Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Breck Epic '10 - Listing of all Posts

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Breck Epic '10 - Stage 6

This past Friday was Stage 6, the last and final stage of this year's Breckenridge Epic mountain bike stage race. It was fast. I am not sure where I got the strength and speed from to finish the stage in well under 3hours but I did.

Dubbed: "Gold Dust Loop"
37miles and 6,000 feet of climbing. An out and back, if you will, with slightly different trails leaving the ice rink and returning to the ice rink.

The alarm clock went off at 6am and I did not want to wake up. It was my turn to sleep on the pull-out couch and I did not get much sleep. Knowing this would have been the last time we got up and got ready to race our bicycles in Breckenridge this summer also somehow got me into a procrastination mode of not wanting to get moving. Needless to say we (Peter, Thom, Dicky and I) found a way to get moving and started our day.

Race start and finish was back at the Ice Skating Rink where stage one took place. Every stage since then has started in downtown and finished just outside of downtown. Another classic CO neutral start up Boreas Pass Road and then a left onto some sweet singletrack as we climbed part-way up Bald Mountain. (Some of that singletrack we rode in the opposite direction in Stage 1.) Out of the singletrack and up the unpaved portion of Boreas Pass Road to crest at Boreas Pass (11,500ft). Right into some very technical singletrack descending down the south side of Boreas Mountain. This singletrack (Gold Dust Trail) was fast and sweeping that included banked turns and a whole slew of fast bits. Gold Dust Trail put us out down around 10,200ft and we had to then climb back up to Boreas Pass and then down Boreas Pass road towards Breckenridge. Just before coming near the paved section of Boreas Pass Road we turned onto some singletrack that we rode in Stage 1 (in the opposite direction). That, ultimately, put us out at the ice rink.

Mike McCormick kept stating how this was going to be a 'big ring' stage but I was initially skeptical based upon looking at the elevation profile. The elevation profile does not explain that the two big climbs are on a dirt road. No wonder this was going to be a 'big ring' stage.

I tried to start slightly better than I have been. In other words, I wanted to start hard but at a pace I felt I could ride consistent throughout the stage. I did not want to get to the 5-10mile mark and have to back off my pace because my body can't keep up (something that was reoccuring throughout the week).

Well, it kind of worked. I was middle towards the back of the neutral start and as in every stage up to this stage, I got dropped on the neutral start not that far up Boreas Pass road. To my surprise a lot of the other singlespeeders also got dropped so it was not at bad as I thought. The hard part occurred once we got into the singletrack.

The entrance to the singletrack contained a large bottleneck (typically can't be avoided). When I entered the bottleneck was not that large and a quick trackstand allowed me to hold my own while the two to three geared guys infront of me bobbled. From this point on we were fighting for position within the singletrack. Dan Durland was not that far ahead of me and I eventually got around the riders between Dan and I.

Now that I was on Dan's wheel my plan was to try and stay on his wheel. When he'd find a location to pass I'd try to match his surge and pass that individual immediately after he did. Onto the doubletrack I gave it a few quick high cadence bursts and rolled past Dan.

"Would it stick? Why am I burying myself this early in the stage? Dan is over an hour ahead of you in the GC."

Well, it did stick.. For a few hundred feet. I then found myself needing to slow my pace slightly when we turned onto the next grouping of singletrack. Dan also smacked himself back together and surged past me again.


Trying to recover and still ride a relatively fast pace I pushed on. Then, whilst riding the Baker Tank Trail, Jeff and Sonya came flying past me like I was standing still. Granted the gentle downward slope of the trail prevented me from pedaling any faster than I already was but it still felt like I was not moving when they passed me. I increased my pace and tried to catch back up to Jeff and Sonya. This got me onto the dirt road portion of Boreas Pass Rd right behind them. Within sight, up the road, was Dan pedaling his 32x21 as best as he could.

There is Dan right up the road from me..

Looking out towards Red Peak from Boreas Pass road.

I rode with Jeff and Sonya for a little bit whilst pounding my bottle of Perpetuem and eating a package of shot bloks. The carrot of Dan hanging out infront of me was weighing.

"Should I bridge the gap or stay where I am?"

Feeling pretty good I opted to bridge the gap and ride with Dan. At the time I was not sure if I would attack him or ride with him but I had to get up to him first. Increase that cadence and bump the pace up to 14-15mph from the 12mph we were cruising with. That got me up to Dan and he chuckled when I announced my arrival. We rode up Boreas Pass road together and he gave me a quick synopsis of what was in store for us on the back-side.

I left Jeff and Sonya to fend for themselves. (Sorry guys, was feeling good and had to see what I could do with Dan just ahead of us)

By now my slight change in morning ritual was making things difficult for me. Earlier in the morning I actually checked my tire pressure and got worried when I read 15psi so I pumped them up to around 23psi. From the get-go I realized 23 was too much air as I was bouncing all over the singletrack and now the dirt road was really rough underneath me. I decided that I would stop at the aid station at the top of Boreas Pass and let some air out of my tires. By this time I also barely touched one of the two waterbottles on my bike.

Photo: Yuki Saito

As we rolled across Boreas Pass Dan kept going and I stopped to drop the air pressure in my tires. One of the volunteers also topped off my bottle for me and then I was off in pursuit of Dan again.

I was warned of how the top of the singletrack was quite technical but I dropped into it very aggressively anyway. Plowed my way through the upper section without any flat tires or mechanicals and rallied the remainder as best as I could. This was probably the fastest I've ridden singletrack all week and somehow I was able to keep the bike pointed in the right direction as my body was getting thrashed around by the unsuspended bike beneath me.

Came around one turn and saw Thom sitting trailside tending to a flat tire. We both laughed (a mechanical on Thom's behalf is the only way I'd see him this late in the weeklong race as he finally got his legs underneath him) and I kept going.

Enter the Gold Dust Trail.

This was the last trail we rode before the climb back up to Boreas Pass. It reminded me of that speeder bike sequence in Return of the Jedi. Banked turns to carry your speed. Smooth bottom. Dense trees lining the sides. 15mph pace. Yes, Speeder Bike!

Every now and then I'd see a cloud of dust but I didn't see any rider. By the time I finished the Gold Dust Trail and turned onto the Jeep trail climb I saw that rider creating the dust clouds... Dan Durland. Yup, caught back up to him and we also caught up to a few geared guys that were ahead of us.

Dan and I climbed back up to Boreas Pass together. I've been riding at 110% since the day started and it became difficult to maintain the pace Dan was setting (12mph I think). Once we got onto the dirt road we were also faced with a headwind which made it even more difficult for me to maintain pace. Dan let me draft him and I sat on his wheel as he mustered on. I did everything I could to stay on his wheel. It became very difficult and painful but I buried myself to stay with him. He kept shouting words of encouragement and letting me know we're almost there (he did this race last year and knew the day's course).

Within probably a mile of the summit I couldn't hold his wheel any longer and fell off the back. Dan hesitated but I told him to go and I'd recover and catch back up. He surged on and I drifted back as the space between us grew and grew with every foot I'd propel forward with. This was very frustrating for me but I fooled myself into thinking I'd catch him on the descent once we crested Boreas Pass.

Photo: Yuki Saito

I finally made it to Boreas Pass and kept on going without stopping. I had one water bottle full and figured this was enough since the remainder of the day was all downhill. Once I couldn't pedal any faster I got into a crazy tuck like I had on the bike path in stage 5.

Coasting, Coasting.... back down the mountain towards town. No one within sight ahead of me and no one within sight behind me.

"Hmmm. Where did Dan go?"

Next thing I know Peter Butt is in his big ring pedaling his ass off and he passed me like I was standing still. I could do nothing but sit there and coast. Peter disappeared off into the distance. All the way down the road and past where we got onto it for the climb out of town. Then a sharp left onto the singletrack.


Just bombing the techy trail with no care as to what happens yet somehow keeping that front tire where it needs to go. A few hundred feet into the trail we had to cross a very small creek.

Guess who is on the other side of the creek?

Yup, Dan Durland.

"Hiii Dan! I'm baaack! haha"

Dan got another chuckle and we were off bombing the descent together hooting and hollering. Knowing Dan was over an hour ahead of me in the GC I did not feel it was prudent to attack him and ride on ahead. Knowing Jake Kirkpatrick was behind the two of us meant that we were 5th and 6th place singlespeed right now.

"Hmm. better than my GC position of 7. Lets see if we can hold together and I can finish the stage higher than 7th."

Dan and I chatted and decided we'll stick together and keep trying to put more time between us and Jake. Dan wanted to finish ahead of Jake and so did I. We've already rode most of the day together so lets round this one, and this whole event, out with an awesome descent of some very fast and tight singletrack.

"We'll cross together and hold each others' hands" said Dan (with a laughter).

Not that far from the finish we had a short (50ft maybe) climb that Dan warned me about. It really wasn't much of a climb but more of a grunt up a few rocks. Dan was pretty tired but I kept yelling at him to get those pedals turned over and we'll be on our way. He did it and we were back descending and leaning those tires into the turns.

A few turns later we're crossing the creek outside the ice rink and crossing the finish line together.

2hours 41mins 51sec to cover 37miles and 6,000ft of climbing. WOW

I say we tied for 5th but the results have me in 6th for the stage.

I also took 7th singlespeed overall for the whole week. Not bad for a guy that lives at sea level and rides once or twice a week.

What an event! It was definitely a challenge but like any stage race I've done, it was such an experience where I learned a lot on many levels and met many new people. I'll write an overall recap soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breck Epic '10 - Stage 5

Today was the Wheeler trail stage. The stage this race is most known for.

40miles and 7,300ft of climbing

My GPS worked again! Victory!

I had a feeling I'd feel pretty good on this stage. My plan was to ride as much as I could up the first climb to the point where everyone was hiking up and over Wheeler Pass. Then try to hold my own on the descent and the relatively flat bike path. If my day was progressing as it has been lately I'd be strong for the end and can rally to the finish line.

Well, the short story is I did just that. I was able to ride the first 10 miles without having to get off the bike. Hoped off at the aid station around mile 10 to refill my bottle and then began the hike-a-bike to 12,500ft. The aid station was already at 11,000ft and change and we started the stage around 9,700ft.

Climbing up to 12,500ft.

looking back at what I just hiked.

I tried my best to keep my heart rate in check within the first hour and a half but knew that would be difficult as starts and the first hour to two hours have been a bit of a shock on my body. I knew things were going well when within the first mile I passed Dejay, Jake, Dan and Evan as they were walking up this steep incline and I was riding (I was on Mike's wheel). A mile or so later they all passed me but I had Dan and Jake in my sights for the entire climb up to 12,500ft.

So, the plan was working well but I couldn't hike as fast as Jake and Dan could so I was a bit slow as we crested up to 12,500ft. Once up there I just had to stop and take a few photos for the views were magnificent.

looking down from the summit.

We made it! 12,500ft! Now to traverse some high alpine singletrack and then a short climb back to 12,460ft before the long descent to 9,300ft.

the town of Breckenridge is down there in the distance

And the sweet high alpine 12,000ft plus singletrack begins!

Both Dan and Jake were gone by now but I didn't really care. If I finished the day near them then sweet. If not, no big deal. Wouldn't affect the overall results anyway since I'm over an hour down from the next guy.

The rest of the high alpine singletrack. We zig-zagged up that singletrack on the far mountain and then descended the other side. I think that is between Peak 8 and Peak 9 of the Breckenridge ski resort.

Surprisingly, I did not feel that bad riding up here. I was pretty coherent unlike when we crested French Gulch on stage 3. The nice weather today most likely contributed to my coherent behavior. The singletrack was sweet. Reminded me a lot of Trail 401 in Crested Butte but without the waist high wild flowers (this was also at a higher altitude).

second summit! 12,460ft. We then descended down the backside towards I70 and Frisco.

I70 westbound

The descent down to Frisco!

The descent was long (6 miles if I recall). I was a bit sketched out by the narrow and rocky singletrack so I rode down slowly (on the brakes) which cost me some time but it was the safe thing to do. The rigid fork also forced me to stop a few times to shake my wrists out. While doing that I got a few photos.

With laying heavy on the brakes I noticed the Niner carbon fork had a bit of chatter in it when I was rolling over rocky and rooty terrain while on the brakes (running a 7inch front rotor and 6inch rear and my braking is probably 70%F and 30%R on average). I thought my headset was getting loose but the chatter is non-existent when rolling over the same terrain and not on the brakes. Make sense since when I'm rolling on the road and lay on the front brake you can see the fork flex a bit. Not a big deal in my eyes.

Around mile 20 was the next aid station. I refilled a bottle and realized all I have done thus far was drink two bottles and eat one package of Clif shot bloks. I later found out that Dicky was 15sec behind me and could see me when I stopped at this aid station (I wasn't looking over my shoulder). A big surprise since he's never been anywhere near me this week.

I hit the bike path and drank almost another bottle of drink mix and also drank most of my bottle of Perpetuem which was in my jersey pocket. Figuring the Perpetuem will allow me to continue to the finish and provide me much needed strength in the last climb (which it did).

The bike path consisted of me spinning at ridiculously high cadences for 15-20sec and then coasting for a while. Trying to keep the speed up around 20mph. Guys on geared bikes were passing me like I was standing still. I tried to latch onto two groups of people on geared bikes so I can draft them but that did not last long. This is always the hardest thing for a singlespeeder. You want to maintain a fast pace but you can only pedal so fast. We resort to pedaling like mad and coasting. Pedaling like mad and coasting. Repeat..

A good portion of the bike path was downhill so I went back and forth between laying on my saddle with my upper body horizontal on the bike (allowed me to stretch my back and hamstrings) and also laying on the top tube tucked in the bike with my back against the seatpost and my face up on the stem (most aerodynamic). I got some pretty good speeds out of this (32mph top says my GPS).

Once in Frisco we rolled through the third and final aid station. Jeff and Sonya from Topeak/Ergon finally caught back up to me (I passed them in the early few miles of the race) and we rode out of the aid station together. I ditched my arm warmers (which I never wore) and my bottle of perpetuem at the aid station to lighten the load. Jeff was asking me if I ever rode the next section (which I have not). He said I'd enjoy it and I sure did. Upwards of 10miles of singletrack (now mostly doubletrack) that was very rocky and rooty (like New England and the East coast) that took us up to Breckenridge. There was a good grade for the climb. Perfect for my gear ratio I had. I felt great so I took off. Sonya later told me she tried to match my pace but she couldn't forcing her and Jeff to ride a bit slower than I. Opps. Sorry Sonya.

I felt strong and was having so much fun that I caught back up, and passed, quite a few of the geared riders that passed me on the bike path. One guy was able to kind of hang with me. I heard him behind me a ways. He would gain on me with the flats and slight downhills but I'd pull on him when we had a few short climbs. The last two to three miles were a bit on the access roads through the Breckenridge Ski Resort and then a few trails. Going into the last section of trail I was sure the geared guy would pass me since he could gain and pass me on the road (which he never really did) but he actually gave me a little nudge to get me onto the singletrack first and we rode to the finish together. I bombed the last couple hundred feet down to the finish line (fingers no where near the brakes). It was some rocky and somewhat smooth doubletrack. Felt awesome to be flying down the mountain at well over 25mph.

Finished just inside of 4hours! Fastest stage for me this week so far. Victory!

7the place singlespeed but only six minutes behind Dan (in 6th). Dan came up to me after I finished and commented on how he's glad we have one more stage because I'm getting stronger and faster as the days go on and have been creeping up on him. We both laughed and shared our enjoyment for the sportsmanship.

Stage 5 singlespeed results. I'm getting closer to the top guys but we're running out of time. One more stage to go.

Stage 5 singlespeed podium.

Both Montana and Mike made it back onto the podium! Congrats guys!

Overall singlespeed results after 5 stages.

Today actually felt like a recovery day for me. Sounds kind of funny for me to say that but I did not feel as beat down as I did yesterday both during today's stage or afterwards.

One more stage to go! Part of me is excited to finish and get the bad-ass belt buckle and part of me is sad for I'm getting stronger as the days go on.

My Photos

Peter's Blog and Photos

Dicky's Blog

Thom's Blog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Breck Epic '10 - Stage 4

Today was the new Aqueduct stage that Mike just got forest service approval for the other week. Supposedly more difficult than yesterday. I like to think of today as a 'mixer' seeing as the first half was death for me and the second half was the best performance I've had all week.

42miles and 8,852 feet of climbing.

I didn't sleep that well last night and this morning was very difficult to get moving. It was also quite cold this morning, like day one. We were shivering at the start waiting for the sun to come up over the mountain pass.

The race started just like every day this week. Neutral start going out of town which promptly dropped me well before the turn off of French Gulch road to the first climb (a dirt road we did on stage 2). I did what I did yesterday and stuck with a pace that I could ride consistently.

I've also noticed that my starts and the first hour or two have been a struggle on my body. We're faced with climbing from the get-go and I have trouble getting my body under control. Needless to say I settled into a rhythm and did my best.

The first couple climbs in the first 20miles were tough. Just a tad too steep for me to ride so I wound up walking a bit of them. Did my best to ride what I could since it was awesome Colorado Trail singletrack. Jeff and Sonya from Topeak/Ergon were back and forth with I and ultimately pulled away from me on the climb at mile 13.

Down the descent around mile 15 to some fields and singletrack that took us out near Keystone. I rode this section last Thursday with Thom, Jeff Carter, Dejay, Mike Melley and Peter Butt so I knew what was in store. Relatively flat to the second aid station at 20miles in. Since I didn't eat and drink much up until this point I did my best to fill my stomach up despite not having a desire to eat. Drank just about all of my bottle of Perpetuem in anticipation for the long climb from mile 20 (aid station 2) to mile 28ish.

Leaving aid station 2 was rough. My legs were really tired but I knew every foot of this climb and knew if I kept on pedaling I'd be at the top and have an awesome descent down the Colorado Trail (the climb we did at mile 15 on day two). The grade was also perfect for my gear ratio.

The long climb today was broken into two parts. A dirt road that was at a shallower grade (well, it felt that way) and then an old Jeep trail that was at a steeper grade with many switch-backs. There was a right turn off the dirt road and onto the Jeep trail. This is where Thom was pounding a Coke on last Thursday's ride.

Once I turned onto the Jeep trail the Perpetuem finally kicked in and I felt great. The GPS on my bike (which for some reason refused to record today) said I was doing around 5-6mph up that climb. It was the perfect grade to stay seated and grind it out. Each switch-back I'd have to stand up to get that extra push over the rocks and such.

Upon the top of the climb and onto the Colorado Trail I was planning on stopping for a nature break but to my surprise, I saw Montana and knew I had to keep on going for now I have a chance to finish in 6th place as opposed to my solid 7th place finishing all week. This was the first time all week were I've been near another singlespeeder. Typically I've been out in my own little singlespeed world. Can't quite ride fast enough to catch up to 6th place and 8th place has occasionally been nipping on my heels.

Montana bombed the Colorado Trail descent and left me in his dust. I rode it quite aggressively and fast. Something I've finally gotten back this week as mentioned the other day. Two wheeled slides around turn in the loose dirt. No fingers on the brake levers through the straights. Not sure what the GPS said but I can only guess its upwards of 25-30mph since when I did have the ability to look away from the trail and onto the GPS I was doing 20mph. Still couldn't find Montana until after we hit the bottom and started climbing up the second portion of the Colorado Trail. Still feeling pretty strong I kept on the gas through these climbs and eventually was able to get on Montana's wheel.

By now we are around mile 34 and have also caught back up to Jeff and Sonya. They let Montana and I pass them. We also passed quite a few other geared riders. Right turn onto a very rutted out dirt road downhill to Tiger Rd. We did this yesterday and at the bottom, on Tiger Road, was the aid station yesterday (where I thought it was today). I forgot how rutted the road was and tried drinking. In mid-drink I also inhaled and rode into a giant pot-hole with one hand on the bar. Spit my water out and grabbed onto the bars with the other hand and the bottle in my hand. Held on for dear life for another couple hundred feet and then the road smoothed out enough for me to take a drink and put the bottle away. Montana was still infront of me. Just before opening up onto Tiger Rd. I coasted past Montana and lead whomever was with us (I thought it was upwards of six people including he and I) across a creek and through some trails to the aid station.

Got to the aid station with Jeff and Sonya seconds behind me. Filled my two bottles with Heed and opted not to get anything out of my drop bag knowing we had less than 10miles to the finish. As soon as I put my leg over my bike to get going Montana rolled in. I took off down the rolling doubletrack. Jeff and Sonya caught up to me and passed me as I couldn't pedal any faster. One more climb to go we cheered!

The doubletrack pitched up and I forced myself to stay on the bike no matter how much it hurt. Standing and pedaling at some insanely low cadence as Jeff and Sonya were in their 28/36 spinning away. I buried myself knowing if I could get up and over this mountain I could bomb the descent and hopefully stay ahead of Montana. Partway up the climb I resorted to what Peter refers to as the "Granny Walk". Ride for a minute or so and then walk [quickly] for a minute or so. This keeps you ahead of any geared rider spinning in their granny gear. Well, it works okay for me, sometimes. I worked today.

I caught up to another geared rider near the top of this last climb (with Jeff and Sonya not that far behind me) and we pushed ourselves to the finish. I'd give him encouragement on the short uphills (since he wanted to shift to an easier gear and slow down but I couldn't) and he'd let me tag along on his wheel on the descents.

Back down the flume trail we've ridden almost every stage thus far and across French Creek road. We did this yesterday but today we had a bunch of singletrack once we crossed French Creek road. I was so shelled from burring myself on the last climb that this singletrack was horrible. It was classic New England singletrack too; all chock full of roots, stumps and rocks. I scrubbed so much speed for I could barely hold onto the handlebars and could barely turn the pedals over. Basically, I couldn't control the bike anymore. My shoulders and other muscles I didn't know I had were so fatigued that I couldn't do anything.

Eventually got to the finish line with that geared rider seconds ahead of me. I heard Jeff and Sonya barreling down the singletrack into the last turn for the finish. They were right behind me. Montana finished a few minutes later. Wow. I can't believe I just did that. Started my day off horribly and ended on a high note.

Finished 6th place singlespeed for the day. Still in 7th place singlespeed overall.

4hours 35minutes

Looking at the results I was not that far behind all the other singlespeeders. Guess I did have an impressive ride today. Victory!

I was also 10minutes behind Thom. I thought I was much further than that. Seeing as Jeff and Sonya are a solid team and riding very consistent this week I was stoked to have caught back up with them later in the race. A fun day and it was exciting to ride with a bunch of fast people.

Afterwards, Thom, Mike Melley, Montana and I rode over to the Riverwalk and sat in the cold water for around 20minutes. It was good on the legs. Then a shower and an hour long nap before dinner.

During dinner I had my wheels trued since I knocked them out of true pretty good the past few days. Tomorrow is the Wheeler trail over on the Breckenridge ski resort mountain chain (west of town). We're going back over 12,000ft on a hike-a-bike. Tomi got a bunch of great photos here last year. I'll probably do the same.

Russ replacing Thom's chainring. Russ is co-owner of the Organic Mechanic based out of Golden, CO. I met him at the 'Eel' a few years ago where he, Salem and I raced together. Good guy and they are doing a great thing traveling to various races throughout the Colorado region.

Thom found a new friend

I miss my dog. He's in North Carolina on vacation with my parents right now as I'm on 'vacation' in Colorado.

My Photos

Peter's Blog and Photos

Dicky's Blog

Thom's Blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Breck Epic '10 - Stage 3

Today was the Guyot loop. Our first stage that went over 12,000ft and our first stage with considerable amount of mileage above 11,000ft. It hurt and was the first time I really felt it in my legs.

44miles and 9,1000 feet of climbing. My GPS said 45miles and 8,606ft of climbing. That is right... I finally figured out how to get it to work throughout the entire day (it shut off yesterday) and also remembered how to upload the data.

Here is the GPS data.

Says I completed this stage in 4hours and 30minutes (official results say 4hrs 39mins). My goal was around the 5hour mark. Victory!

We started in town again and just as yesterday, the neutral start dropped me (as you can see below). To make matters worse the neutral start today was almost twice as long as yesterday.

I chatted with Mike Melley, a fellow local singlespeeder I met last week and is a lot stronger climber than I, at the start. He was a bit surprised as to how hard I started yesterday and spoke of how he just settles into a rhythm at the start and slowly picks people off.

"Hmm. Good idea. Think I'll try that today. Thanks Mike."

It actually worked really well and allowed me to ride the majority of the first climb. I felt really good and eventually caught up to Jeff and Sonya, the co-ed duo racing for Topeak/Ergon who are winning. I also noticed a lot of people on the side of the trail with mechanicals such as Buffalo Bill.

The first aid station at mile 12 came very quick and I realized I haven't been drinking or eating anything. Not a good sign. I still felt good so I kept on going. Thom caught up to me by this time.

That is right... I got to ride with Thom today; finally! He's been a tad frustrated that he can't catch up to the pace I've been riding the past few days. Day one he was dealing with the altitude. Yesterday he had a tire fiasco that set him back. After installing a decent set of durable tires last night he was able to ride hard finally now that he's getting accustomed to the altitude.
Not sure how I took this since our heart rates were quite high and we were having trouble talking to each other. We did get to reminisce about our trips up to Highland Mountain Bike Park.

'over the shoulder shot of Thom and the rest of our gang... around mile 17'

Somewhere as we were riding up the valley to summit French Gulch (the 12,000ft peak) Buffalo Bill came riding up and passed us. We were a tad confused for a second but then just shrugged it off and went back to trying to carry out conversations while our heart rates were too high to due such a thing.

Buffalo Bill riding away from us on the climb up French Gulch.

Thom is the guy in the middle. On our way to 12,000ft.

As the altitude got higher the riding got a little bit more difficult. At some point we all pretty much were walking. Looking up the mountain you can see a line of people walking and when you turn around and look down the mountain you see the same thing. Temperature was also dropping and the wind was picking up. Someone later told me it was in the upper 40s (F) up there. No wonder I was cold with just wearing arm warmers (yes, I chose my attire poorly).

The 12,000ft crest is just to the left of that mountain in the center. We're almost there. Almost.

Almost to the top. Another 400ft of climbing. I turned around and snapped this shot of a trail of racers making their way up like lemmings.

Same location as the last photo. Gives perspective of the slope we were on.

Another 400ft of vertical to go until we summited. That is Thom out of the saddle climbing.

By now a bunch of other guys with multiple gears have joined Thom and I and we hoofed it up this mountainside. The views were so surreal and the air was so thin that we weren't really sure if we were still in the US, or Earth for that matter. Phrases about climbing to the moon where thrown around. Someone also started asking about the handgun permit process in CO because they wanted to make Mike pay for having us slosh up this mountainside into both foul weather and some pretty thin air. The Lotion song also kept popping into our heads as we became more and more delirious.

As we crested the top there was a photographer all bundled up for we were in heavy thick fog. Thom thought it was a Wookie or even a Yeti. I thought it was an Ewok. Naturally, we were both wrong. I kind of wish we met a Wookie.

Going down the backside of French Gulch we were not really too sure where to go. Thick fog and moisture everywhere in conjunction with the thin air was confusing us. Thom and I eventually found another one of those rock piles one typically sees when hiking above treeline. The descent was very technical and I had almost no energy to keep my rigid bike under control. It often got a hold of me but I quickly steered it back in place with some speed control via the brakes. This was about the time where Thom thoroughly enjoyed his tire selection and that suspension fork on the front of his bike. He took off down the trail leaving me for dead.

The moisture from the clouds and the low temperatures were really taking their toll on me. I was frigid descending the backside of French Gulch. At this point I was kicking myself for leaving my knee warmers back at the hotel room. At some point I eventually made it to the bottom of the descent and we then had a dirt road climb back up into the clouds (Georgia Pass). I was also feeling a bit run-down from my efforts on the earlier climbs. At some more food and tried to settle into a rhythm to get back up Georgia Pass to get back over the mountain range (where it was sunny). At some point I started warming up which was a great thing. My body started reaction better.

The second aid station was at the top of Georgia Pass and it was cold up there. I was moving so slowly and was also a tad incoherent but mustered on knowing we'll be descending the Colorado Trail down out of the clouds, cold air and back into the sun (where I'd warm up). I happened to ride this section last week. It reminded me of PA and New England trails. very rocky and technical. Sweet!

Riding this terrain on a fully rigid bike beats you up. Once I warmed up a bit I was able to ride faster and harder. At some point the numbness takes over and you don't really feel anything anymore. Your upper body is taking all kinds of shock from the rocks and roots. Your feet are swelling and the balls of your feet are burning. Its like being tossed around in a human-sized pin ball machine. Yet somehow I kept riding faster and faster? Not entirely sure what came over me but I was quite happy since the feelings of being cold and having tight muscles disappeared.

One more long climb and then down the first climb of the day to the finish line. The end is in sight! Unfortunately this long climb was a tad too steep for me to ride it continuously. (I also later found out a lot of people cracked on this climb.) I would ride some and walk more. This continued until we hit the summit of this climb. Then I got to rally a sweet descent again.

On the way up I stopped a few times to get a bunch of photos. There were great views up there.

I came from down in that valley

You can see the clouds we were in on the 12,000ft pass earlier in the day.

eating some more food

The remainder of the stage saw me riding quite hard knowing I had a few miles left to go with most of those miles being downhill. I passed a few geared riders and put some time on them before I crossed the finish line.

That finish line was a great sight. This stage definitely hurt but we kept on going.

7th place singlespeed for the day. Retain 7th place overall. The positions above me moved around a bit (overall) due to such a wide span of performances today.

My Photos

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Thom's Blog