Well, this weekend was my first experience with hot bike on bike action. I rode my motorcycle with my road bike on the back to Durango for the crit.
Note: the only buzzkill about the weekend is that my camera battery was dead and I did not have the forethought to bring the charger. My apologies… this blog will go old school; I’ll try to capture your imagination with the power of the written word.
So I pack up everything that’s worth anything on the moto Friday night in preparation for an early Saturday departure. Conditions are perfect as I roll out of Boulder at 8am on Saturday. Temperatures are in the mid-50’s and the sun is shining bright. I make my way off the front Range and into the hills up hwy 285. The bike is running well as I bag my first 10,000 foot pass of the day, Kenosha Pass. I drop into the high South Park valley and see thunderstorms brewing to the west. Temp’s are in the mid-40’s as I roll through Fairplay. Grabbing a handful of throttle, I charge across the sky, outrunning the storm.
Buena Vista looks good, and as I head down to the banana-belt of Salida and Poncha Springs I see a wall of black up on Poncha Pass. As I start heading up the pass, clouds are swirling all around me, but seem to be opening up as I pass through. The top of the pass is sunny, and I see the clouds closing in behind me in the rear-view as I blast down the gunbarrel to Saguache. Pass two has been marked off the list and I feel unstoppable.
Rolling through the no-man’s land of Saguache, Center, and into Del Norte, I am getting pummeled by a 40 mile an hour cross wind. Close to a thousand pounds of man, machine, and velocipede get tossed around the two-lane road. At least it’s sunny I scream to myself through the deafening wind that is buffeting my helmet.
The wind calms down as I roll into South Fork, but I look up towards the 3rd and final 10,000 foot pass of the day, and see an angry mass of black thunderheads stacking up. Something tells me I am not going to get lucky this time, so I take an assessment of the situation. Wearing Gore-Tex head to toe and sporting some wicked handlebar-grip-heaters, I know that I am equipped for at least a moderate amount of inclement weather. My on-board computer says its 46 degrees in South Fork, at 8000 feet. It could get cold up there. I take a look around as I cruise through town and notice that at least a couple hotels have vacancy, should I get thwarted and have to spend the night in South Fork.
I take a deep breath as I head out of town and up the pass. Pretty much immediately big snowflakes start falling, but the road is still dry. A few miles up, the road is wet, but temps are staying steady at 40 degrees, so I am not afraid of icing. I ride through the lower tunnel, and get a brief respite from the snow and as I exit the tunnel, I see a white cloud literally rolling down the canyon toward me, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
The front of the moto is now snow packed, and I downshift and settle into a slower pace, about 35 miles an hour. The road is still only wet, but there is a solid six inches of snow on the trees and ground. I keep pushing upward, and have serious thoughts of turning around. Just as I think about pulling over, I see two motos coming the other way—a BMW F650gs and some sort of metric cruiser. We wave solemnly to each other, and I think if they can make it, I can make it. Or, did they just turn around themselves?
As I approach the second tunnel, I see a sign that says tunnel may be icy. I slow down and sure enough, the road inside the tunnel is snow and ice packed. The hazard lights come on and I crawl through. What I see on the other side of the tunnel is nothing short of full-blown winter. The road is snow-packed, Wolf Creek ski area looks like it could be 100% open, and snow is falling in near white-out conditions. I know that I am only a few miles from the summit, and I decide to make my decision there.
I crest the summit of the pass and pull over to assess. There is a solid foot to 18 inches of fresh snow on the ground, and it is snowing hard. The roads are completely snow packed. The moto-computer says it’s 26 degrees, and a little snowflake is flashing on the dash. As I am standing on the roadside, a snowplow comes up and stops beside me. He rolls down his window—“nice day for a ride?” “Yeah, I’ve done worse, but can’t remember when.”
The plow-driver says he’ll move on and drop some heavy sand for me, and to some extent it helps as I creep down the other side of the pass at 10mph. I guess I’ve decided to push on. Its 6 miles or so down the back side of the pass, so I figure I only have to really be puckered for another half hour or so. The plow-truck outruns me down the hill, but I have pseudo-clean track in which to ride.
As I am tip-toeing down the hill, I stop a few times to catch my breath and take a look around. The scene is absolutely gorgeous. All the pine trees have thick piles of snow on them, and the aspens have leafed-out, standing tall in bright green stands. There is the occasional waterfall by the side of the road, and it rushes down rock icy-clear.
Up ahead, I see the clouds breaking, and as the road levels out I know I am going to make it. The temperature rises up into the mid 40’s and I think I am going to have heat-stroke. Eventually the road dries and I bring the rig back up to full speed. I’ve been on the road just over 5 hours, and lunch is definitely in order. Luckily, I find a really great coffee/sandwich shop in Pagosa and thaw out with an XL Americano and a homemade club.
The weather holds as I head to Durango to meet up with Jose and Kyoko at the Holiday Inn. As I unload my stuff, I realize that the road bike looks like it has been dredged through the bottom of the Yangtze River. I head over to the car wash, and against all my beliefs as a bike mechanic, I turn the power washer to my bike and moto. Of note, however, is that I did use the high-power nozzle on the low setting, and only then for a second or two on each area. Plus, I’ve set aside a night this week to fully disassemble the bike and clean/grease all bearings, bearing seats, and drivetrain. Kids, don’t try this at home.
I got a call from Katie, and she we met up for dinner. It was great to catch up and find out what the deal is all about down in Flagstaff. She had come in to do the road race and the crit, but the road race was snowed out and had to be cancelled for the second time in 37 years. I guess there was a foot of snow in Silverton, and Molas pass was snow packed. Crazy.
It was early to bed Saturday night, and I slept like the dead.
Sunday dawned bright and clear, and surprisingly, I felt rested and fresh. I moseyed over to the race course and paid my 35 bucks. I did get a pretty sweet canvas bag, though, and if you are lucky, you’ll see me sporting that thing around Whole Foods, trying to do my part to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Or, I’ll just throw the bag in my closet with about 10 other similar bags.
A big thanks needs to go out to Jose, as he lent me rags, tools, and cleaner to get the bike fully dialed for the race. Also, he brought a trainer, so I was set-up. I roll over to the start line, and Bryan Harwood is there, ready to throw down.
The gun goes off and we settle in on the first few laps. For those who are not familiar with the Durango Crit course, it is a really sweet figure-8 style, with the final corner being a fast downhill left onto Main Street. While the outside areas of the course were relatively choppy, the racing-line was dialed and fast.
Within the first few laps, we had shed half of our field. That is to say, 5 people. There were only 10 starters in the men’s 30-34 open field. Strangely, there were at least 40-50 in the 35-39, who were chasing us after starting one minute back. So, 5 of us took turns at the front and kept the pace high. I’m not sure what happened to Harwood, but Jose said later that he was with the second group, and looked comfortable, just tactically out of contention after the 35-39 group swallowed them up.
The lead moto neutralized us as Michael Carter and his band of ragged, mouth-breathing minions came blowing by. I sat on to the back of the 35-39 group and got a solid two or three laps of sweet drafting in before the moto pulled me off.
With about 6 laps to go, I came blazing the downhill left and felt my rear wheel going soft. I limped into the wheel pit and yelled for a rear neuvation. Jose to the rescue again, as his wheels were in the pit for me. Dave Towle is on the mic, calling the play-by-play: “oddly enough, Rob Love is one of the neutral support mechanics for Mavic and one of the best in the business… he can change a rear wheel in 8 seconds flat”. Great, no pressure. I get the new wheel in, and check the shifting. Everything is in order, and I grab a quick drink. The main question, though, that is still nagging in my mind, is why I have been getting so many flats lately? The tires I have on only have about 30 miles on them, and the tubes are new and properly inflated. I decide to chair an investigatory panel on the issue as I jump back into my lead group of 4 riders.
All along the course, Katie, Jose, and all kinds of other people where cheering for Blue Sky, and I was feeling great as it came down to 3 laps to go. With about a lap and half, the sprinter of our bunch made a break. I successfully caught his wheel and felt pretty good with myself, considering his calfs were as big as my quads. Our group of 5 was getting strung out. Then, sprinter-boy leaps again, and I had nothing. A VeloNews rider came around me and I dug deep to get his wheel, but it was not to be. VeloNews bridged to Sprinter-boy, and yours truly was left in the nether-region.
With half a lap to go, a skinny kid came around me and I grabbed his wheel for the final lefty onto main. We wound it up, and I came around him into the wind with 100 meters to go. I laid it down and held him off for 3rd. Turns out VeloNews beat Sprinter-boy. All in all, it was great, and I ended up in the money, so I’ll be getting a check for 20-some-odd dollars in the mail sometime before Christmas. Jose, when I get that cash, I owe you lunch.
I headed back to the hotel for a shower and re-pack the moto. Gas up, grab lunch, and I am gone… heading back to Shangri-la. This time, the weather holds and I punch through Wolf Creek, Poncha, and Kenosha without incident, happily carving the road.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008