On our first ride back in May, we started out with the TNT Tahoe cycling team as they embarked on their own Tour of Denver. Many of us remember thinking, I can’t believe these people are about to ride 85 miles around Denver when I don’t feel ready for 10. Well, on Saturday, it was our turn to do the Tour of Denver.
The Tour of Denver is a TNT Rocky Mountain chapter tradition. It is the longest training ride before the teams head out to their event. We start in Glendale, head out to Golden, go over Lookout, circle around on the 470 loop to Jordan Road, and then back to Glendale. It is a good preview of what a Century ride will feel like.
Because of the number of miles, we did our best to start by 7:30am. We had our counterparts drive all the way up from Colorado Springs, so I am sure they were up pretty early to get to Denver in time. Before we started off we had a moving Mission Moment: a TNT alumni telling how he was so happy to clean up his wife’s hair from the bathroom floor. Five years ago, when she was first diagnosed, they weren’t sure she would survive her fight against cancer. So in the grand scheme of things, cleaning up her hair is something that makes him extremely happy. For the rest of us, it made us feel happy that we are helping a cause like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
After the Mission Moment, we took off towards Golden. This portion of the ride went really well for me. I felt strong and I was anxious to get to the base of Lookout Mountain. Things also seemed to be going my way. On previous trips, I would just miss a traffic light or two, and fall a few minutes behind at each one. This time, I had the energy to put on a burst of speed and I made two of the lights that always seemed to catch me.
When we got to our first SAG (Support And Gear) stop, I was the second one to roll in. I had joked that I would be the last, but second felt good. I was worried that I was burning too much energy with a lot of miles still to go. Was it the adrenalin, or was I really feeling that good?
After a short break, I told our coach, “I’m ready to go kick Lookout Mounain’s ass!” (Pardon the language, but I think Lookout Mountain desrves it!) We headed out and quickly reached the base of the mountain. It was an interesting scene. The day after we were riding Lookout, pro riders from around the world were going to do the same b part of the US Pro Cycling Challenge. There were a lot of people scoping out viewing locations and writing chalk messages to their favorite riders. In addition, there was an amateur King of the Mountain competition going on.
With all of the distractions, it was easy to forget to pace myself with 4.5 miles of climbing to come. I started off a bit too fast on the climb and didn’t control my breathing on the steep lower parts. Once I realized what I was doing, I settled down and got into a groove. The first time I tackled Lookout Mountain (just a few weeks earlier), I struggled to maintain 4.8 mph and I stopped 3 times. This time I didn’t stop the whole way up and my speeds were a lot better – I did 6.6 much of the way, and hit close to 8 mph a few times. That still isn’t really that fast, and on Sunday the pros would nearly double that speed. But for me it was an accomplishment.
At our second SAG, I was starving because of the climb and ate as much as I could. I tried not to think about the remaining 60 miles we would doing. Luckily, after a couple rolling hills on top of Lookout, the next few miles would include a lot of descending. We went down the backside of Lookout this time. Unfortunately, we had a strong headwind and I could only top out at 37 mph. It was still fun and the wind just made it feel faster.
By this point, it was really starting to warm up. We had record highs in Denver on Saturday, and it was starting to take its toll on us. When it gets hot on the bike, I have trouble eating because I am just not hungry. At that point, I usually switch one of my water bottles to water instead of Gatorade so I can dump some on me to cool off.
We made our way through Morrison and to our next SAG before heading over to the 470 loop. This loop runs next to C470 and E470 and we were going to take it to Jordan Road (with a short diversion to the flatter part of Deer Creek Canyon Road). It was going to be 20 miles of rolling hills and a little wind. Things went pretty well and we were making decent time. Unfortunately, after our second SAG stop along the 470, one of our teammates crashed when he hit some gravel on a curve.
I rode up ahead and told our coach about the crash. He went back to check on the scene and told me, “Go catch your wife.” At that point, I was at E470 an I25. I couldn’t see her or any of our other teammates ahead of me. I started turning on what speed I could muster and soon I saw her. She was with two of our teammates. I got even more speed and my goal was to catch them before they turned onto Jordan Road. I made that goal, but I expended a lot of energy doing and I barely did it. I caught them just as the slowed at the traffic light to cross Jordan Road.
Luckily our next SAG was only a few miles up Jordan Road and my teammates let me sit in the back while they took turns leading our paceline. The wind was again kicking up and the heat too. The temp on my bike computer read 110 F. When we stopped, I used water and ice to try and cool down. It worked, but as soon as we started out on the last leg, I was hot again.
The last stretch was relatively easy. I had ridden this section before and was familiar with the area. I could see the street names as we rode under them on the Cherry Creek Trail. I could see Iliff, Holly, etc. and know we were getting really close. We were only about a mile before the end, and we had another teammate crash trying to get around a detour on the bike path. He was OK, and it gave us a chance to regroup as a team.
As we approached the 85, 86, or 87 mile mark (depending on whose bike computer you trust), we arrived back at our starting point. We all looked beat, but we all had smiles on our faces. We had just completed our longest training ride of the season!
Just two more training rides before we do Moab! What’s that??? Next week’s ride is nicknamed: The Loop of Hell?!?!? Uh oh!