It’s the time of year when many of us high-altitude cyclists wind down the season. There are plenty of fall-color rides in the area, but it may just be time to put feet up and rest the legs before facing the often mind-numbing prospect of an indoor winter training regimen. For all of this, however, there are options.
Wednesday’s snow reminds us that if we want the challenge of Trail Ridge Road this season, time is running out. The painfully fulfilling ride up the Old Fall River Road will already require lobster gloves and as much layering as you can stand.
Riding buddies of mine took the breath-taking ride from Estes Park to Nederland last weekend. The 40-plus-mile ride is amazing in its beauty this time of year. Riders pass grove after grove of golden-leafed aspens, and now snow capped peaks as a background. This is no poser’s ride. Take it seriously. It is a series of climbs from start to finish. One may very well see some pro talent roll by, as it is a favorite ride for the elite athletes of the area.
The ride offers diversions and exit strategies, as well. A rider could turn around at Allenspark or before the long climb out of Peaceful Valley. One could roll on down the 25-mile descent from Allenspark to Lyons. Ward and its quirky little general store sits atop Lefthand Canyon. It’s a great option to either trim or add mileage.
If you feel particularly fit and self-punishing, the ride off of Hwy. 72 to Gold Hill will satisfy you. Gold Hill has several steep climbs leading to the old mining town, the best-known of which is Sunshine Canyon.
The canyon hosts a race every year, the Sunshine Canyon Hill Climb which starts just off of Mapleton Avenue and 4th street in Boulder and climbs about 3,000 feet in nine miles. The average grade is 6.4 percent and maxes out at 11.86. It’s a leg-breaking test for any climber. The payoff is worth the suffering.
Gold Hill is home to, not only one of the few one-room, well really two-room, school houses still in operation, but also a general store that offers arguably the best home-made cookies in the area. The town is not just a great place to train and refuel, though. The gold is in the trees these days.
Fires encroached on the tiny town in recent years, so they could use some tourist revenue. Ride out to see their aspen, which have to be close to peak. Check out the 100-year-old structures and enjoy some home-made goodies.
Nederland, also an historic mining town, has plenty to offer riders, as well. The home of Eldora Ski Area, and supplier to the old Caribou town and mine, is a refuge for those who feel the bustle of Boulder is too much, still wanting the laid-back attitude. It sits just a bit higher than Estes Park at 8,234 and can have the same unpredictable weather and strong winds. All things to consider before heading out.
The town offers plenty of places to grab a cup of coffee, grab a few PowerBars, or sit down and enjoy a meal. This also brings up another possibility for tired riders.
Find a restaurant your non-riding significant other or supportive friend might like. Bribe them with a free meal with the idea of picking you and your bike up in Ned and driving home. It cuts the mileage in half, but also the time and necessary recovery time, if that is a concern. Also a good option if snow suddenly appears from over the Indian Peaks. Give it a try. You will not be disappointed.
The World Road Championships were decided last weekend. The women’s winner was not a surprise. The men’s winner was a bit of a relief.
Belgian Philip Gilbert won the men’s race in an uphill sprint. Many expected Spain to have a champion this year with names like Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and former world champ Oscar Freire on the roster. They seemed to have a moment of hesitation as they headed for the final climb just as Gilbert attacked. Andrew Talanski was the highest placing American at 43rd place, 1:54 off of the winning time. Defending champ Mark Cavendish finished in the broom waggon, as did TdF champ Brad Wiggins.
Women’s Olympic road champ Marianne Vos of the Netherlands took the gold on their side. Amber Neben slotted in fourth, 33 seconds back, as the best-placed US rider.
Only one Pro men’s race remains, the classic Giro di Lombardia. The nickname is Tour of Falling Leaves, but it is anything but dead. It is raced in October, so this is a good time to leave everyone hanging.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
The Estes Park High School mountain bike team got their first taste of competition this weekend. While none surprised the field at the season-opening race, the riders got invaluable experience to carry into the next race. Meanwhile, while things change, they really stay the same in the pro road ranks.
Alberto Contador, riding for Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, put together an amazing last week of the Vuelta a Espana to overtake Joaquim Rodriguez and win his first grand tour back from his doping ban. On the podium in Madrid, Contador put up seven fingers, signifying the wins he’d have if not for his disqualifications from the ban. This is Contador’s second victory in his home nation’s grand tour.
The race had been an amazing battle between Contador and fellow Spaniard, Rodriguez, who rides for the Russian Katusha squad. For the most of the last ten days of the tour, ramps were painfully steep, but Rodriguez was able to hold off “El Pistolero”. Then, last Wednesday, Contador pounced on a seemingly easy climbing day. Many viewed the attack as a suicide mission, that surely the peloton would catch Contador. Not only did he stay away, he put important, and significant, time in on both Rodriguez and the dangerous and eventual runner-up Alejandro Valverde of Movistar.
When the peloton rolled into the Spanish capitol, they were greeted as conquering heroes, Spaniards sweeping the podium.
Contador is still credited with wins at the 2007 and 2009 Tours de France, the 2008 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. His wins in the 2010 TdF and 2011 Giro were stripped after the doping ban was enforced.
The Estes Park High School mountain bike team will have no such worries this season. The fledgling squad traveled to Northrop Colorado on Sunday for their first Colorado Cycling League race. While the earth did not move, the team put in respectable performances.
The Chalk Creek Challenge was won by the team from Boulder High School with their arch rival, Fairview, slotting in second in the Division 1 results. The Estes Park team was 12th, with most riders finishing and earning points. Jeremy Norris was the best-placed boy, with 352, riding in the D1 Freshman class. Marin Kingston was the best Ladycat, earning 333 points and placing 37th in the D1/D2 JV class.
Lauren Igel earned 305 points for her 17th place among D1/D2 sophomore girls. All five sophomore boys, Zach Brittain, Eric Edwards, Otto Engle, Barney Treadway and Kyle Collins finished their race to accumulate points.
Once again, none of this was earth shattering, but the kids are out doing it. I hope they continue riding and racing. The sport is not easy, especially if you’ve never ridden a mountain bike before, like most of the team. I hope fans and parents support the team in its efforts. I also hope they, themselves, see their improvements and appreciate how challenging their chosen path is. I hope they find pride in their efforts and keep pushing themselves.
One little gem I can throw in to tie these two stories together; Contado said, after serving the ban he did not feel he deserved, then winning the tour of Spain, “I do not race to shut people’s mouths, I race because it gives me pleasure.” I hope the team finds the pleasure and joy in racing and keeps at it.
Be safe, have fun. I’m going riding.
Jamsie, one of the members of Albannach plays at the Celtic rock concert during the 37th Longs Peak Scottish Irish Festival. The band is a huge crowd favorite.