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There are times when no matter how hard you wrangle, coax, coerce and try to ply the day into behaving and delivering, it doesn’t. It’s a phenomenon of celestial proportions and it cannot be overturned or bargained with. And when things go so horribly bad or wrong, in this case a ride, sometimes the best course of action for everyone involved is to just let go and enjoy what happens. It’s when ‘rides attack’ and the day becomes an epic, in the tragic Greek sense.
For the first time since the Rapha Continental project began, in two years and more than 3,000 miles, we decided to called it quits, mid-ride, and bail out. With 10-miles of climbing and 50-miles of pitch-black highway still left to go. In a gravel turn-out on the side of the road, daylight already all but gone and 95-miles into a day hallmarked by entropy, we did some quick and dirty math. A hastily revised plan was drawn-up. Dan Sharp and Trystan Cobbett, our photographer and driver respectively, would turn around and head back to Woodinville, WA, and pick up Ryan Thomson’s car, while the rest of us finished climbing. Then, in no more than two hours, we’d all meet at the top of Stevens Pass and drive home together, defeated but living.
An hour later, 103-miles into the day, we rode, steaming, one by one into a starkly empty and theme park sized parking lot at 4,000-feet. As we did, the sun and the temperature, in tandem, promptly sunk for good. We abandoned our bikes in the dirt or against whatever trashcan and descended, from every direction, upon Stevens Pass Ski Resort in search of any way to meet our simple, primal needs: warmth, shelter and sustenance. Or at the very least, to find a well provisioned St Bernard. There was still hope at this point that something, anything would be open.
Having wasted 30-minutes and the last of our caloric reserves on a fruitless search, we found ourselves alone atop a mountain closed for the season. We sat huddled together on a decommissioned, wooden chairlift, watching as Aaron and Hahn performed a half-hearted, half-assed routine, a combination of ‘River Dance’ and ‘Jazzercise’. Shoulder to shoulder, as close to each other as propriety allowed, they bounced and gyrated on cleated toes in an honest attempt to stay warm. We wore sweat-soaked summer kit, arm and knee warmers stretched to their limits and every zipper, even on the pockets, pulled all the way closed. Anything that resembled a hatch or closure was battened and buttoned.
Later, after an hour or so of waiting, boredom and temperatures in the low 50’s left us feeling shipwrecked. We turned Lord of the Flies but with Sportwool and carbon-soled footwear. A dark, Cole-shaped shadow spotted periodically, running among the buildings scattered about the resort. He’s climbed, scrambled and jumped, navigated his own impromptu obstacle course. Tony tried to coax an outdoor gas heater into life with cold hands and a half-empty plastic lighter. Ryan, with a pair of recently found rental skis and poles over his shoulder, pantomimed a skier headed for the slopes. Hahn, Aaron and I concluded that a 100-mile ride in the summer heat, followed by a three-hour wait in the cold (with nothing to eat and barely moving) is not the healthiest post-ride ritual. Greg looks up from some deep and private place, somewhere far, far away and warm. He sat on the ground, his eyes cloudy. “There’s heat,” he suddenly cried, “there’s heat in the concrete. It’s like, it’s coming out of the concrete.”
"After three uncomfortable miles spent dodging hubcaps and automobile flotsam on the side of a major highway, buffeted by the invisible but noxious force field surrounding semi-trucks as they pass 75-mph inches from your head – first an unstable wobbly push, then nothing but thought-cancelling noise and finally relief coupled with a big pull. We break through to the otherside ." – Daniel Pasley
”I started getting suspicious about the distance the night before when Aaron announced, out of the blue, that the ride was 150ish miles long and that it all depended on whether we rode or drove to the start. And all week long I was thinking that his house was more or less the start.” – Greg Johnson