Hartsel to Sergents:
I woke up to clearing weather and it looked like it was going to be a nice day. I headed over to the main lodge where there was coffee brewing. I could have stayed there for hours sipping coffee and relaxing but there was miles and miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route laying ahead.
Everyone packed up and headed back into town to the General Store for a quick breakfast and resupply and then headed out.
The morning was chilly and the riding was fairly easy so not really a good way to warm up. We entered into a pretty wide open area with no trees and it was starting to look like the Great Basin again. A lot of Colorado was like that and I guess being on a bike you tend to notice them in a different way than traveling by car.
All the sudden nature was calling and there wasn’t really a good place to hide from the road. I waited. Come on, there has to be a tree or something somewhere. Sean was riding next to me and Kevin was somewhere not far behind. I kept looking for a good place but there was nothing. Then I saw a small little rock outcrop that looked like I could crouch behind. I told Sean I’d catch up and veered off the road and pedaled over the the rocks. It wasn’t much but at least my ass would be hidden. Sure enough, Kevin came riding by waving and laughing. All he could see was my head poking out but it was fairly obvious what was going on.
Soon enough we made it back to trees. And also to some steeper terrain. It was getting hot and the hills were making me work up quite a sweat. We passed over Watershed Divide and began the decent into Salida, CO.
There were some pretty spectacular views of the Sawatch Range of Fourteeners in the distance. Apparently that was the actual continental divide. This would be a good time to point out that the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route adhere’s to the philosophy that keeping within 50 miles or so of the Continental Divide was the primary goal. It’s also noted that the Continental Divide Trail is completely different.Further down the road and after some pretty exciting descending, Sean and I stopped to snap a couple photos of this view. Pretty amazing. I think we also needed a minute for our brakes to cool down!I made my way the rest of the way down and Sean and I parted ways once we hit the turnoff to Salida. Salida was a little off route and the maps showed services further down the road on the actual route but I wanted to check out Salida and I also wanted to pick up a sun hat. The back of my neck was starting to take its toll from the sun.
I headed into town and stopped at the bike shop which I had heard a lot about. There wasn’t really much going on in there and I didn’t really need anything done to my bike so I guess I was just wasting time. I think I really just wanted to hang out and relax for a while, take it easy and stop rushing but after all this was a race. There wasn’t time to meander around the shops. I was feeling tired though. Kevin popped in and he didn’t really need anything either so we decided to hit up the burrito shop in town that we’d heard about. It was great, the burrito weighed about 10 lbs and I easily ate the whole thing. I got some dessert and Kevin and I headed down the road to a gas station to stock up for the rest of the day. After that we headed down the road to Poncha Springs which was were a few services were on route and we thought we might meet up with Sean.
We didn’t see him so after a quick pit stop we started riding up Highway 285 which was a pretty busy road. There was something I noticed here that I feel pretty fortunate about and that is how my body handles large amounts of food. I’m a skinny guy weighing about 135-140 lbs and on the divide when I would eat a ton of food it would only take maybe 15-20 minutes and I would start feeling really good. Like the food was turning to energy at an extremely fast rate! It was great and I always looked forward to that energy boost along the route. Kevin on the other hand would always have a hard time getting going after a big meal stop. I think a lot of other people were the same way.
We began up the paved climb and I left Kevin shortly after that. After all he did have the same size burrito I had! It was huge!
I finally hit the turnoff of Highway 285 onto Chaffee Co. Rd 200 towards Marshall Pass. This climb was going to be another big one totaling almost 4,000′ from the low point just outside of Salida. At least it was another railroad grade climb so it was just a matter of keeping the pedals turning.
Right after I made the turn it started raining. I stopped and put my rain gear on and the it started dumping. I found a kiosk and pulled under it to take a little break and see if the rain would let up a little. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later it let up so I continued on. There were a lot of cars in the parking area and others camping and people everywhere having a good time. I was a little jealous of them. They were on vacation, drinking beer, relaxing. Riding 4-wheelers and just taking it easy. I guess I was on vacation too but it seemed much more like work. I continued on up some switch backs. I just wanted to stop and sit there. I stopped. Standing there in the middle of the road. Ugh, I felt terrible. My post meal energy burst ended and I just stood there. I looked down. Then without thinking about anything I started to pedal again. I just kept my head down and rode on. This is what it took for me to get through a lot of moments on the Tour Divide. It was easy to start thinking too much and not focus on what I was doing. Pedaling South!
I got back in my groove and started making some descent time. Eventually I even caught up to Sean and we rode for several miles together chatting about how drained we were feeling that day. We stopped for a snack.
And eventually we made it to the top of Marshall Pass (10,842′). All down hill from here! This was a common joke along the divide because it seemed there was never a time where it was all downhill. Always little climbs here and there, even on the descents. This one however was actually all downhill. All the way to Sargents, CO and a good place to grab a nice meal. We lingered at the restaurant/general store for some time. Started talking about pushing on or staying here. There was a campground with tiny little cabins for super cheap. It was starting to become tempting. While we were there eating we met up with Peter and Chris Culos. They were both pretty set on staying and Kevin was having some stomach issues so he was for sure staying in a cabin with Chris. Peter offered up his cabin for Sean and I and we sort of wanted to keep pushing on. I was going back and forth and couldn’t really decide what to do. I wanted to continue on and I think Sean was really pushing for me to come with him. When you get into a group rhythm it can be hard to part ways and go off on your own. We both ended up splitting the cabin with Peter and ended up getting some good sleep and an early start the next day.