2021 Trans Am Bike Race Day 14 Report
Saturday June 19, 2021: Out the door just after 5am, the leftover Chinese food that I’d just inhaled for breakfast already creaking in the belly.
Stay where you are Chinese food – I don’t want to hear from you until the appropriate time and place….
Like an apprentice Cowboy (an extremely apt analogy given the neighborhood) I gingerly remounted my bike to commence the last day of the second week of the race. A little more pep in the ginger this morning, as had increasingly been the case over the last few days. The to be expected general arse tenderness from over 3,000 kilometres in the saddle was now merging into a more acute and worrying pain. Saddle sores! I’d been in denial, mostly due to the fact that I’d never dealt with the damn things before, but that would have to change. The pain was real and made the first 30 minutes of riding following some time off the bike extremely uncomfortable until mind could once again trump matter.
My hotel was on the far side of town so with a minimum of fuss the old gold mining town of Fairplay was soon behind me and I was out amongst rolling farmland. Cowboy Country. The South Park.
The South Park, as in the largest and southernmost of the three similarly named high altitude basins in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, the first two of which, North Park and Middle Park I had pedaled through over the last couple of days.
…but also South Park as in the TV show – Stan, Kyle, Eric and Kenny territory. In fact, Fairplay is the visual basis for the fictional town of South Park.
In the above Gif, the role of Cartman is played by yours truly and that of Kyle by Alan Murphy. A bit of a “racing rhythm” had been established between myself and Alan over the last few days – I would start my day relatively early and pull stumps at a “sensible” hour while Alan would “sleep in” and ride hard man hours into the late night, inevitably catching up.
Which tactics would prevail I wonder?
The early going was relatively quick which made my tender derriere a little easier to deal with. The road flattish to trending downhill, past herds of the most curious cows I have ever seen. Stoned or maybe frequent customers of the South Park Plane-arium perhaps?
I passed through the tiny town of Hartsel, known as “The Heart of Colorado” due to its close proximity to the geographic centre of the state, just after 6am. The route then trends upwards for the next 20ks and then downwards for the next 65 to Canon City, the later section providing plentiful opportunities to whoop it up. Gloriously fast sweep bends and spectacular scenery. You definitely get the impression that you are on the exit ramp from the Rockies.
I rolled into the large town of Canon City at around 9:30am and made my way to the same large Exxon gas station and convenience store that I had stopped at in 2017 – same day of the race actually but about 5 hours earlier. The summer tourist season was very obviously in full swing, the gas station forecourt a hive of activity. This part of the world is a mecca for white water rafters, hikers and fossil hunters, plenty of whom were already out and about on this warm Saturday morning.
Speaking of warm, the heat of the day was already starting to kick in. It felt like it was going to be another hot one. Definitely not a resupply to cock up as the next opportunity wouldn’t be until Pueblo, a tough 80ks up the road.
I bought up what I thought I needed although to be fair it ain’t really possible to carry enough water to healthily satiate 4+ hours of hard slog in 35+ degree Celcius heat – these rides really are an exercise in dehydration damage minimization.
I stood out the front of the gas station for a while stuffing icecream and Coke in my face, studying my route notes….
Mmmmm….heading out into the high plains of Eastern Colorado now. Tough riding in the heat and inevitable southerly winds. 115ks banked. 80ks to Pueblo for lunch. Another 80ks to Ordway and a further 100ks to Eads, the halfway point of the Trans Am trail. Eads would make it a 375k day which is way above my pay grade so either a hotel room in Ordway or a roadside bivy somewhere west of Eads is a bit of me.
So a minimum of 16oks to bang out.
To stoke the motivation I checked Trackleaders. Hunter, who I must have passed sometime this morning was 20ks out of Canon City and Alan was 20ks further back.
Game on boys!
There was another dot close by that I was about to pass but with absolutely no satisfaction. That of De’Anna Caliguri. I’d texted with her last night after seeing on the race Facebook page that she was unwell. Unwell is right – she was actually in a hospital in Colorado Springs with a suspected case of Pneumonia! She had dealt with symptoms for a few days but had heroically pushed on to the point where pushing on was not an option.
So much heart. So much determination. So much stubbornness.
She’ll be back – keep an eye on her flying dot this year!
As expected the next 80ks to Pueblo was tough…..very tough. A hot, windy affair that I really couldn’t be arsed going into too much detail describing, suffice to say it was with significant relief that I finally rolled into the outskirts of the very large town (it must be close to the largest on route??) situated on the Arkansas River.
I was fried, a little dazed and confused and actually got quite waylaid on the one way road system that bisects City Park. I needed cold drinks and shade tout freakin’ suite. I spied a 7Eleven opposite a small corner park. It was not the fast food chain restaurant that my subconscious told me I needed but it would suffice for calories and cold drinks. I grabbed what I needed and headed across to the park to consume and chill for a while.
In between mouthfuls I checked my phone. A message from Alan:
I was tempted, very tempted, not by the generous offer of a free meal but more by the company. I am very much the introvert and love the solitariness of these races but the loneliness was really starting to kick in.
I was racing damn it! There would be no decision to be made if Alan had been minutes behind me but upon checking Trackleaders it looked like he was at least an hour from Pueblo. I was setting my alarm for stupid o’lock for a reason. One hour waiting would become at least another 1 hour eating a meal and should the inevitable beer or 2 be thrown in……..au revoir the big day in the saddle that I was hell bent on achieving.
Nah……I’d stick to the plan. I texted Alan back and then booked a hotel room in Ordway. There were signs of a storm brewing and I didn’t particularly want to be caught out bivying in it.
It was a well needed break but after 45 minutes I was antsy to get back into it. I hadn’t been thinking clearly earlier at the 7Eleven and had purchased nowhere near enough supplies to last the 8oks to Ordway. I just wanted to get moving so packed up and got going, pedaling towards the centre of Pueblo with the aim of stopping at a gas station on the far side of town. Being familiar with the route I knew there would be options. As I did so the wind started picking up big time, buffering me from the south – ominous, dark clouds looming and heading my way. I could literally feel the atmospheric pressure dropping.
Right on cue my phone stared bleating with National Weather service warnings – “SEVERE WEATHWER ALERT: THUNDERSTORMS”. Nothing to scoff at in this spart of the world – Tornadoes are a distinct possibility.
I had to make a quick call. Shall I stay in Pueblo and wait for the storm to pass or crack on?
Despite the buffeting winds the actual storm looked quite a ways off to the south. It’ll no doubt hit at some point but I could waste hours for it to do so.
Fuck it…..I’ll crack on.
I stopped at a gas station, hurriedly got what I needed and resumed my race against the storm. I was amped with adrenaline now and started smashing the pedals as I headed out of Pueblo on the multi laned and busy Highway 50 Bypass, praying that I wouldn’t get a flat due to all crap on the road shoulder.
It was a really frenetic 15k stretch before the route finally takes leave of the very fast moving traffic and joins the comparatively quiet State Route 96. Here then commenced an at times full throttled 3 hour race against the storm, which I triumphed at that freakin’ goodness. A few rain squalls and intimidating lighting strikes but I pulled up at the Stanley Kubrick’esque Ordway Hotel, relatively unscathed, just before 6:30pm.
I checked in and was politely informed by the hotel proprietor of the “no bikes in room rule” which was a right royal pain in the arse given that bike = suitcase but there was absolutely no point arguing the point……c’est la vie and besides I was quite disarmed by his friendly nature.
Before taking leave of my bike I got directions to the local truckstop and pedaled off to grab some dinner. Outrunning a storm had somehow cleared my mind and I sensibly purchased what I thought would be enough food to cover me not only for dinner and breakfast but also for a significant chunk of the next days riding. There is very limited services out here in Eastern Colorado into Western Kansas and even less so on a Sunday. Realistically the first services guaranteed to be open would not be until a 24hr gas station in Tribune, Kansas, 200ks down the road!
I bought up big, including a large can of beer – I was proud of the days effort – and rode back to the hotel, past the weed shop, where I stopped to take a photo. It was open and I was tempted……..kidding…….one large can of beer would be more than enough to toast the days play. Back at the hotel I chatted with the proprietor, whilst he showed me where to store my bike. He had grown up here, moved away for decades and then returned to run the hotel in his retirement. The town was once a thriving agricultural hub, particularly cantaloupe and sugar beets which flourished with the aid of irrigation from the nearby Arkansas River fed Lake Meredith. However the county sold its water rights for a quick buck to fuel the growth of Pueblo and Colorado Springs, and with years of subsequent drought agriculture was decimated. The legalization of Cannabis in Colorado for medical use in 2000 and recreational use in 2012 in combination with a burgeoning private prison industry in the county was breathing life back into town.
I was not happy with where I had to store my bike – around the corner from the hotel, at the back of a building under a stair well, but again, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I had to bite my tongue though.
Back in my room, I showered, ate dinner, savored the relaxing effects of the beer and organised everything, ready for a very early departure. The plan was to get going in the 2am bracket to get a head start on the inevitable cross winds, memories of which were still well and truly embedded from 2017.
The Day According to Strava
There are 2 Strava files due to my Garmin having a moment early in the day: