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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ride the Rockies - Saddle Time

Finally it was the morning of the beginning of Ride the Rockies (RTR). A tingling feeling of excitement and nerves ran through me. I was about to begin a painful journey through the Rockies, but the fun was going to be unparalleled.

Day 1 – Boulder to Winter Park

The organizers of RTR decided to give everyone a taste of what it’s like to ride a Grand Tour stage. The day consisted of 90 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing over multiple passes and finishing in the ski town of Winter Park, which sits at 9,000 feet in altitude

Photo Courtesy: Nelson Vails
I met my riding partners Wayne and Tom, who were supporting Ride 2 Recovery, bright and early. The whole band of Ride 2 Recovery guys are impressive, some completing the entire ride on a hand cycle. I also met Bruce, who does a lot of work with Ride 2 Recovery. Turns out Bruce designed the Tour of California stage in Thousand Oaks and knew the guys from Medalist Sports, with whom I work for at the Tours.

Climbing from the Start

Our group rolled out from the high school start later than most of the other riders. It was awesome to be riding with Wayne again. It was as if no time had passed since we last rode together. The route sent us up Boulder Canyon up towards Nederland, where the one and only Peter Sagan had be training just days before. We rode two-by-two setting a comfortable tempo up the climb, chatting along the way. At the top we said goodbye to Bruce who decided to double back and find his Ride 2 Recovery guys. The remaining three of us blew by the first aid station where I swear there was an hour wait to use the bathroom. The ride to aid two was roller after roller. Where I come from these “rollers” would be considered mountains, but in Colorado, they were simply rollers. We descended into Gilpin County 36 miles into our ride and the location of my sag support, the Davis Phinney Foundation (DPF). DPF does it right – extra food, extra Scratch Labs, and cookies every day. We stopped in to refill our bottles, and say hi to the ever-cheerful DPF Victory Crew leader Lauren and headed on our way.

The miles ticked away and soon we were flying by the halfway mark, and by flying I mean hitting speeds of 57 mph heading into Central City. It’s a deceptively charming small town, coming out of the town we turned a corner and a wall smacked us in the face. I let an “Oh S@%t” slip out and Wayne just laughed. As we ascended, I pushed the pace up gapping Wayne and Tom who had settled into a steady pace. We planned to meet back up at the top. The Wall was only the beginning of this short climb. I slowed my pace to wait for Wayne, boy was that a mistake. When Wayne caught up to me he attacked and ended up taking the KOM (the King of the Mountain). We regrouped and descended into Idaho Springs, where we found aid 3 at mile 51. We had done a lot of descending in the last 15 miles and that could mean only one thing: Berthoud Pass. Luckily, the pass peaked out at mile 75, making the last 15 miles a fast decent into the town of Winter Park.

A Slow Climb

Coming out of aid 3 the wind Gods decided to show their anger. Our group rolled along at a measly 15 mph even though we were giving it our all. Tom lead us past aid 4, but when we looked back Wayne was nowhere in sight. He had snuck into the aid station and downed three bananas trying to get rid of a cramp. We continued to battle the wind and climb up, up, up. The final 5 miles of Berthoud Pass kicked up and that’s where “he” finally caught up. “He” is the infallible George Hincapie. As he rode by us, George said something along the line of “Damn it Wayne, I have been chasing you for the last four and a half hours.” George had started the day 45 minutes behind us; although he doesn’t really stop at any of the aid stations. Immediately I jumped onto his wheel, much to my legs disagreement. George was riding with pro Spencer, who just happened to be the same age as me.

All of a sudden I started seeing white specks falling and I exclaimed to the two guys “I think it’s snowing!” George looked back at me and casually said “no, its not.” Not 5 minutes later George said, “It actually is snowing.” We stopped on the side of the rode and put on our vests before riding the rest of the way to the top. By the time we reached the peak, it was snowing harder. As we pulled into the final aid station at mile 75, we were surprised to learn that we were some of the few who had reached the aid station, given that we were one of the last groups to leave in the morning.  George admitted that towards the top he had began to bonk a bit. George and Spencer put on more layers, while I was stuck wearing a long sleeve base layer, a jersey, and a vest, but no gloves and knee warmers. I decided to top off both of my bottles before the descent to give me a bit of extra weight and speeding up by descent. Right before we started the descent Wayne and Tom appeared, encouraging me to head out with George for descent.

Flying Into Town

My adrenaline began pumping as we began the descent, I was with one of the best descenders in the world. I was dropped pretty quickly, but kept nailing the switchbacks trying to get back. My hands were so cold I had to shift and brake with my pinky finger because that was the only digit I could feel. I rolled into the finish about a minute behind George. I found my dad and the other DPF sag supporters Jenna and Laura, who were both freezing in the cold. I looked back up at the mountain and the top was in the clouds.

Sometimes if life you are so excited your body goes numb, in this case my body was actually numb. I took a 20-minute shower trying to warm-up, slowly turning up the heat I was so cold.

I later learned a snowstorm slammed the top of Berthoud Pass. RTR ended up closing the descent and had to bus everyone down the mountain. Less than 100 of the 2,500 people finished the entire route for the day. I was lucky enough to be one of the few.

A Calm Ending to a Crazy Day

            After finally warming up, I checked out my cycling computer. I had biked 90 miles in 6 hours and 15 minutes with roughly 4,000 KJ. I relaxed the rest of the day, went to the cycling seminar to hear Nelson Vails tell some racing stories, and filled my belly. No matter how trashed I was at the end of the day I was still excited. There is nothing more fun than riding your bike. #Livin’theDream

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