On the Road: Cliffs, canyons and plateaus
September 28, 2005
For the novice road cyclist – including those with Tour de France ambitions – knowing the ride ahead is a critical factor for peak performance. Lance Armstrong knew what to expect before he started a leg of the Tour – distance, the climbs, the cruises, etc. – and so should you before embarking on a ride.Take the Monument ride for instance. It begins in the southwest corner of Grand Junction and climbs steeply for about four miles into Colorado National Monument, a federally protected area with good roads and even better views. For the better part of the first 10 miles, it’s a climb.But it’s a helluva climb, into some of the most beautiful cliffs, canyons and plateaus on the Western Slope. Fresh legs and a light bike combined with that fantastic scenery mask the steepness and length of that initial climb. And then it’s flat or downhill for the next five miles or so. An easy cruise, with few worries and even fewer cars.After a stop for water, the view and a little history at the visitor center, the road begins winding steeply down toward (roughly) Fruita. High speed. Big fun.It is at the exit from the park that the inexperienced novice can get into trouble. The terrain switches from stunningly beautiful wildlands to common Western subdivision, after subdivision, after subdivision. And the tilt in the road shifts from steep down to slight up, for mile after mile (around 10 miles in all).Without proper preparation, or at least a warning, the inexperienced novice may find himself wearing down – even petering out – about seven miles into the 10-mile ride back to the Grand Junction entrance. That would be a shame, because the ride back isn’t the most memorable leg. When it comes to memory, misery tends to trump pleasure, and that’s the last thing anyone wants, especially after a great ride through the Colorado National Monument. But if the inexperienced novice is ready for the hills to be a little steeper than expected and the ride to be a little longer than hoped, all will be well.