Muscle Memory, Ride the Rockies 2012 Recap: Part 3 by Alissa
Day 3, 12k Day: Independence Pass
I almost didn’t ride on the third day. Before turning in at the end of day two I made a tentative plan with Doug to help him get off to an early start in the morning and then take a shuttle to the next town. I was experiencing debilitating pain in my knees.
When I woke up in the morning I wanted to ride. The problem was my bike. The seat was set too low. I spent nearly an hour with a bike mechanic making adjustments to the bike, lowering the seat, replacing the handlebar stem and changing the brakes. So much for Doug’s early start; we hit the road around 9:00am.
I felt much better riding the bike. The day began with a scenic paved bike path and a manageable uphill grade. At the second rest stop 21 miles into the ride Doug and I both agreed that we felt strong.
Shortly after that the bike path turned into a dirt trail or more accurately a sandbox. The trail bed consisted of loose sandy dirt, four inches deep, reminiscent of a kitty litter box. Riders in front of us turned around. I wanted to stay on the Ride the Rockies route. Doug wanted to diverge from the route and take streets into Aspen. We had a not so civil discussion about what to do and parted ways.
After pedaling less than a mile down the trail away from Doug I ran into an obstacle, a short but incredibly steep hill. My bike tires spun out in the sand. I tried to unclip fast but I couldn’t free my feet. Losing momentum I was going to fall over. I stood up on the bike and pushed the pedals down hard. I pushed with everything I had, mentally chanting, “YOU CAN’T FALL!” I didn’t want to prove Doug right that the trail was not safe even though he was right. By luck and determination I managed to stay upright.
I rode the litter box trail slowly and cautiously for four miles into Aspen. In Aspen I rejoined street traffic and never caught site of Doug. I assumed that I was ahead of him.
I took a short break and continued onwards towards Independence pass. I caught up with Doug after a few challenging hills at the next aid station. He had beaten me to aid station by at least twenty minutes.
Independence pass seemed to go on forever. Reaching the tree line finally gave us some feedback that we were nearing the summit. My breath was short and I pedaled in what seemed like slow motion. The ride was really getting tough and then the final switchback emerged. Looking up, the top of the switchback appeared 1,000 feet closer to the sky.
I wanted the summit bad. I took my time and refused to stop until I reached the top. Doug was having a tough time coping with the altitude. He walked with his bike for some of the last miles. The sag wagon was no option. Doug would get to the top by his own power and he did.