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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rider the Rockies - Speed and Relaxing

Day 2 Winter Park to Steamboat Springs

            Day 2 of Ride the Rockies was 95 miles (ended up being 100 due to the location of our hotel from the start) and included only about 5,000 feet of climbing. It was a beautiful rolling ride until about mile 70 when we would go up Rabbit Ears Pass East and West before a fast decent into Steamboat Springs.

Our group of three, Wayne, Tom, and me, got a late start, 9am, in order to let the weather warm-up a bit. It did not do that much warming up though, and the mercury was still hovering around 30 degrees when we started. Somehow Wayne does not need a warm-up and the pace was quick from the beginning. We settled into a rhythm with each of us taking turns setting tempo. Aid station 1 came and went and soon aid station 2 was upon us. Along with it came a water break and a chance to say hi to a bunch my fellow Davis Phinney Foundation riders.

Hard on the Flats and Climbs

            As the rollers flatted out the pace began to pick up. Eventually we came across another former pro ride Rob, who raced with Tom and Wayne back in the day, and he joined our group. Knowing Rabbit Ears Pass was coming up later in the day, Wayne yelled “Ok Mike, time for you to pull for the next half hour!” as I hit the front. Not one to miss a challenge, I railed off a solid 10-minute pull. As I peeled off I noticed our group had swelled to about 10, but Wayne, Tom, Rob, and I were still the only ones pulling. Our group rolled into aid station 4 and got some much-needed water while Rob got his rear derailleur adjusted. Wayne exclaimed that our average speed for the day was over 23 mph, at altitude that hurts (the course was not at all flat).

Ride the Rockies Day 2 Profile
            I was happy the climbing was about to begin. The hard pulls on the flats and rollers in the wind always hurt me more than a 5-mile climb. I guess it pays to be 5’5” and sub 125 lbs (I won’t reveal my actual weight J). Our group of 10 had left us behind at the aid station, but we started picking them off slowly but surely up the climb of Rabbit Ears Pass. Just one of the group was able to pick up his speed and stick with us. Eventually, Tom and Wayne slowed to a more comfortable tempo. This is where I picked up the pace and went hard to the top of the climb. I ended up battling with this guy who had hung with us for the KOM. I attacked him twice, but misjudged the recovery at altitude, so when he came back after my second attack, he surged over the top and I could not follow. At the top, the guy was clearly gassed. We exchanged a few words and then Wayne and Tom joined us. I hooked onto there wheels to finish the ride.

Me driving the pace on the flats
Photo Courtesy: Bob Better
            Rabbit Ears Pass is so named because it has two peaks, the East and the West. We had just peaked the East side and were enjoying some flat before beginning the West peak. Wayne set a fast tempo up the shorter and less steep West peak and before we knew it we were passing a steep grade warning sign beginning the descent into Steamboat.

Crazy Speeds

Quickly we were hitting speeds north of 50 mph. The descent off Rabbit Ears is it’s wide open and fast as hell, nothing short of awesome. I got into my super arrow tuck (sitting on my top tube) in order to keep up with Wayne, Tom, and the other RTR riders we were picking up on the descent.

The RTR organizers decided to make sure we knew this was no slouch of a ride. The final short climb up to the Sheraton Resort was brutal. I pushed the pace shelling everyone, but, of course, Wayne. We rolled into the finish sweaty, salty, tired, and smiling. Wayne looked at his computer and noticed we had completed 100 miles with a 21.4 mph average. After a 6+ hour day just the day before, a sub-5 hour century hurts like hell. Luckily, the next day was a relaxing loop day in Steamboat Springs.

Day 3 – Steamboat Springs Loop

There is only one word to describe Day 3, beautiful. It has to be one of the most majestic rides I have ever done. The weather was perfect, the views were awe inspiring, and I got to ride with one of the coolest guys I know, Nelson Vails.


After two very hard days, several RTR riders decided to take advantage of the loop and take the day off. My group of three rolled out late morning—we felt no need to ride fast. Even Wayne seemed to set a slower tempo than normal. Just to let you know how relaxed we were, we were passed by a tandem, GOING UPHILL. That isn’t supposed to happen, but we didn’t care. We rolled through the ride and came across aid station 1, 20 miles into the ride. There we saw Nelson “Nelly” Vails. We grabbed a quick picture with him and he rolled out ahead of us.

Nelson taking a selfie out on the road. FYI I'm hidden behind Tom (wearing the green bids)
Photo Courtesy: Nelson Vail
            Midway between aid 1 and aid 2 we caught up to Nelson and decided collectively to just chill the rest of the way and have some fun riding with Nelson. Nelson is an Olympic track cycling Silver Medalist. He is built to go fast on the flats and downhill, but definitely not uphill. It was awesome grabbing his wheel for the descents and flying through the corners. We quickly came upon aid station 2 at mile 34. We stopped for lunch; Nelson got a hamburger and Wayne a fajita. Tom and I chose to wait until we got back to eat. It was sweet hearing all the guys exchanging stories about racing back in the day.
Aid Station chilling with Wayne (on the left), and Tom
Photo Courtesy: Nelson Vials
            I have to say for a rest day, there was still a bit of climbing. Had we ridden hard today this loop would have been brutal, but lucky we had chosen to bring it back a few notches. Eventually, we looped back into the town of Steamboat Springs. We hit a bit of traffic through town, forcing us to do some weaving. Everyone joked this was right up Nelson’s wheelhouse (Nelly started out as a bike messenger in NY City). The organizers of RTR decided to inflict pain on everybody and make sure we had no easy day. Instead of bringing us back straight to the resort they chose to weave us through the neighborhoods where the hills were quite steep.

Finally, the three of us made it back to the resort, feeling the day had been quite enjoyable.  For an easy day, we still averaged around 18 mph, no slouches on the bike. This day confirmed my love for Colorado. #Livin’theDream

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