By late in the day, we would persevere through the precipitous drop to Telluride, a plague of biting flies in pretty Ophir, 25 miles of steady climbing over Ophir Pass and a breakneck descent to Silverton to outrun a wicked electrical storm. It wasn’t without casualty: At day’s end I discovered I’d lost a pedal cleat, and with everything shut for the night and no bike shop in town anyway, our plans were in jeopardy.

In endurance racing circles, you’ll sometimes hear talk of “trail magic”: unplanned and unforeseen good fortune that somehow betters—or in my case, saves—your ride. Though I knew pedaling would be impossible without a new cleat bolt, we woke early anyway—fueled by the optimism accrued of the last three days—and headed to Mobius for espresso. Our barista, Meg, said she might be able to help. Leaving us to sling coffee to anyone who might show, Meg took off running down Main Street and reappeared 15 minutes later with a smile and a small bag. “I wondered if I still had these,” she said, presenting me with four new cleat bolts. “Extras!” The adventure was on.

And good thing, as the stretch of Colorado Trail ahead was some of the finest riding yet. Negotiating the CT singletrack after three days of steam engine climbing on forest roads was like climbing out of a Pinzgauer into a rally car. We carved delicate S-turns, dived over creek crossings and punched up benchy climbs. And then there were the wildflowers, a tangle of color so tall and thick that I had to clean Fairy Trumpets and Green Gentians and Indian Paintbrushes out of my bar-ends at every stop. It felt like riding through a pyrotechnics display.

My first night’s fear of rain finally caught up with us. Atop Bolam Pass, crackling storm clouds chased us down to tree line, where we strung up a rickety e-blanket shelter just in time to dodge the initial volley of big silvery drops. The shelter was marginal, but we expected the standard 20-minute mountain cloudburst. Instead we got nine hours of heavy rain, thumbnail-size hail and steady drizzle. Everything was drenched within 30 minutes, and the storm was so forceful that we opted to eat a ProBar for dinner rather than get wet cooking. The situation had me verging on a mean bout of crabbiness.

Then came Jen’s voice, muffled from the depth of her bivy sack. “Are you really having a terrible time?” she cajoled.

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