Tour of the Moon – October 1, 2016Alan Cavin: CSCC Member
The day dawned cool but clear and sunny. Our "team" met at the start line and we had the whole group start together. Tom asked me the night before what the plan was and I just said "start together then do your own thing!"
Ten of us started together and then four of the group decided to take the short route - 42 miles directly through the Monument. The rest of us did the "flat" loop out through the farmlands around Fruita to add another 20 miles. Right at the cutoff I caught up with Jessica and she asked me to ride with her before she got to climb into the Monument. She had not done the ride before and wanted to be sure that she didn’t overdo it! And I did have to continually pull her back! She had been doing a lot of training and kept pushing up the pace. But all 6 of us reached the entrance about the same time and got our obligatory picture at the entrance sign. (Jessica, Ruth, Sam, Caroline, Brian – I was the photographer).
Tom and Dem were ahead of the group and did their own picture!
From the entrance at about 34 miles into the long route, it is a 4 mile climb to the aid station near the Visitor Center at about 38 miles. There is a sense of being mostly done with climbing at that point, which is NOT the situation! It is another 12 miles to the highest point in the park! But there is some wonderful scenery along the way that tends to take your mind off the climbing - sort of. :-) Besides the magnificent landscape, we even saw a Bighorn Sheep!
The major feature of the park is called Independence Rock. Apparently because for many years every July 4th a group will climb the rock and place an American flag on the top!
So, I had two basic goals for this ride - besides the obvious one of finishing with no mishaps. The last two years I finished within a minute of the same "moving" time 4:51:00 and 4:50:00. I wanted to reduce my riding time this year without any issues on the climb. I was able to shave 12 minutes off to finish in 4:38:00! I also improved my average speed from 12.8 mph in 2014 and 2015, to 13.3 mph this year. So I was very pleased with my performance.
As I mentioned, Jessica really wanted someone to ride with, and I understood her feelings because I've realized that is what I like as well - it is nice just to have someone around to share the experience with. Plus, we had an opportunity to share time with the rest of the group off the bike – the dinner on Friday night, lunch after the ride, and on Saturday evening 3 of us went to get a steak and several went to have Mexican food. We all craved some protein after loading on carbs all weekend.
Overall this was a very enjoyable weekend. Grand Junction is a lovely town to stay in. The downtown area is very quaint with a number of locally owned restaurants, and some interesting bike related art. I like to change up my rides each year to get a little variety, but I plan to do this one again at the end of the 2017 cycling season. (I already have hotel reservations!)
There a few tunnels to ride through and that gives the route some special character. The same 6 riders pulled in together at Independence Rock, so we had to have a picture (l to r, Jessica, Brian, Caroline, yours truly, Ruth and Sam).
The descent coming out the east gate the park is a real thrill. It’s steep and has a number of hairpin turns, but there was little traffic, the road was clean and dry, so I pushed it coming down. What a hoot!
A great ride, wonderful city, and if you want to do some mountain biking as well Fruita has some great trails and Moab is just a few miles further west. I’m looking forward to going back!