eat a couple small roasted potatoes and refill my bottles. Idaho. From here, there is a short, steep descent followed by a long gradual road into the heart of the valley. The dirt road is smooth, and I am moving fast. The world opens up around
me. This road continues so far out that I begin to wonder if I made a wrong turn. I pass streams and cattle. A man in a pickup truck points me down another dirt road to the right where I eventually find the second aid station. Just beyond, I find the turnaround and go back the other way. The long, gradual road now works against me. I stop to admire the scenery. I stop to take photos for groups of riders passing me. I watch as a cow in the adjacent field looks at me and jogs along, matching my pace, eventually accelerating into a sprint to his companions. Seeing this is among the highlights of anything I have seen while riding. I find a riding partner as we near the crest of the final climb. She struggles as I do. Perhaps, I was over-excited at how well I felt earlier. When we reached the final aid station—which doubled as the first—I eat another potato, because why not? I begin the final descent, which they have warned us all of. The wash boarding of the gravel is not as bad as expected. I still proceed with caution, only having one close call, almost losing my grip on the bars. This causes me to grab too much brake, and I pull over to compose myself. I snap a photo of the valley ahead. This canyon leads back to town and presents a magnificent view. A group of women on mountain bikes pass, and I find myself jealous of their suspension. Moments later, when we hit the pavement, I enter an aero tuck and that jealousy passes as quickly as I pass them. Working together, they catch me and we cross the official finish line outside of town together. A friend of theirs on a scooter meets them and paces us back to town. This is a welcome respite from effort. Once back in town, I quickly change from my riding clothes. I find food and beer and coffee. The celebration in the town square gets under way. I learn that I succeeded in my goal for the day—to finish the short route faster than the fastest riders finish the long route. A band plays, and they award the winners of the race, as well as the King and Queen of the Mountain. After this, the locals take over, led by the folks from Smith Optics, with a Gelande Quafing competition. On top of all the free beer all afternoon, this is most confusing. It seems to involve sliding beer mugs to each other, and pouring them into your mouth or a Yeti suit. We then disappear into the night, inevitably ending up at the Casino Club again.