Saturday, August 2, 2008

Copper Day 2

After getting up about 5AM to make a hearty breakfast, I waited for the sun to rise to start the ride.  Riders could pick their own starting time between 5:45AM and 8AM, and I wanted to go earlier rather than later.  I got on the road about 6:20AM and immediately found myself in a long string of hundreds of riders (about 3000 total do the ride).  The 78 mile ride starts off in Copper at around 9,500 feet and immediately climbs the first pass up to above 11,000.  The second pass is a much smaller climb, and then there is a long gradual descent to Vail where the longest climb of the day starts around the 60 mile mark.  Overall, nearly 6000 feet of climbing.

Given the elevation and my stagnant legs, I felt great up the first climb and passed hundreds of people on the approximately 7 mile climb.

 I got to the top and stopped briefly at the aid station to double check my tire air pressure.  Leaving the aid station, I found myself with far fewer riders as company, and I realized I was likely within the first hundred riders on the road at that point.  The descent following the climb was beautiful and had wide open corners.  I got in a nice tuck and descended 4-5 miles at around 50MPH.  At the bottom I picked up a piece of wire and flatted.  I switched out tubes and got enough pressure in the tire to get to the second aid station.  

The biggest and most fun descents of the day came following the second aid station.  One of the descents lasted nearly 15 minutes and had plenty of technical cornering.  I maintained speeds between 40 and 60 MPH down the hill (a rider I was pacing at one point said we hit 61).  It's some of the most fun I've ever had on a downhill. 

At the base of the descent, I hopped in a fast paceline with 4 other riders and took a couple pulls at nearly 30MPH headed towards the second climb.  I realized I couldn't hold the fast pace for too long without compromising my ability to finish the ride, so I dropped off the paceline after 5 miles or so, and took my time through the flat section leading up to the climb from Vail.

I knew the climb up to Vail Pass was going to be rough, but I didn't realize just how hard it would be. I stopped taking pictures at that point because I didn't want to stop and have to start again.  I was feeling surprisingly good after 60 miles, but the climb was basically a communal suffer-fest for all the riders.  It starts with a 5 mile stretch of moderate uphill (3-5 percent grade) through the town of Vail before the real climb comes.  The climb itself is 10 miles of steep climbing (probably average 9-10 percent grade with some pitches up to 15).  I found a gear I could push up the hill and didn't dare stop the entire time up the climb.  Most riders (myself included) were probably averaging 6-7 MPH.  I couldn't believe how far 10 miles felt.  The climb took well over an hour, and it's definitely one of the two longest climbs I've ever done.  Definitely the hardest, as it was at elevation and after I had already ridden 65 miles.

The rest area that I climbed to the day prior is at the top of the climb, and I was elated when I spotted it less than a mile away.  I pushed straight through the last aid station and cruised down the downhill stretch to the finish.  I finished in approximately 5:15, which is a pretty respectable time considering how long the final climb took.  I finished probably in the top 500 riders overall, but that number is pretty relative considering the varying start times.  I was happy that I didn't bonk, and I was surprised how well my body handled the elevation.

After showering and eating a bit, I helped Marco count shoes and set aside ones we want to send back to Crocs.  Our trucks are getting overly full of shoes, so we need to free up some space.  We managed to set aside 23 bins full of nothing but Athens and Beach models, including a majority of the pile of Beaches pictured below.

After that, I helped the team break down the expo booth.  Nate and Stephen wanted to go for a mountain bike ride, so I decided to rent a bike and go with (as if I hadn't already tortured myself enough earlier in the day).

My legs were pretty dead, but I managed to climb quite a ways up the ski hill with them, and then we found a great trail heading down the hill with some nice technical corners.  If I hadn't found my mountain bike handling skills in the Poconos, I found them in Copper.

After the ride, we had a tasty dinner of salad, applesauce, minute rice, and pork tenderloin.  Probably the most action-packed day of the tour so far.  I couldn't believe how well I held up to all the biking.  I'm in better shape than I thought, apparently.


  1. yay for being in better shape than you thought! :D

  2. Glad you've had success and such a great time there. Atta boy!

  3. "warning, must be a cyclist to appreciate this post!"