The last few days of the tour were perhaps the most challenging - trails with big bad consequences for silly mistakes, and a final day with huge downhill payback for a huge investment in getting there.
Porcupine Rim is one of the old classics of the Moab area, I had ridden it in 1992 and was keen to see if the fabulous ride I remembered was anything like the reality. Way back then it had been a 70km loop, starting with a hard climb on a jeep trail. The plan on the 2012 Tour involved a drive to a trailhead high above the desert overlook called the Rim, but the road was being renovated and was closed to vehicles about 300 vertical metres from where we planned to start. So we rode. It was a good warm up, a gentle climb on a sealed road, and soon we were at the start of the trail. The trail started with a fast dirt road section, then the real stuff began. Sections of rock connected with sandy singletrack sketched along the edge of a 300m cliff, never really exposed to the yawning gulf of space but sometimes only a metre away from it. The almost cliche view of bluffs and mesas on offer from Porcupine Rim itself is a kodak moment of a million snapshots, but it really is spectacular. The trail leads away across an incredibly rocky mesa top to a very skinny and rocky descent down Jackass Canyon, where the trail is at its most natural. Not really 'built', just following rock ledges and slabs until the road is met on the Colorado River. I know I rode this very gnarly trail on a bike with no suspension and comparatively primitive brakes all those years ago, but I don't know how.
The last day in Moab took us up Amasa Back, another very technical trip through a massive pile of fossilised sandstone. The ride was not long but it was difficult and fun in equal measures, with the final descent of Jacksons Trail arguably rideable in full, but not by any of our party. Looking down the part we walked it was possible to see a way down each huge step, but the price for cocking it up was likely to be a long drop onto more rock - like, really long and really pointy rock. The pic above shows us at the bottom, the trail runs across and down the bluff behind and the right of the group (looking relieved to be down in one piece)
We departed Moab and headed back to Breckenridge for our final big day out: the climb from Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass then the massive descent to town. This ride was close to perfect really, back in the forested mountains of Colorado, with the first half of the 2000 ft climb riddled with very tricky sections of boulders and roots that were rideable only if everything went perfectly, then a much easier top half to a pass with whopping views of a good chunk of the northern hemisphere. The downhill to follow was similar: mostly pretty mellow, but in the lower altitude section was a rock garden several kilometres long.
The sad sight of bikes being dismantled and cleaned prior to being packed into boxes was unavoidable end to the expedition, and so it went, but what an great expedition it was.