The cyclists pedaled south on Laramie’s 30th Street. To motorists, runners or even early-morning golfers at Jacoby Golf Course, it was quite a sight. Nearly 350 cyclists made their way, mostly single-file, south on 30th Street before turning east on Grand Avenue and cranking up Interstate 80 to the Summit. The stream of riders began at sunrise and, by about 8 a.m., it was over with the riders well on their way to Cheyenne via the Happy Jack Road.
This was the sixth and final day of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour. It’s not a race, so cyclists go whatever speed they like. Some are fast; others are slow. Some stop to view the scenery while others loathe to pause for any reason and seem mostly focused on getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.
The 21st annual Tour de Wyoming took off July 16 on a clear, sunny morning in Cheyenne. After first maneuvering the lovely Greenway through Cheyenne, cyclists headed north out of town. The 72 mile ride to Wheatland was a fast one thanks to a blissful tailwind.
“That was the fastest 72 miles I’ve ever done,” one cyclist said. “I felt like I was cheating.”
I smiled, knowing the wind would not be so friendly for all of the remaining five days.
This year’s event was dubbed the 4X4 Tour. It went up and over four mountain passes and covered more than 400 miles. Riders came from 33 states and two foreign countries. In Wyoming, 17 different communities were represented. Laramie had the highest rider representation with 25 cyclists. Another 19 residents are part of the Tour Planning Committee that makes the event possible year after year.
Even with such distance and tough terrain, the bike tour has a surprising mean age of 55, older than most would expect. That is skewed somewhat by the 25 riders 70 and older. The oldest cyclists were two at age 79, and the youngest was 14.
Wind became an annoying factor on Day 2 as cyclists pedaled west out of Wheatland and into Sybille Canyon. The canyon served as a wind tunnel as riders pedaled up and over Morton Pass — the first of the four passes. The canyon opens out into the broad Laramie River Basin, with Medicine Bow Peak visible in the distance. The view is striking, but the cyclists likely were more focused on the 15 mph headwind and temperatures in the low 90s. It was like pedaling into a blast furnace.
Even when the route turned north toward Rock River, the wind swirled in odd directions, making the cyclists anxious as they made their way doggedly down the road. The SAG drivers — volunteers who follow the cyclists and provide rides to those who tucker out, have bicycle breakdowns, or who just want a lift to the end destination — were busy. That was true, too, of the volunteers manning the rest stops where they provided food and drink to the riders.
The town of Rock River came out in force to offer wonderful hospitality to the weary cyclists. With 400 cyclists, volunteers, and other private support drivers, the Tour more than doubled the town’s population overnight. The residents rose to the occasion feeding the cyclists both dinner and breakfast the next morning. The Laramie-based band J Shogren Shanghai’d even provided live entertainment with their unique form of Wyoming musical storytelling.
Next morning, as cyclists headed out from Rock River toward Medicine Bow, Mother Nature offered up a breeze and a bit of rain before the skies cleared about halfway through the morning. The wind eased but still persisted out of the west, creating a headwind for most of the 75 miles into Saratoga.
The next day included an out-and-back trek to the top of Battle Pass in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Some cyclists opted for a rest day while others took part in raft trips down the North Platte River instead of pedaling their bikes. The Hobo Hot Springs were particularly popular to ease sore muscles.
The big test came the next day with cyclists covering the arduous 81 miles from Saratoga, over Snowy Range Pass, and then across the basin into Laramie.
Laramie also proved to be a hospitable host town. Thanks to the city of Laramie street department, the route in town was recently swept and wonderfully free of debris. The bulk of the riders camped overnight at Laramie Middle School but enjoyed a night on the town for dinner. Buses contracted through the Eppson Center for Seniors transportation carried hungry cyclists from the school to downtown restaurants until well past dark. The drivers went out of their way to ensure everyone got safely back to the school and nobody was left stranded.
As cyclists pedaled into Cheyenne, to end the ride at the same location they started six days earlier, grins were plentiful. It was a week of comradery both on and off the bikes. It included headwinds and tailwinds, hot temperatures and even a rain shower or two. No doubt it was with a bit of relief, as well as sadness, to have the adventure come to an end.
Amber Travsky earned master’s degrees in wildlife biology and exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She runs her own environmental consulting company, as well as a martial arts school. She authored “Mountain Biking Wyoming” and “Mountain Biking Jackson Hole,” both published by Falcon Books. She is the tour director and founder of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour, which crosses the state every July.