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Muscle Memory, Ride the Rockies 2012 Recap: Part 1 by Alissa

March 2, 2014

In 2014 Doug’s big ride will be “Ride the Rockies.” Ride the Rockies is a weeklong annual bicycle tour through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The route changes each year but always includes scenic roads with challenging and breathtaking (literally in my case) mountain passes.

In 2012 Doug and I were fortunate to have been invited by the Davis Phinney Foundation to Ride the Rockies. Doug said, “Sure sign me up!  I would love to go on a 400+ mile bike ride with five mountain passes and over 20,000 vertical feet of climbing, raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation and spit in the face of Parkinson’s disease.” Ok, those weren’t really his words but I think that was his sentiment.

So, off we went. For Doug, usually a self-supported solo rider, this would be his first supported ride and he would share the road with 2,000 other cyclists. For me, this would be my first big ride ever. I had never ridden up a mountain pass or really ever been much higher than 700 feet above sea level on a bike.

We spent the week before the ride acclimating to the altitude in Steamboat Springs where Doug’s incredibly generous friends, Anita and Rich put us up in a fabulous resort. We relaxed around Steamboat Springs and took in the Wild West.

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Doug and Anita

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Wild West balloon above Steamboat Springs

On Saturday we headed to Gunnison, the starting point of Ride the Rockies. During the nearly four-hour-long bus ride from Denver to Gunnison, I thought to myself, they are taking us deep into the mountains… to the middle of nowhere. I was intimidated.

We finally arrived in Gunnison where the Ride the Rockies camp was brimming with energy and excitement. After a long day of travel we set up our tent and tried to get some rest. The next morning was freezing cold. It took us quite some time to eat breakfast, tear down the tent and get on the road. Actually it took us two hours!

Ride the Rockies camp in Gunnison

Ride the Rockies camp in Gunnison

We learned a few things about how to pack for Ride the Rockies the hard way. I packed as though RTR was going to be a camping vacation. We were carrying all of our clothes from the week in Steamboat plus a few major, heavy and unnecessary items like camping chairs. RTR would transport our bags to each location but we lugged them around the campsites.

I couldn’t convince Doug on the first day to ride without his panniers. He refused to let go of being self-sufficient. In the shuffle of setting out in the morning he didn’t even go through his panniers to eliminate non-essentials. Doug and I went on many training rides to prepare. He can outride me any day. But he was slow carrying extra weight. He was also riding his heavy touring bike, as it was the bike he had set-up with the pannier rack.  At the end of the day I found out that he had a six-pack of coca-cola in his panniers!

Day One: Gunnison to Hotchkiss 79 miles

Day one was a brutal day for me. 79 miles isn’t very far but the endless hills were a killer under the relentless sun. The climbing started after the first twenty miles and lasted for… twenty miles! There weren’t any mountain passes on this day just an ascent to the top of beautiful Black Canyon. I had an amazing feeling of relief when I reached the top. The scenic overlook was almost worth the pain I felt in my knees.

Dillon Pinnacles, before the climbing started

Dillon Pinnacles

Dillon Pinnacles with lake in foreground.

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The ride up is steeper than it looks.

Doug and his gear

Doug and his gear

Go Doug, Go!

Go Doug, Go!

Black Canyon

Black Canyon

At the top

At the top

The road we were just riding

The road we came in on is just barely visible on the left, about halfway up the photo,

At the top of the canyon I sat next to a young man in tears. He was upset because he had taken the sag wagon. He told me about how he had trained for several months and that he was disappointed with himself that he gave up riding on the first day. I couldn’t help but notice his bike. It was a mountain bike with tires that looked like they belonged on a motorcycle. I tired to comfort him and explain that his bike and extra-wide tires added substantially to the work of the ride. Then Doug came rolling up the hill completely bushed, saddled with all of his gear.

There would be one more short but steep hill on the descent to Hotchkiss and then it was smooth sailing all downhill for the next 20 miles.

Cruising down to Hotchkiss

Cruising down towards Hotchkiss

To be continued…

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