Mileage: 90 miles
Weather: Upper 60s to start. Upper 80s to end. Sunny. Headwinds for the first 30 miles. Growing tailwinds with strong gusts to end the day.
Highlights of the day:
Happy Fourth of July! We celebrated in the red, white and blue of our America by Bicycle jerseys. We rode through the beginning signs of a parade on our way out of Idaho Falls. We rode through the late remains of a parade on our way through Victor towards Teton Pass. There are fireworks in Jackson tonight but they don’t start until 10pm. That might be a little past most of our bedtimes!
This day is known for its early headwinds and we were not disappointed. Regardless of the forecast winds, it always seems like the winds come down off the mountains and directly into our faces. However, after an amazing descent around mile 36, we were treated to a beautiful vista of mountains & the Snake River and calmer winds that began to turn in our favor.
Our first SAG stop was at a rest area that overlooked the Snake River. Hills, water, sunshine – stunning. We climbed a bit and then descended quickly to ride along the Snake River. Stunning! It’s repetitive but accurate. A left turn onto Rte 31 brought us to the first big climb of the day – Pine Creek Summit @ 6764’. I would describe this as a relatively gradual 14-mile climb – mostly 4-6 percent with a few kicks up to 8 percent. Beautiful vistas. And then there was the descent into Victor. Non-technical. Good roads. FAST!
We had an unplanned visitor at our second SAG stop today. Just down the road from our location, shepherds were moving a flock of sheep across the road. It was a traffic jam of the ovine variety but they weren’t the visitors. A pack horse with the flock became spooked by the traffic (can’t really blame him!) and one of our riders, Fred, stopped to help & calm the animal. Fred joined us at the SAG stop when we started to hear frantic whinnying, snorting, and the sound hooves on the pavement. The horse had broken away from the pack, ran through traffic, came into our SAG and made a beeline for Fred. Fred walked with the horse & worked to calm him (and avoid trampling over our bicycles) until a local rancher helped return the animal to the shepherds. It was quite the spectacle. We now call Fred the “horse whisperer” and we all thanked him heartily.
Victor provided a brief pause to refuel before the signature climb of the tour. Teton Pass @ 8431’. It starts off innocently enough out of Victor. At 1-2 percent, it’s almost as if you’re not climbing. The Wyoming state line (our second state line of the tour), complete with a big sign and many pictures, marks the start of the “real” climb just over 5 miles outside of Victor. The next 6.6 miles definitely challenged the riders. The grade gradually increased each mile with the last two miles topping out with an average of just over 10 percent. Legs and drivetrains were tested.
Did I mention that it was windy today? Wicked windy, as we would say back home. Best guess was sustained winds at 15-25 mph with gusts well up into the 30s. This made the last descent of the day, known for being steep & technical, much more challenging for the riders. The difficulty of navigating 10% downhill grades with tight corners and rippled pavement was exacerbated with strong gusty crosswinds. We discussed safety measures for this descent in depth and with focused seriousness at last night’s route rap. It was not a time for the riders to push their comfort zone or see just how fast they could descend. We discussed this with even more emphasis at the SAG stops during the day as the forecast winds began to build. I am very pleased to report that all riders descended safely and drank in the amazing scenery, stopping to take a picture or two.
For now, the riders are under strict orders to hydrate, refuel, and rest. They will need all three for tomorrow we climb again.