Heidi Gurov decided to take a week away from her non-stop race schedule to enjoy some parts of her state that she had not yet seen during the Tour de Wyoming.
As a crazy Type-A competitive cyclist, most everything I do on a bike is either racing or training for racing. I usually plan my summers around races, leaving little time for random adventures that don’t tie back to racing. This past year two of my friends from work, Gretchen and Jenelle, talked me into joining them on Tour de Wyoming, an annual road cycling tour in different regions around Wyoming. Since I was skipping my traditional trip to mountain bike nationals, I threw my hat in the lottery with them, and we were all selected! So mid-July we packed out our cars and bikes and headed north to Sundance, WY, which is where the 2015 Tour de Wyoming would be beginning and ending.
Bike touring is… well, different. Very very very different than bike racing. People are insanely early to rise (like 4:30am early to rise), and the pace is definitely not anything close to racing. Gretchen and Jenelle knew I wouldn’t be able to turn off the “racer girl,” and gave me their blessing to ride off into the sunrise without them every day. I figure I could use the week as a good block of training, and an excuse to sleep in my tent, which I love, but hardly ever get to use because I’m always doing that darn bike racing thing.
Day 1 we traveled 58.8 miles from Sundance to Newcastle, WY. This touched on the corner of the Black Hills and open prairie. We were some of the last out of camp… 58 miles later, I was one of the first to our overnight camp spot! Since I had been up since 4:30am (hard to sleep in when several hundred other people are packing up their tents and breakfast is over by 6:30am), I ended up napping for quite a bit of the day.
Day 2 was from Newcastle to Custer, SD. Ok, this is where I must put on the disclaimer that the majority of Tour de Wyoming took place in South Dakota this year. Tour de… WyoSoDa This was the longest day of the tour at 79 miles. We climbed through the Black Hills (which are absolutely gorgeous by bike!), and through Wind Cave National Park. The park has free roaming wild buffalo, which luckily weren’t on the roadways. Only buffalo I saw was off in a meadow and safely away from me. This day ended with two grueling climbs. South Dakota may be at a way lower altitude than what we’re use to in southeastern Wyoming and northern Colorado, but the climbing on a bike can be just as tough! I stopped and took a photo of the sign and my bike at the top of one summit where the elevation was 5800 feet. Plenty of air, but my legs were screaming!
Day 3 went from Custer to Rapid City, SD. This was one of the most unique road rides I’ve never done. It started with a steady, long climb up to the Needles Highway which had several one way super narrow tunnels on the road and stunning scenery that I had no idea SD had! All the climbing was rewarded with a fast, curvy downhill before another climb that included glimpses of Mount Rushmore. The road switchbacked up and up before descending on a set of “pigtail bridges.” (Bridges where you double over on yourself and go under what you rode over… like a cyclocross flyover in some sense!). There was a chance to ride up to Mount Rushmore, but at a 10% grade. I have been there numerous times before, so decided to keep on the course and head to Rapid City, which of course involved even more climbing. At this point I realized I vastly underestimated the amount of climbing this tour would have! This day was a total of 59 miles, and since I was the 3rd person to our overnight spot, I got the “joy” of unloading the luggage truck. Maybe I should’ve been riding slower…
Day 4: After a monsoon that blew through at 2am and left my tent with 2 inches of standing water, I awoke and was ready to get on the road. This day had a mass start, but I chose not to participate for a general distrust of riding in a peloton with hundreds of people who haven’t ridden in a peloton before (and yep, people wrecked. Glad I missed it!). Later start than normal, so I started the 63 mile day to Spearfish, SD, in what had become “that girl in the Naked outfit who is super fast” style: picking off as many people as I could! The mission was so important to me that I didn’t even unclip at the first aid station when I filled my bottle. I had checked Strava and knew there were several climbing segments, and I had targeted those as QOM attempts. Yeah yeah yeah, I know, I was suppose to be bike TOURING, not racing, but I couldn’t help myself! At the top of the final extended climb of the day I met up with some of the members of Black Hills Domestiques, the local SD race team who were also doing Tour de Wyoming. They urged me to join them, so I set off, happy I found a group of like-minded individuals to ride the last flatter portion to Spearfish with. I did have a scare on the descent where I entered a curve signed 25mph at 50mph, eek! We formed a nice rotating peloton, and flew through Sturgis in a blink of an eye in a different sort of biker fashion, and made Spearfish in good time.
Day 5: This would be the day we returned to Wyoming! Another 63 mile day to take us from Spearfish to the KOA at the base of Devil’s Tower. I rode with one of the Domestiques, Will, and a junior racer from Denver who was also on the tour. We faced stiff headwinds, so it was nice to have a small peloton to suffer with! This day was not without it’s share of climbing, including one mountain pass. Soon Devil’s Tower appeared off on the horizon as we made our way towards it, and luckily had some nice descending for the final bit. I picked a campsite where I saw Devil’s Tower out of my tent, which was pretty darn awesome! By then I was tired and ready to get home. This was my highest mileage week ever on a bike, along with the highest elevation gain and time elapsed, and my body was feeling it for sure (and so was my wallet as I dealt out the money every night for massages!). The dinner this night was delicious roast (and baked potoatoes, my favorite!) and we enjoyed music by Jalan Crossland.
Day 6: The final day was a “short” 29 mile spin from Devil’s Tower back to Sundance, WY. The short miles hid the amount of climbing that was involved, which caught people by surprise. Most of the ride was spent climbing until about 5 miles or so from Sundance, which was all downhill. It was chilly, and I didn’t have my vest or arm warmers, so I rode insanely fast because I figured that would make me feel warmer. Upon arriving in Sundance I found my car and hugged it. It was so good to see that little Subaru Forester again!
Overall, Tour de Wyoming was 356 miles and about 25,000 feet of climbing over 6 days. I had a lot of fun that week, though it was clear I treated the whole thing as a long stage race more than a casual bike tour. I’m not sure I’d sign up for another bike tour anytime soon, however. The early mornings really wore me on as a non-morning person for sure, and there was a lot of frustrating and terrible bicyclist behavior occurring that made me angry and embarrassed as someone who tries as hard as they can to be a courteous and safe cyclist around motorists. However, I am happy I had the experience, and I got to see so many amazing sights and areas that I never knew existed through I had been through the Black Hills many times throughout my life by car!