What they're riding through

If start and stop times are any indication of a rider's state of mind - as opposed to more objective circumstances, such as weather, or availability of food or accommodation - then it's interesting to note the following: Kurt rode latest on the 21st, but then Jefe got the jump on him in the morning; Ethan was a little slower getting going (he has reported suffering from a sore knee, which may be the reason). The Silverthorne posse had a bit of a lie-in; now it's Josh Shifferly out front of Roberto and Parker after Aidan Harding had to return to Steamboat to fix a bust frame.

Perhaps also suffering from the drag-effect of staying in town, the Eurotrain in Steamboat took a while to get rolling yesterday, similarly those in Rawlins. Elsewhere, David Horton, Kevin Cunniffe and Mark Erhart were up with the lark but Kevin and Mark don't appear to have been able to close the gap on Tori Fahey's peloton, which is now in Atlantic City.

Northbound, needless to say Paul Attalla was off before sun-up and is now in Lima, having swapped notes with Justin Simoni about snow conditions in passing. Now is the crux for Justin in terms of completing the original route. If he fancies Togwotee and, probably worse, Union Pass in the snow he'll have to turn east very soon. Union Pass in particular felt a lonely place to me, even when I had the comfort blanket of being able to cover the ground between me and civilisation quickly on a bike. Still, Justin's clearly made of stern stuff.

Elsewhere, the Pinedale group have the full Basin experience ahead of them, while those in Atlantic City can imagine themselves in or beyond Rawlins within a day. The Basin should be good riding, and some racers do the whole thing in one fell swoop. Personally, the relentlessness of the riding was a serious challenge. Give me mountains with endless changes of rhythm and the chance to coast a while any day - flatlands with constant efforts, and possibly headwinds, require a different kind of mental resolve, although the sense of vastness and the bleak beauty can be a pleasant distraction.

In 2009 we did Pinedale to Rawlins in two days, which now seems pretty slow going. We had torrential rain on the first day, then baking sun on the second - by the time we reached Rawlins I just had to get off the bike. The next day, though, we rode straight through to Steamboat, in spite of the section near Slater on the Colorado border being a low point of the whole trip. It was just so hot, which is perhaps why Kirsten's fresh fruit and cold Coke were so welcome. The pass into Steamboat is partially uncycleable at any time, so I'm not sure how much difference the snow there will make to the time it takes to cross over.

From Steamboat to Kremmling the terrain is generally good, though there are reports of flooding on the bike path in town, and the ford on the old stage coach route still sounds impassable (riders have to go and see for themselves before taking the detour). The climb out from the Colorado gorge can best be described as a Tour de France style road climb, which adds a new element to the TD challenge. Then it's more good riding, though with a decent amount of climbing, into Silverthorne.

It's after leaving the Silverthorne/Frisco/Breckenridge tourist hub and climbing Boreas Pass that riders will discover the wide open spaces and mountains of the next part of Colorado. The two most significant challenges here are the several-hour long climbs and the exposure to the storms that can seem to develop out of nowhere (if you want to know what they feel like, read Jon Billman's article in the Cordillera - don't forget it's raising funds for Dave Blumenthal's daughters college fund).

Then there's New Mexico, which Kurt and Jefe are about to hit at full pelt. The riding, at least to start with, is much rougher ,and the dogs are more vicious. If possible, though, it's even more beautiful. And, of course, it means you're nearly done...




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