Above Category with Stephen

Glacier Park is called the Crown of the Continent.  Some places are higher. Some have more soaring granite spires. But Glacier gathers majestic peaks, plunging valleys and abundant wildlife into a dense slice of wilderness spilling northward into Alberta. Crown indeed, and a fitting capstone to my adventure.

Ride a bike for a few thousand miles and you learn that the road gives us what we need. We may beg to differ, but what lies before us is what we’re getting. Accept it, or argue with it: the road delivers the goods. And it did so once again today.

As I was riding along Going to the Sun road – and just before the climb to Logan Pass started in earnest – Stephen from North London rolled up beside me. In the characteristicly friendly tone of our neighbors across the pond, he inquired whether he might join me. He proceeded to chat me up.

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My new friend Stephen

As the road steepened we talked about the recent declining fortunes of British cycling in the Tour de France,  punctuated by exclamations of delight as new vistas opened before us. It’s worth noting that having someone to distract you from your suffering during a long climb is absolutely priceless, and so we took turns following each other’s wheel.

The climb to Logan Pass is rated as HC, or above category – descriptive of a special group of ascents that are too large to fit into the normal rating system. Leave it to the French to invent a rating system and realize after the fact that some climbs don’t fit. I can imagine someone shrugging their shoulders in Mediterranean indifference and sighing,  hors categorie. At any rate, when the clouds are drifting by below you, it’s a pretty good bet that you are indeed above category.

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Stephen and I hit the final straightaway before the pass in good form, and I rolled into the parking lot declaring victory in words understood only by cyclists:

Nice go
Got that sorted out
Had good legs today
Chapeau

After getting yelled at by the Rangers for rolling up the handicap ramp (to log 10 more feet of elevation), we grabbed water and descended 900 feet to the east of the pass. Turning around, we climbed back to the summit – the glaciers and snow fields shining like all the diamonds in the world.

The road gave me what I needed today,  and has consistently done so these last nine days. Whether flying along at 30 mph in the lap of a fast tailwind,  or suffering alone through yet another set of steep switchbacks, I got what I was supposed to have. How much time is spent looking past the right now, thinking that there’s something better we’d rather have?

The road is not random. Neither is it an impersonal convergence of capricious circumstances dealt to us by the so-called universe. I can find no courage or hope in this. Rather, the road is built on the kind intention of a God who became human for a season and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth. He brings what we need in the journey, and travels with us to give us someone we can look to when the road rises above category.

And so, this stage comes to an end: 450 miles ridden and 23,265 feet climbed. The road now leads home to the embrace of my girls.Thanks to all of you who took time to read these thoughts.

See you on the road.

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