Team FARA has taken on their fair share of big rides. They’ve braved the rain in the Pacific Northwest, the heat in the deserts of the south west & the humidity in Chicago (to name a few). Recently, the team celebrated the premier of ‘The Ataxian,’ a documentary film chronicling their 2010 bout with the Race Across America. This film is most excellent and won the prestigious Audience award at the Dances With Films Festival). )I’ll keep you posted on the films availability.)
Which brings me to the next episode: the Mount Evans Hill Climb featuring the highest paved road in the United States! Though this ride is only 27 miles, it is nearly straight up the whole way: with a total vertical rise of 6,723′ (an average grade of 4.6%). That’s nuts! I suppose that’s why Kyle decided to ride it, though I don’t know why we all decided to follow…I suppose he hasn’t led us astray yet, right?
Our first day in town is Monday ~ we arrive into Denver airport, hop in the rental car, and immediately ascend (as we will do for the rest of our days in Colorado). Our final destination is Black Hawk ~ a town which ironically had banned bicycle riding until it was overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2013…which I suppose means that our cycles rolling thru town are a sign of victory!
In the following days we acclimate, drive the course, take in some sights, avoid the casino in which we are staying and drink plenty of water…that’s right, we’re in Colorado and we stay away from the delicious beer brewed with the infamous refreshing, plentiful rocky mountain water….there will be no tapping of the rockies, until we’re at the top (if we ever make it!).
Throughout the week, we spend our time Race Director: Deirdre of Team Evergreen as she guides us thru the pre-race process, granting us access to the top of the course in our vehicle. The gate had been closed because of heavy snow and road damage that occurred over the harsh winter, and as we made our way up in the extended cab of our rental Ford pickup, it seemed as if the harsh winter had yet to unfurl it’s full wrath. The rain came down sideways, the wind howled and chilled at around 20 degrees F. When we arrived at the top, 14,200′ up in the air, we parked and only the brave dared to step out into the brutal cold; I lasted about 2 minutes before my legs were experiencing a bone chill that sent me hobbling back to the heated truck. On the ride back down the massive mountain, the weather cleared enough for us to see how high we had gotten…and see what we were up against tomorrow.
Race Day, Saturday June 25th, 2015, 4:30am…up and at ’em. Despite the early start, the sun is rising around us as we reside in a bowl at about halfway to the top of the Rockies. The weather has done a complete 180° overnight and the skies are blue, the temperature is rising and the only clouds left in the sky are light and puffy. We walk bikes and gear out to the garage and load up the truck; all the while our riders are cramming carefully selected food items into their face.
The mood is tense in the parking lot where we assemble pre-race; nervous energy combines with the excitement for the day ahead. The weather continues to improve, we scored today. The team starts slowly, not intending to bring up the front of the pack. Quickly the herd leaves our tiny pack in the dust…and the narrow, winding road becomes somewhat tranquil. Miles are tacked on and as the sun rises higher, clothing items are flung at us in support & gear (SAG) vehicle…the weather is getting hot! Our SAG vehicle leap frogs the riders, to make sure everyone is doing well, to offer food, to take pics ;). At one point, a fox joins our crew and hangs out for a bit…it felt like we the day was off to a good start.
As the team steadily rose, the scenery changed & the air thinned further still as we rose above the tree line at about 10,500 ft…but Team FARA continued to chug along. The sips of air grew deep as we approached 12,000 fee. I noticed riders stopped along the road, some of our team looked close to extinction but the support team had pickles on hand to thwart the looming cramps. The terrain was now desolate and overrun with mountain goats, big horn sheep and moles…like the entire population of moles that exists…they are everywhere.
The day was growing late and the majority of participants had either given up or finished the race, now screaming down the hill on their way home. The road was battered and dangerous, and we encountered one accident: a cyclist had injured himself falling on the downhill stretch. It was clear we were following the tortoises slow and steady pace, and it was working.
At the end of the day, we were approaching the finish line. The race director had instruced the crew to close it down as soon as we crossed the finish line…making us the grand finale I suppose…and a grand finale it was! The team, completely intact, crossed the finish line together, over 6hrs after beginning the race. We popped open a canteen of beer purchased a few days before at the Tommy Knockers brewery (back when we were all abstaining from booze…but that was over now) and the celebration began. With what energy was left, we enjoyed the sweet taste of victory at the top of the highest paved road in North America.
For a more complete account of race day, check out Kyle’s blog post about ‘How to Breathe at 12,000 ft‘ for his first person depiction of this intense ride! Also, check out the full photo gallery: View. Thanks to everyone on the crew, the riders, to Deidre and Team Evergreen…and thanks to Kyle for getting us up off our asses to do something ridiculous, like Cure FA!