Recently heard through the grapevine next year's Ride the Rockies will be "epic." I acknowledge epic is a word many newspapers would like to ban, but the word is a portion of a direct quote from a Power That Be. And I like it!
We're drooling in anticipation of February's 30th anniversary route announcement! We opted not to throw our hats in the RtR lottery last winter because there were only two stages we wanted to ride. As a result, we've been experiencing a degree of withdrawals all year long.
Thinking back on past "epic" stages, we're hoping at least a few repeats will be in the mix.
The most difficult RtR day I've ever pedaled was Ouray to Durango in 2010, three mountain passes with a grueling two-mile climb during Durango's rush hour at the end of the ride to the tent city on the Fort Lewis campus. With a headwind, of course. Oh, how I suffered that day! I had never done three mountain passes in a day before in my entire life (or since!), and that night, I wasn't sure I'd ever get back on my bike again. But the next day, I shocked myself when I got back on my bike and finished the tour. Now I can honestly say I'd do it again!
The second most difficult RtR day I've ever done has happened twice now. The Grand Mesa was featured in the 2005 Ride the Rockies and then again during the tour's 25th anniversary in 2010. The first time I did it, I bonked before the summit, which means I didn't eat and/or drink enough, and I underestimated the mileage. I thought I was at the top when I still had a good two more miles to go in depleted condition. I made it to the top, thanks to much encouragement (and a few back pushes) from The Lizard, but devastation nearly devoured me that day.
In 2010, the Grand Mesa took a bite out of my derailleur and spit it out chewed up. I had completed the climb and was overjoyed but had to ride the rest of the way in a SAG wagon, one of the Support And Gear vehicles patrolling the route to assist riders. My second climb of the Grand Mesa wasn't as hard as my first, but emotionally, that day took a heavy toll on me, and I long to do the entire ride again in high style without bonking and without being a passenger in a SAG wagon.
Independence Pass in 2012 probably was a more difficult climb for me than the Grand Mesa, but I was in good spirits until the very end of the day and refused two SAGs along the way. It was my longest day ever in the saddle, 14 hours, and included a few gravel sections that nearly did in my recently uncasted right wrist. That was the year I'd taken a good spill on my bike and sported a cast just six weeks before the tour. Bumpy gravel roads, of which the route sported many that year, took a distinct toll on my wrist. This would be a fun ride to try again when I'm 100%.
Pikes Peak is the most difficult ride I've ever done, and both attempts, I failed to summit. Assault on The Peak was a timed event (not part of Ride the Rockies); I needed 15 to 20 minutes more the first time up. I missed the finish line by less than a mile. The second time I tried, the timed event had been shaved by an hour, and I missed the first time cutoff by less than five minutes. I'd trained as thoroughly as I possibly could. Pikes continues to yank on my bucket list. It's a big burr under my saddle. Now that the road is open to bicycles, perhaps Ride the Rockies could make a day of it... Wishful thinking replaces any sugar plums dancing in my head.
A couple of years ago, I learned about a non-charity commercial ride that commandeers my daydreams and causes my knees to quiver. Colorado Climbing Camp by Lizard Head Cycling Guides does all the big stuff in one foul swoop. They conquer Trail Ridge Road, Mount Evans and Pikes Peak, the three highest paved roads in all of North America, all on one tour. Can you say, "Oh, my gosh!"
What if Ride the Rockies tackled this?!? Not a chance, I know, because 38,000 feet of climbing would be too difficult for many riders.
But I can dream, can't I???