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!
The beauty of a new year is the ability to reset. Reset goals. Reset attitudes. Reset our bodies and minds. The last year was as crazy as the one before and I see no sign of it letting up. So I’m buckling up for another great ride.
Fun little segway, I just received my invitation to the 2015 Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. This year the kickoff to the training season is Saturday, February 7, at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Last year, the route was a bit of a loupe, beginning in Boulder and heading west and eventually north through Steamboat Springs, before returning to the I-70 Corridor and Golden. The year before was a swing through the Southwest, ending in Colorado Springs. With the major roads of Northern Colorado repaired, for the most part, and awaiting the return of the Pro Cycling Challenge, perhaps RTR will follow suite.
One of the great things about the route announcement is that it creates a tangible path to a goal. I have hit the peak of my winter weight and look forward to the return of longer evenings and longer rides. The route announcement is a solid demarcation between the preseason and preparatory phase and the active, sport specific training phase.
I plan to focus a bit more this year, as I have several big goals in mind. I want to Ride the Rockies again, run the Estes Park Half-Marathon with my wife, enter the Mount Evans Hill Climb and possibly the Double Triple Bipass. This is all on top of the Courage Classic, my favorite annual ride. I hope to train for it using the CrossFit Endurance template, as well.
If you haven’t read my ranting a about CFE, yet, let me quickly sum up: CrossFit Endurance takes the basics of CrossFit, varied high intensity movements, as well as emphasizing skill and form work, to get the most out of a short workout. I should get as much training as I need in about 10 hours a week. I will probably log more time than that as the weather warms simply because I love riding. You get the idea. Right now, however, I’m still trying to take it easy.
Along those lines, I am reading “Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete” by Jef Mallett. Mallett is a cartoonist with a daily strip called “Frazz” and a contributor to Velo and Inside Triathlon magazines. He is humorous and spot-on I his depiction of triathletes, how we think, how we eat, how we live. It is just the right read while waiting for the snow to melt.
I have a lot of projects in mind, so my head is going a lot faster than my typing. Look forward to the coming season. Make plans. Stash a little bit of money for travel and dream fast, lite dreams.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . Soon.
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.
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.
I’m on the couch, with my winter tights on, watching Stage One of the Tour Down Under, getting excited about the eventual coming of spring. While we have sunshine here at 7,522 feet, clouds are building and snow is on the way. It’s January. What do you expect?
I’m starting to receive invitations to all of the great summer rides: Ride the Rockies, Elephant Rock, Copper Triangle. I also have a new ride. After crushing my frame last year, a horrible roof-rack related incident, I picked up a frame at VeloSwap in October. SportsGarage hung my Dura-Ace 9000 parts on it and I’m ready to ride . . . when the weather is. I have plenty of warm clothing, so that should be today.
Meanwhile, I’m starting to ramp up my training. The CrossFit Open registration opened last week. I intend to participate. It is great for both building strength and stamina, as well as fulfilling me need to compete. I have been hurt doing CrossFit, but nothing worse than putting equal intensity into my riding.
I have a buddy who decries CrossFit, stating it’s dangerous and that you will suffer a serious injury doing it. That is not my experience over the last five years. My posture has improved, my knees feel better, my shoulders feel better, when I ride hard, I recover faster than I used to, and when I crash, and I do occasionally crash, the injuries are not as bad. While your results may very, I’ve had great trainers with a focus on form and technique. The folks at CrossFit Estes Park have been fantastic. By the way, it seems to work for Evelyn Stevens.
While I acknowledge that CrossFit is not for everyone, neither is P90X, mixed martial arts, self-coaching or, for that matter, beer. Not everyone who drinks beer developed a problem. I do. Just because I have a problem with beer does not mean I will bash beer, in general. I just won’t drink. If you have a bad coach, in any discipline, you will likely get hurt. If you have a good coach, you will be built up slowly and taught good technique and form and you won’t get hurt. Pretty simple.
Well, the historic September floods in Colorado have severely limited the riding opportunities around Northern Colorado. The Big Thompson Canyon between Estes Park and Loveland is closed to cyclists. Much of the pavement from Drake in the canyon to Glen Haven is still missing. Even the Peak to Peak Highway has signs state “Ride at your own risk” for cyclists. It’s a sad state. It could be a year or more before the canyons are back to normal. Hopefully, with the rebuilding, some routes might be better.
In Colorado, the law states that whenever a road is rebuilt, it is required to have a wider, rider-friendly shoulder. This is something that would never have happened in much of the foothills without the disaster. Neither money nor political will was evident in improving the roads to be bike-friendly. Ironically, the very thing that mountain folk dislike about cyclists, getting in their way, could be remedied by the improvements.
Much of the Peak to Peak Highway in Larimer County, and most of the North St. Vrain Canyon, aka US 36, were without shoulders, putting riders into the lane of traffic. While perfectly legal, drivers often took exception to the relatively slow pace of cyclists, especially when traffic was heavy in both directions. A legitimate shoulder should help. I hold out hope.
Meanwhile, I’m off to my first outdoor ride of the year on the new steed. I hope you have the chance to do the same.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
The volunteers and staff of the 2013 Ride the Rockies in Salida. May we see you all again soon!