Driving through Aspen was tedious due to all the people in cars in front of us driving too slow, gratuitously stopping, and taking too long to pass the many high-end White People Suburban Recreationalists; i.e., titanium comfort bicyclists, roller bladers on those cross-country ski-looking roller blades, baby joggers, track-suited speed walkers, etc., enjoying a lovely morning at 7,890 feet. After that our average speed over the course of the 19.8 mile drive up Independence Pass was 27.6mph; for most of the way we followed two Pitkin County Sheriff Chevy Suburbans. Along the way we passed, most notably (along with several thousand less-notable cyclists), seven Indonesian dudes in full Team SKY Pro Cycling kit and matching Team Issue Pinarello Dogmas, 18 pirate hats and/or pirate paraphernalia, 34 American Flags (in various forms and states of repair), two tall bikes (one of which was exceptionally tall), Jeremy Dunn and Ben Lieberson and Tim Johnson, a dude in a DEATH SQUAD BLACK unitard coming out of DEATH SQUAD BLACK Sprinter Van getting onto a DEATH SQUAD BLACK road bike in a turn-out on the side of the road, 3 recumbents, a tall bike unicyclist, and five American Eagle likenesses. It was already hot in the sun and because we were going so slow and it was so pleasant in the woods and whatnot, we drove with our windows rolled down, through which windows we overheard a number of conversations/declarations/sound bites/etc., the highlights of which are:
“Yeah but dude, shit talker.”
“Actually mountain biking is so hard they do really well in Time Trials.”
“Alright George, this is where you’re going to hurt me.”
“I think the American Flag should always be above the State Flag, right?”
The drive up Independence was so slow I started to day-dream about the race—which race was scheduled to start more than an hour and half after we left Aspen, and which race was on pedal bikes—passing us before we made it to the top.
At the top, after parking well beyond the KOM (exit strategy!), the first thing we noticed was that the scene, and this is based on the last two years, sucked in terms of attendance. The number of spectators on the mountain this year was, give-or-take, less than 1/1037th the number last year. Because Independence Pass is the closest thing we have in America to a monument like Galibier, L’Alpe d’Huez, Stelvio, Mont Ventoux, etc., we were bummed-out. Side note: Baldy is pretty rad, so is Cottonwood Pass. Clearly the “High Maintenance” tundra was to blame, but we’re not scientists (yet), so Emiliano and I located, sequestered and interviewed Forest Service representatives (almost scientists or maybe scientists, we don’t know) regarding the Tundra versus USA Pro Challenge challenge.