Ride the Rockies Day 1

Words: Ben Lieberson | Photography: Dan Sharp | Date:

COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT LOOP

It kind of felt like we were getting the band back together and were on a mission.

Everyone met in Grand Junction. I arrived from Altadena via Salt Lake City while others rolled in from all different directions. We were here to ride the Rockies and that is what we would do over the course of the next week.

First we set up camp, put together our rides and ate, in no particular order.

I am not a camper. Having grown up in the middle of London this is a foreign concept, but I am in a foreign land now. The people from the Pacific Northwest seem to be pretty adept at the camping malarkey so I roll with it.

We are at altitude right from the get-go on this trip and it makes for interesting sleeping and labored riding. Great.

The school grounds that we are sharing with 2,000 other cyclists for the first two nights will soon start to smell like, well—I don’t want to remember that part of the trip.

We have a great crew, James Selman, a Conti legend. Pete Rubi who I had met only briefly but like a lot. Steve “The Pro” Francisco. Enough said. Joe Staples, not only a fellow countryman of mine but a top geezer and a pleasure to pedal along side for miles and miles with his gift of the gab and warm charm. Carey, our fearless leader and positively the rock for our endeavor. Then we had Benji Wagner, and Dan Sharp the men behind the lens and the number one top blokes with the cameras. And let us not leave out the one and only Dave Roth. What a crew.

The first day was the shortest route of the week but one of the most visually spectacular. It consisted of a 45-mile loop through the Colorado National Monument. We mustered early, made some breakfast, did the best we could to satiate the coffee fix and mounted up to watch the official start. We then rolled out at a leisurely pace trying to collect all the Conti riders into one group in the midst of over 2,000 other riders heading out at the same time.

Pretty soon we saw a couple of serious looking riders and decided to get on their wheels.

This turned out to be fortuitous as the Amgen rider turned out to be Wayne Stetina, living legend of American cycling and all around good guy. The young rider with him was a U23 racer named Elliot Craddock who was super nice and getting ready for Nationals. This was the start of a great pattern of riding that would result in what was to become known as the “Wayne Train” (closely related to the “Pain Train”) because of the rapid tempo set. This meeting also resulted in an impromptu bike fit for anyone who needed it! Good times indeed.

The day itself was amazing. This was some serious scenery that rapidly emptied the adjective descriptive tank and was a fantastic way to start the Ride the Rockies experience.

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