Mt. Sopris christened the start of our 2016 Ride The Rockies from the welcoming town of Carbondale. It shone as a majestic symbol of all the beauty and challenges to be seen and to be conquered. Once you snapped photos of Mt. Sopris, and you broke a champagne bottle over your bicycle frames top tube, it was time to load the luggage, apply sunscreen, and pedal in a low gear out onto the open road of our adventure. It felt really good to begin. And I heard multiple times how nice it was to have a “warm-up ride” – not too many miles – the first day.
Disorientation was the key word as we got used to bicycle arrows helping direct us onto the right roads. Oh, you didn’t miss a turn and have to cycle back – can I ride with you next? When finished, we went on the hunt for luggage, sleeping arrangements, a shower, and food. I wandered in circles, reading the helpful signs and asking people for help, and then helping others.
Day one was a peaceful, serene ride to elegant Aspen. Perfect paths and roads, some tree covered, some wide open fields, surrounded in the valley of many shades of green. Lurking behind some hills were mountain peaks that reminded me of the impending Independence Pass climb on day two. Some roads lead us through residential neighborhoods where various planted flowers were in bloom, in addition to the plethora of natural fauna. We followed full raging rivers, crossed those rivers, and could have even dipped our hot toes in the ice water if we so chose.
It was hard get out of the #saddle and put the bicycle away in the coral. So much of Aspen to be discovered (a few people headed off to Maroon Bells). Yet what an honor to spend time with Lance Armstrong as he talked to a full crowd at the cycling seminar (next talk is Scott Mercier 6/14 at 4:30). Lance and Ron Kiefel lead a raw, honest discussion in a room filled with mostly kindness, yet unfortunately some level of disagreement. We heard of his cycling “pharmacy” choice (which was only one among a whole host of reasons why he won), the path of seeking forgiveness for the way he behaved about it, and regardless of anything cycling related, how as a cancer survivor he always wants to help others with cancer. Livestrong Foundation began when he was diagnosed and he said, “we have to do something,” which was three years before winning a Tour de France. Millions of dollars raised later, he hopes the organization (he is longer a part of) can still continue to provide free cancer support services.
Lance also spoke of having a respect for us. Yes, the average everyday riders of you and I doing this as a way of keeping the cycling community strong and letting others know that this healthy activity can become a fulfilling lifelong endeavor. Like the RTR riders who are over seventy.
Another rider and I pushed and pushed to make it up a steep climb (fill in your favorite tough climb here). When at the top he said, “Hallelujah!” Let us all say hallelujah for the many joyous moments we have already found this week. And for the thrills and merriment that lay on the road ahead of us.