Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “bicycling in Colorado

One More Time!

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Saturday, February 6, was the day of the Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. For the second time in five years, Ride the Rockies will traverse the highest paved highway pass road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. I’m excited because, of course, the “Big Road” is in my back yard, almost literally. It’s a relatively short route, at 403 miles over six days, but it’s also going to be beautiful!

The route will closely resemble the one I first rode, five years ago. This one begins in beautiful Carbondale on Sunday, June 12. Day one rolls from Carbondale to the famous ski town of Aspen. Chandler and the crew are easing us into the race as the two towns are only 50 miles apart. Mile for mile, however, it is a stunning ride.

Walt Hester - Maroon Bells

The ride rolls down the Roaring Fork River along a trail that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen past the Maroon Bells. Of course, one would need to take a side trip to get the beautiful view.

Day two, Monday, June 13, might be the Queen Stage, beginning in Aspen, riders nearly immediately start the 85-mile day climbing. And this is not just any climb. This is 19 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. The last three miles are the worst at around 7% to the top of Independence Pass. After that, it’s a fast dive down to Twin Lakes.

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From the lakes, riders take a left and head to the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. This year, the ride passes through on to Fremont Pass, 12 miles averaging 1.5%, maxing out at 7% and 11,318 feet. Riders bomb down the north side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.

Copper Flowers

For the past two RTRs, the ride has taken an extra day in one of the towns. Two years ago, we stayed an extra day in Steamboat Springs. Last year, we rode from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument and back. This season, Day 3, June 14, the route takes an extra day in Copper Mountain Resort to tackle the Copper Triangle. The 78-mile route takes riders back over Fremont Pass, past Leadville, over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, over the Red Cliff Bridge, through Minturn and Vail and finally over Vail Pass before returning to Copper.

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On Day 4, June 15, riders descend a snaking bike trail from Copper to Frisco, past Dillon Lake, through Silverthorn and north to Ute Pass. Four years ago, Chandler and the gang took riders over gravel roads into Kremmling. The route is now part of RTR lore. This time around, riders will see some of those same roads, eventually taking riders into the remote resort town of Grand Lake. This is tied with Day Two as the longest-milage day at 85 miles.

Century_for the web

This takes us to Day 5, June 16, and the whole reason that I can’t possibly miss this ride. It’s a short day at only 49 miles, but it’s over the famous Trail Ridge Road; more than 20 miles of climbing at around 4.5% to over 12,100 feet above sea level. The climb takes riders from the shore of Grand Lake, through arid pine meadows, through aspen stands, past the habitat of moose, elk and big horn sheep, eventually out onto the alpine tundra. Riders enjoy views of the Never Summer Range, the Continental Divide, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, as well as the Alpine Visitor Center, Rainbow Curve and the fast, winding descent into my town, Estes Park.

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Longs From Rock Cut

Home of the world-famous, and slightly creepy Stanley Hotel, Estes Park made a big deal out of hosting the 2012 RTR. My town had a big party with local musicians and great food. My town knows how to entertain.

As luck would have it, the ride comes through Estes Park on a Thursday, which is Farmers’ Market Day, so be sure to swing by Bond Park as you arrive to get some refueling goodies.

Farmers' Market

Come see our town, our fun and my favorite bike shop, the Via Bicycle Cafe! Come get coffee, pie, BBQ, all great in Estes Park. Yes, I’m biased, but I love this town and you will, too.

Amplified Soul

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Riders enjoy Friday, June 17, Day 6’s mostly-downhill ride out Devils Gulch and the Switchbacks, through Glen Haven, through local rider-favorite Masonville, around Horsetooth Reservoir and finally, into Fort Collins.

Pro Wmn at Horsetooth

The six-day ride will reward any rider fit enough to make the journey, with vistas, new friends and great stories. I love this ride and would urge any rider to register  the lottery before February 28. The organizers, Chandler Smith, Renee Wheelock, Liz Brown and an army (that’s no exaggeration) of volunteers, work hard to put on a great ride and I have never been disappointed. It will be the most challenging, most enjoyable week of your riding season.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going training!

Ride Organizers

 


New adventures 

I’m working a lot lately. Facing some challenges that I’m happy to have. I haven’t posted in a while. Just tying, as I often do, to find time and just do it.

One new challenge is riding rollers. A friend gave me a set about a year ago, but I never got the technique until this week. I hope to get a bunch of miles on the rollers as the winter snow stubbornly hangs on.

Another project has been recording interviews at my local bike shop. Via Bicycle Cafe is the lone dedicated shop in Estes Park and I really want it to thrive.

The shop not only sells Scott, Salsa and Colnago bikes, Stefano Tomasello, the owner, is a pro wrench and a Cat 2 racer. He hopes to gain enough points this season to move up to Cat 1 before ending his competitive cycling career.

The other side of the shop is a great coffee bar. Stef serves locally-roasted Notch Top coffee, as well as a variety of goodies for riders. Stef takes as much pride in making a great cup of coffee as he does working on bikes. I hope to get plenty of rides in with Stef and the bike community that has quickly sprung up around his shop.

I plan to have more on the shop, but until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

 

A trio from Estes Park pedals toward the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A trio from Estes Park pedals toward the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Stefano Tomasello, foreground, points back toward town on the Old Fall River Road. Stef's idea in opening his shop was to provide a hub for the local cycling community.

Stefano Tomasello, foreground, points back toward town on the Old Fall River Road. Stef’s idea for opening his shop was to provide a hub for the local cycling community.

 

Josh Cramer, left, owner/operator of Notch Top Coffee, and high school cyclist Jeremy Norris, mill about Via Bicycle Cafe last fall. The shop is as much about the cycling community as it is the bikes.

Josh Cramer, left, owner/operator of Notch Top Coffee, and high school cyclist Jeremy Norris, mill about Via Bicycle Cafe last fall. The shop is as much about the cycling community as it is the bikes.

 

Tomasello brews a cup of coffee in what he describes as a giant Keurig machine. Stef, as he is called by much of the community, is as passionate about coffee as he is cycling.

Tomasello brews a cup of coffee in what he describes as a giant Keurig machine. Stef, as he is called by much of the community, is as passionate about coffee as he is cycling.

 

Holiday cookies bare Italian national colors and an approximation of the shop jersey. While Via has been open to the public for less than six months, the local community has embraced the shop.

Holiday cookies bare Italian national colors and an approximation of the shop jersey. While Via has been open to the public for less than six months, the local community has embraced the shop.

 

Jeremy Norris, member of the Estes Park High School mountain bike team, shows off his medal from the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Via has quickly become that spot to celebrate achievement and share stories.

Jeremy Norris, member of the Estes Park High School mountain bike team, shows off his medal from the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Via has quickly become that spot to celebrate achievement and share stories.

 

Steven Wens, Belgian national and Estes Park resident, holds a cookie with the Belgian colors at Via after the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Cyclists of all abilities have embraced Via for it's friendly vibe, as well as great, locally roasted coffee.

Steven Wens, Belgian national and Estes Park resident, holds a cookie with the Belgian colors at Via after the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Cyclists of all abilities have embraced Via for it’s friendly vibe, as well as great, locally roasted coffee.

 

Stef sits on what has become his shop's trade mark pink couch. As his name implies, Tomasello is Italian, by heritage, and loves the iconic hue of the Giro d'Italia.

Stef sits on what has become his shop’s trade mark pink couch. As his name implies, Tomasello is Italian, by heritage, and loves the iconic hue of the Giro d’Italia.

 

Stef pulls an espresso shot for an eager customer. In addition to several bicycle brands, Tomasello also sells high-end espresso machines.

Stef pulls an espresso shot for an eager customer. In addition to several bicycle brands, Tomasello also sells high-end espresso machines.

 


Vincero!!

May is painted pink on the international cycling calendar. Pink is the color of victory. Pink is the color of triumph. Pink is the color of legend in Italy.

The Giro d’Italia is slated to begin next Saturday along the Mediterranean coast with a team time trial, as this race so often does. For those of us just escaping winter’s icy grip, or those still trying to shake it off, the palm trees of Sanremo are the signs of hope, of the summer soon to arrive. To see the tight, double-paceline of the team time trial blasting past the sea and the swaying palms brings lightness to hearts and freshness to tired legs, as well as a new vision to eyes too long inside on the stationary trainer.

One of Italy’s favorite sons, and 2013 champion, Vincenzo Nibali, has chosen to focus all energies on the Tour this year, so there will be no pink and Astana turquoise this season. Nairo Quintana of Movistar and Sky’s Chris Froome have also decided to skip the Giro to better prepare for the TdF.

All eyes will be on a different Spaniard as El Pistolero, Alberto Contador, attempts the Giro-Tour double. Contador will lead a slightly disheveled Tinkoff-Saxo squad through Italy without the help of master tactician and team founder Bjarne Riis. Riis was jettisoned from the squad after a falling-out with Olag Tinkoff, the team owner. In spite of being the Yankees of the cycling world with such stars as Contador, former two-time Giro champ Ivan Basso and Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan, the team has little to show for their extravagant payroll. I suppose that makes them more like the Knicks than the Yankees.

A bit of history; the last Giro-Tour double-winner was tragic cycling hero Marco Pantani. Il Pirata took both grand tours in 1998, forever sealing the little climber’s name in cycling lore. Unfortunately, the diminutive, enigmatic Italian was booted from the Giro in 1999 at Madonna di Campiglio, for doping, with one mountain stage remaining and while wearing the Maglia Rosa. He was suspended from competition for the remainder of that season, and while his career never fully recovered, he had enough fire in his heart and his legs to treat cycling fans to an epic battle with fellow doper Lance Armstrong during the 2000 TdF. The little pirate would die of a massive cocaine overdose, alone in a Rimini, Italy, hotel room on St. Valentine’s Day, 2004.

Now I can not officially endorse using the Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette with the top-of-the-line Dura Ace derailleur. One should probably take the advice of the experts and manufacturers and buy the Ultegra long-cage rear derailleur, as it is designed to fit this cassette. So, pay no attention to me when I say WOW DO I LOVE THE WAY THIS SETUP WORKS!

I had a tough Ride the Rockies last year when, on day one, we climbed out of Boulder and up the 11,306-foot Berthoud Pass. Snow and the climb made for achy knees. Day four involved an interminable climb from State Bridge to Avon. My knees have never hurt quite so much. This is when I vowed to get a better climbing gear. So I have.

I actually have all of the proper equipment. I have the Ultegra derailleur in a box in the workshop. I just don’t want to haul it to Boulder to have it put on. I could do the job, but I don’t want to replace cables and housing, for which, again, I would want to travel to Boulder, about 36 miles down the canyon. So far, I have had no shifting issues. I have not taken it out on anything truly steep, yet. I hope to do that next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

While pink is the color of May, July is decidedly yellow. So is my team’s jerseys for July’s Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation Courage Classic. That’s officially how one is supposed to mention the event on first reference. I’ve been in “The Media” for a while. So the Courage Classic is a fund-raising event for the hospital foundation. It’s a great organization, a good cause and probably the best ride I do each year. I mention it now because I need to start raising donations.

The Courage Classic itself is the payoff for raising funds. It’s three days of riding through the heart of Colorado’s ski country, as well as at least one classic route. This year’s ride starts, as it did last season, with the Copper Triangle; 80 miles from Copper Mountain Resort, up to Leadville, the highest town in North America at 10,200 feet, down through Minturn, through Vail, and up the steeper west side of Vail Pass, before plunging back down into Copper.

Day two is a bit different than in years past. This year, riders will start in Copper, zip down the bike path to Frisco and Dillon, around the east side of Lake Dillon, on to Keystone, over Swan Mountain, through Breckenridge, then up Hoosier Pass, then returning to Breck and finishing in Copper.

Day three is relatively short, just about 35 miles from Copper to Breck and back to Copper for the final BBQ party.
If you are interested in joining the team, we are Team Estes and have been together in various forms for six years. We tend to be pretty small, but we have a great time. The ride runs from Saturday, July 18, through Monday, July 20, based out of Copper Mountain Resort in Summit County, Colorado.

Follow this link to donate to our team for the ride. Thanks for your support.

I still have about two weeks before I can test out my new Shimano Sports Camera and its iPhone app. I still have to buy the tiny media card. When I do finally get the card, I will be sure to record one of my favorite descents to test it out, then post here.

Until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!

My team's 2015 jersey, by Pactimo.

My team’s 2015 jersey, by Pactimo. My design!


JensJensJens!

27EPLPht JensJensJens

 

German and man of the world, Jens Voigt, receives a send-off worthy of a king from fans before the start of Sunday’s final stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Boulder, Colorado. After 18 professional racing seasons, 17 Tours de France and countless souls crushed, Voigt hung up his race wheels for the last time after Sunday’s race finish.


Here we go, one last time

So the USA Pro Challenge is set to start today with the circuit between Aspen and Snowmass. The stage was so popular last year that the organizers brought it back this year. While that returned this season, at least one fixture of the peloton won’t be back next year.

Lunchbox-hero Jens Voigt will ride one last race, the Pro Challenge, then hang up his bike as a pro. The Jensie grew up in the old East Germany and has been a pro since 1997 and has worn the coveted yellow jersey of the Tour on two occasions. Two years ago, Jens won an epic breakaway stage from Aspen, over Independence Pass and all the way into Beaver Creek.

Jens has made his career sacrificing for his team leaders. This, and his easy-going personality, has made him a world-wide fan favorite. No one attacks more. No one suffers better. No one stands around and chats with fans quite as much as Jensie.

Good luck this week and enjoy your time with the family in retirement. And thanks for the memories.

RadeoShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt leans through the turn off of Broadway onto Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday. Voigt was quoted as loving Colorado race fans as much as they love him as the fans are also riders and know what it's like to suffer through the mountain climbs.

RadeoShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt leans through the turn off of Broadway onto Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday. Voigt was quoted as loving Colorado race fans as much as they love him as the fans are also riders and know what it’s like to suffer through the mountain climbs.


The big tease

It’s February on the Front Range side of the Rockies. Lots of snow this year and lots of cold, keeping the snow in place. It’s so cold, I don’t really want to even go to the garage for my trainer. The positive side is that I continue to recover and heal from last season. I also have plenty of time to read. Which is good.

I have three new books I’m working through: two fitness and mobility and one history. I received and started reading Becoming a Supple Leopard, by Dr. Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza as well as Power, Speed, Endurance, by Brian Mackenzie. For you Crossfitters, you will recognize the names. Both believe form and technique are all-important. The pair also host a web-show called “Genetic Potential” (http://www.geneticpotentialtv.com). The two books have already been helpful in my weight lifting. I look forward to better weather so I can put some of the “Skill-based approach to endurance training” into action.

Both of these books are pretty big. They are also relatively pricy, $60 for Starrett’s book and $40 for Mackenzie’s, but both are worth their weights in gold.

The history, or perhaps exposé, is Wheelmen by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell. It takes a close look at the Armstrong/EPO era of cycling and the USPS domination of the Tour de France due at least in part to their massive doping conspiracy. I have not gotten too far in it so far, but it has been pretty good.

I picked up a new pair of Specialized Expert road shoes this week; part of the reason I am impatient for warmer weather. Specialized shoes have always fit my feet better. I have tried any number of shoes, both in-store and out on the road and trail. Pearl Izumi shoes are fine, but like many, don’t fit my forefoot very well. Sidi are spectacular, but expensive. Specialized fit well, have plenty of stiffness and are a great bargain. The Expert level is, for me, the best bang for the buck. At $200, they are not cheap. They are, however, noticeably stiffer than the Comp level shoe, which is $40 cheaper. They are not as stiff as the Pro or S-Works level, but $75 less than the Pro and half the price of the S-Works.

As most of my road riding is recreational, I don’t need a Pro or S-Works shoe. I do, however, like a good, stiff shoe when climbing the Rockies, which is just part of living in this part of the world. While I got a cool white shoe last time, I quickly realized why we mere mortals don’t usually get white cycling shoes: schmutz. They got dirty in a big hurry. I got black this time around. This is not the only difference between the two, either. Like so many things, these days, the trickle-down from the top models of years past has made today’s Expert shoe better than even the Pro or S-Works of years ago.

This year’s Expert has the Colorado-made Boa closure, making a very exact and custom fit. The shoes tighten with a sort of microfiliment, like a fishing line, wound around a small spool. Twist the little knob to tighten and pull up to loosen. It’s the technology that was only on the top-of-the-line shoe a few years back. I’m looking forward to riding with them . . . some day.

Still snowing. Makes me wish for warmer climates . . . like perhaps Jamaica. Okay, kind of a clumsy transition, but it works. A high school buddy of mine lost his job at the worst of the economic down-turn a few years back. He had been smart with his money up to that point, so he had a chance to start a charity, along with his Jamaican-born wife. Randy and Sonia Duncan-Boba founded the EAASY Foundation to bring “Empowerment through Athletic and Academic Support of Youth.” While the foundation funds local programs throughout the world, their hearts are clearly in Jamaica. Check out their fundraiser jersey. You may have to hit “Download” after you connect with the Dropbox page. It’s a bit expensive, but without a doubt, it’s for a great cause. They go for $150, on par with many top-of-the-line jerseys, and this one is put together by Fast Freddie, the new cycling clothing brand by current US road champion, Fast Freddie Rodriguez. $25 dollars from each sale goes to the foundation.

So this also leads into my own fundraising endeavor; The Courage Classic! This is the 25th year of the ride that raises money for Children’s Hospital Colorado. The last few editions have featured route changes, due to sink holes and carcinogenic insulation removal. Who knows what this year’s route will be, other than great fun. The ride is the icing on the cake. The whole point, and the competitive side, is the raising of money for the hospital foundation. They require a $300 minimum of donations to ride, but that really is not much. Get involved, or at least donate. I will have a link to my team’s page in two weeks.

One last bit of business. My intervals between posts have gotten kinda long. I apologise. I am taking on some more challenges. I’m still part-time with the newspaper up here, as well as full-time with my new gig, Harmony Foundation, leading two Spinning classes a week and photographing the occasional wedding, I am also taking classes to become a Certified Addiction Counsellor. If you’ve known me for a while, you already know I have the background for this. As a result, these posts will be shorter for a little while. I still have plenty of fun lined up for this, so please don’t go away.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going studying . . . then riding!

Jersey by Pactimo . . . more on them next time.

Jersey by Pactimo . . . more on them next time.


Let’s be Frank

Mathias Frank of BMC Racing has not claimed a lot of wins in his pro career, just five since 2008, but on Tuesday’s Queen stage of the USA Pro Challenge the Swiss youngster attacked on the shortest climb. The tough climbing stage from Aspen to Breckenridge was won on the short, steep final climb of Boreas Pass.

 

It was a really tough day, especially with the altitude,” said Frank. “The stage win was the most important thing for me.”

 

Frank bridged up to a small group of leader before the last climb, a 15 percent pitch, in which only Garmin-Sharp’s Lachlan Morton could follow. With so many riders on the same time, Frank needed five seconds over the rest of the field to take yellow, but only beat Morton by three seconds. Garmin-Sharp’s 21-year-old American donned the leaders jersey to start Wednesday’s stage.

 

The second stage of the Pro Challenge was a 126.1-mile climbers’ fest, ascending some 12,250 feet over three passes. The fun started almost right out of the gate, climbing the category one Independence Pass, 13.7 miles from Aspen to the 12,095-foot summit. BMC’s Michael Schar attacked on the climb and was eventually joined by KOM leader Matthew Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly) before crossing the races highest point. The group built a lead of five minutes before streaking down the east side.

 

The high pass was the end for two riders, Peter Kennaugh of Team Sky and JJ Haedo of Jamis. Both riders stepped off their bikes before reaching the peak of the first pass.

 

The team of Points leader Peter Sagan lead the chase to bring back the three escapees as the pack approached the second category Hoosier Pass. By the time the peloton was halfway across South Park, they had nailed back three minutes, narrowing the gap to 2:25. RadioShack joined the chase and the peloton swept up the break away near Fairplay.

 

Once the second climb started, the counter attack began. Fiteen riders, including Frank, Morton, as well as RadioShack’s Andy Schleck. The group only mustered 1:40 at the start of the Hoosier Pass. Morton attacked on the slope, separating himself from the group. Schleck tried to bring him back, but failed. Over the top, Morton was alone and had two minutes over the chase group of Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers, Frank and Livestrong rider Lawson Craddock.

 

Morton continued pushing on the descent, but was caught by Frank and Craddock. The trio worked together at that point to hold the chase at bay, 45 seconds ahead of the chase on the way to Moonstone Drive and the final climb of Boreas Pass.

 

Schleck and the rest of the chase was pulled back into the main peloton in the race’s first pass through Breckenridge, with about 34 miles to race. The leading trio, however, managed to build a lead of 1:15 just 1,200 yards shy of the Boreas Pass summit. Garmin-Sharp and the Colombia team took up the chase as they headed up the last leg-breaking ascent.

 

Frank bolted away from his compatriots inside of the last mile up Boreas Pass. The move doomed Craddock. Morton followed Frank, but also lost contact just short of the summit.

The race’s most consistant, and on this stage, most surprising rider, Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, launched out of the pack just 900 yards short of the summit of the last climb, dragging BMC’s Tejay van Garderen with him. Five more seconds behind, Garnmin’s Tom Danielson and Colombia’s Darwin Atapuma tried to bridge to the chase group.

 

It was just a crazy race all around, hard to predict and hard to control,” van Garderen told VeloNews. “When Sagan went, I saw Danielson was struggling and I said ‘let’s do this’”

 

With just a mile left, Sagan and van Garderen caught Craddock. Ahead of them, however, Frank was drilling it to stay away and eventually claim the second stage. Frank coasted across, hitting a bodybuilder’s pose as he stopped the clock at 5:05:19.

 

Morton followed close behind to claim both the leaders yellow jersey and the Best Young Rider jersey. Sagan came across the finish line 14 seconds back, in third place, retaining his Points Leader green jersey. Sagan is third overall, only 11 second behind Morton in the GC.

 

Jamis-Hagen Berman’s Matt Cook hangs on to the King of the Mountains jersey, six points ahead of Garmin’s Morton. At just two stages in, BMC is the best team, 21 seconds ahead of Garmin-Sharp.

 

Of the big favorites, BMC’s van Garderen is in fourth at 11 seconds back. Garmin-Sharp’s Danielson is 29 back, in sixth. Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rory Sutherland is 41 seconds back in 13th. American Joe Dombroski, the de facto leader of Team Sky, is 1:04 back in 26th. The team’s Tour de France champion, Chris Froome, is suffering at altitude, some 16:08 back and about mid-pack at 76th place.

 

Wednesday take the riders out of Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs. The third stage is 106.6 miles with 5,865 feet of climbing, mostly on the climb up the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass. The pass is long, but not too steep. A break could get away on the roads leading to the climb, but with 20 more miles into Steamboat after the summit, it is unlikely a break will hold off Cannondale and their sprinter, Sagan.