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- 37994 total / 8001 in 2013
RMCC Triple Crown in 2013
Joshua rode: After passing the tur...
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- 39 miles
- 02:33 time
- 15.2 pace
- 1550 calories
After passing the turnoff for the road up to Cottonwood Pass on the Denver to Aspen ride three weekends ago, I made a commitment to myself to do what would be a gem of a climb.
Rather than face a long seven hour drive back home the day after the Death Ride, I decided to split the drive into two days and stay at Buena Vista the first night. This morning the goal was to do the steady 19.5 mile climb from Buena Vista to the summit of Cottonwood Pass (at 12,136 feet, the 3rd highest paved road in the US) with over 4000 feet of ascent, then immediately descend back to Buena Vista, and finally drive home. It was well worth staying the night in a sleezy motel to get this beautiful climb in. Despite riding 225 miles two days earlier, I felt surprisingly strong. In fact, I have never climbed this well at this altitude even with the 10% sections over 10,000 feet. As you can see from the attached photos, the views at the top of the pass (which also marks the Continental Divide) are well worth the effort.
I didn't get a chance to say much about Sunday's Death Ride as WiFi access at my hotel was sketchy. Nevertheless, fellow clubmate Mark has provided a nice write-up of the route at http://coloradotriplecrown.blogspot.com/2011/12/colorado-death-ride.html. Here are my comments about the experience...
In short, this was by far the hardest one-day ride I have done easily eclipsing the 170km/108 mile Marmotte with 17,000 feet of climbing.
The 4100 foot climb from Ridgway to the top of Red Mountain Pass (at 11,000+ feet elevation) was my first experience doing a significant climb in the dark. Without a single vehicle on the road (except the occasional passing support vehicle), it was very tranquil and peaceful. It was around 40F/5C at the top; but I was prepared as I lugged a heavy jacket up the pass to keep me warm for the descent. (I was able to ditch the jacket and other winter kit at the first checkpoint in Silverton.) It was truly magnificent being able to descend the 10 miles into Silverton at full speed. My lighting system was adequate and thankfully I didn't encounter any deer or other wildlife. Riding over Molas and Coal Bank Pass as the sun gradually rose and the long descent into Durango were amazing.
I would say that I was riding, eating, and drinking well up to about the 128 mile mark at the checkpoint in Dolores. It was now mid-morning and the temperatures were nearing 85F/30C. The next 36 mile stage from Dolores to Rico was a very gradual uphill at a 2% average. Despite gaining some elevation, I still found it hot. I was having increasing difficulty digesting any solid food. At the checkpoint in Rico (with 165 miles in the legs), I was seriously doubting whether I could complete the remaining 60 miles which would include two more big climbs with most notably Lizard Head Pass at over 10,000 feet. I felt completely depleted. I had a few emergency gels which I downed; this got me to the top of Lizard Head (albeit at a crawling pace) at the 178 mile mark. Fortunately, one of the support vehicles was at the top of the pass and the young lady offered to fill my bottles and donate some gels which I graciously accepted. I had almost 20 miles of steep descending through Telluride and into Placerville for the gels to kick in. With 200 miles in the legs (and the longest I had ever ridden in a single day), I began the final climb up to the Dallas Divide summit. I couldn't believe it! The gels worked wonders, my energy levels were up, and I put in a decent effort on the climb. I made it! The last 10 miles from the Dallas Divide to the finish at Ridgway were blazingly fast averaging over 35 mph. Amazing!
My ride time was 13h58m and official time (including stops) was 15h02m. I was hoping for a sub 15h time. But this was a great learning experience. As I discovered, strategies that one would use for riding a century or even a 200k generally do not apply at the double century level. In preparation for the 200 mile Grand Loop ride at the end of the month (and the final stage of RMCC's Triple Crown), I plan to aggressively consume more energy in liquid and gel form over the second half of the ride. Let's bring it on!