I was worried that my body was breaking down and would just say enough. My legs were still swollen though not nearly as bad as yesterday... at least I could see my ankles😁
On top of that there were a lot of forest fires raging in Colorado and having checked the updates discovered that they were reasonably close to where I was headed. I wanted to stick to a bit of the Tour Divide route today as it may well be my last opportunity to do the off road thing as I now have to hot foot it more west. I had looked at maps and was worrying over the time it would take me to get to places... once off the TD route I had no real indication of the terrain ahead... I could be planning a nightmare of a route and not know it. Inside I was panicking slightly.
I kept telling myself to just take one day at a time... just get to Kremmling today... then worry about the other days. It helped but the tight knot in my stomach didn't disappear. On top of that... because of all the faffing I was setting off later than planned which never helps.
I stopped to have breakfast... and then set out on the path by the river.
The weather for once was not boiling hot already and It was nice to have it a bit cooler as I wound my way past joggers and walkers by the riverside.
The first part of the route was on road anyway and although a bit up and down enabled me yo make good time in the first hour... but that knot in my stomach persisted.
The road climbed gradually and given that I was now at a baseline 6000ft instead of 4000ft my lungs actually were doing a good job of keeping up.
Then... I hit a gravel road... and I don't know why but as I exhaled I could feel some of the tension leaving me. In the first few 100 meters the chipmunks and squirrels were racing across the trail ... occasionally chasing each other out of the way. It made me smile. As the trail wound up round the foothills.. a river meandered its way along the valley bottom. A hoarde of fisherman were standing there trying their luck and I envied them a little... being able to stand in that place... unhurried... with as much time as needed.
The dusty track continued up until it came to a gate marked closed and the beginning of the dam. I walked past the gate and looked at the lake. The sun was shimmering off the water and as I made my way to the dam itself the rushing of the water became louder and louder. Crossing the dam and looking down at the water pouring out a long way below made me feel slightly dizzy so I didnt linger and carried on to the other side.
The track around the lake was a pleasant one and I was almost able to forget for a second that I was on a loaded bike as I whizzed up and down the path. Eventually though the lake came to an end and I was once again climbing up and up to Lynx Pass. The gradient was not a tough one and although I did stop frequently in contrast to Montana and Canada I was able to cycle the whole way. The LLFF score was also hovering around 4 and didnt feel too bad. As I climbed higher I watched the sky carefully. Clouds had begun to build and they were of the grey variety. Far enough away at present I wasnt too concerned but the wind was picking up a bit and it started to feel like I was trying to outrun the storm. Every now and again the clouds emitted a rumble of thunder but no lightening and the sound implored me to get a move on. At one point however I stopped and looked back and saw the perfect picture framed in my head. I laid my bike down in the middle of the track and took my shot. The result was a picture that summed up the TD for me. My bike and nature... thats it! The picture somehow conveyed the isolation and the silence and the scale of the journey for me.
I reached the top of the pass and found the campsite just in time. It had a clean toilet block which I made use of gratefully. A few spots of rain had hit me and I thought I may get caught so for only the second time this trip I pulled out my rain jacket and headed for the downhill. It didnt last long though as the downpour never materialised and I got way to hot in the jacket. 10 mins later it was back in the bag!
The downhill was a bit sketchy as my brakes are squealing like there is no tomorrow and the front brake feels like its pretty much gone. I carefully freewheeled as carefully as possible over the loose gravel... wary of going too fast in case I couldn't stop!
Somehow I made it down to the point where the TD route crossed the road. And here I departed from the TD route. The Divide trail went to Radium which according to the fire reports was a little close to one wildfire for my liking. It was a shame as I wanted to see the town that celebrated its innate Radioactiveness but decided instead to take the 134 to Kremmling. This was by no means the easy choice believe me... because although it was on tarmac .. it went up Gore Pass which at 9500ft was the highest pass I had been up yet.
The stress of route finding and the general anxiety of the day meant my headspace was still a bit muddled. As I climbed and using up all my energy the emotion was bubbling to the surface. A mixture of despair ... sadness... elation and a load of other stuff thrown in the mix. Tipping it over the edge randomly was the driver on his way down passing me who gave me a thumbs up!
The relief I felt as well as a bit of pride on reaching the top of Gore Pass is difficult to describe but I knew that it was likely to be mainly downhill from here. Again very carefully I wentvas fast as I dared. Most of the cars were excellent and passed with good space. All except one driver. A lorry coming the opposite way to me I guess thought it would be funny to try blow me off my bike so came over the dividing lines closer to me... he was still a way away but the resulting whirlpool effect had me battling to keep my bike on the road... a£$@&%!€
My squealing squeaking descent had me resolved to change my brake pads asap but as I emerged at the bottom of the descent on to the 40 the mountains in the distance rose up above the foothills which were a golden yellow sandy colour. Some unusual rock formations were also present and as I turned onto the 40 for the last 6 miles to Kremmling I though what a lovely place this was and how lucky I was to be able to see it. With no shoulder to ride on I had to be extra careful however but the last miles were completed at sprint pace as I drew into Kremmling with utter relief.
I was lucky enough to find a hostel type room for only $25 and settled gratefully in. Then I hopped over the road for food... had a shower and was sitting down ready to catch up with everything when an almighty thunder crack felt like it had ripped open the sky. I went up to the hotel lobby to see the rain fall in torrential biblical proportions and was very glad that this time I had outrun the storm.
I also managed a quick video call to Louize and Mark Evans who are kindly rescuing me off the road. I have now planned my escape route over the next few days and providing my body holds up I should make it in time..... I hope!
So as you can see... I'm not exactly taking it easy now that I'm out of the race. 68 ish miles yesterday with 2 passes well over 8000ft with higher to come. Im hoping that this ride remains worthy of sponsorship and that the suffering level is sufficient! Believe me when I say that this is still not going to be an easy ride despite it now being on roads.
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