USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 6

Words: Jeremy Dunn | Photography: Jake Stangel | Date:

OBVIOUSLY

Around the office there are certain people who have taken it upon themselves to bestow upon me the nickname ‘Obvious Adams’. Apparently it relates to a book of that title, published in 1916, that was, in its day, something of a must-read in ad agency circles. This short “story of a successful Business Man” recounts the adventures of Mr. Adams, who succeeds handsomely through “startlingly simple conclusions.” Something to do with my own equally stunning evaluations qualifies me for this pseudonym.

Though this is something of a joke and bandied around lightly, each one of our Colorado rides brings its own set of realizations that, upon reflection, end up being quite simple. The main one, this time around, is worth noting.

The climb out of Golden is peppered with cyclists. They are coming up to our van. People seem to recognize the kit, or at least the black uniformity of what we are wearing, and so they approach with their own stories of discovering this countryside. Specifically, the climb that we will face upon immediately leaving the parking lot. They use the common vernacular, talking about the bikes and kit we have in common. If their enthusiasm is any indicator, the climb up and out of the town will be full of cyclists.

There is an array of cycling kit in front of us as we take the first necessary left. With this lead out we instantly ignore the directions and start the right, left, right that causes the streets to steepen.

“We are going up.”
- Obvious Adams

A stop light at one of the busier intersections lets us see what everyone has been cautiously warning us about. Directly in front of us, a steady stream of colorful jerseys is making its way up Lookout Mountain. There is no mistaking where they are going and it’s exactly where we’re headed. When the light clicks green, we move in unison, having added a few to our number, and enter the flow of people.

“People ride here.”
- Obvious Adams

A few of the cyclists around us notice that we are ‘with camera’, a syndrome that causes all who recognize it to do strange things. Some wave, some pick up their pace and try to put in a few good thrusts and jump on to the train of cyclists that is moving through them. One kind gentleman informs us that he would love to ride with us if his coach wasn’t requiring him to ride Lookout Mountain in his big ring. He stomps away, disappearing around the corner. The pace begins building to a bit of a fury; there is no direction other than up.

The lungs start to tighten, like they have every day since we have been here. Something that Ben Lieberson said near the top of the Galibier a few weeks earlier comes back to me. “It’s like breathing through a straw.” Altitude, the silent killer. Eating becomes a chore where it wasn’t before. Standing on the pedals is something out of a nightmare, especially when it’s in spite of the fact you are fit and prepared. Every pedal stroke feels thicker somehow, feels slower. It’s all a game, a mental trick to help you understand what it means to be rider (let alone be a racer) in these situations.

“Altitude is a bitch.”
- Obvious Adams

On the last day there is always something that happens. It’s the realization that no matter how fast or slow you ride, no matter how much effort you put into reaching or postponing your destination, it will still come in the end.

“You have all these miles in front of you and then you wake up and they have gone and you’re stuck in that void of wanting to stop and wanting to keep going.” Obvious Adams would approve of that one, I’m sure of it. The big ring trainer is starting to come back into focus. Until then, it looks as though this hill, populated by every smiling cyclist between here and Denver, is going to have to be enough.

“Colorado is a great place to ride your bicycle.”
- The Rapha Continental

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