Reflections on the Buff Classic Century

MY FIRST CENTURY by Donald Cicchillo, President Boulder Cycling Club

As a recreational cyclist I have evolved over the last few years and have set cycling goals each year. This year one of my main goals was to ride in a century and complete the whole 100 mile course. I accomplished this feat on Sunday September 13, 2009 in the Buffalo Bicycle Classic sponsored by the University of Colorado and raising funds for scholarships for students at the university.

Starting early in the chilly morning air I was amazed at how many other cyclists were participating and it was a very festive almost carnival like atmosphere. Many of the members of the Boulder Cycling Club participated but due to the enormous amount of like dressed cyclists it was hard to find one another and we mostly broke up into small groups. The first leg was very Chilly and I was glad I had layered appropriately. It was a fog like cloud cover that kept the temperatures cool most of the morning (a blessing actually as the hot sun can really drain you as the miles tick off).

I managed to go about 4 miles or so before my fist “incident”. I quickly found out that unlike many of the members that ride on our group rides a lot of people do not know how to ride in a group and are somewhat unaware of what’s going on around them. As we entered the busy intersection of 28th street from Jay Road I was cut off while making the turn by a cyclist (unaware I suppose that anything even happened and pushed into the concrete medium when I abruptly took a spill and tumbled to the ground. Dusting myself off and getting off the main road I got away with just a minor scratch and brushed leg.
Fortunately, that was the worst incident of the day for me but it did make me much more cautious especially when riding in any kind of group.
The ride was beautiful and very well supported with aid stations every 10 miles or so where you could rest and refuel. I’ve learned from past rides to eat light and try to not stick around to long or your legs really tighten up and it gets harder to get going again once you get on the bike. The first real test was the climb up Cater lake and since I had done that a few times this summer I was prepared. It’s a tough climb and you just have to put your head down, shift into your lowest gear and grind your way up the hill. Once you reach the top you are rewarded with one of the nicest parts of the ride skirting around the lake in a picture postcard setting. Once you ride around the end of the lake there is a really steep descent and at the bottom a very sharp turn (an ambulance was parked there giving one a reality check about your speed). Carrying on through beautiful horse country with soaring peaks on the side this section was one of my favorite scenic areas and it didn’t hurt that it was mostly downhill so you could just cruise for a few miles.

Reaching the next intersection it was decision time. Go right and head back to the finish and do about a 70 mile course (which is what I did last year) or go left and go for the full century. Thanks to the “support” of fellow club members I was convinced to go on and go for the century. Heading north it was a pretty tame ride and very scenic. I had never venture into this area before so it was a treat to discover new and lovely Colorado scenery. Making a turn and hading toward north to Horsetooth Reservoir it became a long steady climb up and then eventually over a hill and then a long descent down into to the next stop. I was thinking to myself— what goes down must come up… After reaching the aid station and realizing I had just down 50 plus miles I know had to turn around and get back! As I said, we had to climb a few miles to get back up and over the hill and it seemed somehow a little more painful and steeper then the original climb up into the area. Thankfully, there was a long descent down and it stayed fairly flat for the next 10 miles or so skirting another Reservoir. Eventually we wound our way back to the Carter Lake turn off this time avoiding the climb and stop at the aid station at the 75 mile mark. I knew the rest of this route back fairly well as we had ridden it several times in the summer as club tune up rides. The difference now was that I had already done 75 miles so it was a little daunting. Taking advantage of one of our strong members (yet again) I learned that “drafting” really does work! By riding close right behind the cyclist in front of you they block the wind making your pedaling much easier. We cruised on down into Hygiene which had some of the best food selections of the trip.

I must say I’ve never had watermelon that ever tasted so good! The last 15 miles seemed hard and tough mostly because I was just sore from spending way more time in the saddle then ever before. By the time we went by IBM I was wishing we were on the CU campus. I just put my head down and moved on knowing that it would soon be over and that there would be over and that a cold Boulder Beer would be waiting for me at the finish line! Getting back and finishing up that last hill climbing up into the University felt like I had just scaled a major mountain peak. The festival atmosphere was in full swing and once I got my official Buff Classic hat I headed to the food and beer. The club had a booth in the staging area and it was great to share stories of the road with fellow club members. I felt a real sense of camaraderie  that comes from sharing a challenging experience with fellow club members. I know for sure that if it wasn’t for club members I most likely wouldn’t have attempted the 100 mile route or be able to complete it in the time we did. Thanks to all who help me make my first century a memorial experience and thanks to the club for helping me realize one of my dreams!