When we left our heroes, they were being buffeted and blown all over Trail Ridge Road’s highest points by gale-force winds . . .
We were never so happy to get down and back into trees. And while the wind persisted all the way into Estes Park, it was never so bad as on the alpine tundra.
Riders arrived just in time to see one of my favorite weekly events, the Estes Valley Farmers Market, as the market was closing for the day. The town wanted to make room for the riders events later in the evening.
Local bands, including Amplified Soul, performed for the riders as local venders offered their wares. It was fun but it was a brief night, as most riders were tired from the short but challenging day through the park.
Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.
Amplified Soul plays at the RTR event in Estes Park.
This particular stop was the whole reason I could not resist the pull of RTR this year. This was the chance to show off my little town. I have lived in Estes Park for 16 years and love promoting it. I also got to sleep in my own bed, and offer Donald a spare bed. It made for a wonderful night’s sleep ahead of the Grand Arrival, the final day of riding.
The last day of RTR2016 was a relatively short 51 miles. Starting in Estes Park, we rolled down the Big Thompson Canyon. The long line of riders snaked and plunged through the canyon, tracing the Big Thompson River until the famous and popular Masonville ride. Riders ambled through the countryside west of Loveland toward Horsetooth Reservoir. Then, the final climbs.
Horsetooth consists of four hard, steep, short climbs. All of them between 6-10 percent. A bit of a sting in the legs. After the last descent around the north end of the reservoir, riders enjoyed a sort of precession through the beautiful neighborhood on Mountain Avenue, eastward into Old Town Fort Collins. We rolled into O’Dell Brewery for food, entertainment and closing festivities.
Donald Lewis and the author pose at the finish in Fort Collins.
After a week of riding and more than 400 miles, we had arrived; tired, short on sleep and as happy as we could be. The arrival is always bitter-sweet.
We see each other for one week, once a year. We share stories, we catch up on lives outside of the tour, and for a week, we are a large, rolling family reunion. When we roll into the final stop, we have to say our good-byes.
Betsy, the Tour Assistant.
Renee, Community Relations Manager.
Liz, the Event Coordinator.
One good-bye was going to be a bit more permanent. Tour Director Chandler Smith was stepping down after eight years. Chandler challenged riders and adapted to last-minute challenges, himself. Just in my five additions, Chandler had to change two tour routes due to wildfires, and had to sag riders all along the Berthoud Pass climb on the first day of the 2014 RTR. He has served us well and advanced the RTR, improving the event and, hopefully, improving relations with the beautiful little towns in this amazing state.
Ride the Rockies has been a great tour for a long time. Each rout, even when closely paralleling previous routs, offer a new adventure. Chandler, Renee, Liz, Betsy and the army of volunteers, once again, gave riders a week to remember, about which to reminisce, and stories to retell.What more could we want. Thanks for the memories, and may luck smile on you, Chandler.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
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!
So, I picked up a generic carbon frame, Step, at VeloSwap this year. I’m not sure what to expect, but I will tell you as soon as I can. I took it down to Boulder’s Sports Garage on Wednesday. The other thing I will get to comment on is the Pro Bike Fit. I have no doubt the resulting fit will be great. It will merely be a matter of how great. I will have a new Specialized saddle and a new handlebar, as well as position. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m looking at a bunch of fun stuff for winter training. While down in Boulder, I picked up the Pearl Izumi Elite AmFib tights for $170. It has a laminated finish across the front of the legs and on the butt to protect the rider against road spray. Just sitting around in them, yes, I’m just sitting around while writing this, they feel snug and warm. They also have a gaiter and cuff at the bottom. They have a strategically-placed flag over the top of the actual tights, where the suspenders begin. As I have not ridden in them, yet, I can’t comment on the chamois, other than identifying it as their Elite 3D. So far, so good. I will wear them in Estes Park’s infamous wind probably right after completing this entry.
I have a thing for high-end bike clothes, but my beautiful wife is in charge of the money. And for good reason. So, I pick and choose which high-end stuff I get. I have been riding in the cold with the Rapha deep winter cycling cap for the last year. It is great. The web site claims it is windproof and water resistant. I can agree, as I’ve ridden with it through the late fall, this year and the late winter, last year. The liner is Marino wool. When you sweat in it, take it off for a while, then put it back on, it can feel damp and cold. Once back on, it keeps your head good and warm. The brim is long enough to block sun and snow from the top of your glasses, but not so long as to block your view. The back and side fabric, described as the rearguard, is ribbed and comfy, not restricting head and neck movement. Black and understated, it will match anything. It’s a bit pricy at $80, but a quality piece of cycleware. I have washed it over and over in the last year and it has pilled, a bit, but has retained its shape. Don’t put it through the dryer, however. The insert in the bill will likely be ruined.
My town is slowly coming around. By Monday, November 4, US 36, linking Estes Park to Lyons, will reopen, about one month ahead of time. The Colorado and Utah National Guards have done great things in help us link more directly with the rest of the world.I plan to get out in the next few days, before the road opens, to ride the road at least half way down, to about Pinewood Springs. I’m hoping there is more of a shoulder to the road, as I’ve wanted to ride the 20-mile stretch for years. The lack of any real shoulder is a big deterrent for me, however. It will be very nice to only drive 45 minutes to Boulder next week, in stead of the 90 minutes it now takes.
We still have a month until the Big Thompson Canyon opens. We don’t know when Devils Gulch Road, the road through Glen Haven, will be open. We’ll hope for the best.
Come up and see Estes Park, by two wheels or four. It is still a beautiful little town and worth the drive. On Friday, November 29, Estes Park celebrates the Holiday season with our Catch the Glow Parade. Bundle up, as it’s after dark, but it is filled with lighted floats and a child-like innocence. Afterward, plenty of restaurants have reopened for the visitors and could really use the business. Come see us.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you know or how hard you train. Mistakes happen. Mistakes happen with the experts, the people at the very spearhead of their professions. It takes just a split second or one bad decision or just dumb luck. We are lucky if we get to learn from this.
In 1967, on stage 13 of the Tour de France, the rider who was then the very best ever to come out of Great Britain, Tom Simpson, collapsed and died during an ascent of Mont Ventoux. He was 29. He had made the decision to take an amphetamine and alcohol, with or without the knowledge of the combinations diuretic effect. In the heat of the climb, Simpson began cramping, but by the time he stopped, it was too late.
Fabio Casartelli was an Italian cyclist riding for Motorola in 1995. He was the defending Olympic road race champion. He had won stages in several major and minor stage races. On July 18, stage 15 of the Tour, Casartelli and several other riders crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet in the Pyrenees. Casartelli’s head hit a rock on the side of the road the serves as a guard rail and died. He was just shy of 25. The next day, the entire peloton road behind Motorola, as they led the stage start to finish. Lance Armstrong won the following stage in a long breakaway, dedicating the win to his fallen friend. Every time the Tour passed the memorial for the rest of the Texan’s career, he payed homage.
Wouter Weylandt was young and improving. The Belgian was riding for the premier team from his country, Quick Step, with several stage wins and some impressive placings within the stage races. In 2011, Weylandt was riding for Trek/Leopard on the descent of the Passo Bocco during stage 3 of that year’s Giro d’Italia. He was near the end of the stage, but trailing off the back of the main peloton, as sprinters often do on climbing stages. He was trying to bridge up while on a switchback section. While checking behind him, over his right shoulder, to see who might join him, he clipped the guard rail on his left. He was thrown over and landed on the road below. Weylandt was 26 when he died. His girlfriend, An-Sophie, was pregnant with the couple’s daughter, born September 1, named Alizee.
Why am I going on about this? It’s more than the recent climbing tragedy in the national park. Things happen. We enjoy a different sort of inherently dangerous sport. Things can go horribly wrong in a fraction of a second. That is the nature of cycling. The best way we can ensure maximum survivability is to wear a helmet.
Pay attention. Don’t take silly risks. Most of us do not get payed for our cycling results. We have families who want to see us come home. Know the traffic. Assume that the driver either doesn’t see you or doesn’t care. And again, wear a helmet.
Carry some kind of ID. I carry my drivers license, my insurance card and my Road ID. If you crash and can’t communicate, you want whoever finds you to be able to tell your loved-ones whats going on.
Don’t let love of the sport interfere with family. No one ever gets to the end of this life and says, “I wish I’d spent less time with my family.”
Next time you head out, be sure to kiss your spouse. Hug your kids. Make sure everyone you care for knows how you feel. Things happen and you don’t want to leave something like that hanging.
For training, we are now 11 weeks away from the Ride the Rockies. Our total miles should be up to 70 with three rides equalling 50 miles during the week and one more of 20 mile on the weekend. Keep it up. As we are expecting snow and cold all the way through the weekend, the typical spring pattern, I’ll be inside again. It may also be an opportunity to do some maintenance on the bike, or maybe just stay home and watch movies with my wife and daughter.
I’m not just saying this. I mean it. Have fun, be safe. I’m going to hang out with my family.
Years ago, a friend of mine laid some wisdom on me that I hold dear
to this day; little ring until spring. No matter how enthusiastic we
are, no matter what early events we have, we need to give our
connective tissue some time to adjust from indoor rides to longer,
harder outdoor training. Diving head-long into the big gears can lead
to the dreaded “Spring Knee,” which forces one back to little
Spring Knee is the name given to a specific tendinitis
that strikes the tendons across the front of the knee. It’s usually a
result of overusage and too much strain on the tissue that might be
relatively weak after the winter hibernation. As the name implies, it
tends to occur in the early part of the riding season. While it is an
indictor that the tissue could use some TLC, it’s also typical of
those of us who can’t wait to get out and hammer.
Before I go on
much more, let me suggest the book Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical
Guide for Cyclists. Pruitt holds a doctorate in education and is the
Director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. This is the first
resource I consult when I have some new, weird pain after riding. It
is full of descriptions and, more importantly, treatments for ailments
typical of cyclists.
So Spring Knee is marked by a sharp pain
along the top of the kneecap. It’s usually on one of the top corners
of the kneecap. Occasionally, the pain shows up where the tendon and
muscles come together, about two or three inches above the
Treatment of this looks a lot like prevention. Go easy on
gearing. Spin light gears for a few weeks. If the pain persists after
a week, consider taking some time off. I know this is difficult just
as the thermometer begins its upward journey, but it is better to take
care of it now them have to see a doctor in June.
I’m not an
advocate of either ice or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for
reasons I will explain, but I have no medical background beyond my own
collection of injuries. Ice and ibuprofen are exactly what Pruitt
Again, I am not a doctor and if you have knee pain
that persists, talk to a real doctor. That said, recent studies have
shown that even moderate use of NSAID can cause liver damage. They are
real drugs and should be respected as such. Again, talk to a real
doctor, which I am not.
Second, inflammation is part of your
body’s healing process. When we apply ice, we interrupt our ownhealing. Two recent articles in medical journals address this. Go find “The Use of Cryotherapy in Sports Injury” found in Sports Medicine Vol.3, pages 398-414. Another place to look is the Journal of EmergencyMedicine, Feb. 25, 2008. “Is Ice Right? Does Cryotherapy Improve
Outcome for Acute Soft Tissue Injury?”
The first article states
that ice can actually cause our lymphatic system to work in the wrong
direction, adding to swelling. The second article states that they
found no evidence that ice helps in recovery. This flies in the face
of everything we have been told for years, but it is something worth
The alternative to these is compression. Some sort of
compression sleeve over the injured area can help control swelling
and, hopefully, speed recovery.
Spring is also a time for new
equipment. A new bike is possibly as sure an indicator of spring, and
in my opinion, more beautiful than new blooms. The things to remember
are fit and form. Make sure your fit is spot-on. Again, let me guide
you toward the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. They perform a
variety of professional bike fits that will assure that you are in the
best position to power that new steed.
Second comes form. No
matter how long you have ridden, you can always work on for. The most
common problem is in back position. We should have a pretty straight
and flat back when on the bike. The forward lean should come from the
hip joints, not the back. We should be supported by core muscles and
the forward lean should be supported by the muscles of the gluteuls.
We should feel tension on the high, outside muscles, like we would in
a deadlift. They are, after all, the same big muscles. The more you
are able to flatten your back and drive with the glutes, the more
efficient your efforts. You will be using not just the muscles across
the front of the leg, the quads, but the high hamstrings and glutes as
well. Spreding the same effort across three muscle groups, instead of
just one, results in more power for longer periods.
Keep it all
in mind next time you get out.
By the way, We are now 12 weeks out from Ride the Rockies. According to their own training chart, this coming week, which they start on Saturday, March 16, we should do 20 miles in a single ride this weekend, and another 40 miles split up over three rides over next week. As the above blog points out, we should still be spinning small gears. If you have even a hint of Spring Knee, wear knee warmers or embrocation (a warming oil or IcieHot sort of thing).
Have fun, be safe. I’m going
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.