Death Ride Tour V
Stage Two - Telluride To Durango (111 miles)
Well, I survived the first day, so what could go wrong on the second?
Time to find out.
I’ve never ridden more than 74 miles in a single day before. On Stage One, I had ridden exactly 75 miles before stopping for the day. To say I was intimidated by today’s ride would be an understatement.
But, surviving the first day had given me some confidence to push forward, especially knowing that there was so much descending to do. In 2012, during the USA Pro Cycling Tour, Tyler Farrar rode this route backwards, uphill, in 4 hours and 42 minutes. Yeah, I had no intention of beating that time, even downhill.
The morning began with my feeble attempt to stand up and drag myself to breakfast at the B&B Char had booked for our one night stay in Telluride. There were several other riders there, also completely kitted out like I was. Today we were to leave Telluride along with the Ride the Rockies riders, so we were all sporting our Death Ride Jerseys.
|Bundled up for the cold.|
In order to avoid as much traffic as possible, most of us were taking off at 6:30am to beat the opening ceremony of the Ride the Rockies.
|Hoping to beat the crowds from the Ride the Rockies.|
Apparently, the RTR folks had the same idea. There were literally about 2,000 other riders already out on the road and the highway out of Telluride and up to Lizard Head Pass was full of them.
Let’s just say that they made things interesting.
There were riders with toys (dinosaurs, little orange cones, etc) glued to their helmets, riders on tandem bikes, riders on mountain bikes and old road bikes wearing tennis shoes (no clips). Some of them rode like semi-pro racers, some rode like this was the first bike they had ridden in 10 years. Somehow, all 3,000 of these riders were going to be with us all the way to Dolores before turning off the highway to Cortez.
Yeah, they definitely made the ride interesting.
I saw one woman on the climb up the mountain, standing on the side of the road, covered in dirt, getting the once over from a paramedic. Along the descent, there was one gentlemen carrying his bike up a short hill. Apparently, he’d dropped a chain and didn’t know how to get it back onto his front chainring (hint, use your finger and pull it back on). I actually watched another rider get a flat right in front of me. We were descending down a steeper slope, about 27 mph, when he hit a rock (or something). I heard the pop, then the loud hiss of escaping air, and started yelling over to him that he had a flat. He looked at me like I was crazy.
The climb up to Lizard Head Pass was a combination of steep climbs and occasional downhill segments just long enough to recover the legs. The scenery was beautiful, with tall pines, green valleys, little lakes of mountain run-off and old log cabins. I found a solid group of riders (mostly other Death Riders) and stuck onto their wheels to keep a solid pace. I was determined to take my time and save as much energy as possible for the 96 miles still to go.
|Elevation on the pass, 10,222 feet.|
The top of the pass was quite the party, with music, pancake and smoothie booths, and tons of people everywhere. I filled up on snacks and water, hit the johns, and took off.
The descent off Lizard Head was not nearly as steep as I had hoped, and I was glad to have taken my time climbing as the descent took a lot of work. I watched as fast pacelines of riders raced past me, but I took my time and soon ended up in the town of Dolores where most of those other riders were recovering from their efforts. This was where we would split off from the Ride The Rockies group and continue on the next 50 miles to Durango. I loaded up on snacks, water, gatorade and pulled off my arm warmers and vest (learned my lesson from yesterday). A couple Death Riders were putting together a small paceline group to leave town and I jumped in with them.
It was a lot of fun, riding out of town in a paceline with everyone in full Death Ride kit. I felt, briefly, like I was one of those team riders in the Tour de France, or Giro d’Italia. We were moving along, too. After the climb out of Dolores, we averaged about 22+ mph for almost 10 miles until everything fell apart.
First, the guy that had pulled us out of Dolores fell off the back end when he rotated out of the lead. We hadn’t sped up, but he just couldn’t keep up with a pace he’d started. Then, the kid that had put this train together and bragged about his skill level, bonked out and joined another group that we had just passed. Pretty soon I was alone trying to keep a 20+ mph pace after already having rode for 70+ miles.
That’s when the two guys from yesterday (the tall and short pair) came spinning along. I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity, so I jumped on the short guy’s wheel as they passed.
These two guys saved my day and my legs. They pulled me along for over 20 miles until we reached the last water point at mile 95. They kept me motivated with conversation and a fast pace (averaging around 20+). They were really surprised that I had chosen the middle of the Death Ride for my first century ride. Coming from Denver, they said that the San Juan Mountains were some of the hardest riding in Colorado. Definitely made me feel better about struggling so much.
I let them take off from the water point after thanking them for the pull, took my time rehydrating and filling up on snacks.
At this point I was faced with a poignant reminder of something very important that I had forgotten to take care of before leaving Telluride.
A rider came in to the water point, completely decked out in a purple and yellow kit with the Chamois Butt’r advertisement. There were small samples of Chamois Butt’r in our race packets that I had meant to use before taking off. By now, I had ridden over 170 miles in less than two days and had to admit that my Man-Bike-Interface was suffering. For more info on just what that means, here’s a link to a favorite blogger of mine and her friend’s lesson learned.
Sore and sad, but without much choice, I took off for the last 5 mile climb and the descent into Durango.
Of course, once I hit the Wildcat Canyon area, there was a headwind and I had to fight to ride downhill. My luck, there’s always a headwind when you need it most.
I was surprised to find how much strength remained in my legs. I had hit the 100 mile mark just before starting the descent but hadn’t expected to be able to fight the headwind, or to speed into Durango as fast as I did. Coming around the last turn and over the railroad tracks, I almost missed Char waiting with the camera.
|Fist pumping at the finish.|
I felt much better after finishing today than I had yesterday, even after riding for a solid 111 miles. I even had enough energy to walk around downtown Durango and watch other riders finish by the Strater Hotel. We celebrated with an awesome hot dog feast followed by a trip to the Irish Embassy.
|The Tasmanian Devilish Dog from the Original Durango Dawg House.|
|The Irishman's Cure: rashers, sausage, grilled tomato, eggs, potatoes in cream sauce and black & white pudding at the Irish Embassy.|
So, there you go, 111 miles completed and one seriously chafed and sore butt.
Lessons learned from Stage Two:
1. When someone tells you that you’re tire is flat, you should probably stop and look yourself before your rear tire bottoms out and starts fish tailing behind you.
2. Not all amateur riders are dangerous, and not all “pro” riders are safe or dependable. Use your best judgment and don’t be the one other riders are watching out for.
3. Chamois Butt’r is not just a suggestion. Do Not leave it at home.
4. If you can’t handle the pace, don’t set it. Likewise, don’t brag about having mad skills if you can’t keep up with your own paceline.
5. Never underestimate the benefits of having a good paceline/group to ride with. Sometimes it’s not about drafting, but about having someone else to keep you motivated when you’re beyond tired and sore.