Tour Divide: Colorado Capers

Day 12 on the Divide started with a long climb from Savery and into Colorado. After crawling past Brush Mountain Lodge in the dawn light, we pushed on and towards the next pass and  Steamboat Springs. IMG_0792The aspens started to become more common in this area. It was quite spectacular to ride through large stands of white trunks with a huge green canopy overhead. Also fields of yellow and white flowers. I don’t know why I didn’t get any photos.  Maybe the fact that we were cruising around 3000m at the top of the pass and I was gasping for air! Here is one I found from the same area and is pretty much what it looked like.

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Photo: Jay Potts Photography

A very bumpy descent popped us out at Steamboat  Lake. We cruised along the tar to Clark and then through to Steamboat Springs. I stopped to grab an iced coffee and found Josh sitting next to the ice-cream stand with a bag of ice on his knees, looking in much pain. He was on the phone so I didn’t stop.

Closer to Steamboat Springs it seemed a popular cycling road. There were groups of cyclists and triathletes riding the undulating road into town and we got lots of cheers. In town it was tricky to follow the GPS track along the bikepath, weaving in and out of streets, but eventually it brought us right to Orange Peel Cycles. I could finally get someone to look at my fork which was a wobbly nightmare. While the bike was getting a once-over I kitted myself out with new gloves, white sun-protection arms (no more black arm warmers!!!) and a feed bag full of Pro Bars. I hadn’t had them before but they were a great change to sugary muesli bars and cliff bars. Organic, chia, matcha, all the yummy stuff and over 300 calories each. Yes! I also went around the corner to the organic deli and loaded up with bananas, handmade organic muffins and date logs. Heaven!

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Bike fixed and a ton full of great food on board I smiled my way out of town. The next section was around 80km of generally uphill. It was hot hot hot and I stopped at Lake Catamount to jump in the water, fully clothed! As Simon and I rolled out of town Dave Meissner caught up to us on his road bike. We had met him at Wamsutter truck stop where he was driving through and said hi at Subway where he saw our bikes and weary faces. He lives in Steamboat and was out for a ride to meet another friend who was racing this year. We chatted for ages, Dave had done TD in 2012. Must have been so hard to ride through his home town in the middle of the race!!

After Lynx Pass, Josh caught up to Simon and I again. This seemed to be a daily occurrence now. We rode long and steady, he rode fast but stopped longer. As we got down and crossed the Colorado River a guy drove up next to us and said the shop back across the river was open, he had seen us riding around looking for it. We popped back there and filled our bellies with ice-cream and gatorade then headed up and over the tarred pass towards Kremmling. Josh planned to stay in a motel he booked and we thought that would be a plan. I was a bit tired and didn’t realise how far off-route it was. By the time we were riding through town it was too late to bail, we were already committed. Simon and I found an $18 motel room (bargain!!), where we set our alarms for fours hours and easily crashed into a deep sleep. It was nice to have a shower, although four hours was definitely not enough time for my washed knicks to dry. In fact they were nearly still dripping. Gotta love soggy shorts at 3am in the morning.

In the morning we rode past a great little toilet block closer to Ute pass. In hindsight I should have kept riding to here, I had enough food but the lure of a bed sucked me in. TD is a learning experience, and I had already learned I was a sucker for a bed and a shower.

At the top of Ute Pass Simon’s tyre made a big HISS and started going down fast. Sealant was coming out and he was madly spinning it to make it seal. We rode a bit but it went down again. I kept going and said I might see him at a bike shop in Silverthorn, I needed brake pads.

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I got to the other side of Silverthorn but had struggled to find a bike shop on the route. I got yoghurt, strawberries, ham and cheese croissant and other delicious goodies and the Seven Eleven and kept moving. The crazy bike path express through the busy, posh and up market ski towns of Frisco and Breckenridge was way too much to handle and I rode as fast as I could to get out. Boreas Pass was lovely and as I was enjoying my peanut M&Ms  a new voice said hello. It was Marshal Bird. I had finally overtaken him as he admitted to stopping at too many cafes along the way through the last three towns. He rode just ahead down the Gold Dust Trail, through Como and into the horrendous headwind to Hartsel.

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I had dinner with two Northbound riders and headed out into the wind and rain, thinking I might make Salida. Simon pulled up just as I was leaving but he was staying there for the night. Again, in hindsight, I should have stayed. I was cold and as dark surrounded me I began to flip out. All I could think about was Josh’s warning: he had seen a few mountain lions in this section a few months prior when he was hiking his bike through mud. Great. Dark, cold sleepy and now might get eaten by a mountain lion.

It was close to midnight when I crashed to the ground, completely shocked and disorientated. I had fallen asleep and lost control in a big wheel rut. Lying on the dirt with pain in my wrist I started sobbing. Silly choice Beth. Silly.  Josh rode past not long after I had regathered myself. I wiped away the tears and thought I might be able to ride with him. He said he was going all the way to Salida and that we were close to the top off the pass so it would be all downhill. I was completely exhausted and decided that such a long downhill after midnight in the freezing cold was a very bad idea. I stayed at the top of the pass and rode down early the next morning.

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Photo: Eddie Clark Media

But tomorrow was another day. People say not to make big decisions night. Sleep it out. And it was true, the next day was fantastic. I got up early and rolled downhill to Salida. I had a HUGE breakfast next to Absolute Bikes, where my bike was getting a new rear rotor (apparently the old one was thinner than paper) and new brake pads. Josh and I chatted to Eddie Clark, who took some photos of us said he’d hope to catch us at the top of Marshall Pass. The tar climb up to the beginning of Marshall Pass was horrible. It was so hot the road was bubbling and popping. I wished I hadn’t stayed so long at breakfast. Over the top of Marshall Pass, Josh Marshal and I donned our rain coats and sped downhill, trying to outrun the huge thunderstorm brewing above us. We made it, just.

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Photo: Josh Daugherty

The thunderstorms were rolling past thick and fast. As fast as you could out run one the wind would change or the route would swing around and you were facing another black menacing cloud. I overtook Josh and Marshal having a dinner stop before we descended to the State Highway. I had ridden within my limits and was feeling good so I started pushing a little harder. Maybe I could make Del Norte tonight? The shape of a person appeared on the horizon. As I got closer and stopped to ask how they were I realised it was the Swiss rider Lukas Aufschlager. I hadn’t seen him since we had dinner together in Bigfork. He looked at me and said in a very surprised voice “YOU”RE GOING FAST”! He was fixing a flat so I continued on. I was thinking back to Eszter’s rides and said zzzzooooommm a few times aloud. I was feeling good. As the sun set partway up the Cochetopa Dome, it got cold. Eventually I was tired and knew I would not make it to Del Norte. Plus, nothing would be open even if I did make it.

Photo: Eddie Clark Media

Photo: Eddie Clark Media

I knew there was a campground partway down the hill after the summit, and I wanted that toilet block to keep warm. I could see Marshall’s light slowing getting closer and I knew he also liked staying in the toilet blocks. I wanted it, I needed it. I raced up the final part of the climb and over the top. By the time I reached the campground I was wrecked. I hadn’t eaten food or drunk water while speeding up the hill. About 20min later as I was setting up my sleeping gear on the toilet floor there was a knock on the door. Marshal. I offered to share the small warm space but he decided to put on all of his warm gear and sleep lower down the hill. I was smiling on the inside that I had made the effort to get here first.

Four hours later I was back on the bike, speeding down the mountain in the freezing inky darkness. I passed Marshal’s campsite towards the bottom. He would be up soon too. As the sun rose I could see Del Norte on the horizon so I decided to call my parents now that I finally had some reception. My phone was going crazy with messages. When I spoke to my parents they informed me that Seb was in fact IN Del Norte. I rang him straight away. Sure enough as I pulled up in town he was there to greet me. We had breakfast together and it was very surreal. I was wrecked from using too much energy the night before and not having any dinner. I was off with the fairies and even refused a coffee. If you know me, this is a big deal. I was so exhausted that I actually went and slept on someone’s front lawn while Seb watched over me. He was staying in town until he could fix his fork later that morning. He asked if it was OK to ride with me? It would be nice to have someone to ride with again. I missed riding with Simon and the uber-competitiveness between Josh and Marshal was rubbing off on me in a bad way.

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As I rode out of town towards Indianna Pass I was in a daze. It was strange riding away from Seb after not seeing him for 14 days. Over the top of the pass it started to pour with rain. I had two blood noses in a row and started to feel pretty dejected. Riding over the ridge to Platoro I got poured on. I sat in Skyline Lodge munching on a burger. Cold and wet I was at a very low point of my ride. I asked for a room, they didn’t have any. I asked them to ring around. No one had a room. I went to my bike to get my map to find somewhere to stay but all of a sudden it was sunny. That was all I needed to get me back on the bike. As I rolled along the valley smiling I laughed about how I had almost pulled out of the race but now it was spectacular weather and I was cruising again, nearly in New Mexico. The highs and lows of TD.

I wasn’t sure where Seb was but I decided to head up La Manga Pass and camp near the border. As I turned onto State Highway 17 and headed towards the pass, a woman called out loudly “Are you the Australian woman???” Kinda weird I thought, but answered yes. “Oh great, your husband is inside eating a burger!”. Seb walked out waving. This day was getting more and more surreal.

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He had had his fork  fixed and ridden part of the way there but decided he didn’t want to ride Indianna Pass AGAIN so had a lift to here. We decided it would be fun to ride to the border tonight and make our attack on New Mexico together. It was the end of my 15th day on the Divide and Seb and I were reunited.

I thought I was tired now. I thought I had done the hard yards and we’d roll to the border together. Oh no, New Mexico had some real treats lined up for us. I never really studied too much about the New Mexico section in my preparations. By the time I had gotten that far through the route notes I was often too flabergasted by the distance to even get there I paid little attention. Well, if you plan to do Tour Divide, here is my one piece of advice. Study new Mexico. Know it’s ins and outs. Be prepared. I wasn’t.

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One thought on “Tour Divide: Colorado Capers

  1. Dave

    Great write up Bethany. You were flying those last 5 days.
    I fell into the exact same trap with New Mexico and couldn’t have put it better.

    Reply

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