Adventures in life and photography out West

Archive for September 30, 2012

Time to geek out!

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.