Grand Mesa (Trail Ridge Part II)

Day 46: Paonia, CO to Grand Junction, CO
Total Mileage: 80 miles

Today’s ride was in dedication to the Mammano family, especially Tony Mammano, a very strong family man that continues to fight relentlessly against the monster. Keep fighting and know that the 4K for Cancer teams are fighting with you. Stay strong!

IMG_4109Yesterday while Lamie, Casey, and I were waiting at a water stop on McClure Pass, a car stopped to talk with us. Turns out they traveled over 4 hours to Paonia to meet up with us at United Methodist Church. A young boy named Kyler was at the church last year and met team San Fran 2012. His father promised him last year that he could ride with the next group of team San Fran 4K riders, which happened to be us. Kyler’s grandfather was the pastor of the church last year, who met team SF 2012’s team. Kyler was dressed in the jersey last year’s team gave to him, which was signed by both team 2012 and now team 2013.

IMG_4091IMG_4102Today’s team name: Team White with Zac, Ali, Lauren, and Caiti. What do Eminem, flour, snow, ghost, and OJ Simpson’s bronco have in common? They’re all white! Ali Straub always kills it with the themes. We were joined by Bill today, who is an avid cyclist that warned us about the climb we were about to do. Bill was very knowledgeable about the mountain ranges, the routes, and the Tour de France, which he followed in 2003. At one point in his college career, he used to ride centuries before going to class and would ride 50 more during his free time. Now that’s what you call dedication.

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What made today difficult was the vast amount of elevation we had to climb in a short period of time and getting three flats, two right before I left and one right before the second water stop.

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Paonia is at about 5700 feet in elevation, whereas Grand Mesa is at 10,839 feet. Fun fact, Grand Mesa is the largest flat top mountain in the world. Climbing about 5000 feet in the span of 50 miles didn’t sound too bad initially, until we found out most of the climbing would be within 13 miles. After the second water stop, we split up into pair climbing. It’s just like Trail Ridge Road, but a shorter climb. Shorter climb means steeper grade, which made it just as difficult. We also started the day a bit later than expected, which added a time constraint. By the time everyone reached the top of the summit to Grand Mesa, it was already 3:30.

IMG_4147Lunch ended around 4:30PM and we still had about 50 miles to go. The church in Grand Junction was expecting us for dinner around 6:30, so we either had to book the last 50 miles or shuttle ourselves before we reached the interstate. Bill told us climbing Grand Mesa was one of the most difficult trails in the US. Fortunately, we climbed the easier side and descended on the more difficult side, which made the descent speedy. 30 miles of downhill never felt so great! By the time we reached the intersection of the interstate, it was already 6:15, which meant a group had to be shuttled to the church since they were expecting us in 15 minutes. UCF policies do not allow bikes to cycle on interstates for safety reasons.

IMG_4166Zac, Kevin, and Danny were shuttled passed the interstate and were the only team members to cycle to dinner.The last two groups were shuttled to dinner. Big thanks to the church that cooked dinner for us and to our host, Colorado Mesa University. IMG_4171

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