Cheating Winter

Usually by the second weekend in December, the big rides are either snowed or iced in. Not so this year, but the snow was coming - at least according to the weather man. With that in mind, Nick sent out the text inviting the gang on what might be the final big day of the year. Hoping the pace would be chill enough for me, I packed up my Talon 11 with lots of water, food and warm clothes. I didn't know where we were headed, but I was ready for some fun. As we rolled out thru Stratton, the riding plans tossed around ranged from 666 and Section 16 to Jones-Pipeline or even Emerald Valley. All of which sounded fun - and long. Eventually, consensus voted for a truly epic day of riding UP Jones' Downhill, then down Pipeline.

And I knew I was in for some trouble and some long stretches of riding alone. While the guys were riding comfortable, I was just below my endurance race pace. The train of Nick, me, Matt T, Todd and Cameron quickly caught up with Kim - who decided to tag along for a while. I'm not sure she really believed that we were really planning on riding up Jones. While the rest of the group stopped and waited for me before Buckhorn, at the top and at the junction with 666 and Jones, Kim kept riding. She was looking for a steady pace ride and didn't want to wait. Nick and I met her again as she was coming down CrankCase Alley on Jones. Given the weather conditions at the top and the fact she had no spare clothes and only two water bottles - probably a smart move on her part.

There were times I was questioning my own sanity for deciding to keep on riding. Jones was super sandy and I was constantly spinning out. After stopping for a few minutes to feel sorry for myself (what was I thinking? I can't keep up with the guys - this is a joke. I'm holding everyone back - that kind of stuff) I let some air out of my tires and climbed back in my bike. Time to ride - not race. Stay smooth, even power and keep my weight on that rear tire. I knew the gang would wait for me, so settled in for a nice long ride up hill. Once I recovered my composure and started having fun, I was starting to ride more of the climb. Sure, I was still walking some sections and they were waiting about 5-10 minutes at most of the major intersections. But it was a nice day in mid December and I was out riding my bike. Just a steady pace climbing up and up and up. We did see a few riders coming down - they all looked pretty amazed to see such a big group riding up.

As we climbed, the temperature began dropping. I was comfortable while climbing, but each brief stop chilled me a little. I felt sorry for everyone else having to wait for as long as they did for me. I knew the minute we started going down, I would need almost every layer I had. Every time the clouds obscured the sun, we lost 15 or more degrees. Snow covered the trail as we climbed higher, the motorbike tracks leading the way. I was pretty happy on that last section of Jones - I managed to ride more then I thought I would, especially since I was beyond tired. A four hour climb was a little more then I was ready for! Nick ride back with me on that last section of Jones and I was very happy he did. I knew I would make it, but I was a lot more comfortable with him close by.

Finally - the junction with Pipeline. We took a quick stop to bundle up - warm gloves, over gloves, heavy jersey, gore jacket - the works. My pack felt so light when I was wearing all the clothes! No time to really catch my breath since we heard motorbikes coming and we did not want to be behind them for the descent. Then it was time to point our bikes down hill and have some fun! The trail was in great shape and and was trying my hardest to stay with Nick. And while I wasn't able to keep up, I did a good job with the descent. I actually managed to ride the whole Pipeline descent this time. I did unclip in two sections, but I was never off the bike.

Cam, Todd and Matt had waited a little lower down, where it was warmer. After a very short break - just long enough for some Gu Chomps, it was back on the bikes. And while I tried my hardest, I was dropped in about two seconds! Yep, even on my "fun" bike I cannot keep up with the boys on a descent. And then we turned down onto Seven Bridges. A long, loose controlled skid with more then a few rocks. I did unclip and walk a few longish chunks and was having a good conversation with myself coming down that. Onto Seven Bridges and I knew I was in for some hiking. I gave it a go, but some of the rocks and turns were too much for me. There was even one rock outcropping in the middle of the scree field that Nick unclipped for - I was so proud when I rode it, then Nick said something to me. Yikes - happy I hadn't looked down while on that section! It was a long drop down to the river and looked painful. There were a few more hiking sections, then the fatigue set in. I started making stupid, silly mistakes and wiped out three times. All three left some bruises. I was so happy to finally pop out on to Gold Camp. I'd survived my first trip up Jones and down Seven Bridges. I was also tired enough that riding road all the way home sounded like a great plan!

It was the perfect end to our long fall. I woke up to snow and near zero temperatures Sunday morning. I think the high mountains are out for the rest of the winter and trainer time is starting up. Maybe next time we set out for an adventure that big, I won't keep everyone waiting as long!

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