– Words by Travis Dixon, photos by Angelica Dixon –
Our day began in Carbondale where the first sprint would take place. As we fueled up on coffee, the town was busy preparing for the stage. Even the local brewery was opening its doors at 10 AM to help get the crowd properly prepared for the day.
Groups of riders rode out of town towards the first climb, McClure Pass, which tops out at 8755 feet. The road snakes and climbs gently along Crystal River through Ponderosa forest and red rock cliffs. But the beauty would soon be replaced by the brutal final 5km. It was gonna be a long day for the riders.
I was able to ride the final 40 miles of the stage which featured Kebler Pass. It’s a dirt road climb that tops out at 9980 feet and was only open for bikes on this day making it even more enjoyable. The pros wouldn’t be able to enjoy the spectacular Ruby Mountains to the left and the endless Aspen groves along the way, as they no doubt would be having a busy day at the office, it’s too bad because the ride was incredible. The final 5km to the climb turned out to be paved – I call foul on this! I finished the climb in sunshine but the pros would later have rain … and mud. Sometimes it’s ok to be an amateur.
The stage finishes with a 5 km climb to Crested Butte Ski Basin. The final 1 1/2 km is a wall and after 105 miles in the saddle, and rain, and ending at 9376 feet … brutal. There were plenty of beer ‘hand ups’ for those suffering at the back, and for those who were really hurting, Jack Daniels (sorry Pez, no Tequila).
It was a great day and despite the weather, Colorado was showing their support for this race.