The Grand Mesa is the biggest flat topped mountain in the world. It dwarfs all of the other surrounding mesas (the Grand’s is bigger) and even sports a fairly distinct ecosystem at the top. Today’s ride started out in the rain at 6:30. Given the enormous climb, I figured that what I needed was a good early start. Everyone seemed to share this view, as I was pretty well back in the group of 2,000+ riders at the start.
The first 40 miles was easy climbing along the Colorado River. I hooked on with three guys affiliated with Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin TX (owned by Lance Armstrong). It was kind of like waterskiing, being pulled by these guys. I did not take a turn at the front, so as not to embarrass myself. We rode for about ten miles on Interstate 70, which is always fun, and a little scary, and then turned right, going up the hill.
It was twenty miles of climbing between 6-11% grades, endless and remorseless. It was very hard. At the bottom of the hill the rest stopped was mobbed, long waiting lines – a real mess. We rode up into the clouds, and into the lightning. This was also scary.
By the time I got to the top, the crowd had thinned out considerably. It was a funny bi-modal distribution – fat people that rode to the top in the sag wagons, and a bunch of real hammer head cyclists, and me, comfortably fitting between the two groups. I met a guy at the top from Concord NH, and he took my picture (see attached). I think that I talked him into riding the Prouty. I sent out a SPOT satellite message from the top, which I hope was received through my special Twitter network.
I figured out why the Grand Mesa exists as such a unique physical feature. It is capped with a layer of massive basalt several hundred feet thick, with a number of clearly visible flows. It is much harder and more erosion resistant than the weak limestone, shale and sandstone that make up most of the rock in the area.
In terms of the road, the descent was the best I’ve ever seen. It is all good pavement, with long wide switch backs. I hardly touched the brakes. In terms of the weather, it was the worst descent (the top ten miles) that I’ve ever had. Hail, cold rain and about 35 degrees on the top (and still big snow banks). It was just about holding on and trusting to luck – and so far so good. The bottom 20 miles of the descent was good weather, and glorious signing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I was feeling good and singing at the top of my lungs. Apparently, it was effective at traffic control, as the other cyclists generally pulled over and let me pass. I guess that they wanted no part of the potential of divine intervention.
After a massage and a 30 minute bus ride, I arrived at the motel – the Country Lodge in Montrose. They have a 5×6 elk on the wall and a heavily tattooed lady behind the desk who introduced herself as Snake.
May God bless the great American West.
Tomorrow is an easy day and should facilitate some Mexican dining. Stay tuned.