Confused looks greeted me at the mailboxes this morning on the Flagstaff community group ride. Wasn’t I supposed to be racing today at Mt. Evans in Colorado? Yes, I was. But why was I here? First let me sing praises to the Mt. Evans race, and second I’ll tell you why it was good that I was in Flagstaff today.
Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in America, and they run a race up it! You begin in Idaho Springs, Colorado off of I-70 just west of Denver, and over 26 miles climb through various life zones, past high conifer forests, skirt beautiful alpine lakes, leave the gnarly bristlecone pine trees–the oldest living tree species on earth, some individual trees were alive when Jesus walked the earth–in your wake, go past where trees can’t grow anymore, and summit around 14,200′ with a herd of mountain goats chomping on tundra casually observing all the strange spandex visitors on a fine July morning. It is an awesome race, the pilgrimage for passionate hill climbers. The views from the top, oh my! You should do it at least once. They also have a citizen’s ride, a non-race, but no matter what event you do it is a guaranteed challenge just to make it to the top.
I’ve done it four times. The first year as a category 3 (bicyclists enter racing as a category 5 and progress one category by one category, cat 1 being the most “advanced”) I was beaten in a sprint at the finish by an Australian junior rider who took the inside line on the last hairpin curve. If I had only developed craft in addition to my strength. But such was my state as a strong Cat 3. The second time I raced as a category 1 or 2 but did not improve upon the time I had posted as a category 3. What is all this hard work for I wondered? I did however get to start the race with Tom Danielson and Scott Moninger that year and be on the wheels of greatness. I think Moninger did his best time ever at the age of 42. The third time I finished fourth and posted an improved time. Yey. The fourth time, last year, I was just coming off a vacation to Montana so my performance stunk. But I had an awesome road trip with my hero Drew and received a solid grounding in the school of high altitude racing. Plus last year the Pikes Peak hill climb was the day after Mt. Evans, and we did that one too. Back to back 14’ers. Always fun to do new courses. Every trip has been worth it.
But this year I simply had too much work to do and need to keep my racing in balance with my other life objectives. That’s OK because the community group ride in Flagstaff was just spectacular. The US national champion was with us again fresh off a pro race and more victories and teaching us all how to focus on quality training while riding for camaraderie and good fun with an eye for helping each other learn and grow. The local community guys were inspirational and uplifting, and super strong. It doesn’t get any better than today. All this without driving a mile. Plus, Jim says I have two more years left. I’m thinking three. Mt. Evans, I’ll be back. In the nearer term the race focus is on the next goal, Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs on August 24th. That is another incredible hill climb that begins at 9,000′ and goes to the top of America’s Mountain to over 14,000′ in around 12 miles. It is very steep. Today was a great day of preparation. I belong to the best bicycling community in the United States. Thank you Arizona!