Well, The Giro is behind us, The Tour is ahead and my favorite ride, Ride the Rockies, is a pleasant memory. It is becoming more pleasant the further away I get. But, wow has this summer gone by quickly.
The ride began in beautiful Carbondale, just down the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen. Carbondale was a wonderful host, with Mount Sopris looming over the headquarters. Weather started out mild and mostly pleasant. Many of the faces I’ve seen in years past returned, like a sort of traveling homecoming.
Renee, Betsy, Liz and, of course, Chandler, the RTR staff, all worked like mad to keep the tour progressing smoothly. It’s amazing the amount of work they do, most of which we, as the riders, never see. They coordinate supplies for the aid stations, make sure venders have places to set up, and get there on time, help keep track of luggage trucks and shuttles to get riders in and out of the HQ and to the food and entertainment. And that’s just for the one week of the ride. Imagine the work involved just to get the rides organized and going.
The first day was relatively short, from Carbondale to Aspen. The 50-mile rout took us through Missouri Heights, a steep little climb on the east side of the valley. Lance Armstrong, the speaker in Aspen that afternoon, stated he hates the climb. I understand. The day, however, was beautiful and the skies remained clear almost to the end of the day. My riding buddy, Donald, and I made the turn into Aspen High School as the wind came up and the rain began.
Donald was one of three guys I rode with last year. The other two had work and training conflicts that did not allow them to make this ride. Donald, from Marin County California, had his wife and mother-in-law along, as well. The new arrangement allowed me to enjoy more of Aspen.
Aspen, tucked into the head of the Roaring Fork Valley and the foot of Independence Pass, was a quirky, artsy ski town many years ago when it attracted the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Edward Abby. Now, while some of the art scene remains, you are much more likely to bump into movie stars, rock stars or even the occasional star athlete. One such athlete put himself squarely in the RTR cross-hairs when the tour settled in: Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong has maintained a home in Aspen, along with girlfriend Anna Hansen and the couple’s children, since the cyclist’s glory days. Armstrong was instrumental in creating the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and advocated for cyclists in Colorado. Now, with the cloud of the doping era hanging over him, Armstrong, in his typical fashion, put himself infant of the crowd without flinching, to face the questions of sometimes adoring, sometimes resentful cycling fans.
Armstrong was calm and inviting. He took all of the slings and arrows, did not argue but even offered an apology for his part in the EPO era. Questions and critiques went on and on, but Armstrong seemed perfectly comfortable, never dodging a question or diverting blame.
The most disheartening thing the one-time world road champion told the crowd had an impact that resinated through much of the following day.
“If the pro peloton were to climb Independence Pass, they would all go over the top together. It’s not really that hard a climb.” Ouch. Another delusion of grandeur smashed.
Independence Pass was the first challenge facing Ride the Rockies on Day Two. From Aspen, the climb rises 4,193 feet over 20 miles. Riders pass waterfalls, aspen stands and, eventually, alpine tundra before topping out. Cruelly, the steepest pitches of the climb seem to be in the last 1.5 miles. But it’s all worth the effort.
The remanents of the cool, wet spring covered the mountain tops in every direction. Lots of riders took the opportunity to photograph themselves with their bikes on the tundra.
“Can you believe there’s still snow in June?”
When riders started down the pass toward Twin Lakes, they were merely a quarter of the way into an 80-mile day. The next twenty miles were a twisty thrill ride for those of us who enjoy descending. Back down through aspens and evergreens, past little shacks, former mine sites and tiny towns into the valley. Overtime we looked around we thought, wow, could this get any prettier? Then we took another curve, made another turn, and it was.
Riders headed north from Twin Lakes toward the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville. While the tour stopped here for the night four years ago, this time around, riders pushed on to Fremont Pass, past the Climax Mine and down another fast descent into Copper Mountain Resort. The arrival was none too soon, as the weather that had threatened on smartphone apps began to appear in the little ski village.
Rain and cool temperatures descended on the tour late on day two. Many riders had already made their way to tents, gym floors or condos. Though the weather arrived about 12 hours earlier than expected, boosting moral for Day Three: the Copper Loop.
Rider awoke with frost on bikes. The air was cool, but the rain had stopped. After getting coffeed-up, riders immediately began climbing. The second of three nearly-80-mile days came out of Copper, turned right and began climbing back up Fremont Pass. The north side of the pass is relatively steep, with stretches of up to 7.5 percent over the first nine miles. But this is about as bad as it gets for most of the day. Riders then plunge back down the south side of the pass, back to Leadville.
Riders skirt the north edge of Leadville, while headed west. The views of the states highest peaks made the content headwind a bit more bearable.
Riders toiled on through the wind-blown scrub brush, past the ranches to Tennessee Pass, the Camp Hale Memorial and the lovely and famous Red Cliff Bridge, where many cyclists, including myself, took the opportunity to stop and take a shot.
From there, We climbed Battle Mountain and plunged down through Minturn. We soon found the bicycle path that links Eagle and Summit counties. This brought rider through Vail and up the infamous Vail Pass path. The path had been used many times over the years to test fitness. The Coors Classic, Teva Outdoor Games and several times for the USA Pro Challenge. The Pro Challenge liked to use it as a mountain time trial, sending riders up one at a time. Beyond a certain point, this seemed only logical, as the path gets pretty narrow in the steepest sections.
The climb take riders about 9 miles through beautiful scenery up nearly 2,000 feet. The old Shrine Pass Road no longer allows cars, which is great as riders try to focus on not blowing up through the steeper sections. The road takes riders to the bike path, which can be tricky. While taken as a whole, the climb averages 4 percent, once on the path, rider dive under I-70, then face a 300 foot section at 8 percent. If you’re not looking for it, you will be walking this stretch.
The trees and peaks are the main attraction throughout the climb, with both sides of the valley slowly closing in as riders grind out this category 2 ascent. After another short, sharp section, riders come to a false flat, signaling the end of the real climbing. Riders wheel past a small lake and on to the parking lot of the pass.
Th east side of Vail Pass is only about five miles of asphalt bike trail, with twists, turns, wooden bridges and amazing scenery. The trail is built between the east-bound and west-bound sections of I-70. It can be tricky if you don’t watch your speed, as many riders soon found out.
The fast descent brought riders back to Copper Mountain resort for entertainment and the resort’s many eateries.
All along the way, Chandler, Renee, Liz and Betsy organized great entertainment, venders and aid stations. Many local venders, as well as many tour favorites, like the Flipping’ Flapjacks, Revolution Smoothies and Allen Lim’s Scratch Labs food truck.
Day Four was a re-ride of much of the route used four years ago. Rider headed east from Copper, down the I-70 trail to Frisco and the Lake Dillon Dam, then north out of Silverthorn to Ute Pass.
The route along Colorado Hwy 9 was a gentle descent until the base of the day’s only sustained climb. Ute Pass is about 5.2 miles at 5 percent grade, or a cat 2 climb. The summit offers views of the mountains to the west.
After the descent down the east side, the ride spent the next several miles on dirt roads that, this time around, were just packed dirt. In 2012, the road was a scary-deep gravel. The packed dirt was a pleasant surprise.
The dirt ended east of Kremmling, on US40. The highway took us through Byers Canyon, to a rest stop in Hot Sulfur Springs, and into Granby; a town the RTR has passed through or stopped in two other times in the last five tours. Riders headed north from there, along US34 toward the day’s end in Grand Lake. Riders, or I should say, my buddy Donald and I, wished for the end as the road began to roll with short, steep climbs and the temperature climbed to it’s warmest so far in this tour. But Grand Lake is idillic and friendly, making for a quick recovery and an eagerness to experience the isolated mountain town.
Day Five was marked on my calendar from the day the route was announced, back in February. The classic ascent of Trail Ridge Road from the West Gate is only about 22 miles at about 4 percent, but it is through some of the most spectacular landscape in the state. We started in sage brush meadows for about 9.5 miles, to the first aid station. From there, the road climbs for 17 miles at 4 percent, which counts as “HC,” or Beyond Category. This would have been challenging enough. When riders got past Milner Pass and above the treeline, the epic battle of will began.
As riders came over the highest continuous highway in North America, they faced horrible crosswinds, some clocked at 50 miles per hour. Over the 11-miles from the Gore Range Overlook to Rainbow Curve, no trees, no brush, nothing shelter the cyclists from the winds. While riders got a bit of a break from the howling winds after getting back down into the trees, the winds pushed riders all the way into Estes Park, where the town was awaiting their arrival.
The second half will post tomorrow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
So, now thoughts change from pink to yellow. I hope everyone has gotten out and enjoyed a few good rides, as well as the start of this year’s Tour. In mid-June, someone flipped a switch. Suddenly, it was absolutely beautiful outside. Thus, began Ride the Rockies.
Seven days and more than 460 miles through the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa, Black Canyon, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Cottonwood Pass. So many great places, views and people.
Had a great time from start to finish. I will admit, there were a few moments of suffering. Then, what would an epic adventure be without adversity.
I even got to ride with some amazing riders.
Nelson Vails and Ron Kiefel were on hand to support riders and the Denver Post Communities Foundation. These legends would let you take pictures with them would ride with us and just BS before, after and sometimes during rides.
I had the pleasure of testing at least one cool product; the DT Swiss RC55 Spline C carbon clincher wheels.
The wheels worked pretty well in windy weather over 96 miles of mostly rolling terrain through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. While the weather certainly had some wet and threatening skies, it never caused braking problems. This was a concern with the carbon brake track and occasional steep, fast descents. No problems. Nothing but confident, fast downhills. The wheels never wobbled, never gave me cause to worry.
The extras I did not get to play with include the very spline mentioned in the wheel’s name. The spline easily pops off for either quick and easy cleaning and servicing or to switch from Shimano/SRAM to Campy cassettes. It takes longer to change an inner tube than the free wheel body. They also have bladed, butted, straight-pull spokes to help with the wind. DT Swiss recommends this set for flats, crits and time trials/triathlons. Though, again, I had no problem on some pretty steep, long climbs.
I also tried out a bunch of new kits from several manufacturers. First, my new Team Estes jersey, in fact the yellow one in the image above. The jersey is the Storm Hybrid Jacket. As you can see in the image, it has no sleeves. They are actually removable, turning it from a warm, water and wind repellent jacket to a pretty sharp jersey. It has a full-length zipper with a nice, comfortable neck guard over the top of the zipper.
As one can see, the jacket is customizable. I picked the color, created the design and sent it all in as an Adobe Illustrator file. Pactimo was wonderful in there help pulling this together, as well as getting it turned around pretty quickly.
I wore this through wet and windy weather. I never felt cold. I never felt clammy. When the clouds parted and the sun came out, It did get a little warm, though I was wearing another jersey underneath. The jersey is warm. No getting around that, but that is the very reason one buys this jacket. It is also race cut. That’s great for racing and if one worries about wind resistance. It’s not so good if you wear anything beyond XL. The jersey I have is an extra large. My club friends and buddies might not enjoy it so much.
I’m gaining two complete Primal brand kits, one of which I am wearing in the image with Nelson Vails, and two more jerseys. Unlike any of the Euro manufacturers, or even the Pactimo, the Primal jerseys tend to be a bit looser, or, perhaps more of a “club” fit. This is something I had noticed, as Primal has made the jerseys for the Courage Classic and the Triple Bypass for a few years.
The graphics all look good. The back pockets are roomy, though in at least one of my, now six Primal jerseys, a top of one of the pockets has come undone.
The fabric, itself, seems cool. It wicks nicely, as well. The zippers seem to work consistently and well for a good long time. Just a little aside. Important if you like details.
All of the Primal bib shorts fit very comfortably. The leg grippers keep the legs in place. I have a 32-inch inseam at 6-feet tall. The leg length seems about perfect for me. The bib shoulder straps are comfortable, stay put and are a bit denser material. I hope that means they will be in service for several seasons.
The last of my kits is a Champion Systems kit I got from The Sufferfest.
The sleeves are long. This can lead to “pirating”, when the sleeves ride up and bunch at the top of the biceps. Of course, my arms and those of most riders I know, are not normal racer arms. This is definitely a race-cut product, as well. The fabric is plenty picky, if that’s a word. The bibs are a bit less dense, and therefore, a bit cooler than those of Primal. They also have a media-device pocket. It looks a bit small for an iPhone, but was probably made with a race radio in mind. The on my medium bibs hit a little higher than those of the Primal. It could lead to that “Sausage” look. It’s up to you how that might work.
I had a great ride, and I would recommend RTR for anyone. I will have more on all of that later.
Until Then, Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
So, I’m a little wiped out and getting pretty inconsistent with my posts. Sorry. It’s hard for me when I don’t have an editor asking me where the hell my column is. I still hold out hope that I will work into some consistency as I go.
I headed up Lookout Mountain outside of Golden, Colorado, last week. The climb has long been a yardstick for locals. Tommy Danielson is credited with the fastest ascent of the five-mile climb from the pillars just west of US Hwy 6 to the gates at Buffalo Bill’s grave; I believe it’s something ridiculous, like 15 MINUTES. For mere mortals like me, the 32 minutes it took me was blazing fast.
Generally speaking, locals like to time “Pillars to Post” from the stone pillars at the bottom to the sign announcing the grave at the top. Officially, it’s 4.55 miles. It averages 5.4% with a maximum grade of 6.8%. Riders like to cut it into thirds – pillars to where the road curves under the big School of Mines “M”, “M” to the Windy Saddle and the steepest section from the saddle to nearly the sign at the top. The ride is nearly always windy and the views are nearly always spectacular.
The descent is fast and technical. Be careful when riding in spring. I carry scars from misjudging gravel in the tight curves. Once back in Golden, refreshment options are plentiful. It’s worth the suffering.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
The view from the Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum Gift Shop at the top. You can see the entire Denver metro area.
So, (and I do that specifically because may editor tells me that I shouldn’t) I’m sitting on my couch, trying not to bolt out the door and ride for the next couple hours. I’m watching last summer’s CrossFit games, eating a whole lot of trail mix and drinking my usual gallon of coffee. I’m still working on healing a niggling knee issue. I’ve ordered a pair of Kelly Starett’s Voodoo Floss compression bands. It’s not easy doing the off season. I recently received the CyGo Lite Explorer 800. I’ll be honest, I think this was designed more for trail riding as it is so bright and so wide. It’s a great light for commuting after dark. I’ve spotted bears, deer and stray children as I’ve pedaled home. It is so much better than the lights I used years ago (the ’90s) when I first commuted by bike. The battery is rechargeable Li-Ion, and lasts better than an hour at the highest setting. I attach the light to my helmet with the battery in the pocket of my backpack. It comes with a long extra power cord for just such a situation. The lamp part, itself is the smallest that Cygo Lite makes, so it works very well as a helmet light. This is a great product that runs about $190 normally, but often goes on sale for $150. It works exceptionally well when teamed with the CygoLite 700 on my handle bars.
Well, snow is in the weekend forecast, which reminds me, the USA CycloCross National Championships are around the corner and down the hill from me. The Valmont Bike Park in lovely Boulder Colorado will be the venue. ‘Cross is a great spectator sport. The whole course is set up so fans can see it all from nearly any point along the course. Imagine short-course mountain biking on modified road bikes, that gets you close. Sand, mud, off-camber turns, steep descents and barriers requiring riders to dismount and carry their bikes. It’s a blast. If you have a little time between January 8-12, 2014, head on over. It’s a party with a race in the middle. By the way, all of these ‘Cross images are mine. Copyright Walt Hester Photography. More to show off than anything else.
That’s all I have for this week. I hope to be more with it and get back on this next week. Mean while . . . Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
So, it’s getting chilly here at 7,522 feet, and my career path change has given me the opportunity to commute by bike. Up here, this time of the year, there will be times in the commute when bundling and lighting up are necessary. My shift starts at 2 p.m. and lasts to 10:30 p.m. When I’m done, it’s cold and dark. This gives me the chance to put a few items through their paces.
The first thing I worry about, no matter the season, is seeing and being seen. I’ve been hit by a car once. I saw it coming, so I was able to take measures to minimize damage. What it came down to was that the driver did not see me. Head lights in 1995 were not as bright for as reasonable a price as they are today. The old head light I probably picked up at Olympus Cycles in Omaha, Nebraska took four “AA” batteries, had an incandescent bulb and a running time of possibly two or three hours. Not good in a Midwest mid-February.
My current head light is the Cygolite Pace 750. With 750 lumens (candle power) at it’s brightest setting, it is plenty bright for commuting. It comes with a Li-Ion battery that charges via USB cable in the light housing. The mount is an adjustable quick release, so it fits multiple handlebars. The LED light’s highest (Boost) mode lasts for 90 minutes, while the lowest of the eight settings (day pulse) will go for 22 hours. I was so impressed that I recently purchased the CygoLite helmet mount and an additional CygoLite 800 OSP LED light. It has not arrived, so that review has to wait.
My little town is slowly returning to normal. My neighborhood should have the flush ban lifted in the next two weeks. One annual event that goes on is tonight’s Shining Ball at the Stanley Hotel. The hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s famous horror classic, though the best-know Stanley Kubric movie was filmed in Oregon, while the mini-series was returned to the hotel that inspired the book. The event is a nod to King, as well as a chance for grown ups to dress up and act out alter-egos. My wife and her best friend are doing Mexican Dia de los Muertos “sugar scull” costumes while I will wear my usual horns. The ball has been sold out for weeks, so I don’t feel bad about writing now, but be ready. Imagine a great costume and get tickets for next year.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
I hope you are all still out there in the bloggospher. I missed you. I am one of the many poor, unfortunate souls who lives in the foothills northwest of Denver. It’ been a mess. A lot of my favorite rides have been cut off by roads that have washed away, as well as homes and businesses of friends. I have gotten some exercise wading through the toxic soup of flood waters to document this flood and moving heavy furniture and cutting out wet carpet. A few things have occurred to me.
I miss commuting by bike. When I was in school and when I worked down at the Denver Post, I commuted on my Kona Jake the Snake ‘cross bike as often as I could. I still have that bike and still use it from time to time. This disaster makes me want to do more of my moving around in town by bike, again.
When my wife and I first moved in together, we bought a Burley trailer. We used it for grocery shopping before our daughter came along. It was pretty great. Zoe is now 12 and we have long since sold the Burley. Now I’m look for something else to fit that niche.
I have two bikes in mind at this point. The mechanic at my local Estes Park Mountain Shop rides a Surly Big Dummy. It is an elongated mountain bike made for hauling. It is designed to carry as much as 200 lbs of groceries, children, camera gear, whatever you got. It comes with a deck that looks an awful lot like a skateboard deck on top of rear panniers. The panniers are long and come with bags.
The parts package seems pretty straightforward, and pragmatic, as well. It has a 3×9 Shimano Deore drive train and hubs, Avid mechanical disc brakes and Continental Town and Country tires. All of this hung on a reliable and forgiving steel frame. Sounds great for what I need.
Of course there is the fun, extreme point of view, as well. I follow the All Seasons Cyclist blog (allseasonscyclist.com). This guy is big into riding no matter what. I respect that. One of his steeds is the Surly Pugsley. Again, a steel frame, but this bad boy comes with 3.8″ wide tires. I can certainly see the value in this as we occasionally get big (2-4 feet) wet snows in the fall and spring. It might be a bit much for everyday commuting, but would be a really good time.
I will try to stay consistent and write on Sunday nights for a while. I hope to not have any more disasters to photograph in the near future. This was enough for a while. Trust me, it helps to spend some time writing about riding, to get my mind off of the long recovery this little mountain town faces. Wish us luck.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
The Devils Gulch climb was featured in Stage 6 of this year’s USA Pro Challenge. It could be a while before the road is ridable again.
For more images from the Colorado floods in Estes Park, go to http://www.walthester.com/Journalism/Estes-Park-Flood-2013/31890818_hbXbTf#!i=2781478890&k=FC4zRLc
And come on back to Estes Park. We need your support!
After lurking quietly, a few seconds behind the leaders, Tejay van Garderen took huge time and a big step toward taking two big US races in one season. The Colorado native rode today’s Vail Pass time trial like the mature pro he is growing to be. After red-lining and blowing up two years ago, van Garderen rode the TT in a manner that was both calculated and crushing.
Van Garderen took control of the Smashburger leaders’ jersey on Thursday’s stage in which he attacked with Colombian climber Janier Acevedo of Jamis-Hagens Berman up Bechalor Gulch. Today, on the climb up Vail Pass, van Garteren hung 1:02 on rival and fellow Coloradan Tom Danielson and 1:17 on Lachlan Morton, tightening his grip on the yellow jersey.
The famous 10-mile route starts in Vail and averages about two percent until riders get out of town, then tilts up to five percent and stays there for most of the climb. Levi Leipheimer set a course record when they road here in 2011, paving the way to his Pro Challenge overall victory. Van Garderen may repeat the feat.
Van Garteren smashed the course record, crossing the line in 25:01.94. Garmin Sharp rider Andrew Talansky had held the lead and the record for a while until van Garderen, the last to leave the start house, finished his ride.
“It was certainly a tough effort,” explained van Garderen in the post-race press conference. “I don’t even know how to describe it. Up there, your lungs are searing in the thin air. You have to remind yourself that it’s okay. I was surprised that I got the stage win because I felt pretty bad coming in there at the end. Hopefully we can hold this jersey through Denver.”
Van Garteren holds the leaders’ jersey. BMC teammate Lawrence Warbasse took over the Best Young Rider on the Vail Pass, by four seconds over Swede Tobias Ludvigsson of Argos Shimano, and five seconds over former BYR Lachlan Morton. Matt Cook officially won the Nissan King of the Mountains jersey yesterday. He will be the KOM winner all the way to Denver on Sunday. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan hangs on to the Clif Bar Points jersey. That jersey may be decided on Saturday, but would take a major implosion or crash for Sagan to lose the green jersey.
Saturday’s sixth stage starts on the east side of Loveland, rides north on the east side of I-25 to Windsor for the first sprint of the day, before heading back south, then west for the second Clif Bar sprint in downtown Loveland. Soon after, the riders begin the long climb through the Big Thompson Canyon. About nine miles up the canyon, riders turn off of US 34 to follow the North Fork of the Big Thompson River to the feed zone in Glen Haven. For most of this time, riders are climbing grades between 4-6 percent. About a mile west of Glen Haven, the road take a sharp, rude pitch upward.
The Glen Haven Switchbacks a popular test for riders in the Northern Front Range. On Saturday, the 10 percent, 1.3-mile climb will be the final King of the Mountains points of the Pro Challenge.
The riders then spill into Estes Park for a loop around town, including the last Clif Bar Sprint Point right on Elkhorn Avenue in front of the town hall and Bond Park. The race heads toward Rocky Mountain National Park’s Headquarters, but turns short of the gate, heading south up the 7 percent grade of Mary’s Lake Road. The route traces the edge of the small lake before turning north on South Saint Vrain Avenue back toward downtown Eses Park. The riders turn right on Big Thompson Avenue to head east out of town and back down the Big Thompson Canyon. The run into Fort Collins will not be a freewheeling descent, however.
The race takes a familiar and popular route north from US 34 through Masonville to the climbs of Horsetooth Reservoir. The short, punchy, steep climbs may temporarily break up the peloton, but the hard men will have some time to regroup before the race blasts into Old Town.
The race comes into Old Town Fort Collins along Armstrong, before briefly turning north on Peterson, then sprinting for the finish on Mountain Avenue, just on the east side of College Avenue.
Peter Sagan will, again, be the man to beat on Saturday, though Danielson’s Garmin Sharp may try to reverse their current 1:42 deficit. It would take a monumental effort, however, especially with so much rolling and flat terrain toward the end of the stage.
Jens Vougt spent all but 8.5 miles out in front of Wednesday’s 106-mile stage from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs. Unfortunately for the 41-year-old German, he was not in the lead for the last 1.5 miles. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, once again, flashed across the line saluting the crowd for his second stage win of the week.
“I was dissapointed and said ‘dammit’”, said Voigt, a fan favorite rider for RadioShack. “I was just a little bit mad with the world in general, but it could have been worse – it’s better than being in a crash.”
The attacks began early, though none stuck until the fan-lined Swan Mountain climb, about seven miles in. Cannondale’s Ted King managed to escape the pack, followed by Matt Cook of Jamis-Hagens Berman and RadioShack’s Voigt. Joshua Edmond (Sky Pro Cycling), Tyler Wren (Jamis) and Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly) joined the first threesome as they charged through the Silverthorn sprint point.
On the long road to Rabbit Ears Pass, the escape group, Voigt, Edmond, Tvetcov, Wren and Cannaondale’s Davide Villella gained a gap of up to five minutes before the peloton started reeling them back in. At that point, with 32.6 miles left and the start of the last climb just ahead, the race’s oldest athlete, Voigt, took off, leaving his younger rivals to be swallowed up by the pack.
Voigt went over the KOM point alone and started down the west side of the Rabbit Ears Pass with a 2:40 lead over the peloton, but Sagan put his squad on the front, and got a little help from Argos-Shimano to chase the solo break. It took the pack a 40-mph effort to catch Voigt, nearly within sight of the finish line.
Shortly after the pack overtook Voigt, a touch of wheels resulted on a pile-up, sending several riders to the hospital. As a result, those who were effected, but still finished, were given the same time as Sagan.
Within the last 100 yards, Sagan again catapulted around his rivals to claim his second stage. He was followed by Luka Mezgec of Argos Shimano, and Ryan Anderson of Optum.
“I’m very happy about my stage win today and I want to thank all my teammates because they did great work,” Sagan said after the win. “For now I feel good and think I can do well on these climbs.”
With the win, Sagan added to his lead in the Cliff Bar Points competition, allowing the charismatic Slovac to keep the green jersey. Matt Cook’s efforts over Swan Mountain and Rabbit Ears Pass allowed him to keep the red Nissan King of the Mountains jersey.
Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) retains the SmashBurger leader’s jersey, as well as the CSU Best Young Rider jersey. Voigt’s long, hard effort was rewarded with the FirstBank Most Courageous Rider jersey.
Sky Pro Cycling rider Joe Dombrowsky had problems with nose bleeds during stage two and did not start stage three.
Thursday will see the race head back south on a 103-mile stage from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. Riders will face the new climb of Bachelor Gulch, nearly 18 miles with ramps of up to 18 percent, before facing the short, difficult climb into Beaver Creek.
Cannondale’s Peter Sagan through kisses at the Aspen crowd, then regaled them with a wheelie after winning the first stage of this year’s USA Pro Challenge. Sagan, replete in the new black Cannondale jersey, came around BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet with 100 meters to the line and easily put a bike length between himself and his Belgian rival.
“I think I did good work in two weeks in Aspen,” said the Slovak national champion.
Many of the riders came to Colorado early in an attempt to acclimate to the races high altitude. Most of the race will be spent at higher altitude than the highest climbs of this year’s Tour de France.
The day started with a three-man break. Matt Cook (Jamis-Hagen Berman), Craig Lewis (Champion Systems), and Ian Burnett (Jelly Belly) charged out to get some TV time for their sponsors at only six miles into the 64.8-mile circuit stage from Aspen to Snowmass and back. The pack did not show much interest in the break until the return to Aspen on the last lap. Sagan’s Cannondale team did the bulk of the work to real in the break, as no team wanted to help hand the charismatic sprinter his first win. As it turned, Cannondale and Sagan didn’t need anyone else.
One surprise came as the peloton began to wind up their chase. Tour de France champion Chris Froome was ejected out the back, along with several of his team mates. Froome only arrived on Wednesday from a series of exhibition races in Europe and was unprepared for the 6,000-plus feet of altitude on stage one.
At the end, Sagan crossed first, followed by Van Avermaet and American Kiel Rejmen of United Healthcare Systems. Of the General Classification contenders, Tejay Van Gardener of BMC placed fifth and Tom Danielson of Garmin-Sharp placed ninth, all on the same time of 2:26:00.
Sagan will begin Tuesday’s stage wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, but also leads in the Cliff Bar Points Classification (Green Jersey) and the Colorado State University Best Young Rider competition (Blue Jersey). Matt Cook (Jamis) took the King of the Mountains jersey (KOM) and break-away mate Craig Lewis was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey (Orange Jersey).
Sagan will test his high-altitude fitness on Tuesday as the race hits the highest point of any pro race, the daunting Independence Pass. The race heads out of Aspen and immediately begins the race’s biggest climb, 15 miles, 4,000 vertical feet to the 12,096-foot summit. Then they bomb down to US Hwy 24 before looping around and past the highest range in Colorado, before heading over Hoosier Pass, 11,500 feet, and into Breckenridge. The course is 126 miles and could be won either by a break or by a climber. It is not likely that the big bodies, like Sagan, can hang on for this stage.
I would like to quickly acknowledge everyone who has helped me and Team Estes for the Courage Classic. The Family Medical Clinic at the Estes Park Medical Center and their generosity took a lot of pressure off of us by covering the cost of team kits. As you can tell from the photo below, they were pretty snazzy this year. The more stuff like this that gets covered, the more we get to put strait into Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation.
Thanks to Rob and Julie at Mama Rose’s and Poppy’s Pizza, the Estes Valley Farmers’ Market and the Rocky Mountain Health Club who all helped us get to and through the Courage Classic.
Thanks to Steve at Buckwheat’s Organic Grocer and Alex of Weezer’s Nut Butters for their gastronomic assistance. All the goodies were a hit.
Thanks to Specialized Bicycles and their demo bike program which saved my weekend. Thanks to Pactimo for a great job on the jerseys.
And to the people who donated directly to the foundation through me, my wife’s uncle, David Winter, MetX of Estes Park, the Basch family and Scott Thompson.
Thanks to all of our families for letting us take three days away, and especially to my own wife, Kendra, who lets me go each year, even though the event always falls on the weekend of her birthday. I love you, my Honey.
If you haven’t donated, the Children’s Hospital Colorado is a leader in pediatric health and wellness in a state-of-the-art facility in Aurora, Colorado. They also lead in research in pediatric health sciences. Their foundation is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children and their families.
Please head over to couragetours.com/2013/walthester and make a donation to this fantastic hospital.
And thank you.
Like a lot of life, cycling is not always predictable. Anything can happen, not just during the ride, itself, but even well before hand. Last season it was a crash that changed my training. A sink hole near Leadville changed the Courage Classic route while wildfire smoke forced a modification in the Ride the Rockies. These are things we can’t control. So what can be done? What can you do to prepare? Practice a good attitude.
I received an e-mail this morning telling me that there would be a change in the Courage Classic route again this year. Lake County High School is removing asbestos, so the usual day 1 start and day 3 finish had to be scrapped. The up side, for me, is the chance to ride the 80-mile Copper Triangle.
And that’s the difference. I can’t do anything about asbestos removal. I am actually happy not to be around that stuff. I have to find the positive. I have not ridden the whole Copper Triangle route; Copper Mountain to Leadville to Minturn, over Vail Pass and back to Copper. This will be a great day. I’m kind of big, but I will enjoy dragging myself up to Leadville and back over the west side of Vail Pass. I look forward to encouraging other riders up and over. I even, or perhaps especially, look forward to dragging the light little climbers to the foot of that last climb outside of Vail.
Attitude is the most important part of this sport. Dreading a climb only makes the suffering worse. Look forward to the climbs. Look forward to the wind. Smile as much as you can. It makes a huge difference.
Of course, preparation is pretty important, as well. Get out and ride hills. Go stick your nose out in the wind. Practice the things you will need to know. I had an e-mail not too long ago concerning changing tires. The pros have mechanics who hop out of following cars to change the whole wheel. We, mere mortals, have to figure out how to change those tubes and re-inflate the tube to get back into the ride.
First, be patient. Delays happen. Try not to schedule the rest of your day too tightly around a ride. Second, as I have discovered, swearing and flailing arms doesn’t get the tube changed any faster. After much research, I make that statement with confidences.
Next, get off the road. Like most cycling things, you want to make sure you are being as safe as reasonably possible. Find a nice rock or tuft of grass. Think of this as a short recovery.
At this point I should mention, when training, you should have tire levers and a small repair kit with you. That said, find those levers. Stick the end that looks like a scoop in between the tire beed and the rim. Take the second one and do the same, fairly close to the first one, then lever those things to pull the beed off of the rim. This can require a bit of effort if it’s colder out. Again, be patient. Losing one’s mind now only leads to bleeding knuckles and lost levers.
The levers often come in threes, anymore. If that’s the case for you, take the third lever, stick it in between the beed and the tire, again, and not between the other two levers. Now, pull that third lever around the rim to get the tire beed loose.
Now remove the old tube. Next, carefully run your hands around the inside of the tire to find what might have caused the flat. Again, be careful, in case there is a hunk of glass or a nail in there. Once you have removed the offending piece, get back to the tube.
Blow a little air into the tube. Run your hand around the tube to find the hole. If you are sure this was not a pinch flat, caused by low air in the tube, then a bump, causing the rim to pinch a hole in the tube, rough up the area around the hole. If you have “speed patches”, apply the patch. If not, pull out the rubber cement from your flat kit. You do have a flat kit, right? Spread a little on the area you just roughed up. Let the cement cure or dry just a bit, then apply the patch. Rub the patch a bit to make sure it has adhered to the tube. Next, retrace your steps.
Recheck the tire to make sure you didn’t miss a thorn or anything. Blow a little air back into the tube, which makes replacing it on the rim a bit easier. Stick it back inside the tire, then let the air back out. Re-seat the tire beed on the rim. Check to make sure no part of the tube is pinched between the tire and the rim. This will ruin the whole process pretty quickly. Once you’re sure the tube is completely inside the tire, pump the tire back up and be on your way.
There is a lazier way, but I only recommend it for races and organized ride. Bring a CO2 cartridge and an extra tube. Put the bad tube in your jersey pocket. Never toss on old tube on the ground. It’s littering, as well as inviting bad karma. Much quicker but more expensive and a bit wasteful. Save it for big events.
One more thing really quickly; we are now approaching week three of training. We should be up to two rides equalling 30 mile during the week and one 20-mile ride on the weekend. If you know your normal average speed outside, apply that to an indoor class, if you need to. I rarely get to ride outside during the week, but I teach three classes a week, which evens out.
We are supposed to see snow all weekend. It must be nearly spring. Find a good, hard indoor class or find a video for riding your trainer. I will have an exciting announcement concerning such videos probably next week.
We are now 14 weeks shy of Ride the Rockies. We should already be
training with that in mind. The earlier one starts, the easier it will
be to achieve the goal of spending a week climbing the beautiful
byways of Colorado. And while suffering is an inherent part of this,
at least you’re not being chased by Jens Voigt or other top pros. Such
a chase will be fun to watch, however.
The recent rumor floating around town is that we can expect nearly
100,000 visitors on the day the USA Pro Challenge rolls through Estes
Park on the second to last day of the race. That’s 100,000 people from
36 states and 16 countries. That’s 100,000 cycling enthusiasts who
average a household income of $113,918, itching to spend it. During
the first USAPCC, they brought about $67 million. The additional money
from traveling press from all over the world brought the total to
$83.5 million in 2011, $90 million in 2012. Imagine 100,000 hungry
stomachs, 100,000 visitors needing a gift from Estes Park, and more
than a few of them wanting to stay over night. Like the Tour de
France, or even Ride the Rockies, this event will expose a great many
people to our little town.
With international press exposure, many millions of potential visitors
will look at the images and think, I want to go there. This is a
chance to shine. This will have positive economic effects far beyond
just one day in late August. It will open us up to the nation and to
the world. Thy will come to see it themselves with eyes and wallets
To the curmudgeons who can only think of how this will inconvenience
them, yes, this 1/365th of your year will be bustling. That’s the way
it goes. Stay home. For the rest of us, we’ve seen the races on TV.
Your bike will be the best way to get to the best vantage points in
Now, back to riding. The fine folks at Ride the Rockies have provided
a handy table to help riders prepare for that wonderful week in June
when more than 2,000 riders spend a week astride their favorite bike.
The table can be found under the Rider Area tab at RideTheRockies.com.
Last Last Saturday, February 23, is when their calendar begins. We
should accumulate 40 miles for the week. This next week, beginning
March 2, adds 10 miles to the total. They separate it between weekend
and weekday riding miles. This weekend, they suggest fitting in about
20 miles. I will easily get that just in my extra job. I am, however,
open to fitting in more.
I will offer this each week, knowing that training with someone makes
training easier. I would be open to riding the area’s favorite road,
US 36 from Lyons to Boulder on Sunday morning. It is hilly without
being too nasty for this early in the season. It will also be warmer
down there. If you need to start your miles and want to ride with
someone else, reach me either by phone or e-mail, both found below. If
you are new to road riding, or riding in a group, this would be a
great opportunity to start. Learn rules of the road and, possibly,
roadside repairs. I’m also a big fan of interesting coffee shops. I
know of at least two that would fall within the 20 miles of the ride.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.Cycling star Andy Schleck picks his way through the crowd in the cyclist village before the Colorado Springs prologue of the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. No other sport allows fans to get so close to the stars.
I didn’t write a column for my paper this week. We ran out of time. I was looking for something to write, just to make sure I had a post this week when I got a little bad news.
A young woman I met when I first moved to Estes Park seemed to have lost all hope and ended her own life. She was only 28.
I met Meghan when she was still in high school. I had worked for my paper for about a year and a half when I photographed her and her teammates setting their school’s record in the 400 yard freestyle relay at the Colorado State Girls swim meet. She even earned a swimming scholarship, but had to give it up after opting not to have surgery on her shoulders. I was not too close with the girl, but things seemed to go a bit south from that point.
She and her mother lived down the street from my family. When she started studying massage, I was happy to offer my beat-up muscles for the betterment of her education.
She married pretty young, after a bit of a scandal, but remained married and had several beautiful children. Though she always had a bit of melancholy about her. I don’t know if this eventually led to her ending her own life, but it certainly makes me think.
First thing I did when I found out was hug my own daughter, make sure she knew she can talk to her parents at any time, no matter what. Then, like anyone, I tried to make sense of it. I suppose it’s nothing I am supposed to figure out.
I can make sure I look for my joy. I have to make sure my daughter and wife do the same. What makes us most happy? My bike, my family and photography do this for me. I have to make sure I talk to the people I love. Never loose hope.
That’s huge for me. I don’t know what led Meghan. I don’t know why she lost hope. I just have to make sure that I and those I love don’t head that way. Life is not always easy, doesn’t always turn out the way we planned or hoped, but what can we make of it? That is what will keep me going.
I may not have hoped and planned to be a small-town photographer, but there is joy in this. My child’s classmates light up when I walk into her school. People occasionally come out of shops to compliment my work. People ask about my family. There is a great deal of happiness in it.
Never give up. Never loose hope. Talk to someone. Find something that brings you joy.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
In the aftermath of the Lance Armstrong affair coming to light, a laundry list of sponsors have terminated their relationships with the now-disgraced cycling legend. Former teammate Levi Leipheimer was fired from his team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, seemingly for coming clean. It’s all a terrible mess. I have some suggestions to get over this, if only for a while.
The Estes Park High School Mountain Bike Racing Team heads to beautiful Fruita to wrap up their first season. Most of these kids had never owned a mountain bike before this fall, much less raced one. While they aren’t expected to win, they have all made huge strides and shown a lot of courage and character in choosing this life-long sport.
In the first race of the season, many of them didn’t finish. Now, as the season draws to a close, they are learning new things about themselves, as well as the sport, that will carry on well beyond their high school years.
Whether you have a kid on the team, happen to love mountain biking, love the Fruita area, or any combination there of, make the drive to sunny and warm Fruita to cheer on these kids. Then, maybe stop by Over The Edge Sports in Fruita, where you can rent a bike of your own, then head to the Book Cliffs or out to the Kokopelli Trail and have some two-wheeled fun of your own. It would make for a great family weekend.
If, like me, you just don’t have the time or gas money to make the drive west, head to Denver on Saturday and take in a bit of bike-geek culture. The annual VeloSwap fills the National Western Complex from 9 to 4. If you need a new bike, some components, clothing or just love people watching, this is a fantastic event.
I’ve written about this every year I’ve had the chance, and I get more excited every time. I’ve met Graham Watson, celebrated cycling photographer, at the event. I’ve met Ironman World Champion Chris MacCormac their. I’ve touched David Millar’s Garmin bikes and purchased replica jerseys of Mario Cipollini, Alessandro Petacchi and “Fast” Freddy Rodriguez. I’ve picked up carbon race wheels for $80. I’ve carried out countless pairs of socks and shorts. On at least two occasions, I’ve helped cement a love of bicycle culture for a friend.
Industry companies like Rudy Project, VeloNews, MAVIC will chow off their new gear. Area bike shops like Full Cycles, Big Ring Cycles and Sports Garage will have booths to sell off last season’s gear. Small Planet Foods and Larabar will be there. Magazines, massage therapists, various lube and skin care companies and at least one bike insurance firm will all show for the event.
Subaru sponsors a shuttle to make getting from your car to the event hall and back with all your new gear easy. If you can, Bike Denver, a cycling advocacy group, encourages attendees to ride to the event. They will have bike parking with security. The Boulder Center for Sports Medicine will hold Computrainer events throughout the day with prizes.
Tickets are $8 at the door. Parking is $10, but you can usually make that up in short order once you get inside. You can even bring your old innertubes that clutter your garage. Green Guru collects them to make bags, wallets and purses. Go down and spend the day, or shoot in, find what you need and get out. Which ever you prefer, the drive will be worth it.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going swapping.
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.
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.
I hope they don’t test group rides for excess caffein.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
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 CyclingSoul.com
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
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 colobikelaw.com.
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.
I got my occasional screed out last week. I want to be much more positive this week. I love riding. I love getting out. I enjoy watching this month’s Grande Boucle. It’s fun to watch the superheroes push the limits of human performance, but it is much better, for me, to do it myself.
Bicycling has given my freedom to ponder, think and reflect. Many spiritual traditions include a sort of moving or walking meditation. I find I can meditate on my bike. I can sort out whatever has been gnawing at me throughout the day. When I’m alone on a long stretch of road, or grinding up an endless climb, my mind is able to clear a bit. I first discovered this years ago. It took a while to sink in, but it has been a valuable tool.
When I lived in Denver, I found that riding gave me freedom from anger. When I commuted by car, I spent a lot of time yelling at fellow drivers. I found myself angry at stoplights, heavy traffic and time in general. On my bike, I was much more relaxed. I didn’t get angry at traffic lights. I enjoyed the view and took the time to look around. I arrived at school or work with a smile.
When I first got a bike, I would race the school bus home. Most of the time, I won. I had a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was beginning to reshape myself. I was gaining freedom from the fat kid that I was. At the time, all I knew was it was fun to go fast.
I developed some bad habits as a teen. I got a big car and sold the bike. This was by no means the worst of it. In fact, the bad habits of early adulthood led me back to a bike.
In my early 20s, I could not afford either a car or insurance. I could put a mountain bike on layaway. It was a big, heavy, rigid, steel Schwinn. I didn’t have to depend on bus schedules. I would get rained on occasionally, but it was worth the trade. It was the beginning of where I am today.
When I moved to Colorado, the first thing I did was break out my bike and rode Lookout Mountain outside of Golden. I found maps of all of the paved trails all over Denver. I could explore my new city relatively inexpensively. I also discovered real trail riding. I found the Chimney Gulch, Mount Falcon, the Apex Trail, and many more. I raced cross country and downhill for a couple of seasons. As a result, I discovered more towns.
I found Moab, Utah. Anyone with a bike had heard of Moab at that point, but I was finally able to visit. I also found, quite by accident, Fruita, Colo., now considered a mountain biking Mecca, itself. Eventually, I rediscovered Estes Park.
There are so many different ways to ride. I found a couple more after moving here. I competed in a cyclocross race. I had been using the ‘cross bike as a commuter, but felt I should race it at least once.
I started participating in triathlons. It was very fast and I seemed to have at least a little aptitude. It was fast and fun. I also began riding organized road rides. I found riding long distances with friends added another aspect of pleasure to riding. Sharing stories, goofing off, admiring the scenery, testing each other is all fun. During Ride the Rockies, I met a whole bunch of brand new friends. What better reason to get out?
Now I have seen the bike turn into a political symbol, both positive and negative, sometimes ridiculously so, and possibly for the same reasons. I don’t ride as a political statement. I ride because it’s fun. I ride because I found freedom on my bike. I can see that being political. I don’t burn $3.30 per gallon gas. I take no oil, other than that of the olive, or for my chain. I don’t put out too much pollution in the air, depending on what I ate before heading out. I could see that as a sort of political stand. If it were all about the politics, however, I wouldn’t do it. It has to be enjoyable.
This is why I will be out again this week. If you saw me Wednesday, I was probably in my Stars and Stripes jersey, smiling big as our great country. I was enjoying the freedom of my bike, freedom on two wheels.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Ride the Rockies is done, but the summer is just beginning. I had the chance to try out some fun stuff while I was out on the ride. I had the chance to try out the mid-range Specialized Venge aero bike and the top Specialized S-Works Tarmac.
On day two of Ride the Rockies, I cajoled the nice people at the Specialized tent into letting me take out their Venge. Okay, it wasn’t hard. Specialized was there specifically to get new customers on their newest, coolest bikes. I gave them my ID and they let me ride the same frame on which the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, won the world road championship. Mine was a much less expensive version. Rather than top-of-the-line S-Works+McLaren carbon and Shimano electronic shifting with sprint shifters, a set up running close to $18,000, I got the Venge Pro mid compact, which retails at about $6,600. This is still a good chunk of change, but fantastic for an upper-mid-range bike.
The first things you notice are the curves. Not curves in the road, but in the aerodynamic frame. The seat tube forms a fairing around the rear wheel. The headtube, which is tapered for stiff and precise steering, forms a bit of a wing when looking from the side. It also comes with deep-profile carbon Specialized Roval Rapide EL 45 race wheels, and the in-house Specialized cranks. These things were certainly pretty, but how do they ride?
When you take the first pedal stroke you realize how stiff and light this bike is. The wide tubes create the stiffness in the frame. While not the lightest bike, it is not a heavyweight. It comes in at about 16 pounds. Everything about the bike says fast.
The bike lurches when just stomping down on the pedals. This indicates the stiffness. No energy seems to be wasted. A headwind seemed to have no effect on the bike. Crosswinds were noticeable, but not so much as to make the Venge hard to handle, even with the deep carbon wheels.
On the climbs, the light frame coupled with the mid-compact drive train made the bike a nimble steed. Mid range refers mostly to the chainrings in front. Standard for the pros is a 53-tooth big ring and 39-tooth inner ring with an 11-25 rear gear cluster. The compact set up is a 50-tooth big ring and 32-tooth inner ring. This is the serious climbing set up and usually comes with a 12-28 rear cluster. The mid-compact, as the name indicates, is somewhere in between. It comes with a 52-36 tooth setup in front and, for Shimano, 11-28 in the back. For McClure Pass, a category-two climb, this was plenty low.
At no time did I feel that I needed a break or that I needed a lower gear. In the little ring and 28-tooth cog, the bike floated along, even with my distinctly non-climber body on board. And even with the stiff front end in a race geometry, 73.5 degree head tube angle, it never felt twitchy as I bombed down the east side of the pass.
This is not a bike for everyone. It is stiff and the average rider might feel a bit beat up after long miles on it. You will notice the wind on this bike, as it is made to point into the wind. Crosswinds are interesting, but not scary. It is pricy, though there is on model at a lower price-point, the Expert Mid-Compact at $4,700. If you want something that is just plain fast, or need a bike for road-triathlon double-duty, the Venge would be a great choice.
Two days after riding the Venge, I got to take out the S-Works Tarmac SL4. This is a race bike, plain and simple. The Tarmac was developed for the Pro Peloton and riders like Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. It is stiff, it is light. It can sprint and it can climb.
I had it on the RTR’s longest day. If ever there were a torture test ride for a bike, this would be it. Day four of Ride the Rockies was 94 miles from Leadville over milled pavement on Fremont Pass, down a long, straight descent to Copper, over to Silverthorn by way of the winding Summit County bike path, along the well-paved HWY 9 to Ute Pass, over the pass’ rough and sometimes steep roads, down to broken pavement, dirt and sand and finally a steep final quarter-mile climb to Middle Park High School in Granby. The Tarmac rode like a champ.
The bike handled all road conditions well. While the Specialized Armadillo tires took a beating over the milled pavement, the bike itself never faltered. While the S-Works came with standard gearing, it was low enough, and light enough to be better than just sufficient over the six-mile, four-percent cat-2 Ute Pass. The Tarmac did not beat me to death on the dirt roads, it was not scary on the fast descents. I just pointed it where I wanted to go and the Tarmac went that way, quickly. Finally, after 93 and three-fourths miles, I still had enough energy to put in one last standing sprint up the 12-percent 100 yard climb to the school. The bike never felt noodly, never felt soft, even with my big ol’ self standing and sprinting. For eight grand, it better be perfect. It was.
Like the Venge, the Tarmac comes in much more reasonable setups. The S-Works SL4 comes with the Shimano Dura-Ace shifters, cassette and derailleurs, the S-Works cranks and chainrings and Roval Fusee SLX wheels and weighs just over 15 pounds. The much less expensive Tarmac Apex Mid Compact comes with the entry-level SRAM Apex group. 52-36 front rings and alloy crank, 11-28 rear cassette and DT Axis 2.0 wheelset. At 17 pounds, it’s heavier, but at about a quarter the price, $2,200, who cares. If you don’t plan to mix up some sprints or take a flier on Flagstaff Mountain with the aspiring Boulder pros, the Apex Mid will be all the bike you need.
Go try one yourself. See how it fits you. Don’t just take my word for it.
So the first day of the 2012 Ride the Rockies is in the books. It was a fun and beautiful ride, cruising the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I had to admit, I liked knowing that the climbing was done at 48 miles in. I’m so tired and achy.
It was climbing for better than 45 straight miles, almost from the moment we got out of Gunnison. We had a few flat spots, like the bridge across a narrow part of he Blue Mesa Reservoir, to the big point along the way.There were plenty of picture opportunities as the striped rock of the Painted Wall beckoned. It seemed wasteful not to stop, with such great vistas spread out before us. The views of the San Juans far south of the canyon also helped to take our minds off of the heat and stinging pain in our legs.
After the climbing, there was a steep, bombing descent, followed by a long run into Hotchkiss. I didn’t have the sense to take it easy over the last10 miles, and hammered like a crazy person all the way in.
The ride organizers, who have done this for more than two and a half decades, know exactly what a tired rider need. At the finishing town, a small, mostly agricultural West Slope community of Hotchkiss, massage therapists worked out knots, the smoothy booth provided replacement calories and the local school parents and kids made dinner and lunch.
And so, now I am off to bed. Visions of a bored $8,000 race bike dancing in my head. Tommorow, an Aid Station rundown, as well as a look at the Specialized Venge Pro DA.
Drove from my home in Estes Park out to Gunnison, Colorado today. Through the Denver metro area, through South Park, through Buena Vista and Salida and finally ending up here.
I’m with several Ride the Rockies veterans, so I’m confident it will be great. My only concern is my lack of long miles before this ride. Due to the crash nine weeks ago, I’ve managed one long ride, and that one only 35 miles. This might hurt for the first couple days, but by the time we reach Independence Pass on Tuesday, I should be in good shape. We’ll see.