Not long after we got back from our Haflin’s ride, the true CTR madness began. First Jefe showed up before I could even jump in the shower, when I did finally get in and out of the shower, I heard Aaron’s voice in the mix. Then Jesse showed up to pick up his SPOT. Max returned from a taco’d wheel epic adventure and the backyard turned into a corral for CTR ponies. People drifted in and out all afternoon, CTR was the topic of discussion. I watched the minutes tick by, knowing that I could be ready to race in a matter of an hour.
I contemplated it. Seriously. Even though every rational cell in my body knew it to be a bad idea on so many levels. I was finally feeling good on a bike. I wanted to go make use of it. But I also knew that a CTR would end my feeling good on a bike for the rest of the summer, or longer. I knew I could put in a decent ride, I was intrigued with the reversed direction, I wanted to be a part of the race I hold so close to my heart, if for no other reason than it gave me the confidence, way back in 2010 when I was sitting under a tree somewhere between Silverton and Durango, eating a tropical dried fruit mix while yelling at the thunder, that I could do anything I set my mind to. Even if it was stupid. Even if it seemed impossible.
We headed down to Carver’s to see more racers. I saw Michelle, who I’d met in Banff and learned that she’d started Tour Divide with no rain jacket or sleeping bag. She made it to Whitefish and retooled her entire bike to go on to finish the race in an impressive display of grit. I hung out with racers that I hadn’t seen since the finish of the 2012 race. I watched the minutes tick by…I could still be ready.
Around 9 pm, with our stable of CTR races tucked into various beds, couches, and corners of the floor, I gave up on the idea. CTR 2013 wasn’t going to be. I was glad that the time to make a completely irrational decision had passed.
Instead, the next morning Scott and I headed up to go ride, take some pictures, and watch the race unfold. Parking at Upper Hermosa, we climbed Bolam Pass, which turned out to be an entirely civilized climb compared to the Rico side of it. Within minutes of hitting the CT, we ran into a confident looking Jesse. We rolled up to the next meadow and waited, hoping to get pictures of the chasers. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. Nothing. I tool a lot of pictures of flowers.
We lost patience and continued riding, constantly checking our watches for the time gap. 45 minutes. One hour. Hour fifteen. Then finally, Jefe, Matt, Neil, Jerry all in short succession. The race was on. We cheered for Max as he passed farther down the trail. Stopped and pondered life with PeteB. The climbed to the top of Blackhawk Pass where we could see long lines of riders pushing their bikes up the switchbacks. Some arrived at the top exhausted. Other exuberant. Other’s completely blown away by everything. We made bets on who would make it to Silverton and who would be the first rider to miss the critical resupply.
When the chill got to be too much, we descended, seeing Grizzly Adam, El Freako, Aaron, and countless others. At Hotel Draw, Scott said he was going to head down to the car to keep his ride short while I went on to explore Salt Creek. Hoping for company, I tried, “You’re going to let helpless little me go ride the CT and some strange trail all by myself?” It didn’t work. I tried, “It’s not that far. It’s, like, 15 minutes to Coral Draw, and then another 15 minutes to Salt Creek, and once we hit Hermosa, it’ll be 15 minutes back up to the car.” These were all blatant lies.
As a last resort, I tried, “What would the Universe think of you if you descended some stupid jeep road instead of riding the CT and doing some giant and awesome single track descent?”
That one got him and we continued on. We heard stories from racers in the second half of the pack of a giant hail storm, thunder, lightning. We saw a tree that had been hit earlier in the day with 20 foot long pieces of tree strewn near the trail. We rationed our calories after discovering that we only had a pack of Mentos and a Kep’s Ball between the two of us with a trail with a rather dubious reputation ahead of us.
Salt Creek was awesome. As promised, it faded in and out of existence, but with a little bit of local knowledge that we’d received, we followed it with great success. We found fields of daisies. Endless trail. Techy water crossings. Unicorn land.
And we spit out and Hermosa with a single, 100-calorie Kep’s Ball to our name. We split it and pedaled the 45 minutes, I mean 15 minutes, up to the car in the fading daylight.
“How long is Zia open?” came the question as we neared the car.
“9. If we’re in the car and moving by 8, we have a chance.”
One of the fainter portions of trail.
The pressure on the pedals increased. 7:53 we were at the car. 8:02 the bikes were loaded, leftover muffins from CTR racers pulled to the front, and the Sportsvan was pointed towards Zia. After nearly 10 hours of riding, a frantic drive back to town to make it with seven minutes to spare, a Wahoo Fish Bowl never tasted so good.
A part of me wanted to be out on Segments 22 and 23 right then, but I’m learning to control my FOMO and a warm dinner, a hot shower, and a soft bed wasn’t half bad either.