THE ROAD TO LEADVILLE: Ride 4 Yellow

Rabbit Ears Pass. Those are the "rabbit's ears." This area is where the Divide Ride started.

Sunday August 8, 2010 – I’m back home after a great weekend in Steamboat Springs, CO for www.ride4yellow.com, a brand-new Livestrong event that raised over $250,000 in its first year. The folks in Steamboat truly know how to do this kind of thing; it was top-notch all around. The main event of Ride 4 Yellow is The Divide Ride, which took riders from the top of Rabbit Ears Pass to the Steamboat Springs ski area via 26 miles of killer, point to point singletrack. However, this event was capped by the Forest Service at 300 riders and that limit was reached long ago.

An overcast, misty morning greeted riders at the start of the Divide Ride.

As a solution, The Mt. Werner Challenge was created. The Mt. Werner Challenge gave many more riders the opportunity to participate, those that didn’t get into the Divide Ride or perhaps weren’t up for the fairly robust challenge if it. It also allowed non-bikers to participate and there were a handful of those, as well. The Mt. Werner Challenge was a fully-supported ride down the ski area trails via a quick ride up the gondola; ride as much or as little as you like. The finale of Ride 4 Yellow was the Thunderhead Celebration, a banquet on top of the mountain with featured speakers and where top fundraisers were recognized.

It was here that I had the honor of introducing the keynote speaker, Linda Armstrong Kelley, aka, Lance’s mom. What an amazing story she tells. This is the second Livestrong event that I have been a part of and both times the power of the people attending and the nature of the fight against cancer have served as humbling reality checks for me; the emotion and energy at these events is palpable and I have walked out of each a different person. After the Thunderhead Celebration, it was just me, the car and  200 miles of afternoon glory – the Colorado high-country –  as I made my way back home to Gunnison. Many thoughts bounced around inside my head and a little bike race at Leadville wasn’t really present. At least for a time, priorities and values had been shuffled.

But earlier in the day there had been a very good bike ride. The Divide Ride was a mass start “ride” that was “mostly downhill.” If those were true, why was I tasting my lungs and riding over my tongue as Lance Armstrong, fast locals Barkley Robinson and Pete Kalmes and I coasted up a fireroad for the first ten minutes of the ride? Indeed, while we did lose elevation overall, there were some tough climbs mixed in and my legs are still smarting 12 hours later. Punching it here and there, Lance had me, not on the ropes but on the mat, a few different times. He’s fit. Big surprise. While we didn’t stop to smell the flowers, it was just friendly enough to keep the four of us together for the duration. It was wet and overcast and we we’re riding in the clouds at times. Toward the end, we saw our first rays of sunlight as the valley below, hidden from us by the clouds to that point, was suddenly and strikingly evident.

For whatever reason, I didn’t think today’s ride was going to be as hard as it was. Had I remembered the stage of the Mercury Tour back around the turn of the century when we raced on this same route, I’d have known better; but what a classic trail. Steamboat has got it going on when it comes to riding bikes. The trail finally popped us out at the top of the gondola, where we took a short break and then helped kick off the Mt. Werner Challenge. It was here that we met up with Trek liaison, Ben Coates, also my host for the weekend (and a mighty fine one at that along with his wife Megan, the golden retriever, Karl and a giant cat who’s name escapes me), and Dave Bolch (wearing jeans with a zip tie around the chainside cuff and sneakers) for a final, fast descent down Creekside Trail and on to Casa Coates for showers and Pizza. It was a very good bike ride.

Once again, I had no data collection device, Data. The ride was around 2 hours, the pace was red-hot at times and we did some climbing. How’s that for a training log entry? Here is a summary of the past week:

Weekly Total:  Around 16 hours.

Monday August 2 – 1 hour of PHOS on the road bike; 10 reps, HR’s high 130’s. Weights.

Tuesday August 3 – MTB at Hartmans. JR; hard at times; Max HR 155; average 126. 3+ hours;  3,300 Vertical. Great ride!

Wednesday August 4 – 90 miles on the road, Dillon Pinnacles to Crawford; 6,300 vertical; 4.5 hours; average HR 130 with a max of 161. One set of 20-40’s to start; power and spinning. Weights.

Thursday August 5 – Nuth’n.

Friday August 6 – Early morning AMU, 3 hours. EOP Taylor Park on the road bike, 1 set of 20-40’s to start. Got the HR’s until the very end. Not blown. Pretty good workout. 146 average HR. 3.75 hours; Weights; drive to Steamboat with Coop.

Saturday August 7 – Easy JR in Steamboat on Emerald Mountain. Ridge trail. 2-2.5 hours; 1500ish feet of climbing. Great ride.

Sunday August 8 – Ride the Divide with Lance, Pete and Barkely. Really hard at times; steady all the way through. 2-2.5 hours and enough vert to get my attention. HR’s? No idea. Drive to Gunni.

Thoughts: This was a solid week of training. Getting punished at times by Lance’s pace on the Divide Ride has me less confident in my fitness. But didn’t he just finish a little stage race in Europe? There’s no turning back or changing things up now. No, come Saturday, it’s run what you brung! Lance, JHK, Todd, Levi, Burry, Jay, Ned, Matt, Alex, Chris, Josh, who else? I can feel the pain as I sit here with my feet up on a pillow.

Tip of the Day: Choosing to ride a department store mountain bike, even a brand-new one, down from the top of Mt. Werner to avoid a long line at the gondola is not a good decision.

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