Today was a 119 mile ride from Riverton to Casper. We were told at Rap last night that this is sometimes an “easy” ride. The route was 60 miles up (although total elevation gain over those 60 miles is only about 1,200 feet), followed by 60 miles down (with a similar elevation decline), and for the most part it rolled along throughout so we actually climbed over 2,000 feet in total, and I couldn’t tell much difference from beginning to end. We were going directly east, so a prevailing tailwind could have made this an “easy” day. But the warnings were that it was going to be 90+ degrees, with a headwind, smoke would potentially be in the air from nearby forest fire, and there was high probability of severe thunderstorms (the kind of thing where you get hail like golf balls and temperature drops 30 degrees in minutes).
So first the good news: it was hot and dry (mid 80s), but not as hot as yesterday, as some clouds in the sky obscured the sun. The smoke made the distant hills look like they were covered in smog, but I never felt like I was breathing in smoke. And I got to the hotel before any thunderstorms. But there was a headwind. And I would probably trade back the other plagues for the task of biking nearly 120 miles into a strong headwind. You go slower (obviously), which meant about an hour more time on the bike than I would have liked. In elapsed time, this was probably my longest day ever on a bike. The wind blows you around and it saps you of energy. I think most of us would have traded climbing the hill to Teton Pass than today’s ride. We had to ride in a paceline just to get through the day. I think I spent most of the time staring at the rear wheel of the person in front of me trying to gauge how close I could get to get maximum benefit of the draft. You can hardly hear people taking because of the rush of air, and the car traffic went at Interstate speed, even though this was a State highway with a narrower shoulder. Oh, and Wyoming drivers are way less biker friendly than Oregon and Idaho. For the first time on the trip I started to question my sanity for doing this.
People walking into the hotel looked the most worn out of any day of the ride. One guy stopped a few miles from the hotel to take a picture by the La Platte River and when he got to the hotel discovered that he rode the last part without his helmet and had to go back. How do you do that?? Obviously fatigued.
I took no pictures because the landscape didn’t provide much new and I didn’t want to stop the bike for a minute. Grinding it out, and yet when I finished I felt I proud of the fact that this may have been the toughest day I ever spent on a bike. Tomorrow is a rest day…