My wife and I were in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, July 8 – 10. Carol paints silk scarves and shawls and was in an arts show this past weekend. I was along to help. Imagine me saying, “I think that turquoise scarf will look great with your blue jersey.” Obviously, I wasn’t the sales help! I’m the grunt labor who lugs everything to the site, puts up the tent, hangs the displays and am Mr. fetch-it.
It was more the journey to Steamboat Springs than the destination that is important, for our purposes.
Sometimes Just Ride for the Joy of It!
“I love putting bags on my bike and ending up somewhere different than where I started.” —Taylor Phinney
I’m like Phinney. When I started cycling in the ’70s I’d go for 2- to 3-week tours with all my camping gear on my bike pedaling over the great passes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. I still love touring, although instead of camping I stay in motels with showers and real beds, and I eat in cafés.
Rather than driving the 167 miles from our home in Boulder to Steamboat, I decided to drive out of the congestion of the Denver metro area and then load up my bike and ride the rest of the way:
Stage 1: A warm-up stage from Winter Park (elevation: 8,573 ft. / 2,613m) to Kremmling (7,313 ft.) / 2,219m), 45 miles (72 km) with only 1,450 ft. /442m of climbing.
Stage 2: A climbing stage from Kremmling over Rabbit Ears pass (9,426 ft. / 2,873 m) to Steamboat Springs (6,732ft. / 2,052m), 55 miles (89 km) with 3,320 ft. (1,012m) of climbing.
My credit card tour isn’t nearly as long as a Tour de France stage — 100 miles over two days — and I’m much slower than the pros, but the same principles of riding the multi-day Tour apply to my mini-tour – and to any back-to-back days of riding.
On July 6 as the pros were racing 216 km (134 miles) from Limoges to Lioran I rode my Stage 1. I was going west and the wind out of the west got progressively stronger until it was howling after lunch. After lunch I only had 18 miles (29 km) down the river valley to my motel, but the wind was up to 25 – 35 mph (40 – 56 km/h), and a loaded touring bike isn’t very erodynamic. It took 2 hours, 15 minutes!
Scout Your Route Before an Event, If Possible
“We did a recon of the course a few times. Once I was racing I had the corners in my head and I was able to take them really fast.” —Leah Kirchmann, who won the prologue of the 2016 Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile.
I recommend to clients who are doing an event to scout the route in person, if at all possible. If that isn’t feasible, get as much info on the Internet as possible. Fortunately, I had ridden the last 13 of those 18 miles down that river valley with my buddy John Elmblad last year. As the very windy afternoon dragged on, at least I knew where I was mile by mile and what to expect.
Ride With Serenity, Accepting What You Can’t Change
“It’s Another Day in Paradise!” —Dr. Bob Breedlove, my friend and former client, now deceased.
This was Dr. Bob’s mantra, which has seen me through many tough days. Dr. Bob holds the double transcontinental record of 22 days, 13 hours, and 36 minutes. He also holds the age 50+ transcontinental record of 9 days, 19 hours, and 47 minutes.
You don’t hear the pros complaining about conditions (unless it’s dangerous). For Dr. Bob, the wind was his friend. “The wind makes the trees quake, the Quakers are known as the Friends, so the wind is my friend.” Learn to accept what you can’t change and enjoy the ride.
Self-Massage a Good Option
“When I’m training really hard, I’ll add a massage because I want to make sure I’m recovering as fast as I can.” —Eric Young, United States National Criterium Champion in 2011 and 2013.
For the pros, recovery begins as soon as the stage ends.
Same for me. As soon as I rolled into Kremmling, I stopped at a mini-mart and bought a big bag of pretzels. High in carbs and sodium, but low in fat, they’re a great recovery food. I crashed on the bed for 20 minutes with my legs up, munched pretzels, drank lots of water and checked the Tour results.
After a shower, I stretched and gave my legs a massage. When you don’t have a crew along (let alone your personal masseusse!), self-massage works great.
Recover, And Check Your Equipment
“If you have a choice between an extra 20 minutes of riding or spending that time recovering, use it for recovery.” —Brent Bookwalter. Even in you aren’t riding back-to-back days, recovery is critical. For more see my eArticle Optimal Recovery for Improved Performance.
“Reports say the tar is melting.” —Cyclingnews Tour coverage
Descending the Col de Val Louron-Azet on July 9, Wilco Kelderman’s “tubular front tire was ripped clean off as he took the corner” and crashed hard. He got a new bike and was off again.
When I rode tubulars I always worried on descents on hot days. The glue that held the tires on was already softening. Would braking heat the rim even more, so that I’d roll a tire?
On my touring bike I ride beefy Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700 x 32 tires. On every ride, touring or not, I check both wheels every time I stop at a store, café, etc. I use my thumb to check the pressure to see if I have a slow leak. I spin each wheel to be sure it’s still in true and the brake isn’t rubbing. I run my gloved hand around the wheel to see if anything is embedded in the tread.
On each stage on my mini-tour I found and pulled out those tiny wires that mark motor vehicle tire wear — two flats prevented!
Keep Your Fuel Supply, and Energy, Well Stocked
“Each racer carefully monitors the amount of effort he’s putting out. It’s as if the rider starts each day with a fresh book of matches. Each effort, be it an acceleration, a climb or time spent in the wind, uses a match. When the book is empty, there’s no way to find more.” —Alex Stieda. “It might help to divide your ride into thirds. The first third should feel easy. In the middle third you can push, but be sure to leave a few matches to burn during the final third.”
I’d also ridden the Kremmling-to-Steamboat stage with John Elmblad last year. On the stage from Winter Park to Kremmling I could resupply in Hot Sulphur Springs (25 miles), where I had a delicious breakfast burrito in the Glory Hole Café.
Riding from Kremmling to Steamboat, there was no ice cream for 55 miles (see photo). In fact, there was no place to resupply at all, so I started with 4 bottles for the hot ride, which I estimated would take about 5 hours with my loaded bike!
For more on riding in hot weather see my 4-article Summer Riding Bundle: 1) Cycling in the Heat: Part 1 – Ride Management; 2) Cycling in the Heat: Part 2 – Hydration Management; 3) Preventing and Treating Cramps; 4) Eating & Drinking Like the Pros.
Since I’d ridden the stage before, I carefully rationed my matches and used very few in the first 25 miles (40 km) to the base of Rabbit Ears pass. On the climb I had to burn matches; however, I held some in reserve.
Rabbit Ears has two summits separated by 7 miles (11 km) of rollers. Riding with a loaded bike over 9,000 ft. (2,700m) I used more matches but still saved a few. After the 7-mile (11 km) descent averaging 6.5% I still had another 8 miles (13 km) into the wind to our lodging, which burned a few more matches.
Rather than burning all of my matches and trashing myself on that final stretch, I left a few unused in the matchbook so I’d be in a good mood when I connected with Carol.
Next week, I’ll write about climbing tips gleaned from my mini-tour. Stay tuned.
Learning from the Pros: 35 tips on how to become a better rider is 26 pages packed with current information, and available for only $4.99 ($4.24 for Premium Members after their 15% discount). Whether you ride for good health, for better fitness or improved performance, Coach John Hughes translates these tips from the masters of the sport into terms that you can use.
Coach Hughes is posting pictures of his mini-tour onhttps://www.facebook.com/john.hughes.5283
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.