It took 5 days but it finally hit me. I am tired. Stage 5, Wheeler Pass, is a deceivingly hard stage. On the course profile map it looks like a giant kidney bean over the Ten Mile Range between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. At “only” 28 miles and @5000’ climbing, you expect the day to finish easy peasy. What the map fails to show is that most of that climbing comes in the first 7 miles and tops out at 12,460’ at the summit. Only 5 of those miles are rideable.
Easy enough, eh?
Social Hour on Wheeler Pass should be the name of this stage. Our speed topped out at 1.4 mph as we pace lined it up the pass… and by pace line I mean a line of people seemingly out for a casual stroll at 12,000′. Included in that line of bike pushers, and literally right behind me, was 3rd place Melissa. We spent the morning hiking tougher but when the temps dropped and the wind picked up, I thought it best to pull out the arm warmers. That was the last I saw of her. I doubt she would have waited around while I completed my 5 burpees on the top of the pass anyway. I finished my burpees but some how missed the bacon and whiskey shots. How did I miss the bacon? I LOVE bacon!
After getting all hypoxic from my burpees, I took off down the pass. In the back of my head I thought I could catch Melissa and tore off down the hill. Not 50 feet from the summit I crashed off the right side of the trail and bloodied up my knee. I got up take off, and this time I crash to the left. Luckily I landed in some cushy bushes but was stuck turtled under my bike. After the consecutive crashes I thought it was wise to chill out for a bit. The descent down Wheeler is no joke with wet roots, steep rocks and serious consequences should you crash. It’s why they have medics at the top and bottom of the trail.
I made it down to Aid 2 in one piece and was greeted with a friendly face, Zach. For the rest of the day Zach became my brain as obviously I needed some help in that department! The next piece of climbing was Miner’s Creek Road. I have nothing nice to say about this 3 mile climb, so I’ll leave it at that. Zach kept me moving at a good pace and we alternated between walking when it was stupid to try and keep pedaling and riding when I could. Zach’s wife Amy caught up to us since she seems to like ridiculously steep climbs a lot more than me. We finally made it to the last few miles on the Peak’s Trail. It’s a trail we ride often and after that last awful climb, I rallied home. When it was all said and done I lost about 2 minutes to Melissa when I could have easily lost more. I really tried to pull it back towards the end and was happily surprised to have a little left in the tank.
I can’t believe tomorrow is the final stage. It’s going to be a big conga line of happy racers relishing in what has been an unforgettable week of riding in the Rocky Mountains. I can’t wait!!