Sunday, July 08, 2007

Copper Triangle

Last weekend was an 80 mile ride in Texas. This weekend was an 82 mile ride in Colorado. This weekend was quite a bit more difficult for three main reasons:

This:

Vail Pass

This:

Tennessee Passw


and This:

Fremont Pass


The highways we were riding had signs naming them "The Top Of The Rockies," and they weren't kidding. Our little jaunt took us 82 miles over three mountain passes, crossing the Continental Divide twice, and totalling 9468 feet of verticle gain on the ride.

The first pass, between Copper Mountain and Vail, is Vail Pass at 10,666 feet. Stronger rode up from the Vail side and joined us for the screaming descent down into Vail. She had to go back to her most important job (mom duty), so we continued on alone.

Vail Pass Summit
(John, Greyhound and Stronger atop Vail Pass)

The second pass, between Minturn and Leadville (the highest incorporated city in the U.S.) is Tennessee Pass; but, before you even get to the climb up the pass, you have to summit and descend Battle Mountain, which for me was four miles of pain in the smallest gear I could find.

Battle Mountain Summit
(John and Greyhound atop Battle Mountain)

Notch Mountain
(Notch Mountain as seen from Battle Mountain)

Then, after some more climbing, you reach the former site of Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II. There are pictures of the valley filled with barracks, and you can still see some of the foundations. That division, which fought in Italy and elsewhere, produced leaders and innovators such as Bill Bowerman (who founded Nike and coached Steve Prefontaine and other olympians), and the men who created Colorado's ski tourism industry from scratch.

Camp Hale
(Former Site of Camp Hale)


More climbing and you finally reach the top of Tennessee Pass at 10,424 feet.

Tennessee Pass
(Greyhound and John atop Tennessee Pass)

You don't actually descend that much from the pass into Leadville, because Leadville itself is at 10,159 feet. In fact, it's a pretty long pull though a windy valley to reach Leaville, but the views of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive are worth the effort.

Mount Massive
(One of 3 or 4 dwellings that huddle in the valley beneath Mount Elbert and Mount Massive)

We were having some serious bonkage by the time we reached the climb (yes climb) into Leadville. So after some ideally engineered cycling nutrition (Fritos and Red Bull), we took on the last pass, Fremont Pass, between Leadville and Copper Mountain, at 11,318 feet.

After descending from Leadville to the bottom of the climb, the first 7 miles or so is usually a gradual ascent that is no big whoop. This time . . . whoop. As in kind of a big deal whoop.

Firm headwinds effectively made the climb start 7 miles earlier than usual. The last four miles are quite steep and difficult without the preceding 7 miles in the wind. Within sight of the top the wind from the other side of the pass nearly knocked me off my bike in the last 400 meters.

I have never fought so hard for altitude on a bike.

Never.

But those things that you have to fight for tend to give the most satisfaction.

Fremont Pass Summit
(Greyhound atop Fremont Pass)

With weather approaching, we had to pedal like mad into headwinds to get down off the pass.

Fremont Pass View
(Afternoon stormclouds gather atop the pass)

Finally, making it onto the descent proper, one could let go the brakes and fly. 43 miles per hour. That's living.

. . . . but I did not swim today, and barely was able to run 10 miles.

Next week--the Triple Bypass.

triple_elevation_smaller
(Next weekend's ride)

Bring it.

14 comments:

a.maria said...

um. you crazy.

probably crazy in that good kinda way, but..

crazy. all the same!

Spokane Al said...

That sounds like a great day and a great, great ride. I see that you did not pack your tri bike for this trip.

P.S. Senator Bob Dole was also a member of the 110th Mountain Division. He got his injuries in WWII while serving as a member.

Spokane Al said...

Small correction - it is the 10 Mountain Division.

stronger said...

The triple is going to be a breeze after the triangle! Nice ride- thanks for inviting me along!

Laurie said...

Wow. You are Ironfit. And crazy too.

21stCenturyMom said...

I'm pretty sure that Fritos and Red Bull are way, way better than a bottle of Heed. Good job on the nutrition plan.

IM Moo is going to be a cakewalk for you.

Shelley said...

So...looks like you'll be crushing that hilly course in Wisconsin..good work greyhound!!!!

Wendy said...

Great account. Fabulous pictures. You guys rock!

Brent Buckner said...

Great pics - mad training!

Flatman said...

You Da MAN, grey!!!

Sarah said...

HOLY. CRAP. I drove over Loveland Pass a year ago and my freaking rental car struggled to make it up. Awesome.

Bigun said...

sounds like you are ready for triple bypass - nail it!

Fe-lady said...

Man I wish I was there...the pictures are beautiful and the companionship looks wonderful!
Best of luck at the triple!!!

1HappyAthlete said...

Makes me REALLY miss living in Vail...Enjoy the Triple and I look forward to reading all about it.

Andy
http://1happyathlete.blogspot.com