A warm weekend

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Finally a weekend at home. From three weekends of seeing the rest of the US, and a couple of weeks of seeing the inside of a laboratory for a little too long, this weekend felt like a breather. A break. An opportunity.

The unpredictable spring weather threw a whole gamut of conditions at Colorado. The mountains saw one of the biggest spring storms yet this year, making the highways chaos, and the internets filled with photos of ‘epic’ whiteness. Most of the riding community on the Front Range of Colorado decamped to the Utah desert for a long weekend of riding sandstone trails. I was sorely tempted to join them. I had a couple different groups of people to drive and stay with, but in the end, the draw of a weekend of lie-ins, big breakfasts and big rides prevailed. I made a good choice.

As it was spring break for the students at CU, the town was emptier than the desert they had all travelled to. Quiet roads and empty restaurants added to the holiday feel. I didn’t have to teach this week, which meant an extra allocation of time towards bicycle practice. I started the weekend with a ride up to about 8500 feet. Just high enough that the dirt on either side of the road was still safely ensconced in a blanket of snow. I rode Switzerland trail for the first time; heading North from Sugarloaf mountain, down into the shade of fourmile canyon. I found lots of rideable snow, packed down by the occasional snowmobile who had made the journey during the winter. It popped me out at the Sunset town site in the bottom of the valley before heading up the sunnier side towards Gold Hill road. Here is where I found the huge view from the top of Potato gulch – a viewpoint I’d never stopped to drink in before.

Saturday brought the somewhat regular group ride. We always have a pretty strong turn out, depending on who is in town. Eight people rolled up to my house at 10am, safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t be returning home without four hours and multiple thousands of metres climbing under their belts. The link trail was the first port of call; the winding crushed gravel trail winching us from the canyon into the ponderosa pines. From there we went up Sugarloaf road, an opportunity for some energy to be burnt on the road. We regrouped for the meandering route towards switzerland trail. Here is where we made the tactical error. Having aimed to stick to the south facing trails all day, we took a turn north (still south facing), into the trees. Rather than gauge the level of snow and make a u-turn, we kept on pedalling until we were off our bikes in the woods, with a mile or so of snow-bound trail until we resurfaced on peak to peak highway up ahead. Rather than follow the thigh deep snow on the trail, we made a beeline for the road, cutting through the bush, climbing directly up the fall line, and scrambling on hands and knees. We made it though. Just a little scrapped and cold.

I’ve come to know that some spring rides will end like this. I always want to be the first person on a trail that year. Getting the virgin dirt. I always end up pushing the seasonal limit a little too far. It happens. The rides go on, and I know I will do it again.

I finished the weekend riding with Kevin Kane and Bryan. It’s been a long time since I had the pleasure of riding with Kevin. He stopped racing a couple of years ago after we both did the Breck Epic. Whilst I was new to the sport, he’d been engrossed in mountain bikes from an early age. The pressure of university tipping the balance of riding from escape to trudgery. It’s great to see him back and riding, albeit on a singlespeed. It’s the long running joke that ex-pro racers turn to singlespeeds when they’re done being serious. Kevin certainly fulfills the criteria of having a great big bushy beard to go with it too. Riding with him made me realise why the no-gears approach appeals though; simply pulling your bike out the house and pedalling, as fast as your bike will allow. Nothing else to get in the way. No computer on the bars, no watts to worry about nurturing. It was an enjoyable mid morning adventure on the dirt. We were surprised in the difference between saturday and sunday – the first day of the weekend we had the hills to ourselves, but the day after we were joined en masse by Boulderites ready to lap up the drying dirt.

The trails were packed with people happy to be outside. We were all happy to be outside, that’s for sure.