I wake up and look at the clock. It’s 5:56 a.m.
“Rose get up, I’m going to be late,” I yell to my wife. We’ve both overslept. I’ve got to get dressed and get to the start line.
The ride is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. I need to eat breakfast.
“Where are my shorts?” I yell.
Rose is laughing.
“Why the hell is the dog in here?”
I’m under the dining room table.
“Hey, I’ve been looking for that belt.”
I wake up — for real this time — in the hotel in Longmont. My head is sweating due to the polyester pillow. The hotel thought it was a good idea to supply a giant, heat-inducing pillow-style comforter … no sheets. A comforter makes perfect sense in the middle of August.
Not a good night sleep. That wasn’t expected. I get up at 4:30 a.m. Eat a sensible breakfast, got to put some fuel in the tank for the big day. I’m a 47-year-old diabetic about to ride 100 miles in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on an 18-year-old mountain bike.
Cut to the starting line … I’m chatting with my fellow Tour de Cure riders. I’m encountering some skepticism. One of the riders asks me if I’m going to ride the century. I’m thinking, “No, I’m just out here before the sun rises to cheer you guys on.” Another guy sort of gives me the once over. He looks down at what I can only assume are my calves. I wondering if this is typical cycling etiquette. I’m slightly uncomfortable. I flex my calf, as if to say, “Hey, cycling stranger, I belong here, look at how my calf nicely separates into sexy sections of perfectly proportioned muscles.”
But before I knew it we were underway. I have to tell you that the first 50 miles were a breeze. Simply beautiful. Actually, I tried my best to not to expend any energy the first 25 miles. I tried to keep the bike in a gear where I barely even had to pedal, all while pushing forward in a pleasing speed.
Somebody said to me knowingly, “Hey, 100 miles on a mountain bike. Dude.” He gives me thumbs up. Another guy says, “I’m going to be wanting all those gears when we get to the switchbacks.”
At the end of the first 25 miles, we head up to the reservoir, Carter Lake. Last year, this was the section that scared me. This year, not a problem, I rolled up that hill and around the lake, then down the giant descent with the sign of the runaway truck indicating a severe downhill grade.
Instead of turning right for the 62-mile course like last year, we Centurians turned left. I noted the mileage. We were at the 27-mile mark. I noted the time. We were two hours into the ride. That’s when the 23-mile ascent began, 3,000-feet of elevation gain. We rode into the Big Thompson Canyon with Big Thompson River winding left and right and up alongside the road. It was just beautiful. The incline wasn’t that bad. I was enjoying myself, keeping up with the group and feeling strong.
It really was eye-popping scenery, but in the back of my mind I was riding cautiously concerned with what was coming up soon on the course, a “killer hill,” a real “lung buster.” Something someone called “a wall in the road.”
I stopped at both aid stations as we headed towards Glen Haven and “the switchbacks.” I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I had planned to eat that sandwich in Estes Park, but this ascent was longer than I expected. We were three-and-a-half hours into the ride.
I asked around for advice from the veterans. “Any advice for this next bit?”
“Just don’t try to go too fast. We still have a lot of road to ride.”
No chance of that, I thought, I’m just going to go slow.
I fill up my water bottles and say to the volunteer, “Well, I don’t think I can stretch this rest stop any longer, I better get going.”
I get back on the road and head up a hill. I see a sign for an upcoming photo station, but one of my fellow riders is pedaling right next to me. I decide that it’s very important for me to pass this person — create some space between riders — so my photo is a photo of just me. Mission accomplished. I smile for the photographer.
It would be the last time I would smile during the 2010 Tour de Cure.
I turn the corner and see several riders stopped in their tracks at the side of the Devil’s Gulch Road.
They are standing there gawking at a giant wall in the road.
To be continued.