"Gobsmackingly Brilliant" rides of 2000
Alistair Sponsel: Who?
This isn't a tale of a brilliant professional victory; rather, it is a story of determination and perseverance. Nonetheless, to me, it is "gobsmackingly brilliant".
The feat was completed by my good friend and team-mate, Alistair Sponsel. It occurred during the utterly gruelling Zinger Bike Race which occurred July 15th, 2000 in the high mountains of Colorado. We were riding on the composite Rod East VW/Sugoi team, which was comprised of Texas-based amateurs. For those of you who haven't heard of or don't remember this epic race, it was a 140 mile "jaunt" over multiple 11,000 foot passes. The race was won by Scott Moniger of the Mercury squad in a time of 7:15 or so.
When Ali got dropped from the already diminished field (about 35 of the 110 starters were still together), he still had some 95 miles to go. On the descent of aptly-named Oh My God Road, a hair-raising, white-knuckle affair on gravel roads without guardrails and certain-death precipitous drops off the edge of the cliff, Alistair wrecked. Fortunately, he didn't plummet to his death. Unfortunately, his hopes of rejoining the main field were dashed. Unabated by the mishap, he pressed on. He headed towards the mammoth 3,000 foot partially paved climb of Guanella Pass.
By this time, the heavens began to open up. A once-pleasant (temperature-wise at least) day of 80 degrees and sunny soon became downright nasty with the mercury heading south some 30 degrees and light rain falling. As he churned upwards, riders calling it a day were headed back down the mountain for the warmth of team vehicles.
With incredible bullheadedness, he pressed on. Eventually he crested the climb and proceeded the descent of Guanella. On the descent he flatted. Neither our team van nor neutral support were to be found, so he was forced to descend the road, which hardly qualified as a road, on a front flat. This was the same section on which Moniger chose to use a mountain bike. At the bottom of the descent, he finally received a wheel change and picked up some additional clothes for the rain was now coming down good.
Only 45 miles and three passes to go. Yet, the stubborn kid pressed on. By the time he reached Breckenridge, the winners' interviews had long since been conducted, the barriers were coming down, and the temperature rested in the low 40s . Nine hours and 15 minutes after he began (and two hours after Moniger), Alistair had completed the most difficult one-day race in American history. He was the 23rd and final finisher on a day having ridden the last 95 miles solo. To me and my team-mates, his effort was heroic and inspirational.