Day 3: Up the pass, down in the sag wagon

Today was the first real pass of Ride the Rockies, the 7-mile climb up 11,300-foot Monarch Pass between Gunnison and Salida.

I was pretty worried, especially because I kept hearing other riders say things like, “Yeah, but tomorrow is Monarch.”

Monarch was, indeed, tough. I rode carefully, to keep my heart rate down, so I was averaging around 5-7 mph. It was mostly up, with only a few flat areas here and there. But as long as I didn’t try to rip up the mountain, I was OK. It was definitely beautiful.

The real problem was the descent. I’m a little nervous about descending, and I put all my energy into the ascent. Once at the top, I got cold and worried and ended up sagging down the mountain before getting out and finishing the ride into Salida.

Me, Lana Dale and Kevin Dale, atop Monarch. Im already freezing.

Me, Lana Dale and Kevin Dale, atop Monarch. I'm already freezing.

I tremendously regret the sag. From the van, at least, the descent wasn’t that bad. I should have done it.

Salida is beautiful, by the way. We ate dinner and had a celebratory pitcher of margaritas along the Arkansas River.

Everyone is worried about the possibility of a headwind on the 60-mile uphill slog into Leadville tomorrow. Considering I’m from Texas, where wind is our worst enemy, I’m thinking I’ll be OK.

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