No rest for the rookies on 2nd Ride the Rockies leg | AspenTimes.com
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No rest for the rookies on 2nd Ride the Rockies leg

Editor’s note: Scott Condon, a rookie at Ride the Rockies, will file stories from along the route, assuming he survives.

I had been over Lizard Head Pass once before – during a blizzard on Christmas night 1984. Yesterday’s return as a cyclist on Ride the Rockies wasn’t much better. There was drizzle, thunder and lightning.

I think I’ll pass on that pass.

Monday’s ride was pegged as the toughest of this year’s 437-mile, seven-day trip. It’s easy to see why. The total day’s ride was 77 miles, but the first 62 miles were a slow, steady, uphill grind.

Nevertheless, all went well until I left the charming little town of Rico about 12 miles from Lizard Head’s summit. From there out, the last 27 miles of the ride featured drizzle that occasionally intensified into rain. Oh, there was also a dog that was apparently so freaked out over having so many cyclists to bark at, it just gave up and sprinted down the road.

In good weather, Lizard Head wouldn’t be all that tough. Compared to Independence Pass, for example, it’s a piece of cake. The 2,000 sanctioned riders and hundreds of bandits spilled out of Cortez anywhere from about 6 a.m. until mid-morning. The climb took us from 6,100 feet to Lizard Head’s summit at about 10,300. Independence, in contrast climbs 4,000 vertical feet in about 20 miles.

The lousy dose of weather was all but forgotten, however, by the time we pulled into Telluride, undoubtedly my personal highlight among towns on the tour. I was thrilled to find it’s as great as several friends bragged. One look at the funky main drag made me think that’s what I missed out on by moving to Aspen too late.

By late afternoon, my goal was merely to stay awake long enough to enjoy Telluride, no easy task given our early start. My riding partner, Gil, and I camped out in Cortez, along with several hundred other folks. We were in the middle of a tent village erected on the high school’s practice football field.

The crowd, surprisingly, mellowed out by about 9:30 p.m., and falling asleep wasn’t as difficult as I feared. But by 5 a.m. – yes that’s 5 a.m. – came the opening salvos of a sound that will haunt me well after the ride ends in Colorado Springs Saturday.

By 5 a.m. came the first zzzzips of tent zippers. Then, as if on cue, scores of zippers followed. Then came the voices of bikers discussing the ride ahead, coordinating their morning’s activities and the sounds of tents being broken down.

Gil and I refused to budge for the first hour. But by 6:15 a.m. our resistance was futile. Tent village was like a beehive.

The early risers surprised us for a couple of reasons – first, these people are allegedly on vacation and, second, they need their sleep.

Gil and I, both Ride the Rockies rookies, or virgins as we’re called, noticed the crowd tended to be older. No average age is available, but let’s put it this way – at 37 (with a birthday today) I don’t feel old on Ride the Rockies.

That’s not to say there aren’t good riders. There are – lots of them.

They might be even better with a little advance planning by The Denver Post and News4, the ride sponsors. Along with the bagel and bananas they pass out at the morning aid station, maybe they ought to add Geritol and Centrum Silver to the mix.

The way I felt last evening, a little Geritol cocktail could do me well.


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