07 July 2012 ~ 0 Comments

2012 Colorado High Country 1200km Grand Randonnée

Only 700 miles to go…

Above are the photos for my “long ride of the 2012 season.” It was the Colorado High Country Grand Randonnée (1200km or 750 miles in 3-1/2 days).

I was little apprehensive as my carbon fiber bike has developed some hairline fractures which I was worried about. It held together fine however. A new frame is coming (warranty replacement) but is not here yet. Also, my new/used titanium bike is not yet built up or I would consider taking it.

Day one (July 9th at 4:00 a.m.) started out with a very light drizzle as we left Louisville, heading north towards Laramie Wyoming. The temperature was fine, at about 50F as I recall. At about mile 47, Mark Thomas, who was riding right behind me, (current president of RUSA) made a rather memorable but short comment…“well only 700 miles to go!”

I stuck with the main group of riders and decided to try to stay near the front of the pack as we headed into the first checkpoint at mile 65 in LaPorte (Vern’s). Last year I got there a little late and got stuck waiting for restroom facilities. This year I got in and out and continued in a northerly direction. The rain had dissipated by then and it was getting warmer. As we started to climb I found myself with Foon Feldman and Bob Bruce near the very front of all the riders. There was one other rider up ahead, but out of site. We continued on through the checkpoint in Larmie and started the long, low-angle climb toward the base of the Snowy Range. As I was descending a roller my front tire flatted. I stopped to fix it and my both of my spare tubes leaked air, requiring me to patch one of them to continue on. I remember earlier in the day, in the darkness hitting some plastic debris. This tire has a small gash on the outside. Although it didn’t go all the way through the tire, I also booted it as a precaution. This tire was a brand new Conti 25mm 4000s.

While changing my flat, several other riders rode by and offered help, which I didn’t need. I finally got to Centennial Wyoming, at the base of the Snowy Range (best scenery of the whole trip). The next services were some 51 miles ahead including a long climb. Because of that I filled up my third water bottle that hung from my down tube. As I started the climb I passed 3 or 4 other riders but didn’t see any one else until I got to the other side of the mountain. I arrived at the overnight checkpoint in Saratoga, Wyoming (mile 220) at 7:15 p.m.

Day two began with a 1:50 a.m. departure. Bob Bruce and I rode together the whole day—well really, the balance of the ride. As the morning progressed we encountered a steady cross wind from the right. I ended up riding on the right side of the road with Bob to my left, providing some protection to him from this cold wind (I believe the temp was about 43F). I was wearing my rather skinny prescription glasses which provided little protection from the wind. My eyes, particularly my right eye was constantly watering because of the wind. Eventually I stopped and stuck some adhesive tape on the sides which helped very little. At times I had both eyes squinted trying to reduce the pain of the wind. As the sun finally rose, I was glad to switch to my prescription wrap-around sunglasses. At that point Foon Feldman, Dick Wiss and Vidas Placlakis joined us and we rode into Walden for a second breakfast or brunch. It was finally warming up. I had been a bit underdressed and it felt good to pause in the morning light at our host motel and eat a PBJ on a Blueberry bagel.

The five of us heading out of Walden and very shortly the pace quickened so Bob and I dropped off the back, waving off the other riders. We continued on as a team, but Bob was feeling kinda crappy so I did most of the pulling on Tuesday. After leaving Hayden we were both cursing the purpose of doing “mileage circles” just to get extra distance. The circle I speak of was 20-mile road, on the way to the town of Oak Creek. It had grades that seemed steeper than the long Snowy Range climb on day one. But due to recent fires and subsequent floods, the route was changed and we had to get more miles in to get to our minimum 1200 km. We finally arrived at the overnight checkpoint in Steamboat Springs at 6:45 p.m. I believe we were the 4th and 5th riders to arrive. We rode about 198 miles on Tuesday bringing the total to 418 miles thus far.

Day three began as four of us departed at 2:00 a.m. (Foon, Vidas, Bob & myself). We started early as we wanted to beat the heat on the Willow Creek Pass climb, later in the day. We made our way over Gore Pass just after sunrise. It had been a cold ride to that point, but with a cloudless morning, we began to warm up. Everything went according to plan and we arrived in Klemming at the Merc which has a great deli and grocery store. We had an early brunch and continued on our way. I was dragging and although I took a few turns pulling, they were short. Despite my slow pace, the three others stuck with me and we worked as a group of four. I really appreciated their patience in backing off the pace so I could hang with them. People say randonneuring is about comradeship. To date, I don’t recall seeing it to the degree that these three partners exhibited on this ride. Despite my slowness we made our way up and over Willow Creek Pass (John Lee Ellis, the RBA was on top to greet us and provide water) and arrive in a timely manner in Walden, our final overnight stop. We arrived at 4:50 p.m. with plenty of time to eat and get organized for the next day. Excepting one other cyclist, our group was the first to arrive at this checkpoint. Having only had about three hours sleep the last several nights I was very tired. After supper I prepared to sleep. I set the alarm on my cell phone. It said “alarm to go off in 7 hours and 23 minutes.” Wow, seven hours of sleep. I don’t recall ever getting that much sleep on a 1200km. NICE! With 181 miles done for the day, our total was now 599 miles, leaving “only” 148 miles left on day four.

Day four began with a 2:00 a.m. alarm and a 3:00 a.m. departure. We didn’t want to leave too early, as we would miss the scenery on Cameron Pass (10,276 ft). Our timing was perfect as we arrived near the pass about a half hour after sunrise. It was a cool descent, but I brought extra clothing making it survivable. I also braked more on the upper part to keep from freezing. We made our way to the bottom of the canyon, once again working as a group on the gradual downhills drafting one another. We passed several others that left earlier that morning. That is the power in organized group riding (+ youthfulness). We stopped for a sit down breakfast at Vern’s at the base of the canyon. We then continued on towards Louisville finish, stopping only once in Hygiene for fluids. We finally arrived at the finish at 1:43 p.m. We were preceded by only two other riders and were greeted by several volunteers. I was a also surprised to be have several of my grandchildren (who are living in the Denver metro area) there to offer their support!

Many thanks to all the volunteers and for their sleepless nights helping us to the finish. The food was wonderful at each of the overnights. The weather was nearly flawless and this ride had very DNFs, compared to last year.

Gear tested for my roadie gear site, DistanceBiker.com:
> eoGEAR RandoBag 8.0 liter saddlebag
> CygoLite 740 Turbo Xtra lighting system (during this ride, I determined in a side-by-side test, that the medium brightness setting of the 740 was as bright as a Schmidt dynamo and Edelux cruising at about 15 MPH).
> A prototype for a new reflective ankle-band that holds a blinky on your leg..the eoGEAR “leg-0-light!”

Total time: 81:43
Total mileage: 747
Average traveling speed: 15.2 MPH
Cumulative elevation gain (Ride With GPS): 28,000 (approx.)
Riding time: 49:18
Sleeping time (3 nights): 13.5 hours (approx.)

~ Richard

P.S. Except as noted, all photos are Copyright 2012, Richard Stum

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