|Gentlemen, this is a gravel road.|
It was with the rising of the Sunday morning sun that we could tell the winds had shifted, literally, and it was not in our favor. There were some big fires burning in Idaho, one that threatened to erase Sun Valley/Ketchum before it was beaten back by some valiant efforts by firefighters.
But the smoke of the still burning but distant fires was now holding thick in the valleys where we would be riding all day. It was not all that unpleasant to breath, but it sure would kill the otherwise stunning views that a place like this normally offers.
The camp stove brought us hot coffee, tea, oatmeal, and some home made egg/bread/spinach muffins topped with 'borrowed' green salsa packets from Taco Bell. Number plates were pinned on, bottles were filled, packs packed. Off we went.
Parking near the venue, we unloaded and rode over to the start, already crowded with the eager riders, onlookers, and associated support crews. The local police lead us out of town at the starting bell and the first few miles out of town were pleasant enough; paved and on a gradual grade towards the mountains.
The gradual part did not last long and soon we were grinding up a stutter bumped gravel road toward the sunrise. I ran out of gears pretty quickly on the Crux and settled into a low RPM grunt along with the Fat Bikes, Tag-alongs, unicycles and Tandems pulling Burley trailers loaded with livestock. I am and will always be a leisurely climber and I was not about to burn all the matches on the first climb of a long day. Ed the Tall disappeared into the distance. Fare thee well, brother.
I stopped to adjust layers of clothing, and pressed on toward the summit, now in view. The first checkpoint went by in a flash as we let gravity do the work for us, and I let the Crux have it's head, passing all the fat bikes and more timid descenders. Wheeeeeee! That turned to a slight downhill grade for miles as the valley opened up. As I feared, the smoke really was a buzz kill as it smudged the expansive views that must normally be a part of this route. Oh well.
From here, the cross bike really paid off. It was darn fast on the sections of road that were not too beat up from all the vehicle traffic, but a good deal of the time I was in search of the thin, smooth line. Usually there was some part of the road that was not too washboarded so that was doable and the rough road surface was no match for the tires on the Crux. You just had to believe and pedal. It opened my eyes to what is possible on a burly road bike. I might want one of these.
I passed the 50 mile route right turn and continued towards the 93 mile route.
Pedal, pedal. I would grab my camera out of the chest mounted case, turn it on, and shoot a pic all while riding. I managed to not toss my Sony NEX5 into the dust of Idaho and the ride continued. Almost completely alone, I was seldom passed unless I stopped to take a pic. All the fast folks were ahead and anyone behind me was about the same as I pace wise. I stopped here and there for photos. Yeah, I know, but I was in Idaho for crying out loud! I may never get here again. Pace be damned.
At about 32 miles, when the road was no longer smooth and easy, I spotted a lone cyclist approaching. That was Burke, the winner coming back on his way towards town. He had ridden about 64 miles in the time I had ridden 32 miles. Oh my. Wonder what that is like, wearing that big red S underwear when riding? Go superman!
I was nearing the 35 mile mark and the final checkpoint. That would be a decision point for me. Go big or? I passed into the Copper Basin area and pondered my options. I still had time to think as the dirt passed by, punctuated by passing vehicles and clouds of dust. Just me, the Lone Ranger, and my thoughts. Hi Ho Silver and away.
Next, it is decision time. I wonder what Tonto would do?