Saturday, July 27, 2013

2013_07_27 Puyallup Cyclopaths' RAMROD

Author:  Brent Moody

Puyallup Cyclopath RAMROD (RAMROD = Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day; 152 miles, 9200 feet of elevation gain) consisted of Mike Hassur's and Brent Moody’s second RAMROD this month and the first this month for Les Becker.  
Weather was great, about 50 degrees to start, much warmer than what it was 2 weeks ago when it was in the low 40s to start. Just the 3 of us to start, as we would meet up with Mark Delrosario close to the Nisqually Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park in Ashford.  The morning almost started out like 2 weeks before – with possible problems.  Brent had a slightly loose hub on his rear wheel.  Couldn’t fix it as his tool kit wrenches were a bit small.  So.. decided ok, take it easy (think Brent forgot that on our first big descent – Stevens Canyon) - and off we went!

Lake Ohop
We started out going south from Orting on Oreville Road past Lake Kapowsin and then Lake Ohop.  Mt. Rainier was already out in full sight this am, majestic as any mountain there is…   Many laughs and getting the kinks out of our joints for a good warm up was the goal of the first twenty miles that took us to Eatonville.  

The next stretch was our first climb out of Eatonville headed towards Alder Lake and Elbe.  This is an enjoyable climb and with an added bonus of sniffing salt…aka, cow manure smell from the farms.  It was rather strong that morning and we wondered if they were trying to grow new roads or pavement.  We quickly made it to the Alder Lake turnoff and took a few pictures alongside the lake. Beautiful morning out, fog was rolling off the lake as it heated up the top.  Elbe was just around the corner.  The Mt. Rainier Scenic railroad starts from this little town.  Great little restaurant with outdoor seating and train caboose lodging there if you ever can check it out.  Santa’s train runs in December too.  

Next town was Ashford, where we were hoping to meet up with Mark.  His plan was to park where we traditionally park for Skate Creek Loop, ride back to meet us, and then ride to Paradise on Mt. Rainier before turning around. We caught up with Mark a few miles outside of Ashford, so right on track!  We had our first stop at Marks car (about mile 45).  He was so thoughtful and brought out water refills and plenty of food (we were really wishing that we had “Mark’s oasis” at mile 100 – we really could have used it at that point).

We didn’t stay long on break and quickly took off after we saw another group of 4 cyclist ride by.  Next stop was at entrance of Mt. Rainier and the climb up to Paradise.  This is one of the most beautiful climbs that any cyclist will encounter.  Winding roads, surrounded by huge, old-growth evergreen trees, with periodic “peak a boo” views of Mt. Rainier and the Nisqually River that runs alongside the road. Once you’re out of Longmire, the views of Mt. Rainier become more magnificent (and the road gets steeper). 

We caught up with a group of ladies close to the Nisqually Bridge.  Mark was gaining his second wind on this climb as we took in the breath taking views.  He talked to the group (three women and one man) that we passed and decided to do the Skate Creek Loop with them.  He later told us that this was a good decision as he was well matched with the riders in that group. 

Mike, Les, and myself (Brent) were feeling pretty good when we got to Reflection Lake.  We put on our parkas, just kidding, for the long winding road down to the back entrance of Mt. Rainier, the Stevens Canyon Entrance.  Mike got what should be some pretty good videos on the GO PRO as we raced down the Stevens Canyon Road!  One of these times we will actually get him in a video!! 

We stopped at the “Grove of the Patriarchs” parking area where we hit the bathroom and filled up on water as this was the last water stop until Greenwater, which was about 35 miles.  We were all shaking a little knowing what lay in store for us ahead… the climb up Cayuse Pass (a 10 mile, unrelenting grade). After 80 miles, this climb can get to you physically and mentally.  It took us a little over an hour to get to the top, but it was well worth it.  The last 2 miles are great views of the canyon below.  We took a short break at the top which is the intersection of Hwys 410 and 123.  If you take a right, you head to Yakima over Chinook Pass.  We took the road to the left  toward Greenwater.   At the base of the Cayuse climb, all three of us were joking about taking a joy ride to the top.  At the top, we decided that taking a few Advil was probably more appropriate.
The next 18 or so miles to Greenwater was all downhill (thank God)!  This went pretty quickly, as we were thinking about the food and water that was waiting for us!  We took a little break with some Cola, and donuts that tasted as if they were four years old.  

We had a headwind on the way to Greenwater and this continued to the Mud Mountain Dam turnoff.  We rode in a pace line and traded off about every mile - taking turns pulling and taking the punishment of the headwind.  Before we knew it, we were at Mud Mountain Dam cutoff road - only about 20 miles to home.  It felt like over the bridge and thru the woods, to Grandma’s house we go…  Orting at last, never felt so good.
What an enjoyable trip with lots of memories.  Everyone had a strong day, no injuries, and we all returned safely!  Can’t wait til the next adventure out on the road with the Cyclopaths. 

YouTube video of Stevens' Canyon descent (awesome scenery):

To view all of the photos from this ride, click on the following:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013_07_25 Conor Collins RAMROD Experience

Author:  Conor Collins

This was my first ever RAMROD, and first ever time winning a lottery.  The set up of the ride was similar to STP in that there was a range of starting times, and all shapes and sizes of bikes, riders, attitudes, etc.  There was one minor difference, the Photo ID required to pick up your packet (which reminded me of a USAC or OBRA race).

The day before the ride (Wednesday), I went to pick up my packet (similar to a race as well) and I was informed that I was the youngest rider this year in RAMROD… kind of surprising… yet 16 is still very young.   They went over the safety checklist, as well as the “allowed” speed within the park.  Another unique aspect of this “ride” was the “tracking” chip given to “track” the riders as we go.  The lady that handed me my packet was very straightforward that the chip is strictly for “tracking” NOT Timing…. We’ll see about that. Ha!

The next day came fast, just like STP, a very early morning with a 0330 wakeup call. Quick loading into the car, and heading up to Enumclaw for the start at 0500.  I had not planned on meeting up with anybody to ride the whole trip with, but Rod Hart said he would meet me in South Prairie and pull me out to Eatonville, before letting me loose…   I started at about 0505 thus having to pass about 150 people who left right at the 0500 start.  I quickly zoomed by the slower of the folks to a wide-open road.  Originally, Rod said he would be in South Prairie at 0515 - about the time it would take for me to get there… well… he was late.  I ended up sitting in the gas station parking lot for about 5-7 minutes before I saw a man with a fast TT bike coming off the hill - meanwhile… still no ROD.  The guy on the quick TT was approaching, and I decided to take my chance.  I quickly jumped on his wheel, and we sped away from the prairie at about 27 MPH.  The rest of the way to Eatonville was fast.  We would switch off leading about every 2 minutes and shared a few stories as well.  The first climb… into Eatonville, began to slow things down.  Climbing on a TT bike is terrible, especially when you still have over 100 miles left to ride.  He took his time as I went for the KOM on the hill.  We regrouped at the top, skipped the first food stop, and headed off towards Alder Lake.   About half way to Alder, we came across a racer whom was willing to help out and do a few pulls before arriving at Mountain Hwy.  Heading toward Elbe, we came across another fit rider making the attempt solo.  He hooked on to our group, and we began the final stretch toward Mt Rainier National Park… little did I know he was the guy I would ride 80 miles with to cross the line first. 

Our first stop in Ashford was a needed break.  We were approaching mile 75 and had caught the final major group left ahead of us.   We were home free for the mountain.  Sweeping in and out quickly, we began our approach on Paradise.  Once we entered the National Park the guy on the TT bike, and the rider we picked up right outside of Eatonville began to feel the pain in their legs.  Andrew (the guy we met right outside Elbe) and I were the two sole leaders of RAMROD 2013!  We zoomed up to almost every rest stop having to tell the volunteers that we were RAMROD riders since they were so surprised about our early arrival… Come to think about it… we arrived at the rest stop atop Cayuse Pass before it was even supposed to open.

The descent down Cayuse was fast, and the arrival at the Crystal Mt. rest stop (“The RAMROD Deli”) was even further ahead of schedule… once again surprising the helpers.  They quickly got us on our way.  We zoomed into Greenwater; and, finally, the “real” pain began to set in.  

The final approach into Enumclaw was tough.  As usual for RAMROD, it was into a headwind; and the thought of a chase group possibly catching us was making the journey seem endless.  

Riding the final few meters into the finish, the pain that I had been feeling seemed to subside (can’t speak for the other rider, however he did seem strong).   I rolled across the line in a total time of 7:58:40.

I enjoyed a nice cold drink and watched the 3rd finisher came across the line solo – 22 minutes later.  This confirmed that Andrew and I had a very solid lead on the rest of the riders in spite of our earlier concerns.

Overall, great ride, great people, and great views… however, the utter SILENCE (and fatigue) of climbing on the south side of Cayuse Pass with only one other person after 100 miles on the road, is an experience I hope you all get to “enjoy”?!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

2013_07_13 Puyallup Cyclopaths Reverse Ramrod

Author: Jim Wilcher
The case of the missing shoe

We all met in Orting around 5:15 AM -- Mike Hassur, Brent Moody, Chris Fox and myself (Jim Wilcher). The pre dawn sky illuminated the top of Mt. Rainier with a pale orange glow; there was just a slight chill to the morning air and a subtle buzz of anticipation in the morning chatter. Mt. Rainier (or Tahoma as the native peoples called it) looks so big from Orting and on this morning it took on an ominous stature.

Just before departing, Chris, fully dressed and ready to ride quizzically looked down at his shoes, then to his bike pedals, back to his shoes and then spoke the words “I think I brought one shoe with the wrong cleat”. Doh! We all acquired the quizzical look and began searching our minds for a way to solve this problem. Duct tape? No. Buy a new set of pedals? Nothing is open for many hours. Then with great courage Chris called his wife at 5:30 AM! Nancy agreed to bring the missing shoe to a halfway point (Renton) where Chris would acquire said shoe and meet us near Enumclaw. Thank you Nancy.

Mike, Brent and I hit road about 5:45 AM. The Orting trail was particularly sublime with low ground
fog in the fields and a shower of golden light reminiscent of romantic landscapes paintings. The short but steep climb to the intersection of Mud Mountain Dam and Hwy 410 put us at our “lost shoe” meeting spot. Just one minute later Chris arrived ready to get started again -- this time on the right foot.

Hogs and the cycling afterlife

Pulling in at Greenwater for a quick bathroom break, we are greeted by Nick. Then Leon and Mark appear and the group is up to seven. We stopped at the Crystal Mt. turnoff where Leon and Mark had cached food and liquids in Mark’s car (which they generously shared with all).  Leon (the wunderkid) wore his hockey pads to protect his recently broken femur and hip. I thought to myself how this group of guys are friends, yes, but they are so much more.  They are examples of how to live life to its fullest and never give up on your passions. There is Mike Hassur who at 65 rides like a 30 year old, and Nick at 67 doing Ramrod again this year!  Not to mention the other certifiable and committed Cyclopaths who do these strenuous rides year after year with ease and grace.  I am humbled.

Motorcycles & bicycles at the top of Cayuse Pass
The group of seven begins the long climb past the turn off to White River Campground, up, up where the road steepens and we attain views of rugged peaks, snow, waterfalls and Hogs. What? Yes, Hogs!  There must have been a hundred Harley riders pass us on the way up. At the top, Nick went left (up Chinook Pass) and the remaining six Cyclopaths flew down the backside of Cayuse Pass as Mike recorded the decent on his GoPro. Mike’s resulting video features an amazing scene of Leon entering and exiting a tunnel at high speed. The extreme shadows and bright light at the end of the tunnel overwhelmed the GoPros ability to compensate exposure and produced special effects that rival Hollywood. As Mike said, “It looks like we are following Leon into the cycling afterlife”.

Paradise awaits the ardent

At the end of the 10-mile Cayuse decent, we turned right and entered Mt. Rainier National Park.
There are really two climbs from here to Paradise. The first section to Backbone Ridge is through ancient forest on a steady pitch. I had trouble in this section, riding slow and feeling off, a strange pain in my gut later turned to nausea. At the top of Backbone Ridge, I see Leon riding down to make sure I was okay – hockey pads and all!

At Box Canyon, Leon and Mark turned around to climb back up Backbone Ridge and then up Cayuse Pass (from the hard side). The core group continued from Box Canyon heading up the long climb right into the belly of Tahoma. Brent and Chris are riding strong, making it look easy as I (Jim) struggle behind. Mike seeing my pace drop, slows down to be an escort. He is jabbering away, talking about all kinds of things and all I can do is breathe and try to keep pedaling. Finally he says, “Hey Jim, I’m working really hard back here to be entertaining, I know I’m not hilarious but I think I’m at least mildly funny – and your not giving me any reaction at all”.  Jeez, now not only am I bonking, I’m a shmuck to ride with. It took all my energy to utter, “Ok, now that’s funny Mike”.

Brent and Chris rode a fast uphill pace but waited about half way up the last climb sensing problems behind. I stopped emptied my stomach of all remaining nutrition and hydration and mounted the pony once again with Mike staying at my side. Brent began his full on attack at this point and rode beautifully to Reflection Lake (more or less the top) with Chris powering up right behind him.

The geriatric buss waits

“I just need a short nap” I told the guys when we regrouped at Reflection Lake. Then, as I lay on a stone wall, I hear “We need to find a ride for Jim” and “I can drive back up and get him”. There is the “Lanterne Rouge” that picks up stragglers in the mountain stages of the Tour de France but getting put onto an old folks sight seeing bus and sent home was not unacceptable!

Longmire Lodge
We resumed the ride, opting for the low route past Paradise as opposed to climbing up to the visitors center. The next stop after a long decent was Longmire (the small village in the Park). Everyone agreed it was a wonderful stop as we sat in the sun on lounge chairs re-fueling and enjoying the wonderful view of the Mount Rainer’s Kautz Glacier and the high-point named Columbia Crest at 14,411.

All downhill from here

Feeling refreshed after the break, we hit the road for Orting with new vigor. Brent, Mike and Chris began a series of long pulls straight into a huge headwind through Ashford, Elbe, and past Alder Lake and all the way to Eatonville. Road closures rerouted traffic onto Orville Road, so the route past Ohop Lake was littered with cars and we had the pleasure of another drive-by from the Hundred Hog club.

The road surface here is “chip-seal”, which is basically gravel with a coat of oil which renders a surface something like an oversized piece of super course sand paper. It was here that I (Jim) crashed. Doh! Be careful on this section of road because there is very little shoulder and what shoulder does exist has very loose gravel on it.

 The final section of the ride into Orting went fast with more big pulls from Mike and Brent to complete our circumvention of Tahoma. Congratulations to Brent who beat his previous record long ride of 113 miles and did his first Ramrod ever (in style). Chris who did his first ever Ramrod. Mike added one more notch to his Ramrod gun belt. All in all, it was a great adventure full of friendship, teamwork, beauty and a few bruises.


Leon saved the day by driving the vehicle that was dropped at Mud Mountain Road, back to Orting. Thanks, Leon.  That was a great idea and saving us a big hassle.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jurgen Becker: Cycling Across Germany (7/08 - 7/14/13)

Author:  Jurgen Becker (German member of the Puyallup Cyclopaths)

Though having been a cyclist for over 25 years I had never managed to cycle through Germany, though I had played with the thought of traveling from my hometown Grevenbroich to a well known vacation spot here in Germany. This summer it should finally happen. And even the weather played along from the 8th through the 14th of July. My destination: Oberstdorf in Bavaria. Known for it picturesque mountains and famous for its Alpine skiing, mountain and street biking and hiking opportunities.

I wanted to make it in 5 days and according to Garmin trip planning that would be 540 miles. Everything I needed for a week (only the essentials) fit into my back pack. Shower gel, tooth paste team jerseys (Cyclopath too), shoes, shorts, t-shirts, etc.

The first two days headed from Grevenbroich via Cologne to Koblenz and continued to Bingen. Mostly along the Rhine. The Koblenz Bingen stretch is considered a UNESCO world heritage site.

Along the Rhine the castles and fortresses sit like ducks in a row !

Day three and four went via Neustadt and Reutlingen to Biberach.  I tried to avoid the large cities and drove through remote villages.  On day five the direction went towards the alps, finally. The prettiest day! On the way from Biberach to Oberstdorf you eventually see the Alps on the horizon, and I must say you almost get goose bumps at the sight. 

This time unlike (15 times previously by car) but under my own power with a bike to the beginning of the Alps was a great experience. But that shouldn’t remain the extent of it. On the next day I still had good legs and crossed the Riedberg-Pass to Austria. One heavy stretch covered 2.5 miles at 16% incline.  Since I don’t have  compact, but only a 39/28 I had to drive standing up a lot.

On Sunday, the last day, I exchanged the bike shoes for hiking boots and went to the summit of the Nebelhorn at about 7333 feet with a short break at a mountain-restaurant.

In conclusion, a great week all around though I wouldn’t do it again by myself.   Around a hundred miles a day by myself and then having dinner alone wasn’t so nice. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013_07_06 Sunrise Double Climb Plus Crystal Mountain Climb

Author:  Mike Hassur

Up at 3:50 AM, picked up Conor Collins at 4:45 AM, and arrived at our meeting place (junction of Hwy 410 and Crystal Mountain Road) at 5:55 AM.  Loaded everyone’s supplies into my van and took off for the base of the Sunrise Climb.  Parked the van, got my bike out, and headed back to meet our group (who were riding up to meet me from Crystal Mountain Road). 
We had a good group (Les Becker, Dwaine Trummert, Conor Collins, David Crawford, David Garate, Brent Moody, Jim Wilcher, and me).  I met up with the group just outside of the Sunrise Ranger Station, turned around, and headed up with them toward the beginning of the Sunrise Climb (which is located at the point where the White River Campground road branches from the main road).  There is a Strava segment that begins near the ranger station and goes to the top of Sunrise, therefore we lost sight of Conor Collins just past the ranger station.  Once David Crawford found out that Conor had bolted, he too was quickly out of sight.  The rest of us rode together to the beginning of the main climb.  As usual, I was taking some pictures of the group in the early parts of the climb.  I had my Cyclopath vest on which hampers my ability to get my camera in and out of my jersey pocket smoothly.  About a mile into the climb, I dropped the camera trying to put it back in my pocket.  By the time I retrieved and got started again, I was pretty far behind everyone.  I caught up with David Garate - who had slowed and waited for me (thanks, David) – and ended up riding to the top with him.  I thought that we would catch up with Les, Dwaine, and Jim; but they were pushing hard, and we never could catch them.  Conor (who did the segment from the White River Campground turnoff to the top in approximately 45 minutes) came down, met us, and escorted us to the top (as did David Crawford).

Sunrise parking lot
Everyone regrouped in the Sunrise parking lot.  The trip down was fast and COLD.  I know that I was shivering, and some of the other guys said they were as well. 

We resupplied at my van and headed up a second time.  The second time up was uneventful.  The pace was definitely more relaxed (though Conor and David Crawford were out of sight again), and we had a chance to appreciate the scenery. 
When the weather is good (like on this ride), there are few – if any – rides that I’ve done that have more breathtaking views than this one.  It was pretty awesome.

Once again, we regrouped in the Sunrise parking lot, took a few pictures, and headed down. The descent was pretty fast but not nearly as cold as the first.  By this time, there were a lot of other cyclists and cars coming up the road.  The cars were coming into our lane to avoid the cyclists who were heading up, so we had to be careful on the blind curves.  It was still fun, just not quite as fast as the first trip down. 

We regrouped at my van and decided to ride over to Crystal Mountain Road and ride up to the Crystal Mountain Ski Area rather than going back up Sunrise for a third time.  With the ever increasing traffic up to Sunrise, this was probably a wise decision.  As we headed to Crystal Mountain, we noted that the line of cars waiting at the Sunrise Ranger Station was at least a half of a mile long (and not moving much).

Crystal Mtn. Ski Area
We regrouped at the base of the Crystal Mountain climb.  Brent Moody and David Garate had to leave; which left Conor, David Crawford, Les, Dwaine, Jim, and me heading up to the Crystal Mountain Ski area.  The ride up went smoothly and seemed relatively easy for everyone.  At the ski area, we took a couple of pictures and headed down.  The downhill was fun and uneventful.

When you have good weather and a good group of guys, it’s pretty easy to have a successful ride.   Thanks for another successful ride guys.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brent and Rod: Bicycle Tour of Colorado (June 23-29, 2013)


Author:   Brent Moody

440 miles with over 37,000 feet climbing, and camping every night outside.  This was the obstacle that haunted Rod and I in our sleep for a few months. We climb that much around Washington State, but looking at the elevation map, Colorado Mountains, and the altitude; I think we were both shaking a little wondering what we got ourselves into.
The day finally arrived, and we were ready for our long drive from Puyallup/Buckley Washington to Canon City, Colorado, where the start of the tour would begin. We took off about 6pm on a Thursday night, thinking we would drive until we were tired… Never happened, as we switched up driving responsibilities and made it to Canon City in about 22 hours nonstop! With our legs tired from driving, we thought we would go get a nice easy 20 mile or so spin in. We took off about 5pm, and soon after we were riding in the smoke bank from the fires at the Royal Gorge. Made it real tough to breathe, hacking and coughing, but Rod and I were able to have some friendly hill climbing fun and start the week of smack talk right away. Here’s a great picture near Salida, Colorado so you can see how smokey it was in the afternoon.

Next day, we decided to get a 2nd warm-up in of 40 miles, started early, encountered no smoke, great ride! We were ready to go for Sunday am start.

Day 1:
Sunday am had finally arrived, up at 4:30 for a 6 am start. We started with a group of friends of mine from Colorado. The first climb came pretty quickly, and let the work begin! Right as we were at the top of the first climb, giant dead rattlesnake on the side of the road! That gave us some quick adrenaline. The next 20 miles or so was rolling hills and then dropping into a valley with a great tail wind. We hooked up with a cyclist, Mike from New Mexico and worked the rest of the 40 miles together.  Saw many antelope along the route. After the 3rd sag stop, it was a turn into the wind, boy was it a wind. We would have taken any climb over that head and side wind. The final climb over Trout Creek Pass, 9346’, was a great ride. All downhill into Buena Vista from there.  88 miles and about 6000' climbing that day. First Day I think I was adjusting to the altitude, felt quick sick, but Rod said he was feeling great. WE arrived, showered up, and toured the towns locally tap house and distillery. Felt much better after that!

Day 1 photos:  Rod, Brent

Day 2:

Day 2 was another big day 93 miles and about 6500’ climbing, with Independence Pass in the distance at 12,095’. Rod was going to head out and I decided to hang back with the pack, enjoy the ride and take a lot of pics. I knew Independence Pass would be epic!  Nice gradual climb out of Buena Vista for about 20 miles along the Arkansas River and Twin Lakes. Gorgeous country, I kept stopping to take pictures as this felt like heaven.  Here’s a great picture of the start of the climb.
The climb up Independence was challenging, lots of switchbacks, but surprisingly similar to many of the climbs we ride in Washington, except for the altitude. Finally at the top, Independence Pass was above the tree line, windy, and quite cooler.

Love that Cyclopath jersey!!
 After a brief stop and refuel at the top, it was time for about 30 miles all downhill. I think Rod and I both reached speeds above 45 mph, drafting behind cars and motorcycles when we could. At the bottom of the mountain, flattened out a little as we rode thru Aspen, what a beautiful town! When we hit Aspen, route turned into a bike path, which was about 5-6 miles of gravel. One of the guys in our group, we learned later, went down on the gravel path, but was ok. The last 15 miles seemed to drag on, a paved bike path all the way to Carbondale. Thought we might see a Lance Armstrong siting, since this is his home turf, but no such thing.  Carbondale was a great town, as a group, we took over the local tap house for great beer and burgers.

Day 3:

A little bit of a break this day, as a 57 mile ride of McClure Pass, 8763’. Still over 4000 feet climbing that day. Beautiful day out. Rod got another early start at 6am; I decided to start with the group around 8am. Still adjusting to the altitude, but feeling much better. Another memorable gradual climb to the pass, riding along the Roaring Fork River. We quickly formed a great pace line with about 8 of us, making it to the start of the climb pretty quickly. We broke up from there and the last 3 miles to the top were about 8-11% grades, so pretty good hikes!
After a quick stop at the top, it was another downhill jaunt, 34 miles into Paonia, CO. I joined up with 2 others in our group and pace lined in down for 20 miles, cruising about 30 mph average. It was getting pretty hot by then, and we stop at the last sag before the final 15 to Paonia. The sags were well stocked with sandwiches, fruit, crackers, water and smoothies! We were about to head out, when we saw the state patrol stopping all cyclists and traffic. We had learned that a rider and swerved over into oncoming traffic, hit by a truck… Not good. We were there for about an hour as we saw the Helicopter come into pick the cyclist up. We decided to hit the river while we waited so not to stiffen up.

We later learned this cyclist didn’t make it, died a few days later. Very sad… After all of us were released to resume, they let us go in 2 bunches of about 100 each. They were pretty strict on last 15 miles of riding single file. Finally arriving in Paonia, 90+ degrees at 2pm.

Day 4:
The day that Rod and I were looking forward too. 47 miles of mostly dirt road from Paonia to Crested Butte, CO. About 5000’ climbing of Kebler Pass, at 8885’. Rod and I decided to hit it early, skip the dust from the road and make it into Crested Butte so we could check it out. It was pretty chilly that morning and we worked the road together, into the brisk wind, for the first 15 miles. After the first checkpoint, it was dirt time baby and the start of the climb! Not knowing what to expect, road was in great shape, hard packed and they spray magnesium chloride on it I guess? Grade on this was probably 7% and just winding up the side of the mountain. Here’s a great picture of Rod and I almost at the 2nd sag stop.

After leaving this sag stop, we thought we were at the top, but nope… Had a much bigger climb coming. I did manage to see an Elk in the valley, but too fast and couldn’t get a great picture of the cow. The final climb was paved, and feeling good. We knew that once at the top of the final climb, only 8 miles downhill, all dirt again, into Crested Butte. This was my favorite ride of the tour, really beautiful!

Day 5:
Day off in Crested Butte. We enjoyed the local food, beers and distillery. We hooked up with another buddy of ours riding, Joe Reese, and decided to get some beers and spend the 90 degree day at the river! Had a great time and Rod came into rare form that day, deciding he was invincible, of course with a little coaching from Joe and I. Rod earned his new nickname that day… “Kneivel” (after Evil Kneivel). We ended the day with a group BBQ at our friends, who had rented a house in Crested Butte. Couldn’t believe on our walk back to the tents that night, how big the sky was and how bright the stars were. Amazing!

Day 6:
Big day!!! 99 miles, and over Cottonwood Pass, at 12,126’. I started off with Rod at 6am, nice brisk pace around 27 mph. After mile 15, it was a un announced detour, some hill climbing and dirt roads. I was quickly heated up, as temp first thing was in 40’s. I stopped to peel, and Rod took off with a brisk pace. We each had some minor bike issues that week with wheels, hubs being loose. Not sure if those gravel roads did its number on them or not. First climb, for a warm up before Cottonwood, was thru a Canyon along a river up to a reservoir. After Sag stop 2, it was climb time. 14 miles and all dirt road to the top of Cottonwood. I was expecting huge climbs, but ended up not being so! It was 5-6% grade all the way up, with a couple of short 10%, but pretty manageable. We really enjoyed this ride as
well! After a nice enjoyable climb to the top, sag stop 3, and picture time! Check
out our friend Joe Reese and me at the top!
 After a brief stop, time to layer up and prepare of 18 miles downhill, steep and lots of hair turns! I wanted to really bust it out fast, but decided to play it safe at less than 45 mph, due to the loose hub on my rear wheel. Rod and our friend Charlie were the ones left duking it out for fastest speed. I believe Rod won the downhill at 51.4, Charlie had 51.3! I was in the lead up to the last day 50.1, bow down to the downhill Gods! Those 18 miles went REALLY fast rolling back into Buena Vista for a quick re grouping! The last 20 miles were pretty flat into Salida, with a head wind though and some heat.  This day, 99 miles and over 6500 feet climbing, seemed pretty easy. I think we were finally acclimated! We did learn, after arriving into Paonia, that there was another cycling accident coming down Cottonwood. A cyclist didn’t make one of the hair pin turns, and hit the wall, catapulting over the edge. We did hear though that this cyclist was badly hurt, but recovering...

After arriving in Paonia, we decided to hit the town and check it out! Beer and margaritas sounded so good, we found the hot spot, Boathouse Cantina on the river’s edge. What a beautiful restaurant. After a recovery here, it was time to check out a few more spots. We found a great local bike shop, and Rod and Joe decided to try out the tandem bike… LOL. Great video!

After that quick Nascar Sprint, it was time to hit the tap house, order a few pizzas and beer to go, then bedtime! Joe and Rod (Kneivel) decided to once again play superman, it was time to jump in the river to cool off! Pretty Funny.

Day 7:
Final day!! I think we were all itching for finish and homebound. Started off about 6:30, Rod, Joe and I quickly pace lined out and down the canyon we went, averaging 24 mph over the final 58! We had a few stragglers latch on that didn’t want to do any work, but what the heck, finish line was in sight. WE had 1 final last climb up the Royal Gorge before the finish. Rods last words, I’m going to take this easy and spin it… until he realized this was a Strava climb. Before I knew it, Rod was riding in the distance. After pondering in my mind, I was
thinking no way is he going to get that far ahead… and the chase was on! After the climb, only about 15 miles to go, was pretty quick, and no smoke as forest fires were contained! Finish!

We finished about 9:30am, and decided we would bust it back to Washington nonstop, after a brief visit with some other buddies of mine in Ft. Collins, Co. Most of my buddies I met last year at BRAN (Bike Ride Across Nebraska), such great friends you meet on these rides!
The drive back was very memorable with lots of new scenery. What an experience!! If you have ever thought about riding one of these tours, I would highly recommend it! Very addicting.

To see the picture album for this trip, click on the following hyperlink:

Baker City Cycling Classic- Stage Race

Baker City Cycling Classic
Author:  Conor Collins
Day One: the opening road race was 71.6 miles, with 3,000 feet of climbing. Scheduled to start at 2 PM, with a high temperature for the day to be 94 degrees... This was bound to be an interesting ride. The field was combined CAT 4 and CAT 5, with the addition of the masters categories, about a total of 60 starters. The race started off slowly with a nasty headwind. After about 20 miles, and a turn into a town called Powder, the road turned back towards Baker City, but with a much longer, hillier, and hotter route. The field was still largely together after the first "climb" and coming into the first, much needed, neutral feed/water zone. It wasn't yet apparent who would be my competition when the real climb arrived; however, that climb was waiting, and so was the fun of climbing it. After going through a really cool valley, riding right next to a creek, from which the road race got its name, Catherine Creek, the first of 3 major climbs was upon us. I decided to put it into the easiest gear, and spin up the pass. Next thing I know, the pack was gone, and one lone soul was tagging on my rear wheel. He told me to let up a bit to allow two others to tag on for the 20 miles we had to go to the finish.  This time I understood his reasoning, and the plan worked. Since I was using Junior gears, my down hill speeds could no where near compare to what they could do with normal gearing, thus drafting at 40MPH was the best I could do. A few roller climbs were enough to knock the 2 other riders off our 4 man group. Coming into the final climb, the temp was 95 as said by my Garmin. The land was so desolate, nothing, but burnt grass, rolling hills, and an outcropping of the Rocky Mountains in the far distance. No winds... Not yet... The heat, and absence of life... Other than the struggling rider, made the climb difficult. It was worse off for the guy behind me, all I could hear was him breathing. After we summited the final climb, a rapid decent, and BOOM, there was the wind. 100% of it in my face the final 3 kilometers to the finish. The wheel sucker was so pooped when he offered to pull, he wasn't even able to pass me.. This could have been a result of me not letting him pass, since we were so close to the finish I wasn't going to take a chance, or just a lack of energy. For what seemed a lot longer than 1.86 miles, I crossed the line first for the CAT 4/5s. A major shocker to the OBRA officials, and other riders. I won the leaders jersey, and $40
Finish of the 1st stage, 71.6 miles

Day Two: stage two, was a time trial. With my victory in stage one, I was awarded the position of last to go for the TT. Leaving at 9:20, the winds where beginning to pick up. I didn't realize why I was heading out going upwards of 27MPH average, until the U-turn came, and so did a wall of air. The return to town was brutal. Turns out the guys that wheel sucked me all the way to the finish the previous day were good at time trials, and beat me by over a minute... Along with some other guy, putting me in 3rd overall GC.

Day two, stage three, was a criterium, a simple L-shape loop around downtown, fast, flat, windy. Didn't make a difference in the GC, and I took it as more of a leg stretch.

Day Three: stage four, set to be the hardest of the 4 stages, and a challenging 101 miles with 4 major climbs. The race began at 8:55 am, when the temperature was a comfortable 75 degrees. Once the race began, the peloton was sluggish. The first 4 miles went very slow, averaging around 16 MPH (Very slow for 40 riders all together in a pack). Eventually, a rider from the back of the peloton attacked, and gained ground fast. Then another decided he'd had enough and joined the early attack. Once they began to gain more ground, I made the final decision, go after them. My reasoning, what do I have to lose? So, the race has began at mile 4 of 101 not the smartest of moves, very risky, but fun without a doubt. The group eventually grew to 4, and persisted to mile 15 with a 2-minute lead over the main group. Once we reached mile 15, and the first Climb I realized my first mistake none of the guys in the break could climb at least not fast enough to remain separate from the pack. I then decided to keep a neutral speed, and allow the other break away riders to catch, which never happened. The next 70 miles were very interesting. Solo riding during a 100-mile race, especially being solo at mile 17, is an interesting feeling. The real sense of being all alone during a race came when a follow car came up behind me. Thus I had gained enough ground to need both a lead, and follow vehicle. I was told my gap had grown to 3:30, coming into the second major climb. I was beginning to encounter riders that had been dropped from categories that left before us, such as the CAT 3s, and Masters 1,2,and 3s, and the occasional CAT 1-2. After about an hour of riding solo, the Lead/ follow cars began to offer me food and drinks. The final few climbs were quick, I continued to gain time on the pack with every hill that came, gaining 5:20 at my farthest point. Eventually, the climbing obstacles left me, and returned the flats With the help of other riders from my group, maintaining this gap might have been possible, without them it was a matter of time before the inevitable. The land went from being green, and filled with trees to once again, a desolate road with nothing to see but dead grass and dirt. To help my ever-losing solo break, the wind decided it was time to pick up, and blow right in my face. Soon enough the follow car pulled up next to me and said, the pack is 2 minutes back, Great here they come Soon enough the pack was over me, and the chasing was over. A Solid ~3 hours and 70 miles later, I was back in the pack, and ready to start the final climb to HELL. I was very tired, and in a state of mind to survive the climb, not race. In the end, I finished 5th overall in the GC, with an incredible 70 mile solo break Sure not successful in terms of winning the race, but an awesome experience. Overall, this was a great weekend of racing with many wins within itself. Highly recommend this race, it is challenging, and very well supported