Day 4, the Queen Stage of Specialized’s ride to Vegas, has been looming on everyone’s ride horizon like a dark cloud for days. It wasn’t just the length that was daunting, it was the elevation gain- at elevation- that made today’s route a bit frightening. At 124 miles,with over 8,800 ft of climbing, much of it over 8,000 ft (with a peak elevation of 10,600), it was a foregone conclusion that today’s journey would be a long one.
It must’ve been the rigors of the past three days, particularly yesterday’s stage that saw riders lose copious amounts of fluids, that put everyone in a more relaxed or subdued mood. The first 60 miles of today’s ride, which zig zagged their way through Bryce National Park, were done in a double pace line at a friendly, talking pace. The stunning terrain of the “painted desert” surrounded us on both sides as we made our ascent and descent through Bryce National Park. Millions of years of erosional forces have carved the colorful limestone rock into bizzare shapes, the most interesting of which are spires called “hoodoos”.
Today’s leisurely roll out meant that there was plenty of time for conversation, as well as multiple refueling stops and nature breaks. Speaking of refueling, I had a proud moment as GU Energy Lab’s Product Specialist when I spied Kevin from Paved Magazine pull out a bottle of our Electrolyte Capsules mid-ride and throw some down the hatch. Considering the miles we’ve ridden, the heat, the pace, and the miles to come, consuming electrolytes is a key component of fueling to perform.
At mile 67 we rolled through the town of Panguitch, UT, which sits at the base of the Dixie National Forest, home to the hulking mass of mountain known as Brian Head Peak. At 11,307 feet, Brian Head Peak is the highpoint of Iron County, Utah, and just happened to be where our route was going. It also just happened to be 32 miles of climbing, and as soon as our group hit the lower flanks of the mountain, it was every rider for themselves.
I, once again, found myself popped out the back of the select group, chasing the same three riders I’d been following through the desert all week. Luckily, though, I was with another rider of equal strength and we were able to set a tempo that, after 2+ hours of climbing, saw us summit at 10,600 ft. We were greeted by shimmering meadows of golden aspens and stunning vistas of the surrounding valleys, not that our oxygen deprived systems were capable of appreciating it fully.
The descent into Cedar City, which is located on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, saw us lose over 5,000 ft in 17 miles. My partner and I rocketed through aspen and pine forests. We sliced our way through the stunning rock formations of the Cedar Breaks National Monument, as we plummeted into Cedar City, our final resting place for the day. A double strength Chocolate Smoothie Recovery drink was the first order of business, quickly followed by some compression sock and legs up time. Speaking of resting, I need all the help possible considering that tomorrow’s route is 118 miles. So with that, I say good night, time to get some sleep.