I had big plans for today. Stage 3 was to take the riders over French Pass high along the Continental Divide amongst the snow and the mountain goats, and I planned on being there, camera in hand. I checked with a few locals to see if it was possible to drive there and it seemed by many accounts that it was. With batteries charged and bags packed, I was set for a solid day of shooting high in the mountains.
When morning broke, and my mug was full of hot coffee, I started to second guess my decision to drive. The previous day’s ride out to spots on course was rewarding and fun. I may not have made it to the most scenic places on the trail, but I caught the action in multiple areas.
I hopped on the bike to catch the days staging and to try and snag a couple of photos of the leaders before heading off into the mountains. Already on my bike, I was unsure, but I was sticking with the plan. I loaded into the car and punched ‘French Pass’ into my google maps app and away I went. Twisting and turning the road ascended and gave way to dirt and stunning views. With the map indicating just a few short miles, I felt sure that I would see a trailhead and have plenty of time to catch the riders. “You have arrived, Fench Pass.” I stopped the car, no trailhead in sight, no people, no signs of a race period. “Damn it.”
I stood and looked up through the fields of wildflowers and rockfall, wondering if I should set out on foot towards the pass. I started to calculate time and distance and realized I was staring at an all-day effort, and the race would be long gone before I ever crested the summit. I hustled back to town to grab my bike, plan B.
By the time I reached the finishing area, spectators were starting to gather. By heading out onto the course backward, I hoped to salvage what was left of the day’s stage and catch the leaders coming into the final section. Like the previous two days, both Keegan Swenson and Katerina Nash were able to slip away and take another stage victory. Neither Swenson nor Nash has shown any weakness thus far.
The real story, however, was today’s Epic™ views and I blew it. Once things had settled down a bit, I headed out on course proper to check out the opening climb up French Gulch and eventually up and over Fench Pass. Forest road finally gave way double track which filtered into an alpine meadow littered with avalanche debris. I stood for a moment gazing at all the tire tracks in the snow and dirt with only the sound of the wind and a mountain stream. The mountains jutted up in front of me, Colorado, at its best. I may have failed at my mission today, but all was not lost and tomorrow provides another opportunity for all involved.