My opinion of how the previous five days had gone was:
- Really bad
- Pretty good
Leaving Kremmling at 4:00AM, I fully intended on my day being above average, if not stellar. I was done with mediocre and bad. I really needed something to spark my race back to life. I hit the Kum & Go for some things on my way out of town and headed off into the early morning darkness.
Not far after crossing the Colorado River, I found the road construction that I had heard about. Racers and touring cyclists had been talking about how rough the area was. Some had called it gravel grinding and others had said it was full on off-road. It wasn’t smooth, that’s for sure, but I wasn’t about to let it get me down. I had no wind and a full day ahead of me!
I made it passed the construction and soon found the turn to go around Green Mountain Reservoir. As with my other trips through the area, this one didn’t disappoint for views. The lake was really low compared to other times I had seen it, but the mountains around it are spectacular. I took it all in and soaked it up.
The sun came up shortly and with it, the wind started to blow. Ugh! More headwinds were in my future. I came off the lake road and back on the highway to busy traffic and a stiff breeze in my face. I kept my head down, stayed on the aero bars and kept rolling best I could.
Soon I started seeing cyclists on the other side of the rode. They were in an event of some sort- may have been Race the Rockies. There were literally hundreds of them along the way, all riding down hill from Dillon and with a tailwind. Many of them wanted to wave, but eventually, it was just too much for me. If I was to reciprocate I would have had to have my arm in the air wagging constantly. Before long, I was getting frustrated by them. I don’t have a logical explanation as to why, it just was. I tried to ignore them and just ride.
When I got to Dillon, I started looking for a place to get food and settled on a McDonald’s just a block or so off route. I ate a huge breakfast and got back to the road. Right away, the route becomes a bike path that takes you from Dillon to Frisco and then Breckenridge. Normally this path would be a nice serene ride along the Dillon Reservoir. Not that day! It just so happened that the route for the racers I had seen earlier was the same path. The path is plenty wide for bikes to go both directions, but many of the hundreds of riders were riding side by side, way too fast and super rude. About a half dozen times I had riders almost hit me despite their other racing friends continual cries of “RIDER UP!!!” as they passed me. Most weren’t paying attention. I was beyond frustrated.
In my sour mood, as I started the climb that goes up the dam, I soon saw chalk writing on the path in front of me.
GO Stephan GO!!!
GO Lael GO!!!!
GO Sarah GO!!!
Many of the top racers out in front had messages of encouragement drawn on the path. I found myself very jealous of those racers at that moment. As I rode on so frustrated with everything at that moment, I looked down just in time to see “GO Brian GO!!!” on the path….. WHAT?!?!? I did a big double take and emotion ran over me. Just then someone shouted my name. I looked up to see a man and his wife cheering me on!!! I was floored. They were from St Louis, in the area on vacation and wanted to make sure they came out to see me and Jason Kulma as we were “home town boys”. They gave me an apple and a water bottle and made my day. Sadly I can’t remember their names. It was such a special moment to me, I literally cried. To think that total strangers came out and cheered me on was just amazing. They probably will never know how much that meant, especially in that very moment when I was feeling the exhaustion and frustration of the race. Thank you!
With an uplifted mood, I rode on, still dodging the racers from the other direction, but with a bit less indignation. I made it to Frisco and continued on the path toward Breckenridge. Soon I saw Jason. He had camped near Green Mountain Reservoir and said he nearly froze! I was glad I made my choice to hotel in Kremmling. We chatted for just a bit and soon I was feeling the pull to go faster and rode on ahead. I still had big plans for the day and didn’t want to be encumbered by staying too close to anyone.
The ride to Breck was uneventful. When I got to town, I was specifically looking for a bike shop that I had stopped at the year before, as it is on the route. I found it quickly and went inside to buy two tubes and a new repair kit. Fully stocked up on repair items, I hit the road, stopping at a gas station for a super quick pit stop and supplies before leaving town.
Leaving Breckenridge in my rear view, I started the climb to Hoosier Pass, the highest point on the Trans Am and the last Rocky Mountain pass for East bounders. I attacked it with a vengeance, settling in with a big gear and eating the climb. Along the way, I passed Luke who had gotten by me riding through the night. I rode with a fierceness and intensity, digging deep in the well… probably too deep. In a 4300 mile race one should manage their resources. I wasn’t managing anything except competitive flame. I summited the pass right about noon. It was the first full day of my 44th year and I had never felt more fully alive. Mastering the mountain with nothing more than the power of my body and the will of my soul, I was now ready to descend from that peak and reclaim my race.
I descended the pass and made my way to Alma, where I grabbed some snacks at the general store. I then hit the road again, aiming to get out of elevation and well onto the prairie before I was done with my day.
The winds played a little havoc with me later on around Fairplay. It wasn’t a full-on headwind, but rather a quartering wind off my right side. I marched on and made good time to Hartsel. I had thought fully about what I would do when I got to Hartsel and stuck to my plan. First was a stop at the gas station for some select snacks and beverages, then quickly to the bar and grill for a big burger and fries. I got tripped up a little at the grill with some slow service, but overall I made it quick. Right before I left Hartsel, a check of Trackleaders showed Jason, Luke and Jimmy not far behind and closing.
Having had a very poor experience between Hartsel and Canon City last year, I was very focused on getting down out of the mountains before dark. I left Hartsel about 2:30PM with the hammer down and didn’t look back.
I got to Canon City about 6:00PM and was smoked. I had been riding hard for hours and it was hot down there!!! The heat was fine though as I had made it. Canon City is where I had DNF’ed the year before. Not this time!!! Finally I had put my demons from TABR15 to rest. I found a restaurant to get inside and cool off while eating. The food was sub-par at best, but served its purpose. I grabbed supplies before leaving town and rode off into the evening desert, happy to be out of the mountains and looking forward to what I planned to be my last Colorado sunset for the race.
I rode on in search of Wetmore and found it right about dark. I stopped for a nature break along the road and Jason caught me up. We rode on near each other for awhile, chatting off and on about the day.
In short order we were in Pueblo. Jason had plans to meet up with a Warmshowers host. I had no plan to stop. I had no interest in staying in Pueblo. Pueblo is the only place on the entire Trans Am where I have felt sketched out by my surroundings. It may just be me, but every time I have been there, I feel like I am seconds away from being mugged. I wanted to grab my stuff and go, so I did. I hit up a gas station, loaded up to the gills on supplies and rode on into the night, leaving the lights of the city behind me.
As I rode through the late evening, I was eating, drinking and watching the miles tick away. The further I went, the darker it got, until I was out in the remote areas of Eastern Colorado where the brightest lights are the stars. The road was merely a ribbon of dotted yellow paint on asphalt in front of me surrounded by my minuscule-in-comparison light shining a short ways out. My eyes got heavy and I started to fight sleep. I really had wanted to make a huge push, riding through the night to a sunrise in Kansas. With sleep looming, it didn’t look like that A goal for the day was going to happen.
In need of a place for a nature break, I found stockpile of rock chips along the side of the road. It seemed that the road would soon be receiving a new coat of chip-n-seal and this was the material for it. I went behind it for my business and afterward decided that the rock pile would make a great place to bivy. I climbed up on the pile of rock, rolled out my bivy and laid down. The sky was magnificent with billions of stars twinkling. It had been a monumental day for my race. I was out of the mountains, beyond where I had to stopped the year before and had made 240 miles on the day. That pleased me. I looked up in wonder at the big night sky, said a prayer of thanks and went to sleep.