Sunday, August 23, 2009

Breckenridge to Vail Pass (and Back): Aug 22, 2009

Before I get to today’s account, I want to share some dramatic views of the high plains as we drove from Colorado Springs to Breckenridge at sunset yesterday.




Fred says that you can frequently see buffalo and antelope grazing in the fields. We did not see any buffalo, but I believe that I saw a handful of antelope.

We arrived at Ray’s beautiful cabin in Breckenridge just before 9. It sits on a hillside just above the Blue River, which can be seen and heard through the trees behind the cabin. We sat around telling stories, drinking beer, and laughing until around midnight. It was great to see Ray again.

Here is the thermometer on the deck as it looked at 7AM this morning:


Actually, it did not feel that cold, but we had already decided to wait until 9 or so to leave. When we rolled out at around 9:15, it was already in the 60’s and none of us even bothered with arm warmers.

From Ray’s place, which is at about 9,800 feet, we coasted down a couple hundred feet to the town of Breckenridge. I followed the other guys through town to the starting point of the bike path that we would be taking all the way to Vail Pass (except for a little section in the Copper Mountain complex).


This being Saturday, the path had plenty of bikes, walkers, and runners on it. Given that we were not in any particular hurry, that was not really much of a problem. The first portion was downhill, and as a result, very easy. That was followed by a relatively flat middle section that continued until we got through the Copper Mountain area, at which point the path starts climbing and keeps going up until finishing with a short, steeper section right before arriving at Vail Pass.



Entrance to Copper Mountain, which was hosting a half-marathon today, adding to the traffic on the path:


Top of Vail Pass:



Trail-side mountain walls on the way back to Breckenridge:


As might be expected, a narrow, curvy trail with a great many users, combined with some downhill sections that invite faster speeds, inevitably results in accidents. Here we wait with other cyclists for an ambulance to come back down the path after picking up a casualty:


The guy in the center of the photo is an older, very fit, German rider. Fred and Ray got out in front of me right after this picture. I grabbed the German’s wheel and had a good deal of fun catching and passing my friends. After a little while, though, I started to feel my lack of high-altitude hemoglobin, and dropped back. By that time we were only five miles or so from Breckenridge. When we reached town I was pretty well wrung out. I settled into my lowest gear and slowly ground my way back up to the cabin, trailing Fred and Ray by several hundred yards.

All in all, I am very satisfied with how I did today, less than 48 hours after arriving in Colorado. I have not had headaches or any significant altitude-related issues, beyond feeling slightly out of breath. Obviously, I am unable to ride the way I do at sea level, but I did well enough. So far, it looks like it will be sufficient to fly out here a day or two before we start our tour next summer. Tomorrow we will ride up Hoosier Pass, which is almost 1,000 feet higher than Vail Pass and on our route on the second day of the tour next summer. Stay tuned!

Today we rode 48 miles in 3 hrs 42 minutes on the bike (average speed just under 13 mph) and climbed 2400 feet.

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