02 July 2005

Eric's "Ride The Rockie's" report. Mon. 6/20

Grand Junction to Delta – 92 Miles

Today, the second day of riding was going to be the longest hardest ride of the whole trip. This was GRAND MESA. I made sure to stretch an extra 10 minutes and to have the 30 SPF on-hand. I didn’t sweat it too much because I knew I was in a lot better shape than the alarmingly high rate of older fatter riders on this trip. (There were a lot) On top of that there were seven aid stations along the route to hang at. The ride started at 4,500 ft. elev. Between mile 38 and mile 57 it would climb to 10,839 feet. Yep. Almost 20 miles uphill! There were going to be 4 aid stations in that 20 mile period so how could you fail? Well fail many did. The tally of riders that took the bus up from various points on the climbs rather than make it on their own steam was roughly 500 of the 2,000 registered cyclists. Doh!!!

This day started relatively flat and then we all found ourselves on this one continual incline of a manageable 4 or 5% for about 5 miles. Just as I began to wonder where I might take a nature break, the aid station at the foot of the Grand Mesa appeared.There was now 15 miles of super serious climbing to be done. The next five miles was steeper than the last, but the temperature seemed pretty hot, but the time and miles went by and I settled in. The more I rode the more comfortable I was with the heat. (strange huh) Part of it was probably there was no humidity here.

When I’m feeling good on the bike something special happens. I’ve told my racer buddies this before…. music starts flowing in my ears and it calms me and puts me in to a nice steady rhythm. Today the song du Jour was Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” from “Dark Side of the Moon”. I don’t understand it, but Pink Floyd has a lot of songs that are good to bike to. I think sub-consciously, the line in the song “Up and down and in the end it’s only round and round and round” was heavily on my mind for obvious reasons. The slow relaxing rhythm, yet powerful intermittent bombasts of saxophone and shrieking choral voices seemed to complement this mountain nicely. From there it’s just a short time before I feel this meditative peace. No wonder I saw riders wearing "Dark Side of the Mooon" and "Wish You Were Here" jerseys.

The first time this ever happened was on my New York Cycle Club: http://www.nycc.org/
“graduation’ ride in May 2004. A round trip from Central Park to Bear Mountain. 120 Miles. I was intimidated, cause I had never climbed Bear Mountain. How intimidating the name alone is. Well it wasn’t too bad. I paced myself and found myself getting stronger as the climb progressed. Then it happened. A song I really love.. the Cocteau Twins “Lazy Calm” just eased into to my cortex as I looked over at the stunning view to my left of the valley below. Wow! At that moment in time I was relaxed and at peace just listening to my breathing and the tune in my head and felt for once what it was like to be a satisfied man and content with just being.. No past no future. Just now. I ended of being the 5th rider up the climb, with my future racing team mate Joe Decuiitis reaching the summit first.

I was hoping to get more of this natural drug on this trip and I got it. Pink Floyd was taking me there. I stopped at the aid station with 10 Miles to go for more water and I was back on in no time. I was now passing people like I stole something and was rewarded with a sudden whoosh of cool air and thick patches of snow along both sides of the road. I was getting close, but I was in no rush. At one point I looked up and saw cyclists up above me on another plateau of the same road that I was on and they were continuing up in the opposite direction. I know this was a sight that probably freaked some riders out, but my immediate reaction was cool. I’ll be there soon. I stopped for a minute and took a couple of pictures off the road where other riders were taking pictures near the top ( see above). I didn’t stay long as I was looking forward to closing this deal.

Myself and another guy in a Discovery Channel Jersey were taking a leisurely spin upward when we both heard the DJ’s sound system up the road and we simultaneously got off our saddles and wanted to sprint to the finish which was flattening out nicely. As we reached the top there was a party going on big time and everyone on a bike who got to the finish was treated to rousing applause from the other cyclists, support staff and locals. Very cool! I enjoyed a big juicy bratwurst sandwich with chips and accepted one of the most delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies I had ever eaten. I posed for a picture in my CRCA (Century Road Club Assoc.) jersey at the elevation sign and was ready and eager to fly down the mountain.

It only took about 10 seconds from setting off down Grand Mesa when expletives began leaving my mouth. This was gonna be something else. 26 + miles of unadulterated speed. It was gonna be at least a half-hour hunched in an aero position. I have to say the first five minutes were very intimidating. It doesn’t really matter if you crash at 45mph or 30mph, it’s gonna be a world of hurt. I eased into it and let the experienced speed demons pass on the left. I got comfy and then fully let it loose and got it to 43mph before I started getting twitchy. As I was entering the valley below I was hit with a blast of heat that felt like a con-air hair dryer was turned on right in my face!. Guess I’m out of the mountains. At the next aid station I stopped and was dying from the heat. There was a nice lady who had a water hose and was filling up the igloo jugs and I asked her to hose me down and she obliged. Other’s followed suit. From here it was just 15 Miles to the finish. It was a long one. Mostly flat with hot winds blowing in our direction and one of the dullest straightest road I’ve ever been on. Finally a left turn on a shaded street and the carnival of sponsorship tents and campers and charter buses appeared Ahh… Job well done! Hello Delta, Colorado. Hit my motel just a couple of blocks away (thank God!) and was in the mood for Mexican. I asked the jolly motel manager and he showed me the way. Just a five minute walk, Yes!. Got the biggest burrito and as a special reward..one cold Dos Equis Beer. I meandered back to my motel which was a whole bunch of Miniature log cabins. It was definitely the most miniature room of the trip. But it had AC, a bed, a shower and TV. I think those (and possibly water) are the most important things to man. I may be exaggerating a little. Tomorrow is just a 34 miler so, I think I shall sleep an extra half-hour tonight. Good night.


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