Adventures in life and photography out West

Archive for August, 2012

Bring The Challenge

I’m watching the second stage of the USA Cycling Challenge on my laptop while I write this. Don’t tell my daughter, but I will know the results long before I turn on the big-screen tonight. Today, some of the very best cyclists in the world are riding a road I pedaled back in June, over Blue Mesa and past the reservoir before the first sprint point in Gunnison. I’m planning my weekend, as the race will cruise near Allenspark, through Lyons and into Boulder on Saturday. The race concludes in Denver on Sunday. Thanks to NBC, the whole world will see some of the amazing terrain we get to see all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world got to see our little piece of Paradise?
Local cycling enthusiasts would love to lure the race through Estes Park for 2013, I among them. I realize that our little town probably doesn’t have the money to host a start or a finish, but wouldn’t it be nice just to have some of the fittest athletes on earth come cruising through, bringing fans and fan dollars with them?

There’s more. My mother-in-law will occasionally sit down and watch broadcasts of the Tour de France, not because she’s any kind of cycling fan, but because the cameras often pan to show a wider view of the area the riders a racing through. During these broadcasts, she and my daughter will say, “we really need to go there.” With NBC beaming images of Colorado to 200 countries, I’m pretty sure some family, somewhere, will express the same thing. That could lead to more visitors.

I have friends who have visited some of those areas of France that I watch every July. With climbs here like Trail Ridge Road, an enthusiast from France or Switzerland is bound to heed the call and bring a family, as well as a bike, with them.

I don’t know the economic statistics of cycling tourists from other nations. I know that in the case of cyclists who participate in Ride the Rockies, they average a yearly income in the six-digit range. While the immediate impact of the race coming through might be good, lots of folks grabbing lunch or drinks or gifts while awaiting the peloton, the long-term impact would be better than any of the advertising our local promotional groups can afford.

It’s more than the lycra-covered butts or shaved legs. Fans enjoy the views of the high peaks, the waterfalls, the historic mining districts, our state’s history. All of this would be shared with millions of cycling fans all over the world. We have plenty of scenery and history for visitors to enjoy.

Now then, day one of the USA Cycling Challenge saw Garmin-Sharp rider Tyler Farrar score his first win in over a year. On a day that was much faster and much harder than anyone anticipated, Farrar and the main peloton caught Garmin-Sharp teammates Tom Danielson and Peter Stetina just outside of the finishing town of Telluride. A break-away group powered off the front less than six miles into the 125.6-mile stage. The break went out so hard that the world got the rare vision of American time trial specialist Dave Zabriskie, how shall I say this, ejecting his lunch. The punishing pace, which included the climb of Lizard Head Pass, put the race into Telluride about an hour sooner than the fastest assumed pace, 4 hours, 42 minutes.

Garmin-Sharp took four of the five awarded jerseys. Farrar took the first yellow leader’s jersey, as well as the green sprinters’ jersey. The King of the Mountains jersey went to former Durango resident Tom Danielson. The red-striped Most Aggressive Rider jersey was awarded to Stetina for his efforts in keeping Danielson out front. The one jersey that did not go to a Garmin-Sharp rider, the best young rider, went to Bontrager-Livestrong under-23 racer Gavin Mannion.

So far, this is not much of an indication as to who might hold any of these jerseys by Sunday. Farrar could hold the green jersey when all is said and done, but he is not likely to win the GC battle. Tom Danielson may get the polka-dots, but his aim is higher. Tommy “D” will want to yellow jersey by Denver. He’ll need a good, wide lead going into that time trial as the defending champion, Levi Leipheiner, is an accomplished rider against the clock.

Regardless, this should be a great race, one we should try to coax through Estes Park in the future. Just saying’.

I will throw in just a quick comment on Friday’s biggest cycling news. Lance was screwed from the moment USADA announce they would pursue the charges. USADA is beyond the law, if you check out their power. There are no appeals once they’ve ruled and they have only lost on arbitration once. I don’t know if Lance did it. I have not seen the evidence. The real problem is that no one outside of USADA has seen the evidence. No one can legally compel USADA to show what they have.

Whether Lance doped or not, his move to stop fighting is pretty much the best he could do for himself. To be honest, I would be surprised if he didn’t, but the way USADA is able to wield limitless power over our sport is ridiculous. They would have ruled themselves correct, whether Lance cheated or not.

Ted King takes time for a fan at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado Springs

I hope they don’t test group rides for excess caffein.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Pro Treatment

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, possibly the most cumbersome name in pro cycling, returns to Colorado next week. The race winds 518 miles starting in Durango this year and ends in a time trial around Capital Hill in Denver. The race won’t come through Estes Park this year, but it gets close.
For stage six of the race, on Saturday, Aug. 25, what remains of the starting 135 riders meander 103.3 miles from the start in Golden into Boulder, up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, then north on Hwy. 72 to nearly Allenspark, where the peloton turns east on Hwy. 7 down to Lyons. The race then heads back to Boulder with a quick, steep detour up Lefthand Canyon and down Lee Hill Drive, before the challenging climb to the finish on Flagstaff Mountain.

If you want to watch in the traditional European way, have breakfast in Allenspark then wander down Hwy. 7 to the junction with Hwy. 72. Bring a picnic and relax. The earliest the race officials expect to get to that turn is 1:35 p.m. Keep your camera ready. The whole pack should whir past in about 10 minutes. After that, you can hang out and enjoy the afternoon, head back into Allenspark, chase the race down to Lyons, or if you feel particularly adventurous, try to get to the finish above Boulder before the race ends. This last option is what I’m going to try.

Plenty of American riders plan to make the start, including defending champion, Levi Leipheimer, this year riding for Omega Pharma-Quickstep. US National Champion Timmy Duggen will again ride for the Italian team Liquigas, along with long-time friend Ted King. The Tour de France’s best young rider, Tejay van Garderen will ride along side Boulder native Taylor Phinney, both riding for BMC Racing. The real marquee rider this year, however, will be BMC’s George Hincapie, who will be riding his final professional race.

Big George, as he is known, has an amazing resume. The 39-year-old Farmingdale, N.Y., native turned pro in 1994. He has finished the punishing Paris-Roubaix on 17 occasions. He has finished 15 consecutive Tours de France, a record. He is the only American ever to win the Ghent-Wevelgem and has ushered three different winners in nine Tours, also a record. All of this is impressive, but there’s more.

Big George is possibly the most respected American in pro cycling at the moment, not for his wins, though he has been US National Champ on three different occasions, not because he bends anyone to his will. George might be the nicest guy on two wheels.

George has an easy smile and will talk to anyone. He sacrifices for his team leader and he helps young rider negotiate the challenges of being a pro cyclist. This year he will, again turn himself inside-out for former Tour champ Cadel Evens, while helping build and hone the skills of van Garderen and Phinney. For seven days, he will ride through Colorado for his professional swan song.

If you have time next week and want to see a true professional, get to one of the stages to watch George ride by. Better yet, head down to Denver on Sunday, August 26, to see the finale and the after party. George’s team, BMC will hold a fundraiser party that evening with the likes of former pros Bob Roll, Ron Kiefle and legendary sprinter Davis Phinney from the 7-Eleven team. The event is called “Living the Ride” and features Team BMC director Jim Ochowicz, who also fouded and ran the 7-Eveven team. A silent auction at the event benefits the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Tickets and more information can be found at

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Walt Hester
Cycling legends, from left, Davids Phinney, Connie Carpenter and Ron Kiefel entertained the crowd gathered for the Ride the Rockies cycling seminar on Thursday. Phinney and Kiefel road for the 7-Eleven cycling team in the ’80s and early ’90s, while Carpenter won the first women’s Olympic road race in the ’84 LA games.

On Track

Like many folks, I’ve spent much of the last two weeks glued to the Olympic coverage. And like many, I’m enjoying sports I don’t get to see all that often. While road cycling, men and women, open road and time trial, all ended pretty early, there were plenty more events throughout the games.


Track cycling is probably the least known of cycling events here in the US. While mountain biking had it’s heyday in the mid and late ’90s, it remains popular. BMX began in the US and still has loyal legions. Track cycling, while once extremely popular here, has become a bit obscure. Even with a velodrome, or cycling track, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, track cycling is still working to gain a foothold with the masses.


First, let me explain a bit. Track cycling is very spectator friendly. As the name implies, races are performed on a track. Olympic tracks can be as short as 200 yards or as long as 400 meters around with steeply banked turns, sometimes more than 40 degrees. Indoor velodromes tend to have wood surfaces, though the outdoor 7-Eleven velodrome in Los Angeles and the track of the same name at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs have concrete surfaces. The Pringle, as the London Olympics Velodrome has come to be known, is 250 meters around with a wood surface, 43-degree banking in the curves and 12-degrees in the straightaways.


Track races are much shorter affairs, at least as the Olympics are concerned, versus road races or most cross-country mountain bike races. Ten kilometers would be a long race. Some, like the Men’s and Women’s sprint, are as short as 750 meters. The longest Olympic event this time around is the Men’s omnium competition’s points race at 30k.


The other big difference between track and an other cycling is the bikes themselves. They have no breaks and are fixed geared. This means no coasting. If the back wheel is moving, the pedals are moving. This can cause problems for new track cyclists, as they will sometimes try to stop suddenly, resulting in a spectacular launch and crash to the floor. This also results on the smoothest pedalstroke in all of cycling. There are only so many teeth in the big chainring, so a track cyclist must be able to turn the ring faster. If a cyclist can turn the cranks smoothly, it results in a more efficient and faster ride.


This time, there are three individual competitions and two team competitions. The events are the sprint, mentioned earlier, the keirin and the omnium. The two-kilometer keirin is the most chaotic of the events. It starts with six riders lining up behind a small motorcycle. The motorcycle starts out at about 18 mph and slowly accelerates to a bit over 30 mph before leaving the track with about 2.5 laps left. From there, the riders make a made dash to catch the rider in front and sprint to the finish. Cyclists can reach speeds of 45 mph in the sprint.


The omnium is the cycling best-allround competition. It is actually several races in one competition. Riders are time on a flying lap, they take a short while to get to full speed, then are timed over one lap of the track.


Next riders engage in a points race over as long as 30k for men and 20k for women. Every tenth lap, riders sprint for points. Whomever finishes with the most points wins the race.


Next is a shorter elimination race. Riders sprint every two laps and whomever finishes last in the sprint is eliminated.


The individual pursuit pits racers on the opposite side of the track from each other. They really race against the clock, but if you catch your opponent, you are the automatic winner.


A scratch race is a straight race over 16k in which the first across the line wins, and finally the time trial is a short race one rider against the clock.


The rider who can be most consistent throughout these many disciplines wins. This time around, Denmark’s Lassen Norman Hansen won the men’s gold, while Team Great Britain’s Laura Trott edged the USA’s Sarah Hammer, what a great name for this sport, for the women’s Omnium gold.


If any of this sounds like fun, either take a trip down to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center and get involved, or, better yet, look up the Boulder Valley Velodrome in Erie. The Boulder Valley track is under construction and could still use some support. Get on line to and make a donation. The track is well on its way and will be a year-round, outdoor facility. It is about the same dimensions as the Olympic track, 250 meters, and not nearly as far away as the track in the Springs.


Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . a fixed gear. 

Your bike and the law

I received an email this morning about riding one of my favorite stretches; Hwy. 7 south of Estes Park. It’s a notoriously narrow stretch of highway, especially before the Wind River Pass just above Aspen Lodge. It’s not unusual to see cyclists on this stretch. It’s also not unusual for cyclists to get buzzed by motorists along this stretch. So, let’s review the law.
Cyclists are covered under the state statutes covering “Human-powered vehicles.” Before I get started, let me say, cyclists need to pay attention, as well. Cyclists are regarded as the same as motor vehicles. We are required to obey all traffic laws as when we drive. No blowing through stop signs, no blowing through red lights. When we come to a red light, we should take our spot in line. Don’t pass all the traffic on the right to get up to the light. It’s against the law, it’s dangerous and it makes the rest of us law-abiding riders look bad.

According to state statute 42-4-1412, we as cyclists can ride as far to the right as we deem safe. We can move to the left if A) we are preparing to turn left, B) we are overtaking a vehicle, or C) Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.

We don’t have to be all the way right if there is a dedicated right-hand turn lane and we don’t plan to turn right. In that case we can be on the far left side of that turn lane.

We are not expected, or required, to ride over or through hazards at the edge of the road, including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or narrow lanes or ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right-hand side of the road.

All this also applies to the far left if traveling on a one-way street with more than one marked lane.

We may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of the road set aside just for cyclists. If we do ride two abreast, we may not impede the normal flow of traffic and on a laned road, may only take up one lane.

We are expected to signal our turns. I know, drivers don’t on a regular basis, but we are in charge of our selves, not them. When push come to shove, the cyclist will lose if we don’t let the cars know what we are doing. It doesn’t matter if we are in the right-of-way. When it comes to an argument between a cyclist and several thousand pounds of steel, the cyclist will surely lose.

Now the part that my morning emailer was concerned with is in state statute 42-4-100, section 1, paragraph b) “The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the cyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.

That’s it. Look it up if you’d like, either in the state driving statutes or at

Now for more fun matters: Shimano has announced an 11-speed top-end groupo. The 2013 Dura Ace will be 11-speed and come in a wide-ranging 11-28 cog set to cover most riding conditions. The cranks are reported to be stiff enough that they will have only a four-arm spider. The real fun in this is that no matter what chain ring combination you wish to run, the spider will be 110 mm. This also means, if you have the cash, you can buy the first set in whateve size you want. I will go with 53-39, for example. If I want to head up Independence Pass or Mount Evans, I can slap on the 50-34 compact set for better climbing. Both sets fit the same spider. This will come in both the traditional mechanical group and the new Di2 electronic group. I’ve ridden the 10-speed version and it’s a pleasure. In theory, an 11-speed cog would make it even smoother, as ther would be less drastic spacing between gears.

Don’t expect either version to be cheap. Expect it to come in around $4,000 for the electronic version, possibly just under $3,000 for the mechanical group.

Not to be outdone, Campagnolo has announced that their more affordable Athena group, which is already 11-speed, will be available in electronic form this fall. All indications are that it is butter-smooth and about the same weight as the comparable Shimano Di2. The venerable Italian manufacturer has not released a price but have said they want it to be competitive with Shimano’s Ultegra electronic group, about $1,400.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . and saving my pennies.