Trans Am Bike Race Day 13 Report
Thursday June 15, 2017: I awoke at around 6:30 am keen to crack on into Colorado, the 5th of the 10 states that the Trans Am route meanders across. My mind was keen but my body not so much. No pain but just a general malaise that made packing up all my gear take a lot longer than it should have. I was finally out the door over an hour later, dropped my room key at reception, had a quick chat with JJ who was tucking into breakfast (I’d been wondering where he had got to the previous day) and headed out onto Main Street, under a bright, cloudless Northern Coloradoan sky.
I was on the bike at 7:43 am a lot later than I would have liked and I felt rushed. This feeling of being in a hurry, a kind of omnipresent vigilance, (I gotta do something, I gotta be somewhere), would be a constant companion the whole race and indeed for quite a while after it. The legend Mike Hall talked about the feeling of being chased in these ultra-endurance races and that would spur him on to his incredible feats. Now I was far far away from having the whole Trans Am field on my tail (about 5 days to be exact) but the racing element was definitely pushing me on. There was also, of course the need to simply get the race done in as timely a manner as possible, moreso relevant to us slower riders. My all suffering wife and kids would have been none too happy if I was trending to a finishing time north of 30 days for example.
Real Men Do Cry
There were no services on route for the 100 kilometres from Walden to Hot Sulphur Springs and about an hour into the days cycling I began thinking that maybe I had let my desire to get going trump common sense. Maybe I should have joined JJ and had a decent breakfast rather than relying on a leftover gas station burrito and half a food pouch of M&Ms and gummies.
I’ve already described that my body was below par that morning, well it was getting worse. It was a bizarre feeling actually. A deep fatigue that extended from my legs to my whole body. I also had quite a heaviness in my lungs that even my asthma medication wasn’t alleviating. I had no idea what was up; maybe I was undernourished or dehydrated or maybe even just plain tired from 11 days on the road. Who knew. Not wanting to waste any more energy worrying about it I just chalked it up to something related to the altitude. The Trans Am route had been at or above 2,000 metres for the last 5 days or so and was currently climbing up towards 3,000 metres.
I really was struggling in this second week of the race.
I rang my wife for some pity and for some words of encouragement. It was the first time I had proactively rung her to help fire me up but I really needed it. Despite frequent cell coverage interruptions, she set me right with a combination of humour; “You can do it!”
…. and soppy “we’re all proud of what you’re doing” type stuff. (I say soppy but it really was very special – love you gorgeous!)
Suffice to say I had a good cry, the first of my Trans Am…….It wouldn’t be the last.
The emotional release really helped and I was able to put my discomfort to the side and just concentrate on grinding my way up into the Arapaho National Forest.
Hot Sulphur Springs
Following an enjoyable (yes I was coming back to life) 30 odd kilometre descent on State Highway 125 the route then turned west onto US Route 30. At the intersection, I spied Martin Cox opposite in the Windy Gap Reservoir car park and picnic area and rode on over to say G’Day. We chatted briefly and I looked around for a water fountain to fill my depleted water bottles but to no avail.
The next 10 kilometres along US Route 30 to Hot Sulphur Springs were a tad sketchy due to a lot of vehicle traffic and an almost non existent hard shoulder. In actual fact a decent sized hard shoulder would be almost non existent for the rest of the Trans Am.
(At least Wyoming roads had a decent hard shoulder 😉 ……….albeit it a rippled strip and divot riddled one)
Rolling into Hot Sulphur Springs at about 12:10pm I was pretty damn keen to eat and drink. An outdoor burger joint looked pretty appetizing but it also looked like I would be in for quite a wait so I rolled on down Main Street. I couldn’t make my mind up where to stop and before I knew it I was rolling out of town. I needed food and made a quick decision to stop at a tourist gift shop which only had snacky type stuff but I just couldn’t be bothered riding back up the hill to look for “proper” food. Icecreams (yes plural), chips and Coke would have to do.
I kicked back on the shop balcony for a while enjoying the ice cream and watching the tourists come and go. I allowed myself 20 minutes to do that before topping up my water bottles with cold water (it was getting quite hot) and then resumed the days riding. I wanted to get up and over Hoosier Pass to Alma that day, another 150 kilometres away. Very doable with 100 kilometres already under the belt.
A Valuable Lesson Learned
The route out of Hot Sulphur Springs continued in a westerly direction on US Route 30 with the Colorado River in close proximity. It then turned south at Kremmling onto State Highway 9.
Just out of Kremmling I noticed a large temporary sign that read something along the lines of “Major Accident. Road Closed”. In denial, not wanting to even consider that it would affect me in any way I just rode on but as I crested the top of the next hill and saw police cars blocking the road I knew, with a sinking feeling that my Trans Am progress was to be interrupted.
I waited in line behind a few cars for my chance to speak with the policeman and he informed me that the road would most likely be closed for another 4 hours.
Faaaaaaaaaaarck! Take 2.
I was considering attempting to plea for some kind of special dispensation for Trans Am cyclists but before I could utter a word the policemen sternly informed me “There’s been a fatality!”
Ok, fair enough.
There was nothing more to do but to ride back to Kremmling to wait it out. As I was doing so I began to think about how bloody selfish I was. I was prepared to argue with a Policeman to try and convince him to let me continue my race when someone had bloody well died down the road. What made me or what I was doing so special for that to happen?
I was just on a bike ride for crying out loud! I had lost perspective and was perhaps taking the race too seriously.
Kremmling to Silverthorne
I waited out the road closure with John Richardson and JJ Simon at a gas station with a lot of other delayed motorists. We had no idea how we would find out when the road was reopened but luckily overheard a whitewater rafting tour guide telling his group to get back on the bus. The road had re-opened.
Only 90 minutes lost which over the course of the race was bugger all but it did mean that I would probably not get over Hoosier Pass that day. I didn’t particularly want to descend the highest point of the Trans Am in the dark.
Back on State Highway 9 I felt really good and put the hammer down. It was the best I had felt emotionally for a good few days and this seemed to spur me on. I reckon I had let those tough days in Wyoming get to me a bit.
Its only a bike ride…..its only a bike ride.
As if sensing my lightened mood, a good mate from London who actually got me into cycling 6 years earlier, Wilson gave me a call. It was great to hear from him and just talk crap for a while. His laughter and encouragement further fired me up.
Further up the road I came across Martin Cox again who was taking a break in the shade by the side of the road. It really was getting quite hot. We chatted briefly before I headed off. The route then took a nice little divert off the highway onto Country Road 30 which meanders around the southern shore of Green Mountain Reservoir.
I was getting into the business end of the Rockies and the scenery was taking a turn for the pretty damn nice.
As the old road rejoined the Highway I came across JJ and we rode the next 25 kilometres into Silverthorne together. Just out of town we came to the road works where the earlier fatality had occurred. A road worker who was controlling the flow of traffic with a stop and go sign informed us that it was, in fact, a fellow road worker who had been killed. He was still visibly shaken up so we asked no more questions and just assumed that the road worker must have been struck by a passing motorist. I have since found out via John Richarson that the poor chap was actually run over by a colleague operating heavy equipment.
Bike Paths, Near Misses and Pretty Mountain Towns
I was pretty dried out and we stopped at a gas station in Silverthorne where I topped up my water bottles and annihilated a large Coke and a Gatorade. The route then followed a rather intricate system of bike paths and my Garmin did remarkably well keeping us on track.
Silverthorne was a pretty little town, modern, well manicured with people salmon fishing pretty much in the centre of town in the Blue River. All framed by snowcapped peaks. I couldn’t help but hum the South Park Movie theme song:
There’s a bunch of birds in the sky,
And some deers just went running by,
Ohh, the snow’s pure and white on the Earth rich and brown,
Just another Sunday morning in my quiet mountain town!
The bike path continues out of Silverthorne and climbs via a series of switchbacks to the Dillon Reservoir Dam and then meanders around the eastern shore to Frisco. I couldn’t believe it when I saw sailboats out on the reservoir and then a large Marina. This part of the world pretty much catered to every possible outdoor activity. I vowed right then and there that I would be back.
It was on this stretch to Frisco that I almost crashed into a couple of cyclists coming the other way. I was filming using my GoPro and was concentrating more on that than on my position on the path which was pretty much on the wrong side of the centre line. I had barely a split second to react as 2 cyclists rounded an almost blind bend towards me, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision. We were approaching each other at pace too, close to 30 km/hr. It would not have been pretty.
How bloody stupid. My Trans Am Bike Race could well have ended right then and there.
Another Lesson Learned. Be more freaking careful!
JJ took his leave and went off looking for a campground on the Dillon Reservoir whilst my plan was to find a hotel in Breckenridge 15 kilometres further on, but as I rolled into the pretty little town of Frisco and saw signs for a BBQ food festival my plans immediately changed.
Unfortunately, it didn’t start until the next day but it was too late as I had already checked into a hotel. I henceforth pranced up and down Main street in my lycra and flip flops looking for alternative dinner arrangements, settling eventually on the worlds longest to prepare Take Away Pizza.
Day 13 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview from Relive:
2D overview from Strava:
- Distance = 210 km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 9 hours and 34 minutes
- Stopped Time = 2 hour and 31 minutes
- Elevation = 1,687 m
- Money Spent = $149 ($60 on food/drink, $89 on accommodation, $0 on bike maintenance/stuff)
Keep reading…..Day 14.