Loveland, CO to Kremmling, CO
Loveland, Colo. (IOCC) The Rocky Mountains loom ghost-like in the distance, shrouded in smoke and mist like Mount Sinai of old.
The mountains also loom large in the minds of the five "Race to Respond" cyclists.
"Everyone's been anticipating this," lead cyclist Jim Angelus said of the 7,130-foot climb up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The climb and the descent will arguably be the most challenging part of the cycling team's 25-day ride across the United States.
"This whole trip, everybody's been looking forward to climbing the Rockies -specifically this day," cyclist Michael Tsakalos said.
Originally scheduled to ride Trail Ridge on Sunday, Aug. 18, the cyclists and the support team spent an extra day in Loveland for maintenance on the support-and-gear truck and other preparations.
The cyclists are now scheduled to tackle the mountains on Monday, Aug. 19. They've been awaiting this moment with a sense of both awe and anticipation.
"The Bible says that with faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. If I had that much faith, I would move these mountains," Tsakalos told a group of 200 supporters on Saturday.
But the cyclists know they have to climb them if they are going to finish their 3,500-mile journey on behalf of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). They've already ridden 1,800 miles since starting from Keyport, N.J., on Aug. 3.
Cyclist Alex Mazarakos said riding Trail Ridge Road, which reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet, requires special preparation.
Drinking more fluids than usual is important. Dehydration can lead to high altitude sickness. Mazarakos said each cyclist must pace himself and go at his own pace while on Trail Ridge, unlike much of the ride so far, which has been more of a team effort.
"It's man versus mountain," he said.
The cyclists also have been preparing mentally. Angelus said the beauty of the mountains will "do wonders to distract us from the pain."
Mazarakos agreed. "Just looking at the mountains gets us psyched up," he said.
Tsakalos noted that there will be four or five major climbs after Trail Ridge. "You have to keep things in perspective," he said.
In addition to the climb, members of the cycling team will visit St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Craig, Colo., for a midday event.