Part 2: Loveland Pass – the Highest One

Jessi and I heard the chatter: Mile 30 – Mile 59.6 were the hardest of the entire route. We heard that when we hit the Loveland Pass summit, about 60 miles in, everything else was easy-peasy.

However, those 30 miles leading up to the summit were nothing to sneeze at. From Idaho Springs there were some 15 miles of false flats to the base of the climb played games with the brain and body prior to the real ascent up to the summit at almost 12,000′ elevation.

We found Casey, another Cycling Mount Dora friend, in Georgetown

Jessi had expressed some concerns with me: her knee was bothering her and her gut didn’t feel great. I did my best to encourage her. We pressed on. She later told me that this was the hardest segment of the entire route. As for me, I felt great due to the program that my hired coach had supplied me. I felt the strongest in 7 years, as a matter of fact. But this event wasn’t about me… it was about finishing with Jessi and seeing her accomplish her biggest cycling feat to date.

We met a few nice people along the way, including some Wisconsonites that Jessi easily picked out based on their kits. We took our time, stopping even 3 miles on the climb to ensure success.

Before we knew it, we were grinding out the miles of Loveland Pass at our own pace. Some passed us, but we mostly passed others, despite our 4.6 mile speed. It’s pretty incredible to see how slow you can go without tipping over!

About a mile from the summit, I heard some sniffles coming from behind me. The hairpin turns that were high above us were a bit intimidating as I looked up, but I didn’t tell her what I saw. I looked back just in time to see some tears running down Jessi’s face. Forcing back my own emotion, I summoned some strength and tried to encourage her as best I could. I told her, “You are about to feel a lot better. Whatever you are feeling now will soon go away.” She responded with no words, but I felt in my spirit that she agreed.

We stopped about 1/2 mile before the summit and she confessed that she didn’t know if she could make it. I reassured her that she had it within her to do just that. Together, we will make it. I told her, “Whether you succeed or fail, it’s up to you.” She looked right at me and said, “I WILL SUCCEED.”

I believed her.

I saw the sign that showed a truck on a steep descent, warning drivers of the dangers ahead. I just love seeing these signs. To me, they mean “We have hit the summit.” Within a minute or two, we saw the “You Made It!” sign set out by the organizers of the ride, with the famous Loveland Pass sign in the background. We took pictures, relished the moment and accepted some Oreos from another rider who had some to share. Jessi was beginning to feel low on energy so we had to get her back up to par. This was the longest, hardest challenge that she has ever done. I reassured her that I would not have invited her to do this ride with me had I had ANY doubt of her abilities. I knew she could do it!

Thankfully, we had a long 12 mile descent ahead of us. It was glorious, and not nearly as disconcerting as the first one down Juniper Pass. The masses had spread out and traffic on the road was zilch. We just flew down and loved every moment of the twists and turns that the road offered to us, but the wind chill still was in the 30’s.

After we finished coming off Loveland Pass into Keystone, we were now at mile 72, with 34 to go. Check back soon to see how it ended up… but I have to say that there were some unexpected surprises. Considering this an international Premiere event, however, why should we expect an easy ending?