42 miles and 9400′ of climbing. Today was stage #3, Mount Guyot. We started again on lower Washington. Unlike yesterday, Dan and I started toward the back with the intention of saving ourselves for the big climbs ahead. Ken got a bug in his ass and shot off the front, never to be seen again. Chris had the same agenda as us and hung back. After feeling worked yesterday, I wasn’t sure of what to expect today. But my legs felt stronger, and I found a rhythm early on that felt comfortable.
After climbing Little French Flume, we descended the nastified scree field of Little French Gulch that we climbed on day #1. The devastation caused by the floods was again evident as most of the riders in our group walked the deep rocky ravines left by the torrents of rushing water. But Dan and I made it down safely to aid 1, where I shoved a jacket into Dan’s jersey pocket like an over-dotting (sp?) mother. Last time I was on Guyot, you couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of you, and the cold heavy mist penetrated right to the core. I remember climbing and then descending Guyot with tears and snot streaming down my face. So this time, I made sure we had jackets. And of course, it was blazing hot.
There are 4 big climbs in the stage. The second one (yes, the pointy one that looks like a red hot poker) is over French Pass, and goes over Mount Guyot, for which the stage is named. That climb is, for lack a of a better description, a bitch. The trail gradually gets steeper and rockier. It sneaks up on you. You can’t figure out why it hurts so bad, but somehow it does. Just at the moment you think it can’t get any worse, you look up and see a line of riders a half mile long, walking their bikes. Really?
I pushed my bike like everyone else, and thanked my lucky stars when I finally reached the top. The views were stunning, even with my oxygen deprived point of view. As I reached the top, I heard someone say, “Look at his bike, and see how he did it.” I was aware that someone was following me, trying to look at my bike.
Turns out that another rider had snapped his chain and a group of folks had gathered around to try to fix it. Dan was a bit behind, so I laid down my bike to see if I could help. They were trying to put the chain back on, but they had somehow routed the chain backwards through the derailleur. It was an easy fix, and when I was ready to put the chain back together, they handed me half a Powerlink. The other half had fallen into the grass. As the group frantically combed the area for the missing piece, Dan crested the top. He had seen the commotion and thought I was doing CPR. The missing half was miraculously found, and we were headed back down to traverse the snow field. Mike Mac says it’s like a “clown on rollerskates”, and that turned out to be accurate description of what I looked and felt like trying to get across the slushy slope.
As I navigated the snow, I heard a distant “Wooooooo!” Chris had clawed his way up Guyot and caught us at the top. The three of us descended the the back side and ended up staying together for the rest of the ride. When you are out there for 5 hours, it’s nice to have extra company.
The back side of Guyot has a notoriously scary descent. The first year of the Breck Epic, I unwittingly dropped into it, not knowing that it was supposed to be that scary. After I got to the bottom, I decided that I would never ride that again. I’ve made good on that promise ever since. To read more about that nasty descent, read Peter’s (of Misfit Psycles) blog post from last year. Seriously, read it. It’s way more interesting than this long-winded post.
After descending Guyot, Georgia Pass awaits. The grade isn’t awful, but it goes on forever. The backside is rooty and rocky, East coast style riding. Just when you think the ride is mostly over, you come to American Gulch. It’s steep and long, and it finishes with an “Oh F*ck” moment as you look up and see a wall waiting for you. By the time we got to American, the signage had been corrected by Colby Pierce, who graciously flipped the arrow back to the intended direction. But a non-racer had, at some point last night or this morning, intentionally turned the sign to the opposite direction. So the lead group of riders went about a mile down the wrong path before they realized something was wrong. American Gulch is ugly enough without having to detour a mile in the wrong direction, but it was pretty amazing to watch how well the folks who were victimized by this course vandalism handled it. They agreed to let the results stand, even to their own detriment. Really good sports.
Dan, Chris, and I finished the stage in around 5 hours. Chris took back a place in the standings. Ken crushed it and won the stage and took about 2o minutes back in the overall standings. He is now only 12 minutes back in the GC. Dan and I gave up almost an hour to the lead team, which puts us about 100 hours back. But we still have a firm grip on second place. I no longer feel so bad about it anymore. We chatted with Tim and Johs (sp?) after the awards. Tim is, as I’ve come to realize, Tim Johnson. He was the cyclocross national champ in 2009. After I thought about it, I remembered that I saw him win the Boulder Cup last year. So yeah, he’s kinda good. Of course, I was dumb enough to ask him in which category he was the National Champion. Cat 4? No dufus. Pro. I thought it would be cool to compare it to my Colorado State Championship in Men’s Sport 30-34 short track, during which I beat out an asthmatic and a leper for the title.
At various points, I thought that any one of us was going to crack, but we all held up in the end and finished together. So it was a good day. Keith and Adam came up from Boulder to cheer us on (you guys are studs), and they brought Slim with them so we could have a podium shot that didn’t involve us being in last place (see above pic). Here’s Ken intimidating the overall Clydesdale leader on the podium.
Tomorrow is the Aqueduct stage. We did this stage last year, but to be honest, I remember almost none of it. Ken says it’s his favorite stage. I’ll let you know tomorrow.