfather Mountain, where we escaped a massive cloud system into sunny skies. This time the weather was also worse than advertised.

We gathered on Main Street, Lenoir for a day’s worth of riding. I found a few guys from Vork Cycling Team, and decided to try and hang with them through the easier, early sections. They are a little stronger than I am, and have more experience finding good packs. That turned out to be a wise decision.

We left Lenoir a few minutes early, and the pack charged hard. I tried to keep up with them, but I am not an early starter. The pack glided up the first big climb, Poplar Street, which is a mile-long hill right outside of Lenoir. That’s when the pack first saw some separation. Unfortunately I was one of the riders that got separated. I lost sight of the Vork Cyclers, believing they were all ahead of me. So much for that.

At around the 4th mile, I heard a lot of clicking and yelling out. Everyone swerved, and I saw the remains of a crash with maybe four or five bikes down. Water bottles were rolling all over the place. At a glance, it looked like there was nothing serious, but I did not linger. I moved out of the way of the bikes, and got back on. Hopefully everyone was alright.

As it turned out, I was wrong about the Vork team being ahead of me. Brian from Vork showed up out of nowhere. A new pack formed after the crash, and we made steady progress. Brian moved to the front, and started his engines. I stayed on his wheel. We gradually increased our speed until we got sight of the big group. That spurred him on. He kept pushing, getting us ever so closer. Finally he ran out of gas, which left it to me. I continued in that vein, and was getting closer for a bit, but probably could not have bridged the gap. Fortunately another rider took the reins, and we sprinted to catch the pack.

Panting, I thanked Brian and the other guy for the pull. As we slowed down behind this massive group of 50-75 riders, we were able to rest. ‘This feels much better,’ I said to Brian. He nodded. ‘This is the payoff for all that work.’

The other Vork riders were in this pack, so we maneuvered our way around to ride with them. Gregg aka Tater is a tall rider, and stood out like a beacon with a giant blue skull. Chris aka McDiesel, a recent addition to the Haute Route team, was also there. I kept him in sight, so as not to get gapped and lose the group. I also met John, who rides with the Vork guys, but this was his first century ride. What a ride to choose! We kept speeds between 22-23 mph without much effort. We took it easy, and worked within the group while waiting to arrive at the climbs.

Those first 50 miles flew by. I was feeling great when the climb on Highway 181 began, but the mountain has a way of really telling how you’re doing. I realized almost instantly that I did not have it. I struggled immediately. Perhaps I didn’t eat enough during the first 50, or more likely, simply didn’t train enough in the preceding weeks. Hoping it was the former, I chowed down a Clif Bar, and made my merry way up. The Vork guys dropped me. Even John passed me about midway, along with everyone else and their mother. This was humbling, not my finest moment, and the climb went on for an eternity.

12-miles and 2,600 feet later, and I was almost spent. The climb fortunately stopped, but I had little momentum. All of a sudden a guy with an orange jersey blasted by me. I jumped onto his wheel, and he pulled me at least a couple miles. It was enough to get my mojo back. I later learned that his name was Mike. Thank you, Mike!

As Mike and I rolled along, another guy jumped on our wheel. We passed someone else, and they jumped on. I regained my strength, and took the front for a long pull. By the time we turned away from Linville, we had a regular old paceline again. All of a sudden John turned up. I must have passed him at some point without realizing it. He joined the party.

As we rolled down the long stretch on Hwy 105, the clouds became darker. Cloudiness turned to intermittent rain showers. We just dealt with it, kept trucking along. It wasn’t comfortable, but we were fine as long as there was no thunder and lightning. As we passed by the north end of Grandfather Mountain, I looked over and saw it enveloped in a gigantic cloud. Unless things changed, it would be an ugly finish. I was also pretty certain at that point that the Blue Ridge Parkway would be closed.

The paceline remained more or less intact until we turned onto Schull’s Mill Road, and began the climb back up to the Parkway. Some people went ahead of us, some stayed behind. I kept riding with John. Not only was this his first century, but it was his first real mountain ride. Schull’s Mill is a nice and scenic climb, but it is long. I told him just to buckle in, and try to keep from getting too tired. Save a little for Grandfather. We rode and talked. At some points he was getting tired, and I slowed down to let him keep up. At others, he tore ahead of me, and I had to pick up the pace. Most of the time we rode together.

We reached the top of the climb not a moment too soon. The fog was much thicker up here. We were directed onto the rolling hills of 221, and it immediately started raining harder. Now this was uncomfortable! We could already barely see five feet ahead of us. Now we had to deal with rain. There were a few small descents in the early going, which always make me nervous. I rode conservatively, not wanting to do anything stupid.

As expected, the Parkway was closed. No Linn Cove Viaduct again this year. Bummer. We continued on 221, completing the full circle around Grandfather Mountain. I told John that this was probably good, as the climb up Linn Cove Viaduct isn’t a cakewalk. There would be hills, but they were more up and down until we reached Grandfather.

The ride along 221 took forever. It was bittersweet to get to Grandfather. We were nearing the end, but still had to deal with one of the steepest mountains in the Southeast. Here goes nothing.

No clear skies on Grandfather Mountain.

Last year we had climbed out of the sludge into the sun on Grandfather. Not this year. The entire climb was covered in fog, with a little bit of drizzle. To my surprise, it made it a little easier. Not being able to see the next steep pitch was psychologically soothing. We just had to grind out each hill, one at a time, then move onto the other one. Each steep hill hurt like madness. We just had to suck it up and try to keep pedaling.

I kept going, ever so slowly, just making my way closer to the top. John was pushing a bigger gear, so he would sometimes stand up and climb ahead of me. I stopped once along the way for a moment just to catch my breath. I believe John stopped a couple other times, but he did amazingly well for his first time. At the visitor center parking lot, I went on ahead, while he took his time. Everyone has to take this one at their own pace. He was fine.

Even though I couldn’t see them, I was relieved to arrive at the three switchbacks, because this meant the grade would temporarily lighten up to around 10%. What I forgot was what waited for me after that.

Last year I had turned a corner, looked to my left, and immediately stopped in shock at seeing a ramp left to climb. This year I could barely see two feet in front of my face, and forgot where it was. I turned that same corner, and kept climbing, then heard some cheering ahead as someone else finished. The road pitched up, and I realized this was it! The beastly, excruciatingly painful 20% ramp. I alternated standing up, sitting down, moving from side-to-side, doing everything I could to inch my way up that hill.

When I was almost to the finish line, I was able to make out the people. “You’re almost there!” someone yelled. They looked so close, yet they were still so far away. I stood up, and powered with every last bit of strength I had remaining. It wasn’t much and it hurt a ton, but I was done. Grandfather conquered again!

My final time was 6:45, better than last year. I was 145th overall. Even though this wasn’t my best day climbing, especially up 181, I was pleased with the result.

A huge hats off to all the organizers and volunteers. I cannot convey how great it feels to hear words of encouragement when climbing up the mountains. Whether that was at mile 50, 90, or 102, it was all appreciated. Thanks for keeping our hands full of bananas and water along the way, keeping us from having to stop. Thanks for spending your time on a crummy day supporting us and making this a great ride.

Strava GPS Link (elevation understated by Garmin errors)

 

IMAGE GALLERY

Last year’s pictures


September 2012: The Last Hurrah

Last climb of Grandfather

While it is easy to get carried away with my distant 2013 plans, but there are still a few things to be done in the 2012 season. This September will be my biggest month of the year, with two of my A events taking place in the middle and end of the month.

First will be a tune-up to hopefully jump-start my fitness. This weekend will be the Tour de Paws outside of Spartanburg. It is a metric century with rolling hills, which is perfect at this point of my training. My plan will be to try and stay with the front pack. I haven’t been riding as strongly recently, so that might not work out. All that matters is that I get quality miles to prepare me for the following week.

After a short taper, I will be revisiting familiar ground. I’ll be back in Lenoir, NC for Bridge to Bridge. I have fond memories of climbing out of the clouds last year, but this time I am hoping for some better weather for the rest of the ride. I’m not thrilled about climbing Grandfather Mountain again, but I know that it can be done.

After that is a free weekend, and there is a slight chance that I’ll travel to Johnson City, TN for their Climbing for a Cause. This would be a good opportunity to check out some of the riding there, but it all depends on how fatigued and/or broke I’ll be that weekend.

The season capper will be a mammoth ride in Georgia. It will be my first attempt at Six Gap Century, which is often mentioned as one of the toughest rides in the southeast. I previewed some of the gaps not too long ago, including Hogpen Gap, which will be the toughest climb of the day.

Phew, I get tired even thinking about it. The good news is that my season officially ends after Six Gap. There will be some other events, but they are going to be casual rides. This will be the last that I ‘push it’ in 2012.


Hincapie Gran Fondo Announced

Those who mourned the loss of the annual Marquis de Sade ride will appreciate this news. George Hincapie, Tour de France legend and Greenville superstar, has announced his own Gran Fondo taking place on 10/27/2012. It will feature many of the same quad-killing climbs as good ol’ De Sade.

What makes this ride special is the celebrity of Hincapie and perhaps some of his closest friends. He and his jersey company have become the face of Greenville cycling, and hopefully will continue to contribute to the community for years to come. Hincapie should be riding along with special guests. They have not yet been named, but I expect a lot of BMC riders (maybe Tejay, Cadel?), and perhaps some other tour pros. Since this is Hincapie’s retirement year, the inaugural event should be extra special.

The longer ride is 80 miles and features the toughest climbs in the area. It starts outside of Greenville and heads straight to the Tryon/Saluda area. I have long complained about Skyuka / White Oak Mountain in the past. We’ll be reunited again, as it appears to be the first major climb. After that will be its younger brother, Howard Gap. It appears that they have eliminated the dangerous descent, as we’ll take the higher elevation route to Saluda, alongside Interstate 26. From there we’ll descend Holbert Cove, and come back through Green River Cove Road. Since Tour de Leaves is the week prior, that means I’ll be climbing Green River two weekends in a row. Ugh!

While these climbs will certainly be painful, they should be equally gorgeous. The fall leaves should be at their brightest in late October. That’s a worthwhile trade-off for the cooler temperatures, which from my experience will most likely (hopefully?) require arm warmers and little else.

There have been a lot of rumblings ever since the event was announced. One of the reservations people have is that this is a Gran Fondo, meaning it is timed. That timing chip tends to attract the hardest of the core, but with a 3,500 rider maximum and a difficult course, I expect there to be a healthy mixture of paces. Regardless how fast or slow you are, there will probably be many others right with you. I know that when I’m going up Howard Gap, the timing chip isn’t going to get me to the top any faster.

The other thing is the price. This is an expensive ride. The longest route is $170, and it scales down from there. A jersey is included in the price for the long ride, so there is that, but it’s a lot more than most. Mitchell is close, but with all the logistics to get people and their bikes up and down the mountain, it makes sense. That said, I think the price is fair for this type of event. Copper Triangle was similar. It was close to the same price, also included a jersey, and was superbly organized. I expect the same, if not better, from Hincapie. However expensive, this event could immediately become a major attraction, putting the area on the map for many.

Hincapie Gran Fondo


Back to the Blue Ridge

After gushing about the Rocky Mountains for a couple weeks, I am finally back home, ready to tackle some new, local climbs. This weekend I will be heading back to the North Carolina high country, and will get the opportunity to explore part of a new state.

August 18th was a tough weekend to decide on a ride. As it turns out, three rides that I have wanted to try are all happening on the same day. The Blue Ridge Breakaway was my ride of the year last year. It’s an amazing ride, and I had a blast participating last year. This year they are expanding the event to include a special event the night before with special guest, bloggers The Path Less Pedaled. A lot of people have asked me about this ride after listing it as the best last year. If you are on the fence, I encourage you to give this a try. I cannot make it this year, but it is already on next year’s calendar.

Flight of the Dove is a local favorite. It is a metric century that takes place in Laurens County, SC. While it may not necessarily be my type of ride (brutal mountain centuries), it is extremely popular. Of my local club, about 20 are traveling to participate, a big number given that it’s a 1.5 hour drive. Everyone I know that has ‘Done the Dove’ has raved about it. As much as I like to ride with close friends, I have to skip this one.

Instead, this week I am doing the Blue Ridge Brutal in Jefferson, NC. It has a reputation of being a tough century, which is right in my wheelhouse. Additionally, it is a new area for me. It isn’t far from Boone, NC, where I’ve ridden a few times. Aside from a stretch on the Blue Ridge Parkway, all of these climbs will be brand new to me. That was the deciding factor in my decision. I like climbing new hills.

After finishing the 100-mile century, some riders have the option to ride up Mount Jefferson, a 3-mile climb with a steep grade. I am officially on the waiting list. From what I understand, a lot of people change their mind after 100 miles. That is understandable, but it won’t be me.

We’ll be staying an extra night, returning Sunday. Assuming the legs are in decent shape the next morning, we’re going to venture across the Virginia border. I’ll try a climb or two while my wife explores the area. Most likely I’ll ride up Grayson Highlands, the highest paved road in Virginia with a good view of Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia.


Colorado Wrap-Up

Summit Lake from the top of Mount Evans.

A few times while I was riding above the treeline, I recalled the movie Contact. Towards the end, when Jodie Foster’s character discovers the beauty of space, she sighs and says “They should have sent a poet.” I’ve thought of this as one of the cheesiest lines in film, but it made sense to me while riding in solitude surrounded by overwhelming mountain scenery. The fact that I achieved these sights under my own power made the experience that much more special. It reinforced and reinvigorated my love for climbing.

In my week of cycling, I achieved 280 miles, 25k feet in climbing, conquered eight mountain passes, and the highest paved road in North America. It far exceeded my goals and aspirations.

That may seem like a lot, but I had plenty of other activities. I attended a Colorado Rockies game, a concert at Red Rocks, a Denver Goth club (!!), toured a number of breweries, and ate my weight at local restaurants. I spent the trip with my lovely wife and some good friends.

The website now has new content areas: There is a new Photos section for the Colorado trip, a new Colorado Climbs section, and there are a lot of new additions to the Conquered Photos section.

Here are the blog posts from the week:

Day 1: Lookout Mountain
Day 2: Mount Evans
Day 3: Hoosier Pass
Day 4: Copper Mountain, Vail Pass
Day 5: Loveland Pass
Day 6: Independence Pass
Day 7: Copper Triangle

And here are some pictures of the adventures I had off the bike.


Copper Triangle, 2012, Copper Mountain, CO

My final event in Colorado was the main event, Copper Triangle out of Copper Mountain. I joined 3,000 riders on a chilly Saturday morning for an 80-mile romp around the Rocky Mountains.

After a week’s worth of riding in the Rockies, I was not planning to attack the Triangle with any aggression. This would be a casual ride for me, a way to experience and see more of the Rockies without any hassle. There were probably plenty of people who rode for time, but not me.

The staggered start time was perfect. They allotted more than a 3-hour period for riders to start, anywhere from 5:45am (first light) to 8:00am. I wanted to get finished early, so opted to start near the beginning. After getting ready, I rolled to the starting line along with a handful of other riders. I halfway expected some ceremony, or for riders to be released in waves. That wasn’t the case. A gentleman handed me a queue sheet, and pointed me to the starting line. I quietly crossed and began my ride.

This eliminated the massive crowd riding. I’ve been in countless rides where in the first 30 miles, the pack starts and stops suddenly. It can be stressful and annoying. Copper Triangle was nothing like that. There were plenty of other riders on the course, but not so many to give us fits.

I had become used to cold mornings in elevation, usually sunny in the 40s, with temperatures rising quickly in the early mornings. For some reason, it was much colder that Saturday morning. My somewhat accurate Garmin showed the mid-30s. I had brought most of my cold weather gear, but not all, which would come back to bite later.

We began the ride by leaving Copper Mountain resort, and climbing our way up Fremont Pass. I was pleased with an early climb, as it would warm my body up. My hope was that after the climb, the temperature would have risen dramatically.

Fremont Pass, like most of the Colorado climbs I experienced, is not too difficult. It is not steep, just long. There were many short sections in the 4-6% range, then the climb would level out. I wasn’t sure how long the climb would go, and on a few occasions thought we had reached the summit when the road flattened. It wasn’t until around mile 10 that it ended, after approximately 1,500 feet of elevation gained. It took me just under an hour.

The rest stop was phenomenal. I made it a point to stop at all save for the last one. They had a large SAG tent, which I was fortunately not to need. They had good food, plentiful bathrooms, and many stops had vendors with free samples (like Clif), and other frills. I fell in love with some mini blueberry muffins, which I enjoyed at the Fremont and Tennessee Pass rest stops.

The descent down Fremont Pass was, in a word, freezing! I’m not sure if I’ve ever been that cold in my life. I could tell that it was a great descent, with smooth roads, gradual turns, and an easy grade, but the temperature kept me from enjoying it.

After the big descent, my feet were like popsicles. We would bypass Leadville, and head towards the next climb, Tennessee Pass. I asked a rider if we would begin climbing to the Pass soon. He looked at me and said, ‘we’re almost there.’ I looked at my Garmin and it turned out we were climbing, but very easily. Before I knew it, I saw the brown and yellow Tennessee Pass sign. Was that it? It sure was. The total climb was only about 400 feet over three miles, which I barely noticed. From what I understand, the climb is a lot tougher in the other direction.

At the rest stop I took off my shoes to stretch out my frozen feet. I ignored the strange looks. This was just what the doctor ordered. While the temperature had not climbed as much as I would have hoped, it would be enough to keep me from freezing territory. The descent down Tennessee Pass was another fast and cold one, but not nearly as crippling as Fremont had been.

The next obstacle would be the 300-foot sinkhole along the side of the road. It had collapsed only a few weeks before the ride. Colorado DOT had the road closed indefinitely, and opened it to single lane traffic shortly before the ride. I was hoping to get a peek, but alas, they had it pretty well blocked off with construction. The DOT was very accommodating for us bike riders. They had both a car lane and bike lane blocked off with cones.

I had been warned that although the ride advertises the three mountain passes, there is a quiet killer in the middle of the ride — Battle Mountain. It was a steeper climb than many of the others, but it was short and scenic, and quite frankly, fantastic! We climbed a rocky cliff with a gorgeous view of the valley below, little by little making our way up. We crossed the valley by way of a beautiful bridge, which I was hoping would make for a nice picture, but the sun was shining in the wrong direction.

The descent off Battle was plain awesome. In fact, the middle of the ride had a lot of descending with a couple of bumps (Tennessee and Battle). That would all end, however, after we dropped into the Village of Vail.

At the Minturn rest stop, one of the volunteers asked how I was doing. ‘Great,’ I said truthfully. He laughed and said, ‘not for long, but you’ll be feeling a lot better when you get to the top of Vail Pass.’

Near the beginning of the 20-mile climb.

Vail Pass was the signature climb of the ride. We would make up all of the elevation we had descended and then some. The climb actually began as we passed by Lionshead Village and the Village of Vail. It began easily enough with 1-2% grade, and would continue in this manner for quite a ways. The ski-villages made for some interesting viewing as we slowly climbed upward, but the real climbing would take place afterward. We crossed over the highway, and took a pathway that climbed at a 5-6% grade. There was a lot of writing on the road, encouraging Tour riders. Just like at Independence Pass, that let me know that this was a serious climb.

After a number of miles, we crossed over the road and onto the recpath, just like the one I had ridden a couple days prior in the other direction.

Things got real on the recpath. We rode parallel to I-70, and at times, the climb spiked up to steep grades. There was one difficult section that sustained 12% for a couple hundred feet. On top of everything, the sun came out in full force, with the freezing temperatures behind us. I was still wearing layers, many of which I could not shed. Vail Pass is when everything caught up with me. I didn’t die on the climb, but I became very tired, and people started passing me.

As we got closer to Vail Pass rest-stop summit, the climb leveled out. The last couple miles were at a moderate grade. The air cooled, and I regained some steam. The volunteer was right. I was ecstatic when I reached the summit, and the subsequent descent could not have been any sweeter.

A couple miles later, and I had arrived back at Copper Mountain resort. The finish line was in the heart of the resort, usually only accessible by foot traffic. As I rolled through the blocked off area, I first heard the applause. It was a grand finish, with lot of spectators cheering, hooting and hollering! Now that was a great feeling!

It was a fun and festive finish.

Strava GPS Link

 

IMAGE GALLERY