15 February 2011

Winter Delights

Every winter, as the skiers are headed up to the mountains to get their fix of that all-so-holy white stuff and the people of the Denver Metro area shut down their schools and workplaces for a dusting of snow, I slump into a claustrophobic depression that I can only describe as snow-induced delirium.  I grew up in this white shit.  I love to ski.  I appreciate the beauty of snow, in all its white wonder.  However, I really can't stand is the daily numbing of toes and fingers and the painful showers that follow.  Pursuing a professional cycling career against the obstacle of snow is something we all go through, just in some places more than others.  

Some of the best training days of the year happen in the winter time, however.  Sometimes when the sun is just right and you leave sometime before 10 am (so that you can avoid the early sunset in the narrow valleys around Boulder), riding in the snow can be the most rewarding training of the year.  

There's really no pressure to base training, besides the pressure to ride as long and far as possible.  I do most of my riding alone, with some great musicians plugged into my ear for the road, and that good ol' XTR hub whirr and bottom bracket creak to keep me motivated off-road.  

Whereas most of my base in the past around Boulder was confined to the roads North to Ft. Collins and elsewhere, I no longer have a road bike--only mountain and cyclocross--most of my rides have been shorter distance and more vertical around the foothills West of Boulder.  

Several of my favorite loops cut through burn-country from the devastating 4-mile fire from last fall.  The beauty of regeneration, despite its drawbacks for the outskirted civilized people of Boulder and surrounding communities, never ceases to amaze.  

Despite Boulder's lack of singletrack trails, there is an incredible network of old mining and fire roads through the foothills that link up in a myriad of ways, including the famous rail-road grade known as the Switzerland Trail, which can be seen above winding through the bottom of the photo up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (standing point).

After several months, the smell of the fire is still fairly strong when you ride through the burn area, seen here from a vantage point on top of Sugarloaf.  

There has been a lot of controversy in Boulder lately over the rights cyclists (especially mountain bikers) have on the various trail networks surrounding the very hiker-friendly community.  I agree in many ways that cyclists are often some of the most obnoxious and uneducated trail-users out there, but to anyone who still stands by the conception that cycling is more destructive than hiking doesn't have very far to look to realize that this is blatantly false.  And to anyone who thinks the bike provides a disconnect between the athlete and nature, I have hiked and camped extensively, and I can attest fully to this statement's falsehood.  Just because the bike is a vehicle of more rapid transportation does not diminish my engagement with my surroundings--especially in a place like Boulder, where it is nearly impossible to remove oneself from the reaching fingers of civilization, the bike is merely a means to an end.  That end, be it the pure source waters of some mine-polluted and city-sapped river downstream or the top of some remote fire-road that ends in scree, is my justification for riding bikes, in general.  

As for engaging in such an unprofessional activity professionally, I really have no justification other than: I can, or at least I think I can.

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