Glen Cove: 4:00am. Below freezing temps and the wind is blowing. In fact it is blowing hard enough to topple over the orange cones marking the start line for the official practice runs. Also, it is dark. But we’re at Pikes Peak and oh so happy to be in the cold and dark. We unload the van and set up the tire warmers for the first heat cycle using flashlights.
Just as the first glimmer of light in the eastern sky appears the race officials call the riders to the meeting. Course notes might be a little unusual for most races, but aren’t too surprising for Pikes Peak; there may be ice at the summit, if so it will be marked with hay bales; there are frost heaves on the upper section, and a reminder to all race crews from the Forest Service asking us to keep fire extinguishers in the hands of a crew member whenever there is any fueling done. The fires are not in our immediate area although last night the air was dark and smoky from windblown smoke from other fires in the state, and the risk of fire is extremely high.
First Run is always a slow run, giving the riders a chance to check the course more thoroughly than during a high speed run. Today is an extra practice day and the run is longer than usual for official race practice – from Glen Cove to the Summit. Glen Cove is at 11,400 ft it is at the edge of the timberline – a natural rocky cove and in my opinion, one of the prettiest places on the mountain.
At first full light the riders take off and we notice a dusty roost behind them. It is not until later that we realize that it is ash from the many fires in Colorado which has blown onto the mountain. When the riders return it is to tell us that the ash is slippery. Also, not surprisingly the wind is stronger and the temps lower at the summit. Micky’s hands are cold when he comes down and in what has become a team tradition he uses his Akrapovic Exhaust as a very technical hand warmer. The crew wraps him in jackets and tire warmers and until the sun comes into the Cove we manage to keep him warm using what we have.
The racers this year include a lot of rookies to the mountain. Riders who are
invited to race the Peak are well qualified but a rookie nonetheless if they haven’t
competed here before. But this year marks the first in many years that on this initial
day of practice there was not one incident. Sure, one rider ran out of fuel,
and one rider missed a corner but the ambulance didn’t have to leave station and
there was not one broken bone today.
Tomorrow is Cove Creek to 16 Mile. Which means that we will be pitted further up the
mountain. We’ll have warm gear and maybe some hot drinks too. The gate opens at 3:45am. Think of us if you happen to wake up for a minute in the dark of the night.