Firecracker 5k

The bride wore Lycra. So did the groom. And no sooner was the ceremony over and the honeymoon begun than the newlyweds ran into difficulty.

But then, so did the other 2,000 Ride The Rockies cyclists who began the 2013 tour Sunday at Telluride High School. Only a few miles out of Telluride, we started the first big climb of the tour, up Highway 145, setting the stage for a 74-mile, griddle-hot day that ended in scorching Cortez. In the middle of the chugging pack were Twist and Jack, pedaling a brand new Da Vinci Joint Adventure tandem that they had ridden all of 110 miles together before bringing it to RTR.

Twist Phelan and Jack Chapple, veteran RTR riders, but newbies as a couple and as a tandem team.

Twist Phelan and Jack Chapple, veteran RTR riders, but newbies as a couple and as a tandem team.

Twist, a Denver novelist, and Jack, a Denver investment executive, are RTR veterans. Before they married in March, they had never ridden a tandem before (for more on their unique and bicycle-infused courtship, check out this New York Times wedding announcement).

“This is my sixth [RTR] and Jack’s third,” Twist said. “He proposed to me right before his second RTR, which led to our bike-themed wedding and honeymoon. RTR is the first stage of the latter; the second is a bike tour, including riding parts of several Giro stages, on single road bikes in Italy this fall.”

Their tandem includes a custom top-tube decal that says, “Just Say Yes,” something of a motto between the two meant to remind the couple to remain open to each other’s spontaneous suggestions — like jumping on a tandem after years of riding single bikes.

“I’d always thought couples on tandems looked like they were really enjoying both the riding as well as the interpersonal connection,” Twist said. “I think I romanticized the idea, so when I met and fell in love with Jack, I assumed I’d met my tandem captain, too. Of course, I had to get him to like road-biking first: he was a mountain biker who thought distance road-bike riding was nuts, with RTR an especially crazed endeavor. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to bring him around.”

No one would have blamed them if they had quickly peeled off their wedding-themed cycling getups. The Sunday sun was fierce. Cyclists sprawled in the grassy shade of aid station set up at a park in Dolores. The temperature in Cortez hit 95 by mid-afternoon.

Joey cools his feet in an irrigation ditch along Highway 145 east of Dolores.

Joey cools his feet in an irrigation ditch along Highway 145 east of Dolores.

Our son, Joseph, found a way to beat the heat — and the frustration of two flat tires Sunday — on the road into Dolores, where a small irrigation ditch gurgled. He dropped his bike in the shade, tossed off his shoes, and dunked his feet in the  water.

Fortunately, most of the day’s climbing was done early in the day, and the bulk of the day’s ride, through the afternoon heat, was a downhill cruise. In the Cortez recreation center, riders draped themselves over every chair and in every hallway and corner, soaking up the air conditioning. Some cooled off in the rec center pool.

Tomorrow looks like more of the same: Sunny and 90 in Durango, our next stop.