Man, here we go. Wake up with that fatigued feeling, stumpy stiff legs. Rely on Tour experience, and know, just know that they’ll loosen up, I hope. Typical neutral start rollout, field settles into its pecking order. I’d rather not prolong the day, so settle in with the podium types for the opening climb, may as well turn the 18 while I can.
Actually ride some fun ‘ski area’ trail, dropping danky loam turns thru the slope sandwiched tree stashes. Having a blast, then the brake does that overheat thing, time for a short break. An hour in, spirits are high, settle into the all day tempo early. Start looking for the first aid spot, shit, it’s part way up the main climb of the day if I recall correctly, not here at the base. Had figured to make the aid at about an hour thirty, it’s now going on two hours, hmmmm.
Spot activity in the distance and hump it smartly up the final pitch, refill the bottles then try to settle in again. Notice a sloppy loose chain during a quick push after the aid, sweet, perfect excuse for another breather. Drop out of this cluster of riders, find a quiet gap and really settle in. Then we approach treeline and bust out into a mind numbing bowl. Talk about feeling small, this is what I came here for. Tear it all down to the rawness. This is high alpine trail that I’ve never experienced before. We hoof it up and out and around a shoulder and discover a tightly benched contouring goatpath.
Every turn reveals fresh scenes and questions of why? Whuuuut? And are we really going there? Way way over there, way up there?? Holy fuck, is this awesome!!! One more trip across a remnant snow drift and it’s up a freaking incredible path of goats to the summit of Wheeler Pass. At 12,460 feet, I take a moment to be a tourist, snap some pictures, shoot the shit with the pro photog and drop into the other side for a loooooong long long long bombing rip of a descent to the valley below. Self preservation and brake cookage dictate the need to stop and take in the view of Keystone(?) at a few opportune spots.
Trail turns from high alpine to flashbacks of transplanted high speed GW Forest love. Benched, piney scented soil, freefall see for miles sightlines that really have me wishing this bike had a fork, and could coast. Then it gets pitchy and the unspoken challenge to ride it clean is met, until the brake shits again. Out of the woods, find a surprise water station then take a nice break down the Summit County Rec path to the next trailhead.
Heaven. Rooty tacky tread up a nicely rolling pitch, reminding me of home. 20ish minute climb then contouring flowyness. More roots, more black tacky mud and really really cool wooden bridges. Also toss in some homestyle rocky bits here and there and I was in fixy heaven. Pedal pedal pedal bob and weave and bounce and pounce on any carrot spotted up the path. Chomp chomp chomp and wish wish wish this stage was earlier in the week. But it wasn’t, it’s now, or then or whatever, whenever. Today was a spectacular day on the bike, simple as that.