Ideally each training cycle lasts three weeks, followed by a rest week. I often try to incorporate a ‘blowout’ ride at the end of each cycle. I have tried various methods with these rides, but I usually try to approach them somewhat rested so I can make the most of them. I had one such ride in 2010′s buildup, and three (one per month) in 2011. I’ve had little opportunity this spring for rides longer than about three hours, but I had an chance yesterday which coincided with the end of my Base 3 cycle.
I was scheduled to drop the baby off with the Grandparents somewhere halfway between our houses, so I set about looking at the map for some new roads. I eventually settled on a demanding loop featuring a lot of climbing. If you followed the ride on twitter, feel free to stop reading, but I’m going to post a few more pictures and tell a few stories that I couldn’t in 140 characters with spotty internet service.
The first climb of the day started right from the car. One reason this climb is so popular is its accessibility, both in terms of geography and gradient. It is right at the edge of the Denver metro area, and the grade is steep enough to be challenging to any rider, but gentle enough to be climbable at a moderate pace. I tried to keep the long ride ahead in mind and enjoyed the views on the ascent.
There is a key section of frontage road missing from the route at the Genesse exit, leaving the only option to ride the interstate. Luckily the road is flat/slightly downhill westbound, so the two miles are covered quickly. The shoulders are full lane width, so this section of interstate is easily rideable.
As I learned, Squaw Pass is one of the roads that seems to go on forever. The road is mostly in the forest as it winds along the side of a long ridge. The grade is steady at about 4% with only slight variation. I encountered minimal traffic and marginal pavement. The climb takes about an hour with a few opportunities for nice views of the continental divide and the Clear Creek valley and Idaho Springs below. I could see my next challenge in the distance: the mine tailings along Oh My God Road on the far side of the valley.
I was very excited to finally crest the unmarked summit after two and a half hours of constant climbing from 5,500 feet to 11,000 feet of elevation. Right about the time I got up to speed, I managed to hit a small rock in the road hiding in the shadows. BANG! It was a pretty good hit on a thumb sized rock. I only carry enough supplies to fix a single flat (a tube, lever, and CO2), and I thought I might be in for an adventure if I had just double flatted. Luckily I only lost pressure in the rear tire and was back on the road in five minutes.
Descent from Echo Lake
As I passed the still very frozen Echo Lake I nearly froze to death. The wind was whipping down from Mt Evans (14,265′) and across the ice on the lake. The descent was quick and I covered 12 miles of the descent averaging 37 mph.
At this point I was three hours into my ride. I had $10 stashed in my shoe. I stopped at a gas station to refill my bottles (I carry extra powdered gatorade in my pockets on extra long rides) and noticed $1 slices of pizza, so I got two. I gulped them down as I coasted down the street to a bike shop.
Mountain & Road Bicycle Repair is an eclectic shop with a friendly owner. He kindly sold me at $7.99 road tube for my remaining $7.84 and threw in a CO2 cartridge. I didn’t want to get caught out on my remaining 36 miles with a second flat, especially considering the 10 miles of dirt roads. We discussed my route and he reminded me of the City of Black Hawk’s Bike Ban enacted last summer. I said I was aware, thanked him, and headed off.
Oh My God Road
This isn’t the craziest road in Colorado, but it is steep, twisty, and exposed. I think most of its fame is due to its proximity to tourists and mining history nearby. The road averages 6.0% for 4.5 miles. The road surface was very loose with large gravel, and occasional bedrock and deep washboard. I had hoped to get the Strava record on this segment, so I set out a threshold pace. After about 10 minutes I could tell I was overly-enthusiastic, and after 20 minutes I was struggling with wet burps of pizza. I crested the summit and enjoyed my descent, which had a solid, polished clay road surface.
Black Hawk’s bike ban last summer garnered world wide publicity (ok, bike world wide), as the town banned bicycles on all city streets. The town can be traversed North/South on the US Highway 119, but there is no way to travel legally from Central City to Highway 119 by bicycle.
I crossed the town line, which displayed a rather unceremonious no bikes sign on a lightpole, posed above the speed limit. Honestly if I hadn’t read about the ban before I would probably think the sign was meant for the sidewalk upon which the pole sat, since banning bikes would be ludicrous. I made it the 500 yards without seeing any police, and made it through unscathed. However, the streets were busy with 5pm traffic and pedestrians, one of which shouted at me “You better not get caught!”
For the last climb, I was in pure survival mode. I’d eaten all my food (Two Clif Bars, two Shots, two Blocks, one Fruit Leather, two pieces of pizza, and four bottles of gatorade). To make matters worse, I was very unfamiliar with this part of the route. I knew it was ‘a few’ miles to the turn to Golden Gate Canyon, but it could have been 2… or 8. It was five miles until I found the sign pointing towards the car.
The descent down Golden Gate Canyon was incredible. I’ve never done it before and I must say the route is highly recommended. Except is isn’t all descent. For a normal ride this would serve to break up the monotony, but the five minute climbs really hurt. I tend to forget on longer rides that the ‘down time’ increases, so my 4.5 hour ride took 5 hours to ride, but 5.5 hours in total. As soon as I regained cell service in Golden I made sure to text my wife to let her know I was alive… if only barely.