Pro Cycling Challenge: The solo road trip
Amanda B. has her first solo road trip after her twin has an incident with a curb, but what she encountered along the way was glorious! Here’s her perspective from being a US Pro Cycling Challenge groupie.
Not what I expected this week to look like but turned out to be so much more. One of my favorite people and fellow cyclist, Amanda Cyr and I planned to follow the Pro Cycling Challenge. What a fun week it would be, riding our bikes, schmoozing with pros, the excitement of it all… Then one week before we were to leave, a tragic accident. My friend broke her collarbone in a crit. No more twin time. How was I to proceed without my better half?
I left on a Sunday for my first solo road trip. No clear plan but just my biking and camping gear and a full tank of gas. First stop was Gunnison. I had many friends who had just finished racing 24 Hours in the Sage. They all spoke about how fun this fully supported (meaning food and drink always available) race was. A friend and I camped. The next morning we left for Telluride. What a beautiful drive through the Blue Mesa Reservoir area, seeing the Black Canyon and then stopping in Ridgway for breakfast with another cyclist. We rode our bikes from Telluride to Lizard Head Pass, which is over 3000 feet of elevation gain, to watch the pros come over the pass, like it was a rolling hill. I felt strong that day, that feeling would soon end. We spent some time in Telluride and then back to Gunnison.
The next day we rode from Gunnison to Crested Butte. The last 3 miles from the town to the top of the ski area were treacherous. We spent time checking out the venders and then picked out a great spot to watch the pros climb and give out high-fives. We paced lined much of the way back to Gunnison. The ride was 2300 feet elevation gain over 60 plus miles and I was starting to feel the fatigue set in. I then drove to spectacular Buena Vista to stay with a friend for two nights. She and her husband were more than hospitable.
Day 3 of the Pro Cycling Challenge– I rode from Buena Vista to the top of Cottonwood Pass, over 4000 feet of elevation gain. Fortunately, I met up with approximately 15 people along the way. Think of me as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz at this point in the story. I just kept meeting up with friends and thus the trip was far from lonely. Riding with people helped me to focus less on the pain in my legs and barely being able to get enough oxygen at an elevation of 12,000 feet. We got to the top and then I heard people from the group say that we were going to ride down a short distance as the views were better from the other side. Do they realize that if you ride down that you will then have to ride back up? I went anyway and I am certainly glad that I did, the views were better. I noticed on the way up the pass that my heart rate was no longer getting very high, although I felt exhausted. Someone else mentioned that heart rates will not get as high at higher elevations. I was worried that I was pushing too hard, as most people know I am not a hill climber.
I recognized that I was very tired. I got a massage and went to a hot springs resort on the way down. What a wonderful way to spend a few hours. Then went to Yoga in the Park in Buena Vista. I felt refreshed and my legs were less tired. I began to enjoy the fact that I did not have to check in with anyone and could do what I wanted, when I wanted.
The next day, I drove to Twin Lakes and rode up Independence Pass. The first half of the ride, I kept thinking that this climb was not nearly as bad as Cottonwood (which is true). However, the second half makes up the steepness that was missing. I met some nice people at the top and enjoyed the race. Then jumped in my car and made it to Avon just in time to see Jens Voigt and the rest of the racers go by. Dinner, hot tub and staying the night with friends would proceed that long day.
Day 5, I had planned to ride from Vail to Hoosier Pass but did not plan enough time to get there. Who knew 4 days of hill climbs would kill my poor leg muscles? They did not want to cooperate and my heart was actually refusing to play any longer as well. I made it to Breckenridge, watched the start of the race and then got a ride (yes, in a car) back to Vail. Homeward bound.
Here is what I learned in this trip. I enjoy quiet time on my bike, looking at the amazing scenery that Colorado has to offer. Meeting up with friends along the way is enjoyable. It is nice to not have to worry about other people. Self care is important. Riding for fun is as important as training. It is about the journey, not the destination. Passes are fun to descend when pros are expected to be on them (very clean). The biking community is very friendly (offering extra clothes, food, etc). Lastly, 15, 856 feet of elevation gain in 5 days is for the birds (too much chamois time). So the questions remains, would I do it again? In a heartbeat.