A long post for a long day.
Day 5 was was the biggest ride of the week. 120km / 75mi with 2,200m / 7,200ft of elevation. Our destination was Brainard Lake at 3.200m / 10,500ft above sea level.
Our Pro guests on this day were Meredith Miller, Kiel Reijnen, and brothers Lachlan and Gus Morton. All four had competed in the USA Pro Challenge that had finished two days earlier.
It didn’t take much to convince me to accept the offer of a ride in one of the Cognoscenti cars to Lyons in order to skip the first 33km / 20mi of the ride. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would once again be fighting for oxygen during the ride, and therefore lagging behind the group. Better to start the 23 km / 15mi climb to Raymond ahead of the rest of the group.
Peter joined me on the drive to Lyons. My only regret was I didn’t get to see the Sunflower silo outside the town of Hygiene. The town got its name from a time when it had a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.
Peter and I started the gradual climb out of Lyons along South St. Vrain Drive in the company of Jon Robichaud. Jon had handed over van driving duties for the day. Jon and I were wearing the same brand and model of cycling shoes. Too bad I didn’t have his level of cycling ability to go with my shoes.
We had St. Vrain Creek on our left hand side as we rode through a variety of colorfully named gulches. Deadman Gulch and Coffintop Gulch for instance.
Picture postcard stuff. So lovely that it was hard to believe that the area had been devastated by floods in 2013. Nearly 19,000 homes were damaged, and 1,500 homes were destroyed.
It was nice to see that the area has largely recovered from that disaster. Homes along the creek have been rebuilt, including this one right out of Tiny House Nation.
Peter and I impressed ourselves by getting to Raymond ahead of the rest of the group.
The van was already there, and a spread of sandwiches and other nibbles from Cured was already on a table. A good thing, as the Raymond Store is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
One of the many treats during this cycling vacation was the chats I had with our Pro guests. It was fascinating to listen to them talk about life as a professional cyclist, the thinking behind what team to join etc. Here Lachlan is illustrating the main reason why he is a professional cyclist, and I am not. He did a much better job of choosing his parents!
Raymond is 750m / 2,460ft higher than Lyon. We had another 570m / 1,870ft to climb to get to Ward. We all set off on the next 16km / 10mi together. As you can see, it wasn’t long before the mountain goats pulled ahead.
Before long it was just Kiel and Andrew policing Peter and I as we collectively formed the caboose of the train ahead. I was in no rush. The scenery was too beautiful not to slow down a little in order to take it all in.
This is Peter cresting the final rise into Ward.
I had never been so high up on a bicycle before.
There was more to come. 345m / 1,130ft of elevation over 9.5km / 6mi to get to Brainard Lake. I toyed with the idea of riding to the lake, but thought better of it. Now was not the time to question the wisdom of Karl’s suggestion that I join Peter and him in a car.
As we drove up the hill I saw what a good decision that had been. Russ and Pam are strong riders. They were working hard.
As was Steve, here feigning grabbing onto the car as we drove past.
At least one pro did take advantage of a passing vehicle! Not that I blame them in the least for doing so.
Chapeau to the rest of the group for riding that last section to the lake. Mindy and Pam here with Meredith Miller. I’ll be wishing Mindy, standing on the left, calm waters, a tail wind and fleet feet come October 10th, when she competes in the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
The amateur brothers Scott from Lincoln and Steve from Omaha, Nebraska, kept up with the professional brothers Lachlan and Gus Morton from Port Macquarie, New South Wales.
Matt rocked his MRS Machining kit all week. He is justifiably proud of the business his late father and he have built over the years.
One more group shot before we rode around the lake.
Going downhill is always my favourite part of a ride. I heard Peter shouting “You’re a madman” as I shot down the hill ahead of him. Maybe so, but as I don’t have the genes to go uphill very fast on a bike, I might as well make use of what I have to get down as fast as I can.
The thought did cross my mind as I hit 80kph / 50mph that I was putting a lot of confidence into my new bicycle. Which was rock solid all the way down the mountain. Not a wobble or a shimmy. The guys at Alchemy Bicycle Company did a good job.
It was 27km / 16.7mi down from Brainard Lake. We dropped 1,180m / 3,870ft. Lots of fun, despite the scraped surface where roadworks were in progress. I didn’t expect to have to make a sharp right turn at the base of Lee Hill Drive. Which really should be named Lee Hills Drive, as there are two distinct climbs to get over before the last, mostly downhill, 10km / 6mi section to the St. Julien Hotel. Where salted watermelon and cold towels were waiting for Kiel, Gus and Lachlan, with Richard in the background.
I had just enough time for a massage – again, ‘Ouch!’ – before we were all shuttled to Frasca for dinner. Yet again Karl and Andrew made an excellent choice of restaurant. Our dinners were uniformly superb.
In the case of Frasca, our experience was heightened by co-owner Bobby Stuckey sharing his undeniable passion for the cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a sub-alpine region in northeast Italy. Bobby is a natural raconteur. He also has deep knowledge learned and earned through his Master Sommelier Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Put those two things together, and you have an engaging and entertaining host who teaches you a thing or two about what is being served to you during the evening.
At this point I admit that I do Frasca a disservice. I can’t recall everything that we were served that evening. Apart from the fact that everything was absolutely delicious. I should have kept a menu card for this meal, which like our other dinners, was specially put together for the guests of Cognoscenti. I do remember an excellent Axis Venison Tartare, Matsutake Mushroom, Raspberry and Horseradish. Not a run-of-the-mill dish.
It is a good thing that we were driven back to the St. Julien after dinner. I was too full to walk very far. I was certainly ready for my bed. We had one last 7:00am breakfast and morning ride to look forward to. Day 6 would soon be upon us. I felt things were coming to a close just a bit too soon.