By Bill Plock
At 6:30 in the morning Becky Furuta and I drove to the top of Mount Evans as the sun rose over the Colorado plains thousands of feet below and I felt struck with a feeling of smallness. Like that feeling when you are away from humans and surrounded in nature and so vulnerable. To be on the summit basically alone felt rare. It felt amazing and reminded me of the vastness and quiet that still exists but more and more rare.
I also was reminded of how much climbing the hundreds of cyclists 7,000 feet down had in front of them. I admit I had some fear for them as the weather forecast included rain and at 42 degrees I knew that would feel awful. I became more nervous as the winds picked up and the clouds shrouded the top.
Unpacking the Primal tent and setting it up in the wind seemed almost pointless as I wasn’t confident the race would even happen. Snow pellets kerplunked the tent and we fired up the propane heater to thwart the cold.
Below in “Whoville” (a.k.a) Idaho Springs, riders lined up in decent weather, but I didn’t know that, I just imagined them looking toward the shrouded top that inspired tales of the Grinch. Some to race it and others to just climb it, but both honored to reach the top. Among them, two men from Florida who had arrived three days prior having never ridden in the mountains. Also lined up, seasoned racers, pro triathletes, Ironman champions, moms, dads, and pro cyclists.
On top, perhaps in a good omen sort of way, families of goats emerged from the fog and the kids jumped on top of each other and scampered on the rocks like their human counterparts do on trampolines. Their graceful movements on large boulders where one misstep would make them tumble a long ways were mesmerizing. Maybe they knew the howling wind, the low clouds and the occasional spit of ice was the worse it would get. They played like toddlers at a beach knowing rain wasn’t going to fall.
But I wasn’t so sure and I kept thinking about the riders—the eclectic collection of stamina, skill, experience and abilities. As the drop bags arrived, I saw so many that seemed to contain almost nothing and I felt nervous for them to be so cold for the descent.
As the goats pranced around, the top began to slowly bustle with snacks and the finish line. Our little tent with the only heat on the top and medals waiting for neck of honor shuddered in the wind.
Finally about 9:30 the first gran fondo riders arrived finishing the 27 mile, 7,000 foot climb in a little over two hours. As it would turn out, the wind created the harshest weather challenge, but luckily the rain stayed away. Also what I didn’t know, that along much of the route the sun poked through here and there and it wasn’t until much higher up the clouds touched the riders on the road.
We watched the dancing clouds toying with the edges of the abyss below and the goats that emerged from the fog were now cyclists of all colors in equally varied states of physical presence. Some seemed a bit delusional, tired for sure, but all were excited to be there, even those who have raced here many times. It’s a feat to be proud of no matter the conditions.
They arrived in waves and many made their way to our propane slice of heaven, warmed their hands and changed into dry clothes for the rough descent.
The two men from Florida arrived, in some the best spirits of anyone that day. They took on this challenge with no idea what to expect. I admire their sense of adventure and ability to push away the unknown and embrace its reward. Later I thought how truly brave that was. But they came prepared and were clothed well. But still, to take on a 14,000 feet peak with no real bail out option was pretty cool!
But it was also monumental for many and I loved the gratefulness all the riders shared at being on top. The looks of triumph and tackling something they weren’t sure they could do, for even starting when the forecast looked much gloomier then it turned out to be.
That sense of accomplishment is the reward that last forever and the tough weather and uncertainties it brought, just add to the stories they get to tell friends and family. And those two men from Florida, kudos to you, and I can only imagine what your next adventure is!