It’s rare that my wife and I get to have a week off to ride bikes and follow the pro peloton around the beautiful state of Colorado. In 2013 I, with a couple of friends, thought it would be a great idea to follow this race around for its third year running. The year before, I went to a few stages. I was up on Independence Pass the first year that they raced over it, and it was a bit of a mad house. I loved it! I was hooked. I needed to figure out a way I could manage to follow the entire 7 days. In 2012 we purchased a Sprinter van and I have been converting it into an adventure mobile ever since.
Back to the 2014 race. One of the most beautiful places in Colorado is Crested Butte. I was lucky enough to be able to ride from CB to Aspen about a month before the race came to town. The USPCC would be racing in the opposite direction that I traveled. Kebler Pass is amazing. It’s a dirt road that winds through huge aspen tree groves with a valley floor filled with gigantic ferns. I’ve never seen another place like it in Colorado. I rode it when it was dry. The race came through amidst a thunderstorm that included heavy rain, hail, and much lightning. It was incredible to be in the forest, just the two of us, when the race rolled through. I got so excited! It’s like I was a kid again. The racers looked miserable as it was in the high 40’s and they were soaked and racing on muddy roads. What incredible conditions! I was so pumped that I temporarily forgot that we still had to ride 20+ miles back to the van in these same conditions.
My heart sank a bit, not for me, but for my wife. Riding when wet and cold is bad enough, but then you throw in muddy roads and unsure weather conditions and things get real, quick. Before the entire race even passed through I said, “we need to get out of here!” These were in my top 5 worst conditions I’ve ridden in book. It was cold and getting colder, and the rain was just about to soak through our clothing. Ann and I jumped on our bikes and headed towards the van, against the race. Any other circumstance and I would have never done this. These guys deserve the respect of the entire road. As we soldiered on, Colorado State Troopers and race officials yelled at us to get off the road. I didn’t listen.
I could see in the eyes of the riders that they were in survival mode. They had raced almost 100 miles and then got hit with this. They looked miserable! I just concentrated on moving forward and staying out of their way. After about 15 minutes of riding, the clouds started break and the sun emerged. By the time we got back to the Sprinter van, our bikes and bodies were covered in the dirty aftermath of Stage 2. I gained some real respect for those guys that day.
I’m so glad that Ann and I got to experience something like that together, but hope that we never have to again.