The Rest Day
It’s now been a couple weeks and I have had a bit of time to reflect on the 2017 Ride the Rockies. I stick by my assessment I made to one of my fellow riders; I think our brains work similarly to those of mothers. If we remembered all the pain as well as we remember the pleasure, the food and scenery, we wouldn’t do it again.
I wrote after our third night, a short spin around the Ute reservation west of Durango. The next day was the hardest. We pushed for 84 miles over Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass, about 7,792 feet of climbing. After an easy roll-out from Durango and the thrill of the narrow gauge rail road, the road tipped up. The next 20 miles was almost all up hill. We laughed as we came upon the Purgatory Ski Resort. “This is Purgatory, I’ll take it.” Then the road tipped up again.
The first pass, Coal Bank, was the steepest of the day at an average of 5% with pitches of 8%. After a very short descent, riders head up Molas Pass, relatively short at eight miles, and again an average of 5%. These were enough to sap the legs. Plenty of vistas to enjoy both on the climbs and the descents. Riders dropped down into the old mining town of Silverton, which is also the finish of the Iron Horse Classic race.
The last climb was not the longest nor the steepest, but as the last climb and the highest, it took riders all their will and energy to finish the 11,018-foot ascent. The view and the venders made the ride do-able. My legs burned, my body was protesting most of the way. After stretching and taking a few photos, it was back on the bike for a thrilling 14-mile descent into Ouray.
Fast, worn, serpentine roads with lots of traffic and no guard rails was quite the experience. Luckily for me, still sporting the scars of a high-speed crash from last year, a lumber truck paced many of us out of the mountains. Riders had multiple opportunities to pull off and photograph the beauty that we wished to remember. That is the point; the joy of seeing Colorado by bike.
A small aid station full of happy, friendly residents awaited us in Ouray. Many riders decided that this was far enough for the day, and took rooms here. My riding buddies and I hammered the last 13 miles into Ridgeway. This was the point where I really understood the challenges of putting together this annual tour.
Imagine 2,000 tired, hungry cyclists cruising into town, sporting the thousand-mile stare, finding that much of the amenities were spread out over a square half-mile, or at least that’s how it felt. I was so short of energy that when our luggage handlers put my bag a mere one isle over from where I had expected it, I was nearly reduced to tears.
The beauty of having been a journalist is that I was able to find at least a little poise. I young man from the Good Samaritan Shelter tent, whom I had met earlier in the week, spotted me and gave me some food and helped look for my bag. Once I got some calories,found my bag and got my massage, I was able to enjoy Ridgeway. The view was the first thing we noticed.
The little mountain town set up entertainment in the middle of their town park. The town, itself has made the transition from mining to art. Lots of public art, galleries and little eateries bordered the park, allowing riders to stroll easily to alternative dinner options. This would be a short night for many of us, after a punishing, though picturesque day.
Day five was a relatively easy, though pretty warm day. Former cycling pro, Olympic medalist and big-hearted fund-raiser, Nelson Vails, led a few riders to a special breakfast in Ridgeway before all embarked on the 33-mile ride to Montrose. While there was an option for riders who had not suffered as much the day before, an additional 19 miles and a small climb, many simply took the opportunity of a recovery day. All of my riding buddies stayed together on the mostly-downhill ride. This also gave us plenty of time to sample what Montrose had to offer.
Montrose is not usually what tourists seek out, but with it’s charming downtown and enthusiastic festival, I would consider returning some time. It’s out on the Western Slope, north of the Sneffles Range, just southwest of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
The sixth day had a few climbs, but it was the descent and long false flat into Gunnison that I remember. We followed the river and Blue Mesa Reservoir into Gunnison, making for a relatively easy day. There were plenty of rider trains along the route. Cruising between the last two aid stations, we averaged about 28 mph. It was a beautiful thing. I had the chance to test some wildly-deep aero wheels. The whole day was great.
Gunnison has some great restaurants. All were full of hunger riders that Friday evening. El Paraiso was our choice. This was also the third time I had eaten here. It was for good reason. Everything was tasty as could be, including our sopapillas for dessert. As always, the host town had activities set up, but we had one more hard climb ahead, and a long drive back to the real world.
The high-point of the RTR was waiting for us on the final day. Half the day was just the warmup. We rolled for 33 miles to the base of RTR’s final climb, 11,312-foot Monarch Pass. The pass averages about 5.2% with a maximum grade of 7% for 10 miles and 2,750 feet of ascending. It was unmatched in beauty. We had lots of time to enjoy it after seven days of riding.
After the top of the pass, it was literally all downhill into Salida. Once again, the tour rolled into Salida amid sunshine and the FIBArk whitewater festival. Again, Salida was all-in, hosting the finale for Ride the Rockies. Their park was jammed full of venders, great causes and riders looking for food and shade. The only thing that could have been better would be if my buddies and I had more time in town. Salad has always been a great host.
Renee Wheelock put on and admirable tour for her first RTR effort. I don’t envy her position, having to deal with cranky, hungry, tired riders, though I have a feeling she took it in stride. I look forward to seeing her and the rest of the RTR crew next year.
Next week, yes I am giving myself a schedule. I will review some of the equipment I got to use this year. Until then . . .
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
I Have Issues
So there are two, diametrically opposed trains of thought within cycling, these days. These are the stealthy fitness and the showy fitness. The first has been around for a while, and the second, a more recent event linked to our modern, mobile, social media age.
For as long as there has been competitive cycling, there has been stealth fitness. This is best illustrated by an e-mail that was circulated about a decade ago, and attributed to one of Chris Carmichael’s CTS coaches. The old e-mail stated that cyclists were the biggest fitness liars and stealth trainers. We say one thing, but it quickly becomes evident that we mean something completely opposite.
We say “This is a no-drop ride.”
We mean “As soon as the first hill comes, I will grind you into dust. I will attack every hill, I will contest every town-limit sign until you are left in a weeping heap on the side of the road.”
We say “I’m not in race-shape.”
We mean “I’ve been spending every waking moment on the trainer/rollers. I have more miles in my legs than the Interstate System.”
We say “I’m not feeling it, today.”
We mean “Hope you have your race wheels on, cause this is going down.”
My personal favorite, “This is my beater bike.”
We mean “This bike was made of Unobtainium. The frame was blessed by the Pope. It is lighter than a fart and more expensive than a divorce.”
This has been the prevailing attitude for generations of cyclists. Everything is very secret. Every play is close to the chest. Sunglasses on cyclists were not to protect one’s eyes, there were to hide any tells, hide anything that might indicate fatigue. Or, possibly, hide just the opposite. Exhibit A: Lance fakes being tired during the ’01 TdF stage of Alpe D’Huez. Lance and the Posties pretend The Boss is suffering, prompting Jan Ulrich’s Team Telecom to drive the pace to the base of the storied climb, basically tricking the German team into doing all the heavy lifting for the day, before the Texan’s famous “Look” and the trademark attack to grind Ulrich down and eventually win that Tour.
But these days, there is another cycling saying. It makes secret training much more difficult. “If it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen.”
I want to keep track of my miles and my workouts, but now there is no hiding from my sea-level buddies who will join me on Ride the Rockies this year. My California friends ride every chance they get. One commutes through Orange County, while the other trains for marathon rides, like the Breck Epic and Leadville 100. Our friend from Texas is an Ironman. I’m a giant track sprinter who happens to live at 7,500 feet.
I can’t let these guys embarrass me in my home state, in spite of the fact that I out weigh each of them, some by significant margins. I’m Altitude Man. But I can’t hide the training, either.
I suppose it will keep me honest. They can see what I’m doing, and I see the miles they are putting in. It’s more positive, even inspiring. We can cheer each other on. Give each other kudos. We can recognize the efforts and the KOMs. We can act like teammates.
Of course, there are still the rollers . . .
Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding!
Stoke the Fire
So, I love food. Just in general. I have a sweet tooth, but I also love Mexican, Mediterranean and Italian. I love French pastries and cowboy cookies. I love breakfast.
I once dated a wonderful, beautiful, smart young woman, but knew it was ultimately doomed. It was getting to be late in the day and I asked what she wanted for dinner, thinking that we could go out that evening. She showed absolutely no preference. I started quizzing her on her favorite cuisine. She said, “I’m just not that in to food.”
By contrast, the first big family function I attended with the woman to whom I am now married, was Passover. It’s a big, really big, meal commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt depicted in the Torah, or Old Testament. I think it was her mother who informed me that the basis for all Jewish holidays was “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”
So it should be no surprise that a major part of my Instagram feed is the stuff I get to make in my kitchen. I spend a fair amount of time finding yummy stuff in uniquely athletic places. I made egg cups of two varieties today. One was based on a recipe from the fantastic Scratch Labs cookbook, Feed Zone Portables, the other I stumbled across on line. Both are easy, both are tasty, both recipes are great for active, age-group athletes.
I typically spend Sundays cooking. I get up early to make breakfast for my family. Today I made baked oatmeal with bananas and berries. I took the extra step of adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder, just so it wasn’t all carbs. I cooked up some uncured turkey bacon, as well. It was filling, tasty, and made my family happy.
Next, we usually get started on lunches for the week. Egg cups for me, and we usually make a batch of chocolaty fiber muffins for our daughter.
The first, a variation from Allen Lim and Biju Thomas, the minds behind Scratch Labs. I change the recipe slightly, so If you want the original, go to SkratchLabs.com, or go out and get ahold of the Feed Zone Portables cookbook.
Pre-heat oven to 350
Chop desired vegetables for a dozen cups
I will also find some lean meat, like a turkey kielbasa, left-over turkey bacon, if I’m lucky we’ll have some ground bison
Distribute these evenly into a dozen muffin cups. We happen to have the silicone muffin “tins”
Then add one egg-worth of liquid egg whites into each cup
Put in oven, middle rack
Bake for about 20-30 minutes, turning every 5-8 minutes
For a sweeter option, pre-heat oven to 390
Mash three ripe bananas
Add two whole eggs, three more egg-worth of liquid egg whites and mix
In the muffin tins, place berries
Pour in egg/banana mixture
Bake, again, for 20-30 minutes, turning the tin every 5-8 minutes
I honestly don’t remember where that recipe came from, other than my Facebook feed. I look for great food everywhere. I read Peloton magazine knowing that they will have some great meal they discovered somewhere on their travels. I have a small sleeve on my book shelf of recipes I’ve found in Bicycling or Triathlon magazines.
When I travel, whether on vacation or on my bike, I try to find some local gem, like Pandor, a French pastry and breakfast place in New Port Beach, California. If you don’t know, there is a little pastry and coffee shop in the La Fonda Inn in Santa Fe. Some of the best cookies I have ever enjoyed were from the little breakfast restaurant in Hygiene, Colorado.
I suppose that the point of this post, more than anything, is to enjoy. The vast majority of us will not get to be pro roadies. We don’t have to season stone soup in order to be happy skeletons and climb ridiculous European roads like mountain goats. Most of us have jobs and families. While I want to drop some holiday weight, I won’t do it at the expense of enjoying my family and my life. I exercise lots, and very hard. I will stoke my engine. I will taste the flavors that this short, wonderful life has to offer.
I hope you will, too.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . right after this cookie!
Get Ready for the Ride!
Ride the Rockies has announced the route for their 2017 tour, and it’s a grand one. RTR will travel 447 miles and climb 37,337 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. The route includes some of the most stunning and legendary terrain the state has to offer, including the famous Iron Horse race route, Million Dollar Highway, Wolf Creek and Monarch passes.
If I seem excited, there’s a reason for it. In the ’90s, I had heard of the Iron Horse, a short and intense ride from Durango to Silverton, paralleling the narrow gauge railroad between the towns. I have dreamt of the climbs and descents for 25 years and so I’m very excited to see the route in person.
The ride begins in the San Luis Valley in Alamosa on June 10. If you can’t wait that long, you can bypass the lottery and sign up for the eighth annual Prologue, which begins with a VIP dinner on Friday, June 9, in Taos, New Mexico. The prologue ride, the next day, takes riders south from Taos, through stunning Southwestern landscapes to Rancho de Chimayo, where participants will enjoy a massage and dinner. It also includes a lift to the start line, back in Alamosa, on Sunday, June 11. Click here for more on registering and making a donation to the Denver Post Communities Foundation.
The ride, proper, starts with registration in Alamosa, on Saturday, June 10. Alamosa is surrounded by the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains, near the border with New Mexico. It features a short rail line that takes visitors into downtown from their community center, south of town. Just to the northeast of town sits the tallest sand dunes in North America in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Show up early and spend some time exploring the contrast of the dunes against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos. If you are lucky, you may see some of the park’s wildlife, including elk and bison, at Big Spring Creek.
The first day takes riders out of the valley, west over the formidable Wolf Creek Pass. The pass climbs to 10,856 feet, and comes late in the day, at around mile 68 in the 93-mile ride. Total climbing amounts to 4,296 feet, but the pay-off is the 25-mile descent into Pagosa Springs and a dip in the natural hot springs that flow into the San Juan River. The ride came through here, in the opposite direction, in 2013, and will be a welcome stop after the long-day’s ride.
Day Two is a relatively short affair from Pagosa, deeper into the San Juan Mountains to the cycling Mecca of Durango. The route is 68 miles with 4,048 feet of climbing, spread over three bigger climbs, including Yellowjacket Pass at 7,800 feet, and a few smaller challenges. The route takes riders away from the highway at Bayfield for the last stretch through farmland outside of Durango.
Durango is home to writer, commentator, former cycling pro and all-round funny guy, Bob Roll. Roll entertained crowds during RTR’s last stop in his hometown back in 2013. He is expected to return again this year, hopefully with some of the same stories and a few new ones about his travels and experiences with the professional peloton.
Day Three is the loop day, this year. Last year’s loop was the decidedly non-relaxing, 78-mile, Copper Triangle loop. This year will be a much shorter 38.7 miles into the Southern Ute reservation with one notable climb, the 8,212 foot Hesperus Hill. It’s relatively steep, with ramps of better than seven percent, but it comes about 11 miles into the ride. The rest is a descending stair step back to Durango.
The short loop day encourages riders to enjoy a little more time in the host city. Durango, founded in 1880 to serve the San Juan mining district, is home to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Fort Lewis College, a cycling powerhouse, in their own right. The town boasts amazing mountain biking and has been home to such legends as 1990 mountain bike world champion, Ned “The Lung” Overhand and Missy “The Missile” Giove, world champion downhill mountain biker in 1994. The town hosted the first mountain bike world championships in 1990.
Durango is also a short drive from UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is a collection of about 600 cliff dwellings that were stumbled-upon by a pair of brothers who were searching for lost cattle in the area in the late 1880’s. While photographer William Henry Jackson had noted the existence of the cliff dwellings, and the Ute tribe of the area were certainly knowledgeable, it took the Wetherills to bring attention to Cliff Palace, and subsequently the many archeological sites of the park.
Day Four is the beast! Eighty-three miles with 7,792 feet of climbing over three passes; Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes. The day starts with the route of the Iron Horse Classic bike race, following the narrow gauge railroad north to Silverton. Riders will continue over the Million Dollar Highway, through the state’s ice-climbing capitol of Ouray, on to first-time RTR host town, Ridgeway.
Day Five continues north out of the former mining town of Ridgeway, on a mercifully short 32.4-mile, 490 feet of climbing ride to Montrose. If the legs are still fresh, riders can opt for the Governor Springs out-and-back challenge, adding 18.9 miles and 1,875 feet of climbing. It’s not mandatory, however.
Montrose is the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the backdrop to Day Six of this year’s RTR. Sheer cliffs give way to the Blue Mesa Reservoir as riders head east, 65 miles, to Gunnison. The ride will take cyclists over 6,691 feet of climbing, jammed mostly into the first half of the day. At almost exactly halfway, cyclists will be done with the serious climbs and will get a descent and a relatively gentle, rolling ascent into Gunnison.
At 7,703 feet, Gunnison has the reputation as one of the coldest towns in Colorado. The stop will be a welcome cool down on the penultimate day. Gunnison has hosted Ride the Rockies two other times in the last six years, including 2015, most recently.
The final day will seem like a visit to an old friend as RTR heads to Salida, once more. Salida hosted stops in 2013 and 2015. This year the small arts and outdoors community hosts the finale. First, however, riders must negotiate the fearsome Monarch Pass.
While Day Seven is not the longest, at just under 66 miles between Gunnison and Salida, the bulk of the climbing involves the ascent of the highest pass in this year’s ride. Monarch Pass crests at 11,320 feet at around mile 43. The pass is also the jumping-off point of the famous Monarch Crest mountain bike trail.
Salida, the final destination of this year’s Ride the Rockies, is home to white water rafting on the Upper Arkansas River, near-by hot springs and 12 of Colorado’s famous 14’ers. It is a friendly, creative, outdoorsy community and a great little town to host the final party of this year’s RTR.
This year’s Ride the Rockies also marks the beginning of a new era, as Renee Wheelock takes the helm. Renee was an intern with the organization when I met her in Gunnison in 2012. She spent four years as Community Relations Manager, and now takes the job of the tour’s director. Congratulations, Renee! If this year’s Ride the Rockies is any indicator, the tour is in good hands and I look forward to many years of great rides.
To register and find out more about this year’s Ride the Rockies, click here! You will find information about the host towns, maps of the route, information about lodging and other logistics, and information about the sponsors and supporters. I hope to see you on this year’s Ride the Rockies!
The rest of the story
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.
Wow, that was fast!
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.
One More Time!
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!
Long Live July!
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!
May is painted pink on the international cycling calendar. Pink is the color of victory. Pink is the color of triumph. Pink is the color of legend in Italy.
The Giro d’Italia is slated to begin next Saturday along the Mediterranean coast with a team time trial, as this race so often does. For those of us just escaping winter’s icy grip, or those still trying to shake it off, the palm trees of Sanremo are the signs of hope, of the summer soon to arrive. To see the tight, double-paceline of the team time trial blasting past the sea and the swaying palms brings lightness to hearts and freshness to tired legs, as well as a new vision to eyes too long inside on the stationary trainer.
One of Italy’s favorite sons, and 2013 champion, Vincenzo Nibali, has chosen to focus all energies on the Tour this year, so there will be no pink and Astana turquoise this season. Nairo Quintana of Movistar and Sky’s Chris Froome have also decided to skip the Giro to better prepare for the TdF.
All eyes will be on a different Spaniard as El Pistolero, Alberto Contador, attempts the Giro-Tour double. Contador will lead a slightly disheveled Tinkoff-Saxo squad through Italy without the help of master tactician and team founder Bjarne Riis. Riis was jettisoned from the squad after a falling-out with Olag Tinkoff, the team owner. In spite of being the Yankees of the cycling world with such stars as Contador, former two-time Giro champ Ivan Basso and Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan, the team has little to show for their extravagant payroll. I suppose that makes them more like the Knicks than the Yankees.
A bit of history; the last Giro-Tour double-winner was tragic cycling hero Marco Pantani. Il Pirata took both grand tours in 1998, forever sealing the little climber’s name in cycling lore. Unfortunately, the diminutive, enigmatic Italian was booted from the Giro in 1999 at Madonna di Campiglio, for doping, with one mountain stage remaining and while wearing the Maglia Rosa. He was suspended from competition for the remainder of that season, and while his career never fully recovered, he had enough fire in his heart and his legs to treat cycling fans to an epic battle with fellow doper Lance Armstrong during the 2000 TdF. The little pirate would die of a massive cocaine overdose, alone in a Rimini, Italy, hotel room on St. Valentine’s Day, 2004.
Now I can not officially endorse using the Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette with the top-of-the-line Dura Ace derailleur. One should probably take the advice of the experts and manufacturers and buy the Ultegra long-cage rear derailleur, as it is designed to fit this cassette. So, pay no attention to me when I say WOW DO I LOVE THE WAY THIS SETUP WORKS!
I had a tough Ride the Rockies last year when, on day one, we climbed out of Boulder and up the 11,306-foot Berthoud Pass. Snow and the climb made for achy knees. Day four involved an interminable climb from State Bridge to Avon. My knees have never hurt quite so much. This is when I vowed to get a better climbing gear. So I have.
I actually have all of the proper equipment. I have the Ultegra derailleur in a box in the workshop. I just don’t want to haul it to Boulder to have it put on. I could do the job, but I don’t want to replace cables and housing, for which, again, I would want to travel to Boulder, about 36 miles down the canyon. So far, I have had no shifting issues. I have not taken it out on anything truly steep, yet. I hope to do that next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
While pink is the color of May, July is decidedly yellow. So is my team’s jerseys for July’s Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation Courage Classic. That’s officially how one is supposed to mention the event on first reference. I’ve been in “The Media” for a while. So the Courage Classic is a fund-raising event for the hospital foundation. It’s a great organization, a good cause and probably the best ride I do each year. I mention it now because I need to start raising donations.
The Courage Classic itself is the payoff for raising funds. It’s three days of riding through the heart of Colorado’s ski country, as well as at least one classic route. This year’s ride starts, as it did last season, with the Copper Triangle; 80 miles from Copper Mountain Resort, up to Leadville, the highest town in North America at 10,200 feet, down through Minturn, through Vail, and up the steeper west side of Vail Pass, before plunging back down into Copper.
Day two is a bit different than in years past. This year, riders will start in Copper, zip down the bike path to Frisco and Dillon, around the east side of Lake Dillon, on to Keystone, over Swan Mountain, through Breckenridge, then up Hoosier Pass, then returning to Breck and finishing in Copper.
Day three is relatively short, just about 35 miles from Copper to Breck and back to Copper for the final BBQ party.
If you are interested in joining the team, we are Team Estes and have been together in various forms for six years. We tend to be pretty small, but we have a great time. The ride runs from Saturday, July 18, through Monday, July 20, based out of Copper Mountain Resort in Summit County, Colorado.
Follow this link to donate to our team for the ride. Thanks for your support.
I still have about two weeks before I can test out my new Shimano Sports Camera and its iPhone app. I still have to buy the tiny media card. When I do finally get the card, I will be sure to record one of my favorite descents to test it out, then post here.
Until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
Quality season begins
New casual clothes, new title and a new Ride the Rockies route. It’s been a great week.
I’m big into quality. I love when I buy something I really like and it lasts. I have a 30-year-old Golds Gym sweatshirt. I have a t-shirt from my senior high school track season. My Jake the Snake ‘cross bike is 15-years-old. And while I am riding only my second season on my current carbon fiber frame, I’m plotting for a custom Ericksen ti frame. It’s the last road frame I will ever need.
So I was wonderfully surprised when the gifts my wife bought for my birthday arrived. The first thing that struck me was the bag, itself.
Even the bag was high-quality! The graphics, the construction, even a little window to see what would soon be my new favorite shirts. Then the shirts, themselves.
My wonderful wife bought the Sufferlandrian collection for me from Apres Velo: two shirt-sleeved t-shirts, one long-sleeved and a polo. All with great, durable stitching, great graphics, and all of the embellishment on the polo was embroidered.
A word of warning: when you order from Apres Velo, order your jersey size. These are fashions for cyclists. I usually wear a large t-shirt. My wife wisely ordered extra-large for these shirts. Large would have been uncomfortable.
Of course with this theme, I can announce that I have been awarded the Knighthood of Sufferlandria! I rode about 12 hours on my trainer, through 10 consecutive Sufferfest videos. All were challenging, all were entertaining.
If you are unfamiliar, the Sufferfest is a site that provides indoor training videos, at first for cycling, then triathlon and now running. The videos have structured workouts with a background of professional races. My current favorite is Local Hero, a series of intervals and sprints set against the background of the 2010 UCI Road World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. The creators add a bit of commentary token it fun. At the end of this workout, they added sprints against some of the best sprinters in World Championship history, including my favorite, the 2002 race won by Mario Cipollini. Another warning: remember the 10% rule when increasing your training volume. I ignored it while earning my knighthood. I am missing work as I write because wildly overtraining can result in a compromised immune system.
Hopefully, I will get some fitness gains out of this experience. One thing I know I will get is the Sufferfest Knights kit!
I plan to wear this beautiful kit during this year’s Ride the Rockies! This year could be the most beautiful, certainly of the four I’ve ridden. The ride begins, this year, in Grand Junction on June 13, and will cover seven days, 465 mile and climb over 40,000 feet before ending in quaint, little Westcliffe on Saturday, June 20. The first day sets the tone as the ride tackles the Tour of the Moon, from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument to Fruita and back to Grand Junction.
Day two is all beauty all the time with an epic 98-mile day through Palisade, up and over the highest flattop mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa, and on to lovely little Hotchkiss.
It’s another stunning day when the route travels from Hotchkiss through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to the town of Gunnison on Day three. The route is 78 miles but with the views of the Painted Wall and Blue Mesa Reservoir, it will fly by.
The ride went through this area in 2012, my first RTR, and I look forward to returning.
Day Four, Tour Director Chandler Smith and the gang give the riders a bit of a break with a 27 or 35-mile ride from Gunnison to Crested Butte. I’m especially excited about this day as I have never been to Crested Butte. With a short day on the bike, riders get lots of time to explore the legendary mountain town. The town has hosted the finish to a couple USA Pro Challenge stages and will be a great rest day.
Day five will be the day everyone talks about for years. The route leaves Crested Butte to ascend 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass, pass Buena Vista and the Mount Princeton Hot Springs into the Arkansas River town of Salida. As in 2013, Salida will also be hosting the FIBArk Whitewater Festival. The town shows hints of Colorado’s Spanish heritage with low adobe homes in close to a victorian downtown and the Arkansas River running right through the middle. The festival featured kayakers slaloming through the river as well as a fair and live music. Hopefully, riders will have enough energy to come out and enjoy the town.
Day six retraces what was to be the penultimate day of RTR 2013, Salida east to the Royal Gorge, over the bridge, over Skyline Drive and into Cañon City. In 2013, a fire engulfed the park around the Royal Gorge, burning several buildings and forcing some quick rerouting, the long way through Westcliffe, Silver Cliff, Wetmore and Florence. The positive of all of that was that the organizers got an idea. Let’s visit that area again.
The final day of RTR 2015 will take riders south out of Cañon City, through Florence and over Hardscrabble Pass and descending, finally, through Silver Cliff to the town of Westcliffe. The town is wedged between the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east.
I am just beside myself with anticipation for this year’s ride. This is the year I bit the bullet and purchase a GoPro, and what more reason would I need than the sites along this route?
Before we get any further let me acknowledge that the scenic shots in this post were lifted from the RTR web site. I look forward to getting my own this year. I will also get plenty of interviews and touristy pieces, thanks to these wonderful ladies.
In the mean time, I have to drive this cold out so I can SLOWLY ramp my training back up. June is coming and it will be great.
Between now and then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
I’m at my day job and I can just barely contain myself. I’m thinking back on a really good week; completed the Tour of Sufferlandria while earning a Knighthood of Sufferlandria. It’s a fitting start to the slow build up to the riding season. Although, for me, the real kickoff event for the 2015 season is Saturday night in Denver. This will be fun.
Saturday night is the Ride the Rockies Route Premier Party at the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Yah, it’s kind of a big deal. This year marks the 30th RTR and the party features food by Maggiano’s Little Italy, adult beverages by O’Dell Brewing. Live music by Minor Note Orchestra. All proceeds from the event benefit the Denver Post Community Foundation.
There are usually fun and games, including a chance to win free entry into this year’s RTR; Guess the Route! If someone can guess which town’s this year’s rout will include, that lucky person will get to ride for free. There will be gifts and other surprises, as well.
You still have a few days to order tickets on line at this site for $40. At the door on Saturday, tickets will be $50. I will be there talking with organizers and riders, shooting video and having a great time.
So you haven’t heard of The Sufferfest or the Knights of Sufferlandria? Well, you are missing out! If you live north of New Mexico or higher than about 5,000 feet, you probably have a real winter, as I do. That requires some time on the indoor trainer, rollers or spinning bike. Even if you own TdF videos, “Breaking Away” and “American Flyers” you won’t be training long before you have had enough. The Sufferfest offers a variety of workouts with footage of major pro cycling races. The instructions on the screen are easy to follow, as well as being humorous to break up the suffering. They offer short time trial videos, long climbing videos and everything in between. I own three of the videos, including two that feature the 2013 Giro d’Italia. You can purchase individual videos or, now, download their mobile app which allows users to pay for a month of unlimited use of unlimited videos. If you have a tablet of iPad, or can tolerate the tiny screen of your smart phone, this is likely the best deal.
The Knighthood of Sufferlandria is a daunting challenge involving riding to 10 consecutive Sufferfest videos while taking no more than 10 minutes in between. While you don’t have to, The Sufferfest encourages those questing for the knighthood to use the event to raise money for a favorite charity. I chose the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation for my ride. I raised a little money, but did this on a whim, so didn’t publicize very well. The Sufferfest offers resources to help get the word out for you, and to help keep track of your quest so it can be verified.
This is not for the faint of heart. Plan your quest well. Use plenty of electrolyte drinks, lots of food and a good fan. The Sufferfest points out that you don’t have to go all out on every video, but make yourself proud.
It’s time to plan and train. Have fun with it and your summer season will be the best!
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
Been back from vacation for nearly two weeks. My weight is coming down and I’ve received invitations to two of my three big rides for the season. I’m so excited, I just want to get out and hammer!! But I shouldn’t.
After a season dogged by knee pain, I’ve realized a few more easy rides would not be that bad for me. For the last 18 months or so, it’s been all hammer all the time! While that’s great for the cardio system and a great deal of fun, it can lead to over-use problems. I’m in good shape and have at least three months to my first organized event. Now might be a good time to back off the intensity, just a bit, until the knees feel better.
If you are having these issues, I suggest the same. Also, spend some quality time with a foam roller, massage ball or if you can afford it, massage therapist. Sometimes the problem has to do with the sliding tissues in the front of the legs adhering to each other, creating uncomfortable conditions, including the pulling of the knee cap into the joint.
Also, this is the best time of year to have that bike fit re-assessed. Find a reputable dealer and fitter and spend the money. It will result in long-term savings as you won’t have to spend as much on doctors, PT’s and pharmacists. Those long, ambitious rides will be more comfortable. I was grinding up from State Bridge, Colorado, last season, during day four of Ride the Rockies and was considering the sag wagon. Luckily, my fitter from Boulder’s SportsGarage happened to be on course and made a small but pain-relieving adjustment that allowed me to finish the day, as well as the next two. Get it done ahead of time and it won’t throw doubt and pain into your favorite rides and tours.
For more ideas, go to Mobility WOD for more instruction as to keeping the knees happy and healthy. You can also pick up Dr. Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard” to have a reference on hand. The book helps athletes take care of a wide range of movement issues, making for happy muscles and joints.
The Santos Tour Down Under begins next week, kicking off the Pro Cycling season. The best news out of this may by all about the women. Many of the big World Tour events are adding women’s events to the line up. The Amgen Tour of California, The USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the biggie, The Tour de France will add women’s events this year. Last year’s women’s event on the final day of the men’s race proved so popular that more stages have been added. This is the best thing to happen to women’s cycling in a long time, and hopefully will continue.
On the personal side, friends of mine invited me to ride the Triple Bypass with them. If you don’t already know, the Triple Bypass is a bucket-list sort of ride. It is 120 miles over three big mountain passes from Evergreen, Colo. to Avon. For the truly hard-core, the organizers, Team Evergreen, added a second day: the same route, only backward! I will save that for another year.
The wonderful Liz Brown of Ride the Rockies contacted me this week, so I will once again, be riding this week-long tour of the Colorado high country. RTR is not the toughest, but is the oldest and most popular of the Colorado tours. RTR celebrates its 30th ride through the mountains and will announce the route at a party in Downtown Denver on Saturday, February 7. If you want to find out early, go to http://ridetherockies.com/.
The route announcement party runs $40 dollars on line, $50 at the door. It’s a great time and I plan to record a good bit of it for a future post.
So get out and ride. Bundle up or spend some quality time with your trainer. The season will be upon us before you know it.
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.
A new life
“This is my first organized ride,” says the guy on the next sleeping bag over.
We’re in the relatively plush ballroom in Steamboat Springs after the longest day of Ride the Rockies and the place is pretty quite, as most are out enjoying the sunshine.
“Oh yay? What possessed you to do this ride for your first?” I ask, expecting some kind of self-help related story from the forty-something. What Chris White shared would be a lot more than most would overcome in a lifetime. To a degree, I suppose you could say, this is his second lifetime. He intended to make the most of it.
“I was in a car accident that killed my grandmother,” White said, “I broke my neck, C2. It’s commonly called the hangman’s break.”
White suffered two heart attacks in the hospital as a result of the trauma. After that, the heart issues, combined with some bad habits and a stressful career, combine to do more damage.
“I was a chef for a private club. I worked for Duke University and University of North Carolina for a combined 10 years,” White explained, “I was offered positions in Hawaii and Denver. I chose Denver.”
A chef’s eating schedule is erratic, at best. It gets interrupted and chefs will make quick and bad eating decisions. This lifestyle can quickly devolve into poor health and obesity. If a heart is already damaged, stress can make matters worse. White’s heart became enlarged and developed an arrhythmia. He suffered congestive heart failure in his mid 40s in 2011, requiring surgery. After he took steps to restore his heart beat to normal, White realized he had a second chance.
“I could restore my heart to the condition of a 20-year-old, if I wanted.”
And Whited wanted. After recovery, White took steps to take control and lessen stress. He discovered road cycling, or fell in love with it, while volunteering at last season’s USA Pro Challenge final stage in Denver. While watching the event, White met sprinter Peter Sagan’s personal assistant.
“She was so impressed with my story that she took me to meet Peter. After all he had done, all he accomplished, he stood up and congratulated me.”
Shortly after, White decided he would go all-in.
“I moved to Deckers for the altitude training and fly fishing,” White explained, “I work for a little mom-and-pop place, now.”
This after working as a banquet chef for the Denver Country Club. His eating has changed, as well.
“I realized I had to have the right food for energy. With clean living, exercise and diet, I lost 120 pounds in 17 months.”
White credits his new routine, including eating breakfast regularly and a lot of two-wheel time.
“I’m usually up about 5 or 5:30 am. I make my power breakfast and am out to ride by 6:15.”
Breakfast often consists of a breakfast burrito with plenty of fresh spinach, oatmeal and fresh fruit. White likes a salad with beans for lunch, post ride. His ride is usually 30-60 miles on the roads between Deckers, Woodland Park and Sadalia, Colorado. White embraced the new life style, and while he lost lots of weight, he gained a bit more than he expected.
“I’m able to process stress better on the bike. Time doesn’t exist,” he explained. “I also have epilepsy, and through cycling and exercise, I’ve been able to manage the stress and triggers.”
So now, the chef who should have died years ago has a new life and wants to share it with others.
“If you can identify your triggers and manage them, you can live a life free of seizures and medications,” but he was quick to add, “not always, but sometimes.”
The anti-seizure drugs given to epilepsy patients can make them lethargic. This can quickly snowball into obesity, especially in children and adolescents. White hopes to help kids see cycling as a possible alternative to medication.
Thanks to his new found love of riding, he has also found new friendships. White entered Ride the Rockies alone, but he quickly found he would not be lonely.
“I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with 2,000 people so quickly,” White smiles a dimpled grin. “It’s an instant feel of family. Everyone is in this together. Everyone has a unique story. There are people from all over the world. Everyone, I believe, is on a personal journey but having this many people together with the same mind set is truly amazing.”
In the five days that we are together, White makes friends easily. He has a warm smile and personality to match. He charms the Jamaican ladies at a little taco stand in Steamboat Springs. He easily converses with frame-building legend Kent Ericksen, founder of Moots cycles and his own brand, Ericksen Bikes. White makes friends with the traveling yoga instructor, even receiving an invitation to teach some cooking. Nothing would compare, however, with the evening in Avon. White shared his big goal with me.
“I’ve signed up with the USA Pro Challenge Experience. I would like to ride with Chris Carmichael’s team and do all seven stages of the Pro Challenge.”
I met Carmichael during last year’s RTR and thought, what ever I could do to help White would be good. Carmichael was the Cycling Seminar speaker in Avon on the ride. I spoke to Carmichael, hoping he might remember me. I explained that White had a story that the coach needed to hear. Carmichael gave me his card to give to my new friend and explained he, White, needed to hurry. Space was filling fast.
I saw White moments later and pointed him in Carmichael’s direction. He returned nearly in tears.
“He said they’re going to work with me on the fee. He said they want me on the team. This has changed my life.”
After a lot of hugs, I reminded him that he did the work. This was the happy payoff.
White has a few more things he wants to do. White would love a lighter bike. He would like a bit of new technology. He would also like to find balance. It will all come. He’s not afraid of the work. White has done so much so far. Blood work looks great and he feels it is all due to his work on the bike. For the price of near death, he has been given a new life and a new purpose.
“I spent years after breaking my neck and the hear issues trying to figure out why I was here,” he explained. “I think that God put me hear to help kids with epilepsy. I feel the mind is so powerful that if you believe and you have faith, you can overcome anything.”
Chris White is proof positive. Very positive.
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!
I shared recently that I once bought a ‘cross bike specifically to commute from the Denver suburbs into downtown for school and work. I lived in Golden and commuted, making for a 30-mile round trip, then to Littleton for a 20-miler. I did it back in Omaha, as well, equally as long. But I didn’t think of it as the grind to work, It was my chance to get my head, my attitude, right before stepping into a cubical or classroom. It was my time to meditate.
I found that I was pretty crabby when dealing with traffic; my follow commuters running bumper-to-bumper on the gray pavement. Everyone uptight, everyone trying to get to where they needed sooner than everyone else. On my bike, commuting, I would arrive at work happy, relaxed and ready to work. Now, it’s a movement
Wednesday, June 26, is Bike to Work Day in Estes Park. The event runs from 6:30-9:30 a.m. and is sponsored by the Town of Estes Park, the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District, the Estes Park Medical Center and supported by local businesses and organizations, such as Kind Coffee.
If the endorphins flooding your bloodstream isn’t enough, how about coffee? The organizations will offer breakfast that morning at the Estes Park Visitor Center at 500 Big Thompson Avenue. Plumbers and contractors might have a difficult time pulling this off, but if you don’t have 100 pounds of gear and have a functioning bike, this would be worth the effort.
I had the chance to speak to several cycling visionaries and luminaries while out on Ride the Rockies. One of them was cycle coaching guru Chris Carmichael. The video is not yet up as I write, but should be by the time you read. Look for it either here or look for me on YouTube. Look up Where’s Walt.
At any rate, Carmichael has authored two books for those of us who have jobs and families and obligations. The Time-Crunched Cyclist and Time-Crunched Triathlete give suggestions to make a training schedule out of the time you have and make the workouts count. Carmichael told me that athletes can and do train adequately with only 6-10 hours a week. He also pointed pout that nearly as important as quality workouts as quality recovery. I know as well as anyone that sleep is sometimes not a priority. This can lead to chronic fatigue and symptoms of overtraining. We should get, just like every doctor tells us, seven and a half to nine hours of sleep to fully regenerate. Some folks feel they can get by just fine on four to six hours, but studies have shown that except in a tiny percentage, like ultra marathon legend Dean Karnazes, this is simply not true. We will always work better after better rest.
I apologize for not getting a great example of great recovery out on RTR. I spoil myself in two ways, once each, during the ride. After the toughest day, I will get a massage. I recommend this for anyone, rider, runner, swimmer, parent, whomever. It is worth every cent you spend. This ride, I got mine after the 91-mile day that included the ascent of Wolf Creek Pass and the fast, flat ride into Alamosa. It works wonders.
The other thing I like to do on big events is get my own room on the last night on the road. I like a particular hotel chain because they serve free breakfast and usually have a pool. It allows me to get a bit better rest when I’m not worried about the guy with sleep apnea buzzing like a chainsaw two sleeping bags away. The result was much fresher legs the next day.
If you are training for an event and at home, make sleep as much a priority as the workout. We need both. Don’t skip the last hillclimb and don’t skip the last hour of sleep.
I often think of the overly-dramatic, overly-romanticized line delivered by Mel Gibson in Braveheart when I swing a leg over my bike. I think of the line when I’m driving between Lyons and Boulder and see the long lines of riders spinning, joking and prodding each other as they go. On Monday, while returning some borrowed stuff to a family friend, I saw two kids on BMX bikes wearing life vests. FREEDOM!
That is the sort of freedom I am aimed toward. That giddy feeling before an innocent adventure. Going to go find crayfish, like my daughter did this weekend. Going to explore the empty field or backcountry trail. Going to ride roads I have never seen. It’s a freedom of childhood summers.
I think this is why there are so many rides in Colorado. We live in an unbelievably pretty, scenic state. Mountains, meadows, flowers, old towns, serpentine roads, all add up to that feeling. The exploration of youth. The innocence that we, of a certain age, seem to crave.
Being able to do this, just jump on my bike and ride all day for a week, is a blessing beyond measure. Saturday, I board a bus bound for Telluride, I reputedly beautiful, old, mining mountain town. I will ride from there all the way back to Colorado Springs, a wonderful city, itself. I will document this journey, relaying back here so I can share the adventure with those who, for whatever reason, won’t be making that trek this year. I plan updates to my blog, waltoutwest.com, and of course, eptrail.com.
Speaking of cravings, I picked up Allen Lim’s Feed Zone Portables last week. It’s a cookbook created by Lim, former team physiologist for Garmin and RadioShack cycling teams. He and chef Biju Thomas created the food and the cookbook as an alternative to processed energy food that has arisen since the late ’80s.
I’m a big advocate of real food. Once I got an idea of how much better I perform and how much tastier real food can be, ditching to bars and bites and gels was not that hard. I started making my own “energy bites” from a recipe in Bicycling magazine a while back. Crushed nuts, diced figs, dates, salt, honey and cocoa powder; what could be bad. Then, I discovered a biscotti recipe in Triathlete magazine with nuts, almond flour and dried fruit. They were a huge hit on my group ride a few weeks back. Armed with this knowledge and an enthusiasm for cooking, I was ready for Lim and Thomas’ book.
The book has a variety of foods. One is not forced into sweet or salty, not just sandwiches or cookies. It has Allen Lim’s now-famous rice cakes, the oatmeal that Kristin Armstrong credits for her gold-medal performance in the Women’s Olympic Time Trial in London, eggs cooked in muffin tins and much more.
I plan to put it to the test. I will cook up some of these delights and pack them for Ride the Rockies. As much as I enjoyed the crepes last year, and the pancake guy, this might be a bit more economical, as well as better for me.
With any luck at all, I hope to have images and videos of the rides, themselves. I have a passion for coffee and unique coffee houses, so I hope to explore those. I will also have the chance to meet several cycling stars and luminaries along the way. I will also, finally, be able to give a first-hand review of the Shimano 9000 group set, as well as the C24 wheels. Of course, it is also loads of fun just talking to regular people on the rides. What sort of person spends a week’s hard-earned vacation torturing themselves over mountain passes? If you read this, you already know, but it’s fun to get another rider’s perspective.
One last little note: if you want to see some racing or find the desire to search for bike treasures, a bike swap is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, at the North Boulder Park during the NOBO Classic Bike Race. It’s a “Drop and swap” meet, so bring those old items that you don’t need. Someone else might be look for that very item.
Well, I’m off. Check the eptrail.com web site daily for updates. Also, if you just can’t get enough, head to waltoutwest.com, as well. This is going to be great.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . the Rockies.
Full Speed Ahead
It is clearly cycling season, even at altitude. At the middle of May, one grand tour is snaking across Italy, one smaller tour is heading up the state of California and we are four weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. But wait . . . there’s more.
The town of Estes Park is gearing up for its moment in the international cycling spotlight. With riders like Cadel Evans from Australia, Peter Sagan from Slovakia, Andy Schleck from Luxembourg and the Garmin-Sharp team from just down the hill in Boulder, it is very much an international event. Fans and reporters from around the world will likely show up, as well. Estes Park, as a whole, needs to get involved to show the world that we are a place to visit.
Bo Winslow, the town’s Community Services Director, has put out a call for volunteers. The town needs course marshals, idea people to help with related events in town the day of the race, as well as vendors to keep the visitors in Estes with food, gifts and the like. If you think you want to help, contact Bo at 586-6104 or e-mail email@example.com.
I have heard there are detractors who point to flopping rock shows as a reason that we should not care. To that I say, the bands who have come for those shows have not been top acts since I was in elementary school in the ’70s. The guys who will be blowing through town on August 24 will be the very best riders on earth right now. These are the best of the best. These guys are faster and fitter than anyone you personally know. These guys competed for medals in the Olympics and will be here preparing for the World Road and Time Trial Championships. In cycling, if you’re not in France in July, it really does not get any better than this.
To get an idea of what we are in for, tune in to the Amgen Tour of California, going on this week. Folks are lining the race route, especially on the climbs and in towns, two things we have going for us. We will see the end of a race within the race as the last King of the Mountains points will be collected at the top of the Glen Haven switchbacks.
The one thing we will have that the California race doesn’t is that many people will still be on summer vacation when the Pro Cycling Challenge comes through. And, because it will be a Saturday, and with our proximity to our major population centers, we could see a crowd matched only by the Scot Fest, except they will all funnel into downtown. This is a chance to show a global audience all of what Estes Park has to offer.
There will be another, slower but no less enthusiastic group pedaling through Estes Park 19 days ahead of the pros. I will be riding the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour through here on August 4-5. It is the opening day of the ride that loops beginning in Fort Collins and visits EP, Golden, Fraser, Steamboat Springs, Walden and back to Fort Collins. This makes a whole summer of fun for me.
The CRMBT is like Ride the Rockies, only smaller and tougher. While RTR allows 2,000, or so, riders, CRMBT allows only 500. The rout tends to be more challenging, as well. While the toughest day in the saddle for RTR will be Day 4, when we ride over 10,850 foot Wolf Creek Pass, the third day of the CRMBT starts in Golden, climbs Lookout Mountain, ride to Evergreen to climb Juniper Pass, plunges into Idaho Springs, slogs to the base , then climbs Berthoud Pass before finishing in Fraser. Three big climbs over 85 miles. Riders are even invited to ride the Mount Evans Road, if they feel so motivated.
Tour director Peter Duffy explains that it is a tour for a more dedicated crowd.
“I don’t want to bad mouth the Ride The Rockies,” he hastens to say. “I’ve ridden it, it’s fun. The CRMBT is smaller and tougher. We want to appeal to a more dedicated cyclist. The people who ride CRMBT will be a little fitter and a little more enthusiastic.”
I start my organized riding season this Saturday with the First Ascent Ride, a fund raiser for Livestrong. It is a metric century, starting and ending in Golden, starting with a climb of the Golden Gate Canyon, a road that pitched up to 14 percent in sections, then follows the Peak to Peak highway before descending Coal Creek Canyon and returning to Golden.
The ride features several members of the 7-Eleven cycling team, as well. It should be a great morning of riding. If you find your Saturday morning open, check the First Ascent Ride website and head down to Golden early. The ride begins at 7:30.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
This image is from the USAPCC web site.
I am busily staring at my computer, trying to find a muse. I’ve just cleared off a spot on a shelf above my desk, just to change things up a bit and stand while I type. Ultra-marathon hero Dean Karnazes explained in a recent interview that he stands at his desk, just to be that much more active. He explained he also does push ups, squats and stretches every so often to keep moving. I got all this from a web show called Genetic Potential TV, a collaboration between physical therapist and former world-class paddler Kelly Starrett and CrossFit Endurance guru Brian MacKenzie. Make some time for it and check it out.
This week marked the end of the Spring Classics. From what I can tell, the riders to watch going into the Grand Tour season are Fabian Cancellara, sprinter Peter Sagan and last year’s Tour champion, Brad Wiggins. Look for them all to be in Italy next week for the start of the Giro d’Italia. More on the Corsa Rosa next week.
I’m a bit of a tech weenie. I love new gadgets and fun stuff. I loved getting the iPhone from the office, initially, as it gave me the chance to make video while I rode. That didn’t work out quite as planned, so I have my eye on the GoPro Hero3. I’m now awaiting the new Dura Ace group set and Shimano’s light DA C24 carbon/aluminum tubeless wheels. I’ve gone on and on about the technology in the new DA 9000 group set, but haven’t hit on the wheels so much, because tubeless rode wheels are new enough, as a concept, that I have not dealt with them before. The idea, as always with high-end wheels, is to be stiffer and lighter. Another in a long line of evolutionary steps with wheels.
Long ago, rims were made from wood. They have gone through incarnations of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, sew-up tubular, clincher and now tubeless. This is all on the road bike side, mind you. The last 25 years have been amazing in the leaps in tech improvements.
I sent a note to Wayne Stetina asking about the biggest improvements in bike technology that he has seen. He responded with the wheels, but named a bunch of other upgrades, as well.
Stetina rode the Coors Classic and Red Zinger on steel frames with friction shift levers on the down tube, the tube running from the stem to the pedals. He has seen the move from those old shifters, in which the rider had to feel around for the right gear, to index shifters, which were set up to click when dropping into a gear, to the integrated shifter-break lever system introduced to road cycling by Shimano in 1990. Now, of course, we also have electronic shifting, as well.
Stetina also mentioned the move from the relatively heavy steel frames to aluminum, titanium and now carbon fiber. Some bike manufacturers have assembled bikes that weigh close to 12 pounds, a far cry from the 20-plus pound bikes ridden in the Tour de France as recently as 1999. Funny thing is, if you have the motivation and the money, you can ride a lighter bike than the pros. The Union Cycliste Internationale has set a weight limit of 15 pounds for pro bikes.
Imagine riding in wool shorts. With a real lamb-skin chamios. The modern bib shorts with man-made chamios are a huge leap forward in comfort. I own a number of wool jerseys and even a beloved wool trainer. They are soft and warm and don’t hang on to oder. However, I still wear something under them. I can’t imagine wearing wool against my sensitive areas.
Bike evolution, at least within the pro peloton, will continue without one of my favorite riders. Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi announced his retirement this week. The big Italian started racing in 1998, but started making a name for himself in 2003 when, in his first Tour de France, he won four sprint stages. That same year, Ale-Jet also took six Giro d’Italia stages and another five at the Vuelta a Espana. Petacchi holds the record for most stage wins in a single Giro, winning nine sprints in his home tour in 2004. He has the Points jersey from all three grand tours, but his 2007 Giro sprinters jersey was stripped after a blood test revealed he had too much asthma medication in his system. Petacchi actually had a medical exception for it, but officials felt he was’t monitoring his intake well enough and suspended him for most of the ’07 season.
Petacchi was cut from the same cloth as fellow Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini; tall, good looking, brash, flamboyant, though not nearly as much as Cippo, and not much of a climber. It came as a surprise when, in 2010, Ale-jet made the climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees and road into Paris for the first and only time, to claim the green sprinters jersey of the Tour, something Cipollini never accomplished.
Ride the Rockies is beginning to loom large in the near future. I am forced to obtain a bike box to get my bike from where I will park in Colorado Springs, out to Telluride. This will be my first experience with disassembling my bike for transport. The up side is that I don’t have to spend $400 on a bike case. I will head over to the Estes Park Mountain Shop and pick up a box that was used to ship bikes to them. This also eliminates the need to schlep the box all the way back to my car in the Springs. I will arrive in Telluride, assemble my bike and find a recycle bin for the box.
We are six weeks short of Ride the Rockies, by the way. Milage totals are heading up. According to the RTR training chart, we should be up to 60 miles over three rides during the week and another 40 miles in one ride on the weekend. Like many weekend warriors, I have to rejigger this a bit. I can justify counting my morning classes as 15 miles each. That only counts as 45 miles during the week. I have to try to add some of that back in on the weekend. Finally, the weekend weather is supposed to cooperate.
This week, I plan to spend some time on our local climbs, a nearly endless resource. On Saturday, I have time to warm up around Lake Estes, then head up Fall River Road to the steep Fall River Court. I will ride back into town and over Moccasin to the steep streets on the east side of the Estes Park Medical Center. None of these climbs are very long, but what they lack in duration they more than compensate with intensity.
On Sunday, I hope to head down to Boulder and catch one of their shop rides. The shops that are sponsoring and supporting the RTR have organized group rides on most weekends. This Sunday, the Sports Garage has a three-hour ride beginning at their shop just about half a block north and west of Pearl and 28th street. They list the start time at 9 a.m. and offer a discount for purchases in their shop for participants.
If you want a ride down to Boulder on Sunday or interested in the Saturday climbing, shoot me an e-mail or call.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
A nice shot by Sundance Images Event Photography of me in my Ale-Jet replica 2007 Giro sprinters kit! obviously, it is early in this climb. I’m still smiling!
Our sport is supposed to be about the fun. Yes, there is suffering. Yes, plenty of cycling involves challenging oneself and being uncomfortable. In the end, however, it is supposed to be about the fu, the pleasure of riding.
I am reading the autobiography of Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish and found a similar conclusion. He describes the suffering of the mountain stages in the grand tours, about the exhaustion of riding for three weeks. He also writes about the disappointment of leaving the Tour early in 2008 and not getting to Paris for the last sprint.
He also had harsh words for the riders ejected from the ’08 Tour for doping. It made me think, why would someone risk health, career and standing for a win. My conclusion was they put something else ahead of the fun.
I don’t mean to judge. Cycling in Europe is akin to prize fighting in the US, or a lot of pro sports. They often attract athletes who feel it the only shot at rise out of dire economic circumstances. If that’s the case, I could see how someone might be lured into doping to get as far from poverty as possible. Some don’t have the luxury that most of us leisure riders have.
I’m not condoning this behavior, either. The reason Cavendish was so animate about the dopers, in this case Riccardo Ricco, Leonardo Piepoli and Stefan Schumacher, When the dopers set there enhanced paces, they threatened guys like Cav’ who is clean and not a climber. The major Tours set a time limit based of the stage winner’s time. Come in after the cut off and you go home. Ricco broke away and won stage nine that year, putting pressure on the sprinters, then Piepoli put in an inhuman ride the next day.
You may have heard of the Autobus, or Grupetto. These are the groups of big men at the back of these climbing stages, generally sprinters working together to make the cutoff. They are not lollygagging. They are suffering just to suffer all over again the next day. When the cheaters put in the crazy-fast rides up the high mountains, they not only take away the chances of the clean climbers, they endanger a great many sprinters. This same sort of event also reenforces the notion that a rider has to dope to win. Luckily, the ’08 Tour also showcased the advances in the doping tests, resulting in the aforementioned ejections.
Fear is a big motivator. Fear motivates a kid from a broken home in a Dallas suburb to cheat, cheat to an unprecedented level, and deny cheating to protect all that was gained by cheating. Fear, in turn, causes corporate sponsors to flee the sport. It causes coverups and improvements in catching the cheaters. I have to count myself as lucky that I never got to ride at a level in which any of this was a consideration. I’m lucky that I can just ride for fun.
Last weekend was a great example of fun and suffering. The Paris-Roubaix, possibly the monument of Monuments, was won, for the third time, by Swiss RadioShack rider Fabian Cancellara. While everyone predicted his triumph, it was not as predicted. Spartacus did not simply ride away from everyone as he did in the 2011 Paris-Roubaix, or even as he did the weekend before in the Tour of Flanders. He found himself working hard to catch a break in the last half of the race, then dragging a formidable group with him to nearly the end. Bad luck derailed a few, then Cancellara had to out-sprint Belgian hopeful Sep Vanmarcke of the Blanco Pro Racing team on the track in Roubaix.
Cancellara was clearly happy to win his third cobblestone trophy, but he was also clearly spent. The cobbles of the road took a toll on big Fabian, who now looks forward to a break before the summer grand tours start in May.
Many expected Spartacus to have his way with the race on Sunday. Gone was his chief rival, four-time Roubaix winner Tom Boonen. The big Belgian crashed out of the Tour of Flanders a week before. Boonen was hoping to add his name to the short and distinguished list of five-time Paris-Roubaix winners which includes, of course, Eddie Merckx. Tornado Tom now awaits the healing process and the grand tours of summer.
One last Belgian Monument note; On the podium of the Tour of Flanders, Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan was caught in photos grabbing the backside of a podium girl as she was presenting the winner with his trophies. This week, Sagan saw the young lady again. Maya Leye is a 25-year-old who works for Flanders Classics, the organization that promotes and stages the Tour of Flanders. Leye was on the podium with Sagan again on Wednesday, April 10, to present Sagan with his prize for winning the Brabant Arrow race. Sagan presented Leye with his winner’s bouquet and a public apology. Perhaps the swaggering Slovak learned a little tact out of the who incident.
I plan to continue having fun. It’s a challenge with the late-season snow. I have ridden outside perhaps three times this year, once on the course on which I race this Saturday. I have to remember that it’s about the fun. It does not really matter how well I place. It matters that I am able to push myself. It matters that I get to compete. This won’t determine a paycheck. It won’t change the course of my life. It’s just for the fun of it.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going racing.
BTW, the photo was taken by Tom de Waele for Omega Pharma/Quick Step
Peter and Spartacus
If last week’s Tour of Flanders is any indication, there are only two riders contending for cobbled wins this season: Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan.
The two have traded off winning the northern classics this season. Sagan won his first spring classic by just riding away from Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish at Ghent-Wevelgem a few weeks back. He took a sprint at the Three Days of De Panne and wheelied across the finish line. The only rider able to tame the 23-year-old Slovak champion is Spartacus.
Fabian Cancellara beat Sagan and the rest of the field at the the E3 Harelbeke two weeks ago. Many cycling writers were excited about the showdown with Spartacus, Peter the Great and Belgium’s Tom Boonen. The showdown fizzled a bit.
Last year at the Tour of Flanders, Cancellara hit a wayward water bottle and crashed in the race’s feed zone, resulting in a broken collarbone. This season, Tornado Tom crashed out, leaving Fabulous Fabian to run free. Cancellara hit the Oude Kwaremont, a climb averaging 4 percent, but kicking up to 11 percent at 17 km from the finish, and rode away from all but Sagan. Cancellara hit the gas again on the last rise, the Paterberg, leaving Sagan gasping and all others far behind, taking the race by better than a minute.
With Sagan skipping Paris-Roubaix and Boonen on the mend, Cancellara is nearly a prohibitive favorite to win his third “Hell of the North”.
The bikes used on these Cobbled Classics have become a hot commodity. The Specialized Roubaix, with its Zerts inserts and comfortable geometry has been a favorite for casual riders for nearly a decade. My bike is the 2004 version, and the newer editions are quite common on organized rides around the state.
The tag line for this bike is a comfortable bike is a fast bike, and the Roubaix is the best, though not the only, example of this. The idea of a comfortable race bike, an endurance road bike, one that is light, nimble and still able to soak up road noise, has become so popular among recreational riders with a taste for speed that several manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon.
Trek made the bike that Cancellara powered to the Ronde win on Sunday. The Trek Domane is the Waterloo, Wisconsin manufacturer’s answer to it’s California rival. The Domain 4.0 can be had for just over $2,000, comes with the relatively inexpensive Shimano Tiagra compact (50-34) gearing. Like any of the bikes at the entry level, it will weigh between 17-19 pounds.
The Giant Defy Composite 3 weighs just a whisker over 18 pounds and sports the same components as the Trek. Giant is an Asian manufacturer with the reputation of building plenty of frames with different labels. They know what they are doing with carbon frames. They make a whole lot of them, so their entry-level Defy will set you back a mere $1,700.
Swiss manufacturer BMC took a different tack, returning to the nearly-forgotten material of aluminum for their Granfondo GF02 bike. The $1,899 bike comes with Shimano 105 compact components, one step up from the Tiagra group. The frame is based on the carbon version that American Tyler Phinney is riding around the cobbles this season. It tips the scale at 19.1 pounds and shares much of the vibration-eating geometry of its much pricier carbon iterations.
The entry level carbon Specialized Roubaix, the Sport Compact, comes with Shimano 105 compact components and weighs around 18 pounds. It comes with their four-position adjustable stem and, because it is the bike that started the trend, gobbles the cobbles. It tends to be smooth and fast, though if you have the means and tend to be a weight-weenie, you may want to shell out a bit more than the $2,100 MSRP of this model.
We now sit eight weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. The total milage for next week should come to 80 miles, 30 for the weekend ride and three more rides during the week totaling 50 miles. If you haven’t started already, it’s about time to insert some climbing, some short sprints and most definitely a group ride into your training. I will actually have a taper this week as I have a real race, the Haystack Mountain Time Trial, on April 13. I might not get all of the miles in, but I will get some intensity in.
If you find yourself short on time, there is at least one thing I can suggest . . . intervals. On a relatively short ride, after a 15-20 minute warmup, take a few hard digs, close to your maximum effort, for no more than a minute. Take a good recovery interval and repeat at least four time. The toughest and most effective interval workout I know of is the dreaded Tabata Protocol. After a good 20-25 minute warmup, set a timer for four minutes. In those four short little minutes, go as hard as you can for 20 seconds and recover for just 10. This is as hard as it gets, but yields the most benefit in a very short period. Give it a try if you feel you need to train but only have half an hour. Better get a bucket . . .
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.
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.
Open hearts and wallets
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.