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Marty, Brian and Cynthia were the only ones who would be joining us on the Cypress climb and they blazed the most direct route possible to its base. The mood as we started the ascent was subdued. Bodies were worn and the heat added to what had already been a long day in the saddle. Not far into the climb we stopped at a lookout point and regrouped. Greg paused only briefly then continued to press on. I followed shortly after with the rest of the group behind me. I knew this was going to be a challenge and I wanted to go it alone. My mind and body were saying it was time to quit but in order to complete our Triple Crown, ahead of us lay a 6.5 mile, Cat 1 climb averaging 6.3% over 2,227 feet.
I made it my goal to keep Greg within sight. He would be my rabbit. Unlike the other two climbs this one had long stretches of straightaways, bad for the psyche but good for some spectacular views. Head down, rhythm found. The pace wasn’t fast but it was steady. My legs were screaming, my chest pounding. I could feel my body wanting to shut down. And we call this fun? I knew that days – possibly even hours – from now, all this suffering would be forgotten and I’d be chomping at the bit to do it all over again. But in the moment, all I could think about was how much I wanted off this bike, to get down this mountain and out of this sweat-encrusted kit. I wanted a shower. Real food. A glass of wine. Aaron and Kansas would say later that they had just wanted to be home with their kids. Strange where our minds go when we’re in ‘that place’.
I could tell the summit was close by the change in the road. Gerben and the van appeared like a vision. I mumbled something to Greg, then leaned my bike against the Sprinter and laid on the warm asphalt; broken, proud, exhausted and grateful. A couple of the guys had saved enough gas to sprint the last bit to the summit.
The sun was starting to sink and Gerben made a wise but painful decision to load the bikes and forego the descent. It felt like getting gypped out of a well-earned payoff but we understood and relented and headed back down in the van.
We’d rolled out of Crèma about eight hours previously and now its parking spots served as the site for our impromptu end-of-ride tailgate party. There were beers to be had and stories to be relived. A perfect finish to an extraordinary day on the bike with our new Canadian friends. We will be back.