I have a strained tendon which gave me some trouble on last week's ride to Madison. I've been off the bike all week, and am hoping that it won't be a problem today.
The parking lot is filling rapidly as thousands of riders gather. After picking up our registration packets, we head back to unload the bikes.
The Colorado State Patrol is on hand and ready to ride with us - a comforting sight.
Also on hand are other volunteers who will follow the route on motorcycle, keeping a helpful eye on both riders and traffic.
Lizard and Snowcatcher unload the bikes and begin applying numbers. Each rider will wear an identifying wristband and an assigned number on his/her back and bike.
Tallulah keeps an eye on things...
...and gets a little number of her own.
Ready to ride!
Cyclists gather at the start as the top fundraising teams are sent out first.
A shoo-in for the Most Interesting Bike award:
Some blogger takes my photo just as I'm snapping hers.... ;)
Beflagged recumbents on their way out of the gate:
Now it's our turn - and we're off!
We ride through town and out into open country, where the Colorado views are unbeatable.
This rider has MS - notice he's pedalling with his hands. He's a member of the Sugarbees team (hence the large bee decoration on his pack).
Still smiling with about 65 miles to go.
It's a stunningly beautiful day - fresh and cool and breezy.
A balloon race is taking place, and we ride right through it.
|Photo courtesy of Snowcatcher (thanks Deb!)|
Bike MS is an extremely well-supported ride. There's a rest stop every 10-12 miles, and each one has plenty of food, drinks, bathrooms, sunscreen, a medical tent, and bike support.
The fruit at the first rest stop looks wonderful ... and I must say those plums taste divine.
In addition to the riders, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of volunteers who line the route to cheer on the riders with cowbells and flags and shouts of encouragement.
This is Yolanda, Snowcatcher's coworker, and one of the ride volunteers:
Yolanda (who has MS) thanks us. This is something we will hear all day long, from volunteers and other riders: "Thank you for riding!" It's very touching and extremely humbling.
I pass a rare barn (and of course have to snap it):
Now that we've found our pace, we tend to pass (and be passed by) the same riders all day. This recumbent is one of them:
I like the clear-cut shadows cast by the bikes.
We've been riding through gently rolling hills, and now pass a rocky outcrop which adds interest to the terrain:
A long white fence makes me think of horses:
At about 43 miles, we stop for lunch. Bikes are laid down wherever there's room...
...and we head into the tent for replenishment.
Each rest stop is sponsored and staffed by one of the top teams riding in the event. Today's excellent lunch is provided by the Sugarbees. On the table are couscous with fresh tomatoes and basil, sandwiches and wraps, chips, cookies, and drinks. (Yes, that's a lot of carbs - but we need them right now.)
The lunch tent is packed, and the noise level is deafening. A good time is being had by all. :)
|Photo courtesy of Snowcatcher|
After lunch, a short wait in the biffy line:
Then we're back on the road and headed into the hills as the real climbing begins.
The day is heating up nicely, and the sun beats down on riders and turtles alike. Tallulah is keeping cool and comfortable in her sheltered basket (while I do all the real work):
|Can you spot the turtle?|
Rugged red outcrops enliven the view as we climb further into the hills.
The road curves and winds through some beautiful country (oh how I wish Mr. M could see it). We turn a corner and find ourselves crossing a river which flows out of a stunning rocky gorge to our left...
...then away down the hill to our right.
The bridge is a good spot for another photo break:
|Snowcatcher waits while I take photos|
|Sweaty but still smiling|
A few miles on, a valley opens out with the refreshing view of water:
The steepest climbs are still ahead, but there's a breeze to keep us comfortable, and views that make it all worthwhile:
Rest stop #5 is famous for its sno-cones (which really hit the spot after the climbing we've been doing):
We've completed 57.7 miles, and have a few climbs yet to accomplish before we head back down the hill. An elevation map is posted at the entrance to the sno-cone tent:
I had no idea we'd be climbing this much (can't believe my little Wisconsin hills have gotten me ready for this, but somehow they have!). The altitude hasn't been a problem either - a great relief to me (and my lungs).
An accident has taken place somewhere down the road, so a huge group of riders is being held up at this rest stop. Cyclists line up to be released in small groups:
Our turn comes, and we head out once more on the final leg of our journey. The hardest climb is still ahead of us, but the scenery continues to be lovely and inspiring...
After a long, hot, determination-testing climb, we fly down a tooth-clenching descent (I am scared of going downhill fast). Then a shorter climb, and we reach the outlook over Horsetooth Reservoir - a good time to stop and catch our breath before the final exciting descent into Fort Collins.
|Snowcatcher with Horsetooth Reservoir in the background|
Somewhere on that last descent, Tallulah has lost her helmet. But she doesn't seem to mind, and enjoys the view with the rest of us.
Having caught our breath, we get back into the saddle for the fast downhill run to Fort Collins and the end of our first day's riding. Just as we set off, a butterfly flies across the road and lands on my jersey, but I'm going too fast to do anything about it.
We blaze past Horsetooth Reservoir...
...and are soon at the base of the hills and riding across the town of Fort Collins towards the finish line.
My hitchhiker is still holding on tightly to my jersey:
We pass the Dog Tire-d team, whose tails are still waving proudly:
Soon we're caught up in a large, straggling group of cyclists who have slowed down for the final few miles. Tired of getting stuck at every red light, Deb and I kick it up a gear and pass the entire group, finishing the last two miles at a very good pace indeed.
We enter the grounds of Colorado State University (Fort Collins), and soon the finish line is in sight:
We've done it! 73 miles of lovely Colorado riding, and my longest ride ever.
Our bikes, with thousands of others, are parked and left to spend the night on campus. (Saddles are covered with plastic bags for protection from the rain which is forecast later.)
We take a shuttle to our hotel. After checking-in and showering, we head out on foot to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner.
What do you eat after riding 73 miles?
Pasta, of course. :)
I think we earned it.
A very good ride for a very good cause.
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My strained tendon has been uncomfortable, but not unbearable - lots of stretching and plenty of fluids have kept me going. I have a horribly raw spot from contact with the saddle - it rasps against my clothing whenever I move and is amazingly tender. These two things, when combined with the thought of the descents we'll face on the morrow's ride, make me wonder if I should opt for the shorter 60-mile route on Sunday the 30th. The weather forecast is also questionable.
We finish our excellent dinner and stagger back to the hotel, yawning with fatigue. (At least I'm yawning.) We're keeping our options open for the morning.
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Many thanks for all the sweet comments and good wishes left on my last post. They seem to have worked. :)
A Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans!
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