I am loathe to admit it, but I needed the recovery ride on Day 4. As much as I thought I’d trained enough, the rides on Days 2 and 3 consecutively kicked my butt. Having a nice relaxing spin on Day 4 to rest the legs a bit and let everything have a chance to recover was very welcome.
With the rest day complete, it is time to talk about the biggest day of the week: 102 scheduled miles over Cottonwood Pass. We started the morning with a chilly departure from Crested Butte. The 17 miles down to Almont was a great warm up to get the legs in working shape and ready for the day. And Almont held the biggest attraction of the day: pancakes. Another wonderful thing about this ride is the Flippin Flap Jacks, which have become a staple nutrition source for me.
With a full belly, I headed up the Taylor River canyon toward the reservoir. Most of this stretch was a very gradual incline until you reach the Taylor Reservoir damn… sorry: dam. This wasn’t the longest climb of the week by any stretch of the imagination, but it included grades over 15%. Getting to the top of this climb, we were rewarded with views of the reservoir and the Sawatch Range. After a quick break for water and snacks, it was on to Cottonwood Pass. 14 miles of unpaved climbing.
Riding road bikes on dirt roads for such an extended distance provided its own challenges. But the view from the top of the pass was its own reward, including the obligatory pictures next to the National Forest Service sign showing the top of the pass. After so many miles of climbing, it was time for the descent and a little fun. The reward for doing all these big climbs are the big descents. Today was no exception with 20 miles of downhill from the pass into Buena Vista. The smile on my face coming down this hill would’ve taken a chisel to remove!
After a quick break for fresh water at the last aid station, it was time to finish things up. Unfortunately, with the long mileage and a bit of a late start, we were starting this last leg about 5:30 PM. As soon as we turned onto Highway 285, about mile 85, we encountered some brutal headwinds. I’ve double checked the map, and my Strava Biking app, both tell me this last 15 miles was downhill, but I’ve never had to climb so much on a descent. We did bike up a couple solo riders in this stretch and formed an impromptu paceline. With the 4 of us taking turns in the wind, we were able to keep a pretty good pace and get to the finish in good time. Not to mention making some new friends along the way. While my body is rejoicing in having the day over, my spirit is soaring at accomplishing so much in one day. Today was truly epic, on all accounts! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!