A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ride the Rockies 2017 Days 6-7: Montrose to Gunnison to Salida and the finish line!

The final two days of Ride the Rockies 2017 were a mix of easy cruising and tough climbing. The final day's climb over Monarch Pass (elev. 11,312') was the longest (and highest) of the ride, climbing nearly 3,000 feet in nine miles, but the 23 mile descent into Salida was truly all downhill and flew by. Just like that, my 10th RTR was over.

From left: me, Hankster, Jonny Rocker and Flip Flop Jenny.
Crossing the finish line is always bittersweet. The feeling of accomplishment is fulfilling. Then suddenly it sinks in. The ride is over. No more pain and suffering through long climbs. No more adrenaline rush screaming down the backside of a mountain pass at 45 mph. No more sitting at the local brewery telling tall tales of the day's ride. I will miss it all.

No more camp to set up or tear down, backpacks to carry to the truck, smelly port-a-potties or shower trucks. OK, some things I won't miss!
I met this guy on RTR a few years back and always look forward to seeing his smiling face. Somehow I managed to catch him here looking serious but you can still see the famous Hankster grin trying to some out!

Day 6: Montrose to Gunnison

The ride out of Montrose towards Cerro and Blue Mesa Summits was very typical. I have ridden this stretch of road three times and all I remember is the headwind blowing down the mountain. But my legs felt fresh from the recovery day ride from Ridgeway to Montrose and after we dropped into the Curecanti National Recreation Area we were greeted by a nice tailwind that blew us around Blue Mesa and up the Gunnison River to our destination.
At Blue Mesa Summit. From left: me, Jenny, Woody and Jonny.

Woody and I at the Bay of Chickens on Blue Mesa Reservoir -- an RTR tradition!

At an aid station. From left: Jenny, Kevin, Lea Anne, Jon, Julia, Don, Woody and me.

Enjoying some local brews at High Alpine Brewing Company. From left: Dennis, Lea Anne, Hankster, Woody and Jonny.

The Hankster at High Alpine Brewery. Best sign on the ride!

Jonny Rocker pours from the growler at the final campdown.

We met up with Team Bar2Bar members at High Alpine Brewing Company and enjoyed some artisanal pizza and local brews before heading to the school to set up camp. After cleaning up we headed back into town for dinner and ended up the night drinking buckets of PBR tall boys playing corn hole on the patio at Timbers (with a private band all to ourselves!).

Day 7: Gunnison to the Salida (and the finish line!)

The final day began with a nice, steady 1-2% grade climb up Tomichi Creek for 34 miles before beginning the climb over Monarch Pass. I did this climb on my first RTR in 2005. I remember being terrified by the elevation profile of this day. The climb is a steady, relentless 4-7% grade for nine miles. I struggled a little on the steepest parts. At 40+ pounds fully loaded, the Beef Bike is a beast!

Team Beef at the first aid station on the final day! From left: Kevin, Jonny, Dennis, Lea Anne and me.

At the summit on the final day. It's all downhill from here! From left: me, Woody, Jonny and Jenny.

This speed and elevation profile overlay tells the story of the final day's ride!

Dropping into my granny gear for tough sections I spun my way up the mountain. Reaching the summit of Monarch Pass marked the end of the climbing. Though we often say "it's downhill from here," I truly think we could have coasted without peddling the entire way. But peddling along at 30+ mph isn't hard work!

We made our final unofficial pit stop at Elevation Brewery in Poncha Springs, about 4 miles from the finish line. Grouping up there, our team coasted across the finish line. We hung around for the closing ceremony to thank the volunteers, staff and Colorado State Police for keeping us safe throughout the ride and making it possible to tour the rugged Rocky Mountains on a bicycle.

Then came the hugs and goodbyes and the end of another adventure. So now the inevitable question. What's next? Jonny Rocker and I plan to check out other weeklong rides around the country. Please leave a comment with your favorites!

With that, I will leave you with our team motto: Ride fast and take chances!


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