Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 7 - Monte Vista to Trinidad, Colorado

Mark Pattison - RAAM Racer
Rob - leaving rest stop on way to La Veta Pass

Loading into the shuttle van after La Veta Pass - Randy, Jon, Max, Jim

Singer/waitress at Rino Restaurant in Trinidad

Today’s leg was only the second time in PACTour history that the ride was stopped for safety reasons. Winds gusting over 60 mph created very treacherous, swirling wind conditions on a high mountain pass in Colorado. One rider, RAAM favorite Mark Pattison, was blown off the road and went over a guard rail.
We started in Monte Vista this morning. La Veta Pass was about 66 miles into the ride. Until the approach to the pass, we were travelling basically east, with a fairly good S-SW cross wind. Riders were grouping up into echelon pacelines using the wide shoulder, Even across the flat mountain plains there were significant shifts in the wind.
Once we started up La Veta Pass, heading northeast, a tail wind picked up considerably as we reached higher elevations. It was a unique experience to be climbing a mountain pass at 15-25 mph. Standing up to catch the wind would gain another 1-2 mph. After the top of the pass at 9,400’, the problems started on the descent. Blasts of wind, up to 60 mph and more, would hit you from any direction. My first sense of this was a head on blast that pushed my glasses into my face and stung my cheeks with fine gravel. My speed went from 35 to 12 in a couple of seconds. A little farther on, two riders ahead of me were being pushed sideways by the wind, in unpredictable patterns. Most of us got down the hill ok, either by by being very cautious or going faster and managing the wind gusts well. There were some incidents though that highlighted the dangers.
Mark Pattison, who is planning to compete in the Race Across America (RAAM) ultra marathon event in three weeks, was the first one down the hill and was pushed off the road by a big swirl of wind. He flipped over a guardrail, his bike sailing over his head with him. Mark amazingly was unhurt, not even any road rash, but his custom ultra distance bike, with electronic shifting, etc. did not survive the fall, cracking his seat stays. He was able to ride the bike slowly down the reste of the hill. Mark finished second in RAAM 2008 and is a favorite in this year’s race.
Lynn Lashley, one of our women riders, was blown off the road and nearly went over a steep embankment. She fortunately only has a small bit of road rash on her knee.
Lon Haldeman, our PACTour leader and famous past RAAM champion, had to put both feet out to keep himself upright when he was blown into a gravel turnout.
At the bottom of this 10 mile torture test was the next rest stop. Susan was there and was already very concerned as the next part of the route would take us over Cucharas Pass, 1,000’ higher than La Veta, directly into the 40-60 mph wind and with a twistier descent. Once everyone was off the hill, Lon and Susan decided to stop the ride at that point and shuttled us up to our next overnight in Trinidad. No one disagreed. This is only the second time in 18 years that PACTour has stopped a leg of a ride. We got in 76 miles, a little over ½ of the day’s miles. Probably most riders were a little bit glad to have a small bonus rest as tomorrow we ride 193 miles to Ulysses, Kansas with a projected 20-25 mph crosswind from the south.
We are now out of the western mountains and face the prospect of several days of wheat fields and silos across the rest of Colorado and through Kansas, with likely strong winds and the possibility of rain in a couple of days. So far, (other than the wind today) the weather has been very good. We are all well tanned, some of us even a little crispy in spots.
One of the interesting effects of a day like this is how as a group we are growing closer together. There were lots of very animated stories about coming down the La Veta hill. Everyone here is a strong rider with many years of road riding experience. Some are faster than others, but nearly everyone has ridden every mile to this point and morale is still very good.
Dinner tonight was a special experience. Eight of us went to the Rino Restaurant in old downtown Trinidad where the theme was pasta, the ambience was wonderful, food was great, the conversation was fun and we were treated to several very well done classic songs by the owners and waitresses.
The biggest issue now for many riders are that butts are getting sore. More of the evening dinner conversations now revolve around ways to minimize or at least numb this problem area. Other aches and bruises come and go. Personally, I am getting over my cold, my ribs are still sore from the fall on Day 1, but improving. Onward.
Because of the safety concerns on the ride today, we all get a free pass on the ride-every-mile challenge.
Thanks, Lon and Susan for providing a great challenge for us, but looking after our safety when necessary.


  1. Wow Rob what a day. Glad everyone is unhurt. We are following your progress with great anticipation for each day's entry. Stay strong and safe!

  2. Glad to hear that sanity prevailed! Stay safe out there and keep the posts coming, they're great reading.

  3. Hey Rob,

    It's Meg from TCBC. Good job on the ride! Looks like you are riding through some beautiful country. Yesterday's ride sounded scary. I'll never complain about 30 mph prairie winds again!

    Keep on truckin'!


  4. Hi Rob
    Nice to follow your ride. My but is sore just from reading you blog. Keep safe and looking forward to a nice tame Mountain bike ride when you get home.

  5. Hey Rob,

    Please let Feldman (Foon) know his friends are watching him in amazement (potetially mingled horroe and disbelief at the difficulty of the task). Best of luck to him, you, and everyone in your group.

    The wind in northern Co was hienous (sp?) on Saturday too. I can imagine a big crosswind/ swirling wind descent was tough going.


  6. Susan and Lon definitely made the right decision. Glad all of you are safe and sound and even got a "rest" day out of the deal. I'm following you daily with great anticipation.

  7. Rob--I am so envious. You are having waaaay too much fun. Keep em spinnin' :)