"It's an ill wind -- " Carolina began.
"You're not kidding it's an ill wind."
--Bernabé Montoya, interrupting his wife, in The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
Going for gust-o: Breezing through spring
COLORADO CYCLISTS GET BLOWN AWAYall the time. Not by deranged gunmen, as occurred recently in Denver, but by the relentless spring winds.
New Mexico was bad enough. There, we called the spring zephyrs "The New Mexican Rotating Headwind," because you would start a ride into the wind only to find yourself eating it on the way home, too.
More recently, the Land of Enchantment's soothing zephyrs have fanned a thousand-acre "controlled burn" into a 50,000-acre holocaust that should be extinguished just about the time Bill Clinton starts his third term. That's one hell of a weenie roast, especially for the hot dog who ordered the Bic flicked.
There there's Wyoming, where I saw a 50-mph gust Stooge-slap several pros off a descent during the 1994 Casper Classic. Cured me of using geek-wheels up front, I can tell you.
But Colorado is where Clark Sheehan got gonged off his bike by a flying cattle trough while training in 117-mph winds near Boulder in 1992. If that doesn't take the title, I don't know what could, unless it's Miss Gulch bicycling through the tornado in The Wizard of Oz.
This is why Coloradans ride three abreast now and then. We're not trying to tweak the yuppie mahouts queueing up behind us in their mechanical elephants (though that is a fringe benefit). We're just trying to get into echelon to fight the damn' crosswinds.
So someone tell foam-jaws to give the horn hand a rest. He don't have to break no wind in that Ford Excretion, unless he lunched at the Chihuahua's again.
A Gale Old Time. It was always a pisser to miss the break at the late, lamented Buckeye Road Race, held on a wind-scoured rural rectangle frequented by sheep. The only guys smart enough to ride in echelon were up there, headed for the podium. The rest of us were strung out in the gutter like cattle in a chute, with nowhere to hide and precious little time to run.
Even worse was the state time-trial course at Strasburg, a boondock wind tunnel that hosted my racing debut in 1988. I thought I was God, or at least Kent Bostick, until I made the turn-around into what had been one hell of a tailwind.
By the time I finished, my clothes were out of style and Shimano had added a couple of cogs to its drivetrain. You could have timed me with a calendar.
It's A Breeze. Here in Westcliffe, the wind never blows unless the planet happens to be orbiting the sun and you want to do something outside. Say, like use a bicycle to retrieve a truck from a paint-and-body shop 75 miles away in Colorado Springs.
Such expeditions pose logistical problems, thanks to the wind and the 20 miles between Dog Mountain and Wetmore, an abrupt plummet of more than 3,000 feet, including a couple miles of 8 percent grade in Hardscrabble Cañon.
Ride it downhill and you're like a cat in a clothes dryer, buffeted from all directions as gusts bluster through the canyon and ricochet off the walls. Ride it uphill and you're cramping like a strychnined PMS sufferer with giardia, the last few milliliters of fluid in your body running saltily into your eyes as you vow to melt down every bike you own and cast a celebratory sculpture, in aluminum, titanium and chromoly, of the internal combustion engine.
Dodging The Draft. I decided to cheat. I drove my other truck down the canyon to Wetmore, parked it, and pedaled the remaining 55 miles to the Springs. My plan was to collect the freshly painted truck, drive home, and hope the winds had subsided enough for me to leap back on the bike, coast down to Wetmore and collect the other truck.
Ho, ho. Right. Yeah, that happened, right after I won the Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, the lottery and the Tour. The canyon looked like a scene from Dune, only with more flying sand, and I ended up working out a multifaceted barter with a neighbor that involved a six-mile drive to the highway between Westcliffe and Wetmore; a detour to his ranch for the relocation of four corral panels and a baby burro after he decided both might blow away while he was gone; a lift down the canyon; the drive home; and a hilly 10k run back to the highway to fetch the other truck. Don't ask. I'm not sure I understand it myself.
But I do understand this: In Colorado, the wind doesn't blow. It sucks.