At no point in my 21-years living in Westcliffe, have I felt so much pride in The Cliffs. The warmth of welcome was a group hug that felt personal. The two towns (functioning like a well-oiled machine of disparate parts working in unison) made my heart sing. And thanks to Donna Hood and the host of volunteers who “made it happen,” our towns out-performed Grand Junction, Hotchkiss, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Salida, and Canon City.
And yes, it is true that the somewhat tarnished Lance Armstrong joined Ride the Rockies riding 96 miles and climbing 7,631 feet on day two from Grand Junction to Hotchkiss. No one on our team had the opportunity to ride at his side, but it was fun to know that the legendary cyclist was in our midst.
Sitting on the west side of the performance tent (Thank you, Paul Wenke), I had a good view of Deja Blues Band and Flash Cadillac. But the view that warmed my heart was the scene of tourist after tourist taking pictures of friends and family with The Sangres in the background. They didn’t need a welcoming committee to tell them that The Valley, protected by zoning, is the biggest undeveloped valley in the state.
It was truly uplifting to see everyone set aside cultural, political and religious differences and join together in a common purpose. We have a lot to celebrate. We should most certainly celebrate the riders who rode nearly 500 miles and climbed over 40,500 feet carrying not only their body weight but also their bike and belongings. But to my mind, the bigger celebration was the time, commitment and shared purpose that broke down some of the divisions within the greater community. It was a LOVE-IN, and playing a part warmed my heart. Bring on the kissing and hugging!
I also enjoyed getting to know the team and their support staff. The team was very much a team. From the beginning we decided that there would be no talk/or blogging about who finished first and who had difficulties along the way. The team left together in the morning, and as the day progressed, they spread out according to their abilities and their interest in time out. If you were to ask the riders which of the seven days was the most difficult, you would have six different answers.
Almost everyone could agree that one of the most difficult days involved climbing Cottonwood Pass which called for cycling 14-and-a-half miles on dirt. For the most part the dirt was hard-pack, but in other places it was gravel. The hard-pack was corrugated in most places but occasionally soft where the grader had tried to minimize the corrugations. It was a trick riding up the steep grade on an unpredictable surface.
Salida to the Royal Gorge was also tricky. The ride left Route 50 at the Copper Gulch turn off and traveled two-and-a-half miles to the back entrance to Royal Gorge where they met “The Wall,” a 14% grade – hard in itself but worse in the sun and temperatures in the mid-90s.
The best news was that the team not only survived but thrived with no injuries. A good reason to celebrate. Surrounded by an adoring throng, it was difficult for me to get a good photo of the team, but this picture captures the electric moment after Team Silver Cliff/Westcliffe crossed the finish line.
Day is Done – Gone the Sun