Our motley party packed and rolled the 30 odd clicks from El Rito to Abiquiu, where we breakfasted and resupplied at the adobe-style gas station. I'd read that the section between Abiquiu and Cuba was one of the toughest of the entire Divide route, and so it turned out to be. The day was heating up fast as we dragged up some steep inclines through rocky and sandy sections, which were to become the order of the day.
A short descent resulted in a front tyre puncture for Craig. The puncture itself seemed to have sealed however the tyre had burped at one point and simply refused to seal up again, so Craig ended up putting a tube in whilst Miro and I fiddled with kit, grateful for any excuse to have a break. Under way again the main obstacle of the morning ensued; an unrelenting 15 km climb through sand and rocky slabs up a never-ending ridge. The sand robbed you of flow and energy, whilst the rocky slabs punished the backside. It was tough painful graft in the sun and we stopped about three times to collect our breaths before gaining the top of the plateau. Once up on top it was far from over.
The route profile showed an undulating progression for the next 70 km but hid the micro details of constant little ups and downs that progressively sapped strength and the will to live. Not to mention some pretty heinous rocky descents where coming off would have required hospitalisation. Even though only about 120 km in length, both Craig and I thought it the toughest single (rideable) leg of the entire Divide route, and that was in the context of some cloud cover that came over midway through, so it wasn't nearly as hot as it might have been. That said I was still well into my second bladder by the time we fought a nasty headwind to gain Cuba, complete with dog welcoming committee, for a late afternoon feed and resupply.
The next sector, from Cuba to Grants, all 160 km of it, was sealed, initially through mostly expansive rolling flatlands. Perfect chance to smack down some big kilometres. The only problem, however, was the wind, which was strongly not in our favour. We mulled over staying put in a hotel for the night, but itchiness, despite the wind, won us over. I was still very concerned about getting to the end in reasonable time, and we pushed into the breeze till an hour after dark before bailing off the side of the road.
(200 km and 2675 m)
Above: a "horny toad" lizard, Craig spied on the trail