By Steven R. Willams
Note: These are Steven's reflections upon completing his inaugural brevet, the 2005 Denver-Aspen 300K brevet, part of the Colorado Brevet Series sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club. The ride is one of the toughest, most mountainous 300k's around —it has over 15,000 ft. of climbing at altitude, including four passes, topping out at Independence Pass (12,095 ft.). Steve is now enjoying superb skiing out his backdoor at Aspen Highlands, ready for more brevets in 2006! — John Lee Ellis, Colorado RBA
A writer is supposed to know his audience.
But, they all pedaled furiously away at 4 a.m. and I haven't seen them since.
Now, that's not exactly true, I did see three other riders in the first 20K of the 300 we rode that day. I saw the first rider on the climb to Bailey and two others at the first checkpoint. They each said the same thing, "Wow, big pack!" But, you know, living at the other end of this ride in Aspen, I regularly see and get caught in storms that pummel the 14,000 foot mountains surrounding Independence Pass. It can snow at any time of year up here. At 12,095 feet, it is the highest paved pass in Colorado and one of the highest paved roads in North America. I would be on the summit after about 265K of riding and I wasn't about to be unprepared. My wife had driven me down to Denver the night before and dropped me off at the start. Once I rode off, she turned around and drove back up into the mountains to pick up her mother at the Aspen airport. It's a three to four hour drive one way from Denver to Aspen. Long story short, I was self- supported on this, my first brevet. So, like the three other riders intimated, "Wow, big pack!"
The silent spinning thread of blinking red seat-post mounted tail- lights long since sliced the pre-dawn, street scene by the time I wheeled out of that 'Park and Ride' at 4:07 a.m.
I didn't get lost until 4:12 a.m.
Even during the day, I'm a foreigner in a cityscape, let alone a dark city, at night in tights on a bike. I stopped and tried my cell. It didn't work. Just as well. I kept riding and got 'un-lost' (because that was my only option) just in time for the first uphill and a detour.
We live in a postcard and I rode through it on a quintessential Rocky Mountain August day. Our deep sky that only happens here made a lonesome cloud shine like an infrared photo. The route took me over Kenosha Pass where I saw a piece of Colorado that I'd never seen in almost 30 years of living here.
With 225K behind me, I arrived in the tiny town of Twin Lakes at 4 p.m. and was elated. I had no idea when I could have anticipated getting there. Twin Lakes is at the bottom of the east side of Independence Pass at 8000 feet. From here, it's 30K up to the continental divide at 12,095 feet and another 30K down into Aspen, also at 8000 feet. Now, the name of this ride is the 2005 Denver-Aspen 300K brevet, but, this year, the ride didn't end in Aspen. It actually finished 15K past Aspen at the legendary Woody Creek Tavern in storied Woody Creek, Colorado (former home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, among others).
In the days and weeks leading up to the ride, I had entertained visions of climbing over Independence Pass in a thick, black rain and getting hypothermic while descending the 30K into Aspen, only to ride practically right past my driveway and another 15K out to the Tavern.
But, as it turned out, I was on top of the pass at 6:15 p.m. and it was sunny. I was at the Woody Creek Tavern at 7:45 p.m. and it was still light out. I arrived two hours and one minute behind the second to last finisher. Yes, that's right; I came in a glorious and lonely last on my first brevet! I couldn't be happier.
I'm hooked, I'm addicted. I'm ready to run out and buy a Rivendell or at least put bigger cogs on my Cannondale ... and carry a smaller pack.