The cycling community (illuminati) in FoCo have a series of casual rides over the winter, something of an alley cat. No real organization, just a bunch of people riding bikes. I missed the first ride this winter, The Border Patrol, due to child watching responsibilities. Basically a big ride to Wyoming and back, with a little singletrack thrown in for good measure.
this looks official, right?
There is nothing casual about these rides either. Pace is much faster than I can muster at this point in the year. I certainly was not the lastest person in the ride, but I wasn’t in the lead group that’s for damn sure. Weekend weather was looking good on Friday, mid 50s. Perfect.
I woke to a balmy 55 and quite pleasant Saturday morning. This day, we were to ride north of town for a while on the arrow straight and flatish roads before heading west into the rolling hills and canyons of Almost Wyoming. We met up at the Bean Cycle, a hip coffee shop in Old Town, where the ride was supposed to begin at 8 -or so I was led to believe. I parked at the office as I had left a wind jacket there, and was getting a bit antsy on the time. I was running a bit late so I had to sprinkle some andele on it and finished putting on my cycling costume in the parking lot. It was at this time that I noticed the wind was picking up.
When I arrived at the Bean Cycle, there were a few riders, and a couple familiar faces from work. I sat down, took off my helmet and chatted and smack talked with my co-workers, and waited for this ride to get going. People came milling in randomly, getting coffee drinks, some of them quite elaborate, and then I realized that this ride was going to take a lot longer to get going that I had thought. I wish I had known this was the MO, as in retrospect, I could have had a better look at the weather forecast.
Around 9, we began to slowly go back outside and collect our bikes. It was chilly, but the sun had yet to crest the buildings on the street, leaving us at the mercy of the wind in the shadows. After about 20 minutes of shivering and hopping up and down to try and stay warm, the peloton moved out. Alright! Let’s do this! We meandered through town, in a biggish group of maybe 40 or so riders. There was no doubt about it, it was gusty, but the sun was threatening to break out of the clouds, and it was feeling warmish.
ummm, do you have an extra jacket?
All hopes were dashed when we got about 5 miles out of town for the first regroup point. In that time, it was clear that not only was the sun not coming out, but the wind was picking up. Now I’ve mentioned that “the wind was picking up” a couple of times. I’m not kidding about this wind. You really have to experience this kind of wind
for yourself to really understand it. It’s really F’ing windy. I used to complain about the headwind on my Rt 2 road rides in VT, that is a gentle breeze by comparison.
Not only was it continuing to get windier, it was getting darker and colder too. Layers were assessed, bailing was discussed, snacks were consumed. Onwards we went. As we headed north, the wind settled into one constant speed and direction, from the north. The sky was that steely grey that can only mean one thing. Snow. On we rode. It was at this point the peloton really stretched out. The FLGs (Fast Little Guys) were way up front, I was at the front of the second group for a while, sometimes alone, meaning I got all the wind, all the time. Not that you can really draft in that kind of wind, there is simply no escape from it.
me, no longer having fun
My hands were slowly freezing into claws. I was beginning to loose my feet too, and in spite of the continued grind into a 30+mph headwind, I could not get warm. I was getting miserable. But almost as soon as that feeling started to creep in, the road was blocked by a police car with lights flashing, and a sheriff, who was holding a pretty huge and serious looking gun. Apparently they were involved in some sort of “shots fired” stand off situation with some whack job out there on the plains. This was further reinforced with an ambulance that pulled up, carrying a whole bunch of SWAT guys. Not even kidding about this, I didn’t even attempt to take a picture. ‘MURKAH!!!
We had to go around. A mile south, a mile west and a mile north to get around the shenanigans. Oh that blissful tail wind! Or so it would seem. as the sky grew darker still, the winds decided to shift on us, this time swirling from all directions. So we got about 1/2 a mile of tail wind, then the rest of our detour was from every direction, but especially north. By the time we got into the westward portion, the wind was coming from the south west. And it was cold. And picking up. I’d guess 45mph winds with gusts that were attention getting. Oh, and snow every once in a while. The smart ones bailed on finishing.
stunning in many ways
At least we were out of the flats and headed into some beautiful country near Red Mountain Open Space. Gorgeous out there, like something out of a spaghetti western. The next way point was a place called The Forks, a sort of general store/saloon, precisely the sort of place you’d expect to find out there. The ride is called the Cinnamon Roller, as they apparently serve amazing cinnamon rolls (duh). We must have been a sight for all the other patrons of the store.
Having hands that were frozen into claws, I was less interested in delightful pastries than I was a steaming hot cup of chicken tortilla soup. The bar was upstairs.
whiskey for dessert
As I sat there enjoying the fiery brown liquor, I looked out the window and watched it snow. I was not that excited about going back out there, and was thinking about who I could call to come get me. My list was a sad 0 people to call, and I knew I had to find the gumption to get suited up again and head out. I mulled it over another buttery smooth whiskey. Fek.
It was getting later in the day, and I sorta wanted to be done. Even more riders (smartly) dropped from the ride, having called in evac. I entertained the idea of seeing if I could get in on the extraction, but I was over the halfway point. I should just suck it up and finish. i mean, I would be freezing, but only for 25 more miles, and we had to start by climbing a couple miles up a very busy and dangerous road. Plus I was warmed by liquor and slightly less cold than I had entered the Forks. Time to ride.
Once going, it appeared that the wind was now coming from the south, which, guess which way we were headed. It wasn’t quite a gnarly as the way out though, and seemed somehow manageable, maybe even pleasant? We turned on to Owl Canyon Rd, and got of the scary HWY287. The funometer was picking up, as this section was mostly downhill. Our group was maybe 15 strong at this point, I was the least strong, and kept sliding off the back. I punch a pretty big hole in the atmosphere with my size, and 40 miles of intense headwindd had taken its toll.
As we got closer to town, the group split into smaller and smaller groups, until I was just one rider. I headed back to the office via the bike path. I had nothing in the tank. The slightest incline forced me to stand and crank. I was shelled.
But boy was I glad to have finished. I didn’t quit. And I just now got the feeling back in my pinkies. I have never ridden 62 miles in February before, but I’ll do it again.
The moral of this story, is check the weather before you go.