Sunday, August 2, 2009

Copper Triangle

I rode in the Copper Triangle last Saturday. The ride went over 3 mountain passes, 5,900 feet of climbing over 78 miles.
I even managed to do something I have never done before on my bike during the ride.

The event was a benefit for the Davis Phinney foundation. I love how almost every ride or road race has a tie to greater purpose.

I started a few minutes after 7:00. There is no mass start to events like this. This is not a timed event, although I did encounter a few people on the ride yesterday that acted like it was a race.

The course started from the base of the Copper Mountain Ski resort and headed out on Highway 91 where we started the climb to Fremont Pass(11,318) feet. The climb to Fremont Pass covered about 10.5 miles with approximiately 1,800 feet of climbing.

I did this climb staying in the large chain ring on my bike, which as I look back on it now, wasn't a very good decision.

For some reason, I have turned more into a masher(Large resistance, lower cadence) instead of a spinner(Less resistance, higher cadence). Spinning takes more work, but keeps the legs must fresher.

The year I rode in the Triple Bypass, I was much more of a spinner and I think I was a much better climber. For some reason this year, I just don't seem to be able to spin. Mashing has more power, but comes with a price.

After stopping at the first aid station, began the first major descent of the day. It was still pretty chilly(40-45 degrees) which is great for running, but rather cold on the bike when travling 30-35 mph.

The next aid station was 20 miles away and it was for the most part a very fast 20 miles. There was a brief climb to get to the aid station at the top of Tennesee Pass.

Leaving the second aid station, was met with another rapid descent, a nice stretch of flat road with a few short rolling hills.

We met a short, but pretty good uphill climb where we were treated to some great views for those that took the time to enjoy the fruits of the climb.

On a downer, there was an arrogant young man that taunted the other riders for not racing to the top of the hill and he spewed a obscenity laced tirade when another rider reminded him that was not a race. I hoped he would get a flat tire as he seemed to have plenty of hot air about him.

The bad part for me of finishing a climb comes the corresponding descent. I never feel comfortable in descending and I try and hang way to the back and give the other riders around me plenty of room. I don't think I ever pass anyone on the left during a descent. I have quit beating myself up for my lack of confidence during descents. It is what it is.

We passed Minturn and rode for a good stretch next to a river which is always a treat for me to listen to the sound the water makes. So peaceful.

We got to the first aid station at on the West side of Vail around the 56 mile mark. According to the map we would then begin the most difficult climb of the day ascending 2,500 feet over the next 15 miles or so.

I knew at some point the road would turn uphill and there would be some suffering on this ascent. The sun was now out in full force. It always seems to be sunny during the climb and then cloudy during the descent. The cyclings Gods seem to have a strange sense of humor.

So as I have done so many times, I thought of the people I am riding for and asked for them to stay with me during the climb. I know that while what I am doing is physcially challenging, it pales in comparision to the battles that my heroes and angels have endured.

I reminded myself that I was riding for Brittany and Trista, and Mason and Brandan(who is on his make a wish trip this weekend), Alyson(my newest little warrior hero) and of course my angels.

As I always do, I thought of Kelly. Much of the course I rode today, I had rode in the reverse direction in 2004 when I rode the Triple Bypass so I held those memories of her close in my heart as I headed towards the Vail Pass climb. I looked up towards the sky, touched my heart and whispered her name, and pedaled on wrapped in the safety of the love and light of my virtual peleton.

We crisscrossed between the road and bike path, crossed under I-70 where a volunteer noticed I was wearing my Team In Training jersey and she yelled out, "Go Team" and then she yelled again, "Oh my gosh, It's Ross. Go Ross!". One of the staff people from the Rocky Mountain Chapter had come up to volunteer at the event. That was such a boost to get a shout of encouragement. Thanks Tamara!

I kept thinking, this isn't as hard as I feared it would be. The miles were clicking by. We hit a steeper section and then I was lulled into thinking the climb was over. We started a brief descent and then had to make a sharp left hand turn and then the hill got steep very quickly.

I wasn't thinking very clearly. I didn't react in time to the steepness of the ascent. I had to decide if I wanted to attack the hill and get out of the saddle and power over the hill or downshift to the smaller ring and stay seated. The earlier mashing on the first climb of the day affected the decision I made. I opted for staying seated and tried to downshift to my smaller ring. The hill was too steep and the chain wouldn't go from the larger ring to the little ring.
It was too late. I hoped somehow it would release and I could make it up the hill and then the chain slipped off and the pedals locked and it was over. It was like watching a movie in slow motion. My pedals locked and gravity took over and I fell hard on my right side landing on my right elbow and right hip.

I have never fallen off my bike while it was moving. I got back up right away. Several people asked if I was okay. I told everbody I thought I was okay, but I was shaken up by the fall. It took me a couple of minutes to fix my chain. My legs felt really shaky and I was still on a really steep part of the path so I walked for about 1/4 of a mile where I could get back on my bike again and start pedaling.

We kept climbing and climbing. I didn't think we would ever reach the summit of the pass. The map had lied. The aid summit wasn't at mile 71, more like mile 74. Grrrr....

I texted Sue and Laura and told them I was leaving Vail Pass and they could expect me shortly.

The ride to Copper is all downhill and I don't think I hardly pedaled at all the last 5 miles or so.

I was relieved to make it to the finish line and get off my bike.

My Garmin said 79.25 miles, not 78. No wonder it took so long!


  1. It was so much fun 'watching' you do your ride! Laura and I had a great time enjoying each other's company while you were suffering up the mountain! I have the best role in your riding/running journey!

    I am always so proud and inspired of you and what you stand for and how you bring meaning to your endurance events! You are living an extraordinary life! thanks for sharing it with me.

    love you!

  2. You rock the house. As usual. I have so much admiration for you, Ross. L&L.

  3. Whew! 78mi is a looong ride. Beautiful breathtaking pics though, & glad you didn't get hurt on your fall.