Well folks, you knew this was coming especially after the flawless performance of the Women version of The Death Ride.
The men have now entered the stage and with that said, here it goes:
We met at Erik's office on Wednesday morning, where we were fortunate to have a support car courtesy of Ralph, who a cyclist himself, offered to play Director Sportif for us.
The morning was a bit chilly due to the humidity we have been getting, so I show up sporting winter booties and Kinko gloves. "Whoaa there Cowboy!" says Rick when he sees the getup. But I was warm and comfy and considering the long day ahead, comfort was a high priority on this guy's list.
So, Bertrand, Rick, Erik, Oz, Steve and I roll out. At the 145 Intersection, we wait for Tom who was descending like a lightning bolt from Mountain Village.
Onward we proceed and form the typical pace line down valley. At Placerville we hang a right and pull over in a shady spot to regroup, eat and change from winter into spring gear.
I take the opportunity to dig into my first of four, butter, cheese and salami English Muffins. Soo Good!
Climbing Dallas Divide is always a pleasure. Oz with headphones on is stomping on the pedals to the beat of Black Sabbath or something of that sort, so I kindly ask him to switch his playlist to a "Power Ballad" band like Journey or something more appropriate to this fine morning's first climb. Let's ease into the mood gentlemen....
And so the story goes all the way to the top where Joel, Steve and Olga are waiting for us.
Great to see this bunch and with all the formalities and pics out of the way, we continue on our quest towards Ridgway. As by divine intervention the road clears of traffic and we fearlessly descend at a good clip down the backside of Dallas Divide. We're pushing a bit over 50mph on this stretch and since I don't use a bike computer I can only gauge the speeds by how hard the wind is trying to blow the Marlboro out of my mouth.
We coast into Ridgway way over the speed limit and pull over where Ralph parked the "Team" car. Here we unload our pockets, eat and chill for a bit before we mount back up we proceed towards Ouray. Passing Orvis Hot Springs we throw the idea around of saving ourselves the pain of cycling and just soaking for two days in this "clothes optional" soup of hippie paradise.
But we forgo the temptation and proceed onward through the still shaded, twisty canyon. The sun has not hit this stretch of highway yet, and you can smell the wetness of the hay in the cool air.
My gorgeous view of this valley is blocked by Oz proudly sporting the BCB tunic.
Ouray - first leg of the trip and here we officially stop for breakfast. Ducketts Grocery Store, Coffee Shop, Sidewalk and a Street Bench are occupied by the group. Here the foods are purchased and unpacked: Bacon, Avocados, Breakfast Burrito (Bertrand), Coffee, Bananas, Salt & Vinegar Boulder Chips and all sorts of other energy chemicals.
The sun is up now, radiating us with UV light and heat so it's time to tackle the "Big One" aka Red Mountain Pass.
Rick and Bertrand lead the way followed by Erik, Oz, Joel and I. The front two are a couple of notches stronger than the rest and slowly they become small dots in our panoramic view.
If you have not done this climb, it's a must; beautiful in its ruggedness and sheer beauty. For a good part, The Reaper lies only inches away to the right. Realizing this, I slightly veer towards the center line as I would rather get run over by a tourist than fling my DNA grits all over the cliff.
And so with these thoughts along with many other emotions, I slowly make my way through the canyon towards Ironton. Here the climb is not as exposed, but the grade steepens. This stretch is littered with mining history. Just passing through takes you back in time.... and we thought we were hard men...oh well.
The tight switchbacks make the rear spin, so I sit and pound! She is a long one and definitely takes its toll.
After a while, the top comes within sight and I coast to the stone monument where Rick and Bertrand are sitting with their rain flys on, waiting on the rest.
A quick note here on these guys:
Rick has always been a strong rider and I have ridden with him many times. He is always in a good mood and never backs down from pulling a whole train of riders for endless miles.
Bertrand is strong as well, but I have not had the chance to ride with him much. He is French and old school style rider, which I highly appreciate and respect.
Many civilizations adopt their own rituals for male babies. Some circumcise at 8 days, others baptize their young. I suspect in the small French Village where Bertrand was born, the old cycling pro showed up with his measuring stick and took the proper femoral and tibial dimensions. These in turn were translated into the geometry of the first bike frame for the bebe. And so they breed them it would seem...
Chilly up here indeed. I suspect we must be at over 11,000 feet...lets see what the sign says: 11,018ft.
Erik, Joel and Oz roll up, and without too much waiting we get going since there are two more passes to be conquered. Erik gets to the front and lights it up. The rest of us have a hard time keeping up with him, so we take it at our own pace.
The next stop along our pilgrimage is in a town where I suppose they mined silver, and they must have found a ton of it because they coined it Silverton.
Here, waiting for us is a fine Gas Station and as typical to these establishments they have a little of everything. We each grab what we feel is appropriate for this stop; I choose an espresso and have a seat at one of the outside booths. Bertrand is sitting across from me, and soon we find out that the folks occupying the booth behind are from France.
As I am nursing my drink, I find myself in a cross fire of foreign dialect. Like a flag boy in the French Revolution I'm not sure where to go, so I play dead and focus on the grease stains laid before me on the Formica table. After what I sensed were "good byes", I mustered the courage to look up and with the coast clear, I went straight to my bike.
Riders in the group were already starting to head up Molas Pass, so I caught up to Oz and together we ascended. Compared to Red Mountain, this pass is pretty tame, giving you the latitude of about three gears that you can play with. Here, I keep reminding myself to stand about every fifty strokes or so. All this keeping track and counting takes the mind off of everything else and becomes a fun pass time. We have used a similar system to pass time on our cross country family trips and it got us there, then; and it should get us there now, as well.
And, what do you know, here we are; top of Molas Pass; Two Down, Boys!
We just roll over this one and start up the last climb of the day; Coalbank Pass. I will refrain from further sarcastic insight on why it's called what it's called, as you can probably figure it out on your own.
The weather is holding well, with some cumulus clouds peppering the sky and the temperature couldn't be better. Unfortunately there is a twinge of coolness in the air, implying that we are coming to the end of our summer. BooHooo!!! Since we don't have much of a choice in the matter, we continue pedaling and sure as heck, we find ourselves at the top this hill.
Here we stop and prepare for one of the best and longest descents of the day. Dropping from the top of Coalbank towards Purgatory is phenomenal. Good turns that you can hit at high speeds which seem to go on forever. Unfortunately for us this time there was traffic, specifically a group of motorcycles from British Columbia that passed us, only to get to the front and ride their brakes. C'moooon!!! "Break before the turn then roll the throttle through the turn" Quite elementary, but this group kept the brake lights on the whole time. As soon as I saw that, I grabbed both my levers and prayed that my front tyre would hold around the turn. Wheeeww... It did...
After that one, I gave up on my fantasy of breaking the sonic barrier and conceded to my fate of sitting behind the scooters. That was me only, because Oz unfazed by this spectacle, passes me like I'm a lug nut laying in the road and latches on to the rear fender of the motorcycles from where he pretty much motorpaces himself. Now, he is part of their group and I simply sit up and watch them have fun. That's ok.
This setup continues until we reach Cascade Village and from there with the shoulder widening, Oz switched allegiances back to the bicycle group and we ride to the gas station and our next stop. Here, Bertrand and Rick have been waiting and seem ready to go, but they wait a bit longer as a few more guys pull in.
We now have a 6-pack; as Erik, Oz, Rick, Joel, Bertrand and I start on the last 25 miles of the day's leg into Durango. Well by this time we have about 100 miles + vert. in our legs and I thought the shenanigans were done with, but how mistaken I was...
From nowhere, Erik hooks his terminals to some unknown power source and attacks! Oz attaches his jumper cables to the same invisible battery and latches on to Erik's wheel. What The?!
From the weekly club rides, and by instinct only, I grab on to the last wheel by the skin of my teeth. The boys are driving hard and after a few turns I look back only to see the remnants left behind by Erik's attack. The split is pretty far back. With that, we ease up and decide to take Old Shalona Hill and Road 250 which parallels the highway. The scenery here is pretty nice, with ranches and the Animas River along one side and the mountain on the other. Had we not the miles in our legs, this stretch would have been as enjoyable as after dinner puddin', but the heat was starting to radiate off the pavement and we were ready to wrap it up.
We pulled onto Florida (pronounced Flo-reeeeda) Road, then rolled through Downtown Durango and straight under the motorcourt of the Double Tree Hotel. Seven seconds later the back end of the split pulled in to the day's final destination.
Dinner reservations were made for 6 o'clock at East by Southwest, which didn't leave us adequate time to doll ourselves up for a night on the town. But that's ok because "We are Hard Men from High in Them Mountains"!
All somewhat civilized, we arrive at dinner and spirits are high due to the day's accomplishment. Conversation is peppered by witty remarks and sarcasm courtesy of Joel, which keeps the mood light and happy. After our fill, we walk down a block to the corner of College Street and Main Avenue, Durango's vitality hub. A few of the guys grab ice cream, others tea or what-have-you and we casually loiter savoring the nice evening.
Well, a big day, so time for bed and will follow up with Day 2 of the Telluride Men's "Almost" Death Ride.