Another perfect day on Pikes Peak! The climb to 14,115 feet (with a gain of 4,800) began right at 6:15 for the fondo riders. Last year I was surprised how few people — especially women — did the fondo. As with all things in Colorado, even it is stacked with competitive cyclists. This year it did seem like the number of women at least doubled.
After the first mile or so, I found myself leading the pack. I assumed it wouldn’t last, but it actually did for about 9 of the 12 miles. Eventually I got passed by two women, and managed to pass one of them back in the last half mile. I took 2nd place in the fondo, despite having an almost identical time to last year’s ride.
This event is so beautiful. I love starting just as the sun is coming up. I didn’t put my sunglasses on until around 8 miles up. The winds were calm and the views were unending. I like that the fondo riders start first and the pros start last. Even at a steady clip (my average mph was 9.5), many of the elites flew by toward the end.
The half-mile downhill section at 8.8 miles is always a relief, but the last 5K is so tough. This was only my second time climbing Pikes Peak, and I had forgotten just how brutal the last section is. The average pitch is something like 10%, and altitude makes it feel even more intense.
I also love being done with this ride by 9am. The descent is intimidating, with so many switchbacks, but this year it didn’t seem nearly as cold. Being able to meet a drop-bag at the top is a definite perk. Winning a $50 gift card for being second on the podium is also great. We promptly went out to breakfast and then spent the winnings at Criterium in Colorado Springs.
See you next year, lung-busting climb!