I had never boxed my bike before. I watched You Tube videos of men vaguely explaining what they were doing while they disassembled their bicycles into unrecognizable components. The pedals came off, the wheels came off, the handlebars dangled limply by the brake cables, seat posts were truncated. They lay in sad pieces while the men admonished, "Now the trick is putting it back together."
Shortly upon arriving in Chicago, I needed to take a train to Colorado to start a week-long bike tour with my mom and our friend, Terri. Late, Mitch had to drop me off on the corner of Union Station right downtown. He tried to pull as close to the curb as he could, but the street was three-deep with idling taxi cabs. Everyone was honking.
I had partially prepared my bike for boxing (in order to take it on the train it needed to go in a box), and its front wheel was off loose in the trunk. In the middle of the road, I grabbed my backpacking back pack -- full of stuff for my three-week stay -- my over-sized purse, my maimed-looking bike, and the front wheel. My train was leaving in 50 minutes.
Inside, there were lines everywhere.
I did make the train, and I almost cried only once. Down in the guts of the station, I bought a box, had to take more things off my bike and was gently scolded for my tardiness. "This should have been finished ten minutes ago." Story of my life.
On our drive to Grand Junction, the start of the ride, Terri (a cycling buff) told me that a pro cycling tour was beginning in Colorado Springs on the 22nd. I want you to understand the import of this: CADEL EVANS WAS COMING TO COLORADO.
And the Schleck brothers and about 130 of the best cyclists around the globe.
Mitch and I got to watch the Tour de France because it was on at the time we quit our jobs. It was wonderful: we'd sleep in, get up, eat breakfast, flip on the Tour, and pack and clean and veg. Cycling is the only sport I've watched where the athletes complete the stages utterly exhausted. These are very fit men, but they can't get subbed out. They roll across the finish and their pit crews have to hold them upright so they don't topple off their bicycles. It's amazing mental fortitude.
My mom likes to refer to the Tour athletes as "the skinny butts."
I got many miles of distraction out of the fact that the tour was doing some of the same route that we were. Cottonwood and Independence Pass were each a day of riding for us. The pro riders are going to do it in one day (stage 2, this Wednesday). Here are the elevation maps for those days:
The thirteen miles to the summit of Cottonwood Pass are a dirt road. We were told that the road had been treated with something to make it less dusty. But nothing had been done to make that road smooth. The last six miles I spent at a good clip of five miles an hour, and I spent that time thinking how disappointed Cadel was going to be.
He's not going to be happy with those washboards. I'll bet he hits that pothole.
Independence Pass was the longest day of the ride. 8 hours and 50 minutes spent on my bike seat. Also my first century. :)
The only day I broke my cool was the end of day five. It was a 80-mile day with one of the smaller mountain passes. The last twenty miles we were riding downhill but against a strong headwind. It was over ninety degrees as we peddled for the very small town of Hotchkiss. We stopped under a rare tree and I believe I told my mom that I hated Hotchkiss more than any other town on earth. The only good thing about the debilitating headwind was that it kept brief the wafts of the abundant baking roadkill.
(Pictured above) Day 3, in Gunnison, we woke up to frost on our seats and handlebars and a temperature of 31 degrees.
When we got back to Colorado Springs, we started to cruise daily on our bikes looking for pro cyclists. Teams came a week early in order to adjust to the altitude -- 7,000 feet being as high as many peaks in Europe. They'd ride in their matching jerseys, going two or three across, taking up the right lane (usually being able to keep up with traffic just fine).
Mom and I got in the paper when we were on one of these recon missions:
The day of the Prologue (which was a time trial, each rider starting by himself, one minute apart from the riders around him), mom and I sat on the outside curve of the most technical part of the race.
The above picture is Andy Schleck.
Nobody crashed on this less-than ninety degree turn on a tilt. The closest point to disaster was when a spectator's full diet coke bottle rolled into the middle of the turn in front of a cyclist. He avoided it.
I could smell burnt rubber.
Each cyclist was led by a motorcycle and followed by a team car with spare bikes stacked on top. (Except for this one cyclist, and we still don't know why he didn't get a team car.) Between riders people would chat and banter, except for after the second-to-last rider. Cadel was the last rider to go, and for the time before his ride, the crowd was silent. The video at the end of this post is his run around the corner.
Pictures below this are of some Garmin cyclists warming up and of the finish line area.