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.
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.