Monday, June 29, 2009

BTC-Day 6

Saturday was the last day of the 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado and the saved the best for last. That's if you consider 103 miles of headwind and Independence Pass (at just over 12,000 feet) fun.

The departure from Buena Vista was set for our grout at 7:30am, since the distance was going to take a while, but nobody prepared for the wind. Dad was quickly on his own, off the back and even my best attempt to bring him back were not enough, so he made the smart decision to get in the car and drive to the base of the climb. Dave, Teve and I continued on. It was probably toll of a week of hard riding, but my body wasn't feeling up to the task and once my mind began wondering, I knew things could deteriorate in a hurry, so I broke the ride down in parts.

Trying to drag dad back to the group

First part was to make it to the first rest stop, but that took longer than I thought, because of the aforementioned head wind. A quick stop to have some watermelon, PB&J sandwiches and water and off we went again, this time just me and Dave, since Teve had flatted a while back.

Rolling through the valley, Independence Pass looked mighty and the trees gave us a little break from the wind, but the gradient then took over to continue the punishment. As cars, motorcycles and U-Haul trucks passed us, their size became smaller and smaller the higher they went, and looking up to see the road carve the mountain would send chills down my spine.

Independence Pass

About two hours later, and with a heavy dose of Safri Duo and AC/DC blarring from the Ipod, I conquered Independece Pass for the second time. The snow was still at the top, although it was dirty. No time to snap pictures or hang around to see the view, the weather was cold and I still had another 60 miles to go. The descend was what I later described as a "Moto GP", leaning the bike, counterbalancing on the outside pedals and letting the thing rip dowhill. Some sections of the road went from two to one lane and traffic coming up the mountain could give you a scare if not careful.

After a while of those downhill shananigans, the third and last aid station gloomed and I took the chance to have my last few watermelons slices. One of the ladies working at the aid station said, "it's only 46 miles to Glenwood Springs and it's all downhill". I was in no mood for jokes, and despite the fact that the gradient was all downhill as she said, the headwind had made a return and it was going to bitch slap me all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Getting tossed around by a headwind

Six hours and 17 minutes later, I rolled into Glenwood Springs and the elementary school where a week before we had started our tour. I was feeling pretty good despite the time spent on the saddle and knowing that Wendy's was just next door kept a smile on my face.

Long day on the saddle

Now two days off to recover from flight and a week of easy riding. The Vuelta a Chiriqui-Masters is just three weeks away and I hope all the riding in the mountains pays off then.

Friday, June 26, 2009

BTC-Day 5

Left Gunnison after a day off under a cloudy sky. A storm was brewing high in the mountains and the thought was in the back of our heads for most of the day. I met my friend Dave in Almont, after a nice 10 mile warmup. Dad and Teve got a hour advantage and were already starting the first climb of the day.

Getting the techno music ready on the Ipod for the climb

Dave and I set a nice tempo, but the temperature didn't seem to be warming up, even though the sun was out and we were climbing. We decided to skip the first aid station and went straight to the second one and it was packed. No time to sit around since the sky was getting darker by the minute and we had a 14 mile climb on a dirt road up to Cottonwood Pass, at a nice 12,326 feet. Good thing mom was driving the "team car" and I picked up my knee warmers.

Somewhere up there is Cottonwood Pass, 12,326 feet

Up we went passing people all the way to the top and as the summit was getting closer, the temperatures kept going down and the storm was moving ever so close. I made a quick stop to put on my jacket, made it to the third aid station, got some PB&J sandwiches and some watermelon, put on a hat, long finger gloves, knee warmers and proceeded to head down the hill. Dave decided to call it a day at the top and dad and Teve were still somewhere up the climb.

This was a true TDF descend, switchbacks, not traffic and a smooth road. The wind was creating a bit of a problem at the top, but once I got the lines figured out I just hunched over the bars and let the Tarmac fly. It had to be the most fun so far during the tour, going down fast, 53.7 mph for the top speed. Once I reached Buena Vista, I found an old gas station and waited for the rest of the "team", and waited, and then waited some more.

Max speed

Still waiting for the other three members of our group, the sky finally openend up and the downpour was strong with the temperatures also going south. I could see riders coming down the mountain shaking from the cold and soaked. A guy stopped where I was and he couldn't even talk, heck, he probably didn't even know where he was. After a few minutes he came back to life, but he was still shaking and we figured out which way he had to go to his hotel. Poor guy.

Finally the suburban came down the mountain with Dave at the wheel, dad on the passenger seat and mom and Mrs. Botacio in the back seat, but Teve was missing. The story I got was that Dave had found a place in one of the shuttle vans that was coming down the mountain and just as the van was about to head down, a gentleman brought Teve, who was freezing. Dave saw him and called his name, and Teve was in such bad shape that be broke down and started to cry, hugging Dave at the same time. Dave gave up his seat so he could make it down the mountain first, and as luck would have it, mom and the suburban were not far behind, so he got in and got warmed too. They turned around and picked dad up just before the top, as the hail, fog and high winds were causing havoc.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BTC-Day 4

66 miles to Gunnison. The actual distance was 93 miles up to Crested Butte, but our hotel was in Gunnison, so why bother suffering another 27miles and then having to turn around and head back down. It turned out to be a smart choice.

We were greeted once again by a strong, and by that I mean, 9mph going downhill headwind for the first part of the ride. It was just brutal in every sense of the word. A line of riders snaked up the road as far as the eye could see, each fighting his/her own battle with the elements and the mind. The thought of getting off the bike crossed my mind once, but then I decided to play a new game, "guess the wind speed". My friend David came up with 25mph gusting up to 30mph and I believed him.

My friend Dave and I enjoying the ride

Once we hit the first proper climb, the wind died down and I settled into a nice rhythm and spent the best part of the next 42 minutes going up, passing people and giving some encouragement to those who needed. Again, the Colorado State Patrol made sure that no 18 wheelers, campers or cars got to close for comfort and it was appreciated.

Today's dowhill sections were more to my liking, and I'm very happy with my new Descente Bobby J jacket, the thing is worth every penny. Retails for $200, but I picked it up at PricePoint for $85, shipping included. It's waterproof, but I don't want to test that part of the jacket. It did keep me warm and if there's something to say negative about it is that taking it off while on the bike is not recommended, at least that would be my advise.

Here are some pics of the week so far.

The Panamanian clan (dad, me and Teve)

Our pack going downhill

Dave and Teve after a good day on the saddle

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BTC-Day 3

Today was the "flatish" day of the tour, climbing only to just under 6,000 feet. And it wasn't an easy day at all, because of a nasty head wind. But, for once, the wind gods smiled upon us and with 20 miles to go (63 for the day), the wind shifted and we had a cross-tail wind all the way into Montrose. The hammer was dropped and my friend Dave and I did a team time trial.

Tomorrow's route is another epic climbing day, going to Crested Butte. We are not planning on making it there since our hotel is in Gunnison, so we will try to ride hard for 66 miles. Spirits are good and the bunch is having a great time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

BTC-Day 2

Climbed 29 miles straight up to just under 11,000 feet. The descend was something else, the wind was kicking my ass and handling the bike was quite tricky. A girl got hit by a wind gust and she will not be finishing the tour. Felt pretty damn good, but holy shit, the climb took about 2 hours. Still, is good training for the upcoming Vuelta back home. Going for pizza!!!!!.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bicycle Tour of Colorado-Day#1

Made it to Denver onboard Continental Airlines, and what a bad experience that was. The lady at the counter made me pay $100 for my bike, even though the bike bag was 27 pounds under the weight limit, but 4 inches over the size. $100 for 4 inches!!!!.

This is my third time at the Bicycle Tour of Colorado and the organizers have done another superb job with every detail. Picking up the registration package was a breeze, the support is second to none, and the route so far, stunning. We (my dad, three friends and myself) climbed up to 8700+ feet, over McClure pass and covered the 79 miles in under 5 hours (we were taking it easy since it's only the first day of six). Tomorrow is 91 miles and a climb just under 11,000 feet. Weather is good and there are a ton of people riding. Feeling good and having fun, lets hope that trend continues.