Ride the Rockies – Day 3 Carbondale to Leadville
Well, I’ve gotta admit. Today had to rank as one of the top 5 toughest rides I’ve ever done…and possibly the hardest. Here are the highlights first.
- Nearly 7,500 feet of climbing
- 50 miles of constant uphill riding
- 85 miles
- Gravel trails
- Dirt Roads
You get the picture. Now, don’t think I didn’t enjoy it, because I did…until about the last 20 miles uphill into the wind.
The day started out pretty tamely. We were on a bike path from Carbondale to Aspen.
And red rock bluffs on the other side. The pace was pretty mellow because of the number of riders and the fact that the minute we left Carbondale we were climbing. As long as we were on the bike path, the grades stayed at 1-2%, but we were still going up the entire time.
As we approached Aspen, we knew the trail turned to packed dirt, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be as soft and mushy as it was. The first quarter mile was basically hike-a-bike with our skinny tires, then the next three were hazardous at best.
As we left Aspen, the serious climbing began…and so did the views. I was quite content to try to spin up the mountain and keep my heart rate and breathing under control while I rubbernecked my way up to the top of Independence Pass. The honest answer is that I used a lot of picture stops to take a breather on the way up, but I was in good company.
At the rest stop 7 miles from the summit, I grabbed a smoothie and a PBJ sandwich since it was near noon. Unfortunately, I stayed a little too long. I had laid my bike down in the sun, and by the time I got back to it my rear tube had exploded. Crap…I had to change a tire before I could leave. As I thought about it, I had topped off my tire early in the morning when it was cold. That cold air had the chance to expand for several hours, then got parked in the sun for 20-25 minutes. Lesson learned!
The downhill was sweet! The first 5 or 6 miles off the summit were kind of scary for me. As soon as I started down, the wind started buffeting me hard. Rather than take any chances, I made good use of my brakes and made it down safely. There were 17 miles of good downhill runs before the roads kicked up again for the final approach to Leadville.
I hit the final rest stop at 2:30 and decided to go across the road for a sandwich and was really glad I did. From that point, the ride got very tedious. Headwinds and a final 15 mile climb into Leadville made it miserable. By that time, I was cooked!
The one comedic thing that happened today was that I lost one of my gloves this morning. I discovered it was missing after my bag was loaded into the truck for the day, so I had no choice but to ride bare-handed. Fortunately, I found it at the end of the day.
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