By Jason Sumner
Ok, I take it all back. Wind, I love ya — when you’re at my back.
That was the case at the final stage of the 2019 Pedal the Plains, where a steady breeze from the south provided free speed during the 47.6-mile northerly ride from Springfield to Lamar. Indeed, you know it’s going to be a good day when pass a massive row of towering turbines and they are all facing you. We all got to catch the wind Sunday.
Even the most casual riders kept the speedometer hovering in the 16-18mph range. Get on the gas and 20-25mph was possible. Nearly everyone finished earlier than expected, putting a decidedly positive spin on the culmination of this 3-day cycling exploration of Colorado’s far southeastern plains. There were smiles and high fives all around.
Along state highway 385 (basically the only road we pedaled on) were the final four aid-stations/on-route learning opportunities, which included an up-close look at a crop dusting plane, a tour of the Three Feathers art gallery, and the chance to stare up at the tallest cellphone tower I’ve ever seen courtesy of event sponsor Viaero. I also heard of a few tarantula sightings (it’s migration time, check #pedaltheplains to see for yourself), though I personally didn’t encounter any giant spiders, which is fine by me.
The above laundry list says a lot about this event. What it lacks in classic cycling terrain (big mountain climbs, rapid twisting descents, etc.) it makes up for with a treasure trove of unique experiences. Besides the vast views and (mostly) quiet country roads, our group of 700 or so cyclists got an immersive look into what for most of us is a different way of life. It’s good to know where your food comes from — and even better to meet some of the people who help grow and/or raise that food. Friendly folk is an understatement. Thanks to all of you for being such great hosts.
I was also genuinely impressed by the diversity of the Pedal the Plains peloton. This isn’t the overly-serious Type A crowd you encounter at your average Front Range criterium. Sure there were a few shaved-leg speedsters. But mostly it was casual cyclists out to have a little fun and spend time with friends old and new.
Bike choice also ran the gamut. Besides traditional road steeds of just about every price point and vintage (including a few with old school downtube shifters), there were flat bar comfort cruisers, mountain bikes, recumbents, tandems, and even a handful of eBikes. Some riders traveled light, with a couple of water bottles and a few snacks tucked in their jersey pockets. Others loaded up with what I can only assume was just-in-case gear for every possible eventuality this side of the Armageddon.
And while I can’t say I necessarily agree with some of the equipment selections (weight and aerodynamics make a big difference when riding bikes), it’s refreshing to hang out with a group of people more interested in enjoying the journey, rather than focusing on reaching the destination as fast as possible.
So congrats to all who rode this year’s Pedal the Plains. Look forward to seeing you again sometime down the road.