Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ride the Rockies - Losing Track of Days

Ride the Rockies (RTR) is the type of experience where after a few days you begin to lose track of which day of the week it is. All of the hours in the saddle begin to blend together and the jokes begin to just flow off of everyone’s tongues. The best thing about RTR is that everyone loves riding his or her bike. It does not matter whether you are a racer or a weekend warrior. We all have a love for the bike and the freedom that comes with riding.

Day 4 – Steamboat Springs to Avon

            The first 40 miles of day 4 were fast. Our Garmins were only registering a 1% or 2% incline. This translated to a blistering pace for our group of three (Wayne, Tom, and me). Wayne told me to just sit on, due to my small size. He and Tom do not get a very good draft off of me. To say the least they would rather be pulling on the flats than sitting on my wheel. The slight tailwind helped us like crazy and we rolled along at about 26-28 mph for some extended sections. The three of us had some fun battling for town line sprint signs along the way and rolled into aid station 2 quite cheerful. After the aid stop we hit a sharp kicker (maybe a mile long) before a sweeping, long, descent into State Bridge.

Ride the Rockies Day 4 Profile
Coming out of State Bridge we hit a gradual uphill 5-mile climb. The gradient was not steep, but the headwind made the climb quite painful. I drilled it up the climb, feeling pretty good after having sat in the wheels of my partners for the better part of the ride. The descent off the climb was a headwind too, translating into pedaling, which is not pleasing when you are seeing negative gradient numbers on your computer (above -6%). The final ten miles was a gradual uphill, 1% or 2%, into Avon. Wayne led us into town, rolling along at a comfortable pace. What made this ride memorable was the beautiful scenery and great friends.

Day 5 – The Penultimate Day – Avon to Breckenridge

Finally, the route pulled back into my territory, the mountains. Today we tackled Battle Mountain, Tennessee Pass, and Fremont Pass. We started at 7,500 feet in elevation and peaked out at just over 11,300 feet (Fremont Pass), before finishing around 9,600 feet in elevation. Between Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass, we would travel near the town of Leadville, a mining town notable for its epic mountain bike race, the Leadville 100.

Ride the Rockies Day 5 Profile
            I met Tom and Wayne at their hotel to begin the ride. Since they were still finishing breakfast we ended up rolling out about 30 minutes late, and that last of the RTR contingency to be leaving this morning. I had no trouble with that; this was a vacation week for me. Bruce, from Ride 2 Recovery, decided to join us this morning. The road titled upward immediately—the tough climb of Battle Mountain was upon us. Bruce set a steady, but challenging pace up the climb. Having just begun the ride, my legs had not yet woken up so I was suffering a bit. Tom’s legs clearly felt the same, but he is a bit more comfortable in his own skin and felt no shame at all at slowing his pace. Me, I couldn’t admit that I was having trouble keeping up. So, Bruce, Wayne, and I continued on. The three of us assumed we would meet up with Tom at the top or so we thought.

Hey Tom, Where Did You Go?

            The top of Battle Mountain was stunning, with snow-capped mountains in the background. As the three of us waited for Tom we stepped over to the edge of the overlook and I snapped a photo of Bruce and Wayne. Little did we know Tom went over the top of the climb a little after us and we were waiting for someone who was not coming. Finally, we decided to descend Battle Mountain, assuming Tom would be at the aid station at the bottom; but he was not there either. To top it off, we did not have cell phone service. After 10 minutes at the aid station Wayne finally decided we should just roll out; the whole situation was a bit perplexing.

            Next up, Tennessee Pass. Tennessee is a gradual climb that slowly gets steeper and steeper. Bruce set a relentless pace up the climb. As we neared the top I attacked in pursuit of winning the KOM. Bruce eventually caught me and passed me. I was a little disappointed, but knew I’d get another chance.  At the aid station at the top of Tennessee Pass Wayne was able to text Tom, who explained that he had snuck over the top of Battle Mountain and gotten ahead of us. In fact, he was already at the aid station just past Leadville, 12 miles up the road. Wayne and I quickly said hi to my Davis Phinney Foundation support crew and hit the road. We drilled the pace on the mostly downhill route to the next aid station, where Tom was waiting. As we headed out to Fremont Pass, we couldn’t help but joke with Tom about losing him.

Having Fun and Suffering

            The three of us rolled towards Fremont Pass with Wayne, as always making sure our pace was no slouch. Pretty soon we came upon Ron Keifel, 7-time Tour De France rider, and slowed our pace so we could have a little chat with him. Not soon after we passed a bunch of my fellow Davis Phinney Foundation (DPF) riders who jumped on our wheels to ride with us. Soon the climb began. Wayne and Tom told me to go ahead—they were going to take this climb easy. I attacked hard and a couple people who had caught onto our group tried to get onto my wheel. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an orange vest jumping in. It was Beth, a fellow DPF rider. My competitive nature showing, I decided there was no way she was going to hang with me and punched the pace ever faster. Beth and I would have a joke about that moment when we saw each other at the finish later in the day. The rest of the climb I rode a hard pace with only one guy sticking to my wheel. At the top I was gassed and sucking air (or lack there of). Wayne and Tom soon got to the top and we all refueled on bananas and Gatorade before the big and fast descent.

Losing the Wheel
            I take great pride in being able to descend and stay with anyone. Only 120 lbs dripping wet and use a 50x12 as my biggest gear, which can make it quite difficult to stay with others on a descent. Most of the descents off of the passes are wide and have no sharp corners. Already going 50+mph we came around a sweeper and hit a long straight section. I was down in my super tuck position glued to Tom’s wheel. Out of nowhere Tom began pulling away from me. There was nothing I could do, but wave goodbye as Tom and Wayne gapped me on the descent. They kindly waited for me. If that had been a race that I would have lost it right there. The last 15 miles of the ride was on a bike trail that was slightly downhill, to say the least we had some fun on it.

            I attended the cycling seminar later in the day where Ron Keifel told awesome stories of his racing days and his stage win at the Giro d’Italia. That evening my dad and I chilled at the entertainment area with most of the DPF riders. It was the final night of RTR and I was disappointed. This is the week of the year where I train and pretty much live the life of a pro cyclist—it’s pretty sweet. Pro cyclists do not get paid a lot, but you become a pro to chase the dream because you just love riding your bike so much.


*Side Note: Descending at 50 mph inches from someone’s wheel is quite dangerous. I choose to be that close to people I trust. The guys I rode with have proved themselves, having ridden in many pro pelotons. I happily put my faith in their hand, er…, wheels. 

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