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Haute Route Rockies Journal: Four surprises

After five days of riding in Colorado for the Mavic Haute Route Rockies, here are four surprising things Spencer Powlison has learned along the way.

You won’t be shocked to read that climbing to over 12,000 feet above sea level is hard. And yeah, waking up at 5 a.m. is a bummer when the hotel coffee isn’t up to snuff. So, here are four tidbits from the Mavic Haute Route Rockies test event that might come as surprises. We are five stages into the Colorado ride, and I’ll admit, for the most part, these are things I didn’t anticipate.

1. Beware the valleys

Of course, the precipitous, switchback-laden heart of a major climb is fearsome. That’s the maw of the tiger, an obvious challenge, but you have to watch out for that beast’s claws as well: the long, grinding valley road to reach the climb proper. Though the valley road’s average gradient is modest, it’s usually a long slog into a headwind. I now know not to underestimate these seemingly benign approaches.

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2. Sleeping is almost as hard as riding

We’ve been lodged in mostly high-altitude towns so far, save Boulder, our start town, and believe it or not, it’s actually hard to get good rest after a long day of riding. It’s almost like the body is leery of sleep in such an oxygen-deprived state, that it’s afraid you won’t wake up again. A lot of us have been tossing and turning, wishing we could get that sleep we need.

3. “The Crank” was right

I thought I was so cool, showing up with fresh white bar tape in Boulder last Saturday. Our regular magazine columnist and snob mechanic, Daimo Shanks, warned against the evils of white bar tape (and everything else white) in a recent issue of VeloNews. After spending another 100-mile day staring at gross, grimy handlebars, I regret to inform you that he was correct.

4. It gets easier

I can’t speak for everyone on the ride, but after the third stage, I felt like I was turning a corner. Sure enough, Wednesday’s big ride, which reached the tour’s highest point, over 12,000 feet, was hard, but not unreasonable. The miles are ticking by faster; I feel comfortable on the bike, and between the good company and stunning scenery, motivation is not in short supply.

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