Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 5 - Kayenta, Az to Durango, Co

Our paceline group starting out in Monument Valley
at about 6:50a. Randy Mouri is the photographer.
Our paceline group - Brad Reed, Jon Batek, Tim Feldman
Randy Mouri, Rob Welsh, John Newton at the first rest stop
in Monument Valley. Our layers came off quickly, we were in
shorts and jersey by 9a

Jon Batek in Monument Valley with Shiprock Mountain in the background

Tim Feldman in Monument Valley

Another great day to ride across the country! We started at sunrise in Kayenta, heading into Monument Valley, Arizona, then Utah. This was one of the all time fabulous morning rides anywhere – the morning light was on the huge cliff monuments, the road was smooth, it was dead quiet, it was absolutely beautiful. Six of us formed a paceline early and kept up a better than 20 mph average for the first 60 miles over some ups and downs. The fantastic rock formations were hard to ignore, even while we were cruising along.
At the second rest stop I strained a rib muscle, probably from trying to keep up with the younger, trimmer guys. :-) This didn’t keep me from continuing to ride but I wasn’t able to go really hard on the up hills without causing a pain in my upper rib cage. This was the same spot I fell on back on Day 1 so I may have re-stressed this muscle or rib. From this point on, to keep things moving along I would leave a rest stop 5 minutes before the rest of the group so I could ride my own pace and not slow down the guys at least for the first part of the leg. This worked pretty well, although the first time we did it, their competitive juices got flowing and they treated me like a race rabbit and hunted me down quickly by hammering their way up to where I was piddling along. The guys were really good when we rode together, taking it easy on the longer hills, so I could stay with them. As the afternoon wore on, the group overall slowed down and I was able to keep pace for all but the last big hill. This was much appreciated by me and made for a good sense of cameraderie.
After 60 miles of Monument Valley, we cruised for another 60 miles up Montezuma Creek, over a number of small ridges in the high desert plains of Utah and Colorado (three states in one day!) to Cortez, Co. The Dairy Queen in town was voted a required stop by the whole group. From there I left early again and was soon caught by Tim Feldman, from Colorado. Tim eased up and we chatted for 45 minutes about biking and life (what else!) until the rest of the group joined us part way up the 8,000' Mancos climb and the last rest stop. After that, Randy, Tim and I dropped 600’ very quickly then started up the last long, gradual climb to the top of the pass outside of Durango at 8,400’.
The 12 mile descent into Durango dropped 1,800’, with many 6%+ pitches. Randy and I reached 50+ mph at one point. We were fortunate to be able to use the main traffic lane as there was virtually no downhill traffic. We would not have taken a chance on going that fast on the shoulder, although it was pretty decent. What a rush! This is two days in a row with a screamer downhill finish.
Overall, everyone in the Elite Tour group is doing well. We all have some aches & pains (tush, shoulder, neck, back, achilles tendon are the most common issues), but we are pressing on and morale seems to be very high. Lon and Susan say that by day 5 most people have gotten ‘Elite Tour fit’ and will continue to get stronger as the tour continues. Nearly everyone has been able to ride every mile so far. If you complete all 3,100 miles of the Elite Tour you become solo RAAM qualified, which entitles you to enter the Race Across America as a solo rider – a tremendous challenge that goes beyond what Elite Tour does. We have three past RAAM riders in our group, Mark Pattison, Scott Luikert and Harold Trease. Mark is competing in his second RAAM later this June – in 2008 he finished 2nd. Mark will ride with us until we get to St. Louis then take a 2-3 week taper break before starting the RAAM race in San Diego in mid-June. Randy plans to compete in RAAM in 2011.
The Elite Tour follows 90% of the RAAM route so it is a good preview of what the riding will be like. So far we have covered 826 miles in five days, with nearly 35,000’ of climbing.
Tomorrow we go to Monte Verde, Co, over Wolf Creek Pass at 10,500’. The distance will be a little less at 145 miles. Weather looks to be very good again!

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