16 June 2013


shadow shot for Sue

9 June 2013
Ride the Rockies, Day 1
Telluride to Cortez
76 miles

Did you know today is Ride the Wind Day?!? We lucked out. The wind wasn't invited today and didn't crash the party.

The drive to Telluride yesterday was a long, long day for us, but even longer for my co-worker Mike, who volunteered to drive us in my car after we planted The Lizard's truck in Colorado Springs. Mike drove on to Glenwood Springs to meet his wife after dropping us off, and then the two of them drove separately back to Denver today. Mike will leave my car back at my house, and then his wife will drive him home.

This was a tremendous kindness from Mike and his wife. Now we don't have to take an extra day or two off work to drive back to Telluride at the end of the tour to retrieve my car, and we'll be able to head home from Colorado Springs when we finish without asking anyone for a ride.


I had planned to buy a gift card for Mike to pay for his gas to get my car back home, but you can't buy a credit card with a credit card. Who knew?!? I'd never bought one before, and now I wish I'd had time to do it last week when I had my checkbook with me.

Mike knew we brought only enough money to get us through the coming week, so he refused our offer to pay for all his gas with cash. He did take half, and he said we can square up the rest when we get home. But I know him; he'll think of every excuse in the book to refuse our money! So I bought him a Ride the Rockies T-shirt with my credit card. He seemed to really like that.

So, now we're on a tighter cash budget than we'd planned, but hey, what's a cross-state tour without a little challenge beside monster hills to climb???

Most of the community meals and street vendors will be cash only, and all the food at all the rest stops each day of the ride will be cash only. We hadn't planned to eat at every rest stop, but now we'll be limited to just pancakes at the first stop each day. In each host town, we'll probably have to walk to a grocery store or restaurant to eat so we can use the credit card. That likely will be better food anyway.

After Mike left, we took the gondola up to Mountain Home to get an aerial view of the tent city, then we walked up the main street of Telluride to find some pasta for dinner.

Tent City through gondola window

During our walk, we passed a sign that read, "Yarn." Uh, oh!

I'd started another pair of socks with the yarn I bought to make a pair of socks during last year's Ride the Rockies but did not finish because I was too exhausted and sore every single night. While working on the first sock during the drive to Telluride, I realized I forgot my circular knitting needles for the cuffs. I'd thought I'd have to do the cuffs when I get back home. But the yarn shop actually had the right size of tiny circular needles!!!

I'm in trouble.

Knitted Bike

Warm Bike

On this, the tenth anniversary of my first Ride the Rockies, I got to ride the same Day 1 route I did a decade ago, but in reverse. That year, I did 58 miles of sustained climb to reach to the top of Lizard Head Pass. Today, I had only a 12-mile climb, then 58 miles of sustained descent... MUCH shorter day than ten years ago!!!

The Lizard didn't ride to the top of Lizard Head Pass with me as planned, but he kept waiting for me at great photo spots. My turtle speed cuts down on his adrenaline and enjoyment, so I sent him on ahead. He posed for me every time I asked him to. It was fun to see him get excited about Lizard Head Pass.

We both posed for photos on top. I hoisted my bike over my head. For the first time since emergency back surgery in 2004, I didn't have excruciating pain doing that.

no pain

Lizard Head meets Lizard

I missed church by an hour and a half. I thought there might be a 1 p.m. meeting, but the congregations here are small, so they have just 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. I rode the very best I could, but nothing I did would have gotten me here by 11 a.m. after a 76-mile ride. I would have had to leave Telluride by 3 a.m.

I did find both chapels in Cortez, though. Didn't know we'd be right across the street from one, so detoured when I found the first one, about three miles back up the road.

When I reached our camping venue, the beautiful Cortez Rec Center, The Lizard was nowhere to be found, but I found our tent!!! Turned out The Lizard was heading back to the baggage truck to get our second bag, which I'd noticed and picked up, after putting up our tent in a great location. He walked right by me, and I walked right by him, both of us without seeing each other. And then he couldn't find our second bag!

Day 1 Tent Site

I had hoped I would finish today's ride in time for the afternoon seminar, and this time, I wasn't late. Special guests included Olympians Connie Carpenter and Ron Kiefel, and recently retired pro cyclist George Hincapie as keynote speaker.

Ron Kiefel
Bronze Olympic medalist and Giro stage winner Ron Kiefel

Connie Carpenter
Gold Olympic medalist Connie Carpenter

George Hincapie
Pro Cyclist George Hincapie and RtR Tour Director Chandler Smith

I have been hoping since we learned this year's route in February that if we were drawn and if I could make it to Cortez in time for the seminar, George would help me reach closure with the disgusting letdown of last year's doping fiasco.

I'm not mad at any of the pros anymore, but I haven't been as enthusiastic about the Tour de France and most especially the USA Pro Cycling event right here in Colorado this August. I was hoping seeing George in person and hearing him speak would bring that segment of my life back into focus.

George delivered.

Nearly every cyclist in this 2,500-rider event attended. I wasn't sure anyone would go. It was awesome to see so many true blue cyclists willing to forgive and move on.

Full House

The audience was given the chance to put George on the hot seat, and they didn't. When he was asked questions that provided the opportunity for him to slam other cyclists, he did not. This is one of the reasons he had been one of my favorites before last year's revelations. George is not capable of saying anything bad about anyone. He is a gentleman.

What really hit home for me was when George freely, without being asked, said it takes more than doping to get up a mountain, and we as cyclists understand that. The comment earned him a fervent round of applause.

I was hit by a car while riding my bike home from work in 2001. My right knee gave me a great deal of trouble for the next few of years. I had to take a pain killer to make it up the final pitch of Lizard Head Pass in 2003. But if I had not trained properly, the prescription-strength ibuprofen would not have pushed me up the mountain. I trained hard for that full week of riding. I climbed mountains and passes every chance I got for three months straight trying to get ready for my first Ride the Rockies.

I've had back pain since my surgery in 2004, and there have been days when the pain threatens to keep me from my cycling goals. I've taken pain killers during rides four times that I can remember in nine years. But the pain killers weren't what got me up the mountains. I got up the mountains because I trained. I practiced, practiced and practiced because I didn't want to be humiliated by having to walk my bike up steep hills during organized rides while other cyclists were watching.

I spent several months being furious with pro cyclists because if I can get up a mountain with pain, they should be able to get up a mountain without cheating. Period.

Professional cycling has a very ugly past, but doping, even though it's disgraceful, dishonest, deceitful and just plain wrong, did not magically produce champions. It may have given the pros a few seconds each day resulting in podium places where they may not have stood without the illegal boost, but doping does not propel a cyclist up a mountain. The cyclist must train hard year-round to be able to compete.

In closing, George said the kids coming up through the ranks today don't have to deal with the pressure and choices his generation faced, and he said races can be won clean.

I hope so. My love of pro cycling is returning, and I want to be excited when Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney take on the Queen's Stage this August. I want to be there on Independence Pass cheering for them again.

Telluride to Cortez

Day 1

Telluride Wildflowers

Man-made Rainbow


  1. Lets hope all stay clean and wow, that is a ton of tents.

    1. I agree, Pat. And yes, there are TONS of tents!

  2. A shadow shot, a shadow shot!!! Woo hoo! :) Love the Lizard's Lizard shirt but is that like an alligator wearing alligator skin???

    1. I forgot you like the shadow shots, too, Marigold!

      Yes, The Lizard wearing a lizard jersey is like an alligator wearing an alligator skin. He comes to life when he puts on any jersey, but the lizard jersey... well, I guess it's like a self-portrait!!!

  3. Oh, this is going to be a GREAT week of posts! :)

    1. Thanks, Sue! You give me reason to keep posting!

  4. What a day! I can't wait to see the Lizard Head later this summer. (BTW, I cannot lift a bike over my head so I am very impressed!). Gorgeous photos, and I can tell that you are having a lot of fun.

    With regard to doping, you might consider reading "the Secret Race" by Tyler Hamilton. It put things into perspective for me, although it was such an ugly cycling world in that era.


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