Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iron Horse Classic, The First 24 hours

"Go West young man..." because that's where Durango is. So Friday we packed up the car and started off on the trip west, for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. The weather was mostly nice on Friday, though there was a trace of snow on my car, when I left for my ride down to work, and there were a few drops of rain, as Jessica and I met Seth in Golden and packed up the car. All a portent of things to come.

I'm pretty sure we drove through every type of weather possible. We started off with some rain and sleet on our way up and over Kenosha Pass;

The primo storm of the ride though, hit us just south of Salida. We saw it coming from a ways out, with it's intense lightning and overall menacing looks. Thank the baby jeebus that we only "skirted" it, as I think Seth's car would have looked like a raisin if we were a mile further West;

I was waiting for the windshield to explode as we kept the fingers crossed and tried to make our way through. Good thing the bikes were on the inside of the car! After a few minutes of being peppered with hail, and when we could see again, the handling of the car went to pot as we skated across an inch or so of hail. Like driving on ball bearings;

And once a bit further down the road, the storm still looked impressive! For scale of just how big this puppy was, notice the line of high mountains, in only the bottom-fifth of the sky!

We enjoyed smooth sailing for awhile, then it was time for Wolf Creek Pass. It's definitely a scenic pass, with a nice twisty route, along a raging river (this time of year);

I had figured if anything, this would be the sketchy part of the drive out. And as such, we were hoping for conditions to at least not be too bad. It was snowing, but at least it was scenic, and the road wasn't too bad... other than the ice inside the snow shed;

Safely over the pass, you end up traveling along a great valley, that is always lush and green. Though with all the moisture as of late, it was feeling especially green for our final push on towards Durango!

...but not before some more rain and snow, as we were going through Pagosa Springs;

Finally we made it to Durango in rather good time (about 5 and a half hours), especially given the weather conditions on the way out. It wasn't raining in Durango at that time, so we did our packet pick-up, and were ensured the race was on... so far. During dinner, it started pouring again. We ran into some friends that had come via Silverton, that day, and the reports were bad. Saw some other people that had pictures of a fresh 4 inches of snow at the top of Coal Bank pass on their way through that same day. We went to bed hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst... our confidence not boosted by the final weather report of the night calling for a FOOT(!) of new snow in Silverton overnight! Ugh.

Well it rained all night, and was cold in the morning, though not quite as cold as I had expected. We had to prepare as usual, and got up at 5.30am to start fueling the systems with breakfast and coffee. Here is Seth outside, looking for better reception and to see what the word was on racing - coffee in hand, pajama-pants still on, snow-line a mere 300 feet above our parking lot in Durango...

Sadly, and surprisingly, word came back that the race was canceled. We figured maybe it would be shortened, but reports came back verifying 12 inches of snow in Silverton, and 5 inches of snow at the BOTTOM of the pass... only about 1200 feet higher than Durango. Just to punctuate how ugly it could have been, the rain quickly returned. So this picture is from the hotel breakfast room, at the scheduled start time of 7.20am, while it's 36 degrees outside, pouring rain, and occasionally switching to accumulating snow;

Everyone was really bummed about the cancellation of the race, though I don't think a single person in Durango that day, questioned the decision. So what do you do when it's only 6am, you're dressed, fully caffeinated, and the body is amped-up for a bike race that isn't going to happen? Well, what else!? You head off to other people's hotels to see how their continental breakfast stacks up, then hit the one at your hotel again, and after eating three times by 9am, go take a nap and hope for better weather in the afternoon!

No comments: