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Shedding sweat, shredding gears: Buckley members take on the Golden Gran Fondo

(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- At the end of June, Col. Darren Buck, 460th Space Wing Vice Commander, 2nd Lt. Max Bierman, 2nd Space Warning Squadron and I represented the 460th Space Wing by riding in the Golden Gran Fondo.  With our interests piqued by the promise of an epic adventure, we elected to ride the most grueling of three route options -The Gran, which featured 10,800 feet of vertical gain over 91 miles through some of the most beautiful country the Front Range has to offer.

At 8 a.m., 274 riders hopped into the saddle and pedaled through the cool morning air on a day promising to be a scorcher.  Lookout Mountain, the first of four timed segments, loomed ahead, and our heart rates, initially elevated from excitement, began to soar from exertion.  Climb two was a long
grind up Golden Gate Canyon followed by a 3.1-mile sprint over roads boasting lung and quad-busting grades approaching 20 percent. The third big ascent, a serpentine monster, forced us skyward to nearly our highest elevation of the day.  And just when we thought it was over, the infamous fourth time-trial, a vicious dirt road so steep that most of our fellow riders could not stand to pedal and many had to dismount and push, made us dig deep to finish strong. Fortunately, it was all downhill from there!

It was a beautiful day filled with pleasure and pain, and we could not have done it alone.  An incredible volunteer staff manned aid stations toppling with complex carbs, roadblocks that ensured the safe passage of the peloton through busy intersections, and all along the route, riders and passerbys shouted encouragement to each other.  Failing muscles and crushing fatigue forced many to turn back, but after crossing the finish line, we were already discussing tactics for next year's ride and what we could do to improve in the meantime.

Of one thing we were all in agreement: there is nothing like pushing yourself to the edge to see how far you've come and to get you dreaming about how much further you can go.
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