High in the hills of Northern New Mexico sits the town of Angel Fire, at this time of year enjoying a quiet nap between ski seasons. We assembled at Cafe Expresso just off the main road for the requisite starters, in my case hot chocolate and melt-away coffee cake. We were warmly looked after by Aiven and Lois as our host Pat described the route with plenty of visual cues for those of us who'd be following the peloton with cameras.
Over the next nine hours the ride revealed itself gradually, it was hot early on as the group wound its way up the first serpentine climb before descending into Taos to rendezvous at the picturesque adobe church of Saint Francis. To be truthful the first 50 miles could have been just about anywhere, and there was enough traffic on the road to test the patience of riders and photographers at times. The cars spoiled more than one well-prepared attempt to shoot the approaching bunch.
Somewhere along the way Cole, who's catlike sense of balance makes him an unlikely candidate to fall, went down on some loose stuff making a bloody mess of his left leg. After a stop to clean out the worst of it, he soldiered on as if nothing had happened. And that was where the ride seemed to change, the vistas opened up as the road shot downwards for 3 miles along the edge of an enormous valley pushed by gravity and pulled by the promise of the taco stand and lunch at the bottom.
From there on the course served up an ever increasing menu of delights. Vast grassy plains reminiscent of the prairies, a deep gorge rimmed by fortress-like rock, abandoned mills and dwellings folding in on themselves and then we hit the dirt. Mile after mile of incredible red dirt, never too dusty or too loose, pitched up and down, twisted, bucked and corkscrewed the grinning group on before spitting them out on a stretch of perfect, freshly-laid asphalt. Talk about transition. One more hard two stage climb tested them and then it was 14 miles of downhill and flat back to town.