When we left our heroes, they were being buffeted and blown all over Trail Ridge Road’s highest points by gale-force winds . . .
We were never so happy to get down and back into trees. And while the wind persisted all the way into Estes Park, it was never so bad as on the alpine tundra.
Riders arrived just in time to see one of my favorite weekly events, the Estes Valley Farmers Market, as the market was closing for the day. The town wanted to make room for the riders events later in the evening.
Local bands, including Amplified Soul, performed for the riders as local venders offered their wares. It was fun but it was a brief night, as most riders were tired from the short but challenging day through the park.
Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.
Amplified Soul plays at the RTR event in Estes Park.
This particular stop was the whole reason I could not resist the pull of RTR this year. This was the chance to show off my little town. I have lived in Estes Park for 16 years and love promoting it. I also got to sleep in my own bed, and offer Donald a spare bed. It made for a wonderful night’s sleep ahead of the Grand Arrival, the final day of riding.
The last day of RTR2016 was a relatively short 51 miles. Starting in Estes Park, we rolled down the Big Thompson Canyon. The long line of riders snaked and plunged through the canyon, tracing the Big Thompson River until the famous and popular Masonville ride. Riders ambled through the countryside west of Loveland toward Horsetooth Reservoir. Then, the final climbs.
Horsetooth consists of four hard, steep, short climbs. All of them between 6-10 percent. A bit of a sting in the legs. After the last descent around the north end of the reservoir, riders enjoyed a sort of precession through the beautiful neighborhood on Mountain Avenue, eastward into Old Town Fort Collins. We rolled into O’Dell Brewery for food, entertainment and closing festivities.
Donald Lewis and the author pose at the finish in Fort Collins.
After a week of riding and more than 400 miles, we had arrived; tired, short on sleep and as happy as we could be. The arrival is always bitter-sweet.
We see each other for one week, once a year. We share stories, we catch up on lives outside of the tour, and for a week, we are a large, rolling family reunion. When we roll into the final stop, we have to say our good-byes.
Betsy, the Tour Assistant.
Renee, Community Relations Manager.
Liz, the Event Coordinator.
One good-bye was going to be a bit more permanent. Tour Director Chandler Smith was stepping down after eight years. Chandler challenged riders and adapted to last-minute challenges, himself. Just in my five additions, Chandler had to change two tour routes due to wildfires, and had to sag riders all along the Berthoud Pass climb on the first day of the 2014 RTR. He has served us well and advanced the RTR, improving the event and, hopefully, improving relations with the beautiful little towns in this amazing state.
Ride the Rockies has been a great tour for a long time. Each rout, even when closely paralleling previous routs, offer a new adventure. Chandler, Renee, Liz, Betsy and the army of volunteers, once again, gave riders a week to remember, about which to reminisce, and stories to retell.What more could we want. Thanks for the memories, and may luck smile on you, Chandler.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Saturday, February 6, was the day of the Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. For the second time in five years, Ride the Rockies will traverse the highest paved highway pass road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. I’m excited because, of course, the “Big Road” is in my back yard, almost literally. It’s a relatively short route, at 403 miles over six days, but it’s also going to be beautiful!
The route will closely resemble the one I first rode, five years ago. This one begins in beautiful Carbondale on Sunday, June 12. Day one rolls from Carbondale to the famous ski town of Aspen. Chandler and the crew are easing us into the race as the two towns are only 50 miles apart. Mile for mile, however, it is a stunning ride.
The ride rolls down the Roaring Fork River along a trail that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen past the Maroon Bells. Of course, one would need to take a side trip to get the beautiful view.
Day two, Monday, June 13, might be the Queen Stage, beginning in Aspen, riders nearly immediately start the 85-mile day climbing. And this is not just any climb. This is 19 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. The last three miles are the worst at around 7% to the top of Independence Pass. After that, it’s a fast dive down to Twin Lakes.
From the lakes, riders take a left and head to the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. This year, the ride passes through on to Fremont Pass, 12 miles averaging 1.5%, maxing out at 7% and 11,318 feet. Riders bomb down the north side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.
For the past two RTRs, the ride has taken an extra day in one of the towns. Two years ago, we stayed an extra day in Steamboat Springs. Last year, we rode from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument and back. This season, Day 3, June 14, the route takes an extra day in Copper Mountain Resort to tackle the Copper Triangle. The 78-mile route takes riders back over Fremont Pass, past Leadville, over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, over the Red Cliff Bridge, through Minturn and Vail and finally over Vail Pass before returning to Copper.
On Day 4, June 15, riders descend a snaking bike trail from Copper to Frisco, past Dillon Lake, through Silverthorn and north to Ute Pass. Four years ago, Chandler and the gang took riders over gravel roads into Kremmling. The route is now part of RTR lore. This time around, riders will see some of those same roads, eventually taking riders into the remote resort town of Grand Lake. This is tied with Day Two as the longest-milage day at 85 miles.
This takes us to Day 5, June 16, and the whole reason that I can’t possibly miss this ride. It’s a short day at only 49 miles, but it’s over the famous Trail Ridge Road; more than 20 miles of climbing at around 4.5% to over 12,100 feet above sea level. The climb takes riders from the shore of Grand Lake, through arid pine meadows, through aspen stands, past the habitat of moose, elk and big horn sheep, eventually out onto the alpine tundra. Riders enjoy views of the Never Summer Range, the Continental Divide, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, as well as the Alpine Visitor Center, Rainbow Curve and the fast, winding descent into my town, Estes Park.
Home of the world-famous, and slightly creepy Stanley Hotel, Estes Park made a big deal out of hosting the 2012 RTR. My town had a big party with local musicians and great food. My town knows how to entertain.
As luck would have it, the ride comes through Estes Park on a Thursday, which is Farmers’ Market Day, so be sure to swing by Bond Park as you arrive to get some refueling goodies.
Come see our town, our fun and my favorite bike shop, the Via Bicycle Cafe! Come get coffee, pie, BBQ, all great in Estes Park. Yes, I’m biased, but I love this town and you will, too.
Riders enjoy Friday, June 17, Day 6’s mostly-downhill ride out Devils Gulch and the Switchbacks, through Glen Haven, through local rider-favorite Masonville, around Horsetooth Reservoir and finally, into Fort Collins.
The six-day ride will reward any rider fit enough to make the journey, with vistas, new friends and great stories. I love this ride and would urge any rider to register the lottery before February 28. The organizers, Chandler Smith, Renee Wheelock, Liz Brown and an army (that’s no exaggeration) of volunteers, work hard to put on a great ride and I have never been disappointed. It will be the most challenging, most enjoyable week of your riding season.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going training!
So, I picked up a generic carbon frame, Step, at VeloSwap this year. I’m not sure what to expect, but I will tell you as soon as I can. I took it down to Boulder’s Sports Garage on Wednesday. The other thing I will get to comment on is the Pro Bike Fit. I have no doubt the resulting fit will be great. It will merely be a matter of how great. I will have a new Specialized saddle and a new handlebar, as well as position. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m looking at a bunch of fun stuff for winter training. While down in Boulder, I picked up the Pearl Izumi Elite AmFib tights for $170. It has a laminated finish across the front of the legs and on the butt to protect the rider against road spray. Just sitting around in them, yes, I’m just sitting around while writing this, they feel snug and warm. They also have a gaiter and cuff at the bottom. They have a strategically-placed flag over the top of the actual tights, where the suspenders begin. As I have not ridden in them, yet, I can’t comment on the chamois, other than identifying it as their Elite 3D. So far, so good. I will wear them in Estes Park’s infamous wind probably right after completing this entry.
I have a thing for high-end bike clothes, but my beautiful wife is in charge of the money. And for good reason. So, I pick and choose which high-end stuff I get. I have been riding in the cold with the Rapha deep winter cycling cap for the last year. It is great. The web site claims it is windproof and water resistant. I can agree, as I’ve ridden with it through the late fall, this year and the late winter, last year. The liner is Marino wool. When you sweat in it, take it off for a while, then put it back on, it can feel damp and cold. Once back on, it keeps your head good and warm. The brim is long enough to block sun and snow from the top of your glasses, but not so long as to block your view. The back and side fabric, described as the rearguard, is ribbed and comfy, not restricting head and neck movement. Black and understated, it will match anything. It’s a bit pricy at $80, but a quality piece of cycleware. I have washed it over and over in the last year and it has pilled, a bit, but has retained its shape. Don’t put it through the dryer, however. The insert in the bill will likely be ruined.
My town is slowly coming around. By Monday, November 4, US 36, linking Estes Park to Lyons, will reopen, about one month ahead of time. The Colorado and Utah National Guards have done great things in help us link more directly with the rest of the world.I plan to get out in the next few days, before the road opens, to ride the road at least half way down, to about Pinewood Springs. I’m hoping there is more of a shoulder to the road, as I’ve wanted to ride the 20-mile stretch for years. The lack of any real shoulder is a big deterrent for me, however. It will be very nice to only drive 45 minutes to Boulder next week, in stead of the 90 minutes it now takes.
We still have a month until the Big Thompson Canyon opens. We don’t know when Devils Gulch Road, the road through Glen Haven, will be open. We’ll hope for the best.
Come up and see Estes Park, by two wheels or four. It is still a beautiful little town and worth the drive. On Friday, November 29, Estes Park celebrates the Holiday season with our Catch the Glow Parade. Bundle up, as it’s after dark, but it is filled with lighted floats and a child-like innocence. Afterward, plenty of restaurants have reopened for the visitors and could really use the business. Come see us.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
This weekend’s broadcast of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge beamed images of some of the world’s best cyclists all over the world, and with it, the vistas of Estes Park.
“America’s Race” started in Aspen on Monday, August 19, and wound its way through the Rocky Mountains, including through Northern Colorado and Estes Park, on its way to the finale in Denver. Race organizers boasted 200 nations and territories saw the race in its 600-plus mile journey through the state.
By the time the race reached Estes Park on Saturday, August 24, 114 out of the original 128 riders remained. Altitude seemed to be the biggest challenge to riders used to high points of 7,000 feet. Joe Dombrowski was looking forward to competing in the US with the support of Tour de France winner Chris Froome. Froome only arrived three days ahead of the start and suffered throughout the week of racing. Dombrowski developed a nose bleed, a condition he had suffered as a child. The bleed hadn’t stopped after two stages, forcing the young American to drop out.
Slovak sprinter and Tour de France Points champion Peter Sagan arrived two weeks ahead of the race in an attempt to acclimates. It seemed to pay off. Sagan nabbed the first stage win after a three circuit ride of almost 64 miles from Aspen to Snowmass and back.
The second stage began in aspen and quickly took the riders to dizzying heights, climbing first over Independence Pass, the Hoosier Pass and finally the short but steep Boreas Pass before plunging into Breckenridge. The 126.1-mile stage was battled out between BMC’s Mathias Frank, Garmin-Sharp’s young Australian Lachlan Morton and, surprisingly, big Peter Sagan.
Frank and Morton sparred for most of the day in the front breakaway before Frank was able to attack and make a gap on the last few yards of the Boreas Pass climb. Morton stayed close behind but could not catch the Swiss climber. Morton was able to hold of Sagan who showed impressive strength in ascending the last climb in enough time to nearly catch Morton on the run into Breckenridge.
“The altitude is the biggest difference,” said the stage winner, Frank. “In the Alps you finish at the altitude we’re already at (to start) here.”
Sagan would lose the Smashburger leaders’ jersey by 11 seconds, but it was Morton, not the stage winner Frank, who would wear the golden fleece to Steamboat Springs on Stage 3.
The third stage headed north out of Breckenridge on a 106-mile route that saw the race’s elder statesman, German RadioShack rider and fan favorite Jens Voigt, spend most of the day driving the break. Voigt and four other rider, none of whom threatened the overall standings, raced away from the pack over the day’s first climb, Swan Mountain, and stayed away, working together nearly to the foot of the day’s big climb.
Just shy of the Rabbit Ears Pass climb, the 41-year-old Voigt pulled away from the rest of the breakaway, much like he had done to take a stage win in last years Pro Challenge. Voigt lead the race over the KOM point on the pass and down the west side. Team Cannondale was not going to make it easy, however.
Peter Sagan’s squad, with help from Argos-Shimano and Optum-Kelley Benefits, swallowed up the flagging breakaway, leaving the veteran, Voigt, alone in the lead. With a long, flat final six miles, the peloton reached speeds of 40 mph, catching the German nearly within sight of the finish.
“I was disappointed,” said Voigt. “But I’d rather get caught then get in a crash.”
Shortly after the catch, with about two miles to go, wheels touched and several riders went down. Some went to the hospital, the most rolled across the line. Those who were caught behind the crash were awarded the same time as the winner, as the crash occurred so close to the finish.
At the finish, it was again the Terminator, Peter Sagan, who collected the win, beating Luka Mezgec of Argos-Shimano.
Stage four was marked by the organization as the Queen Stage. The route took riders 103 miles, but included the long steep climb of Bachelor Gulch.
“That thing (Bachelor Gulch) is incredible,” exclaimed King of the Mountains contender Matt Cooke of the Jamis-Sutter Homes team. “I’m just impressed that anyone can ride up that pretty fast. It was steep and one heck of a course.”
The climb blew the peloton apart. Groups of two and three remained after Colombian rider Janier Acevedo of Jamis followed Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson, Tejay van Garderen and Matias Frank of BMC as they chased down a solo break by Mick Rodgers of Saxo-Tinkoff. Rogers had been the lone survivor of the early break, but was caught and dropped by the elite riders.
In the end, Acevedo and Colorado native van Garteren worked together to drop Danielson and cross the line in Beaver Creek. Acevedo got the stage, but van Garteren got the yellow jersey.
Van Garteren tightened his grip on the leaders’ jersey in the next day’s individual time trial on Vail Pass. The ten-mile route saw van Garteren take out the win in yellow, just four seconds ahead of Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky.
The sixth stage from Loveland to Fort Collins would be the only real chance for anyone to catch the young Fort Collins native, van Garteren. While a large, 15-man break got away early and carried a 2-minute lead over the climb of Devils Gulch and into Estes Park, Sagan’s Cannondale squad came to the fore and crushed all hope of a breakaway win. After a few scares on the climbs around Horsetooth Reservoir, Sagan roared across the finish line on Mountain Avenue in Old Town, his third sprint victory and the last he needed to secure the Points Category win.
In Denver, riders got a break from climbing, ascending and descending only 30 feet for each of the eight circuits from the Capitol Building on Broadway and Colfax, east to City Park, back to Speer Blvd, then back to the Civic Center Park.
A breakaway formed early and was again chased down by Team Cannondale, giving Sagan his fourth win in seven stages. Van Garteren finished safely in the pack to claim the overall victory. The win was van Garteren’s second major stage race GC victory this season, after May’s Tour of California.
Sagan easily took home the green Clif Bar Points jersey. Matt Cooke won the Nissan King of the Mountains competition. Early race leader Morton won the Colorado State University Best Young Rider competition and Ben King of RadioShack-Leopard Trek won the FirstBank Most Aggressive Rider jersey for his efforts throughout the race.
At the end of the podium presentations, Christian Vande Velde was given special recognition as the USAPCC was his final pro American race. Vande Velde will retire at the end of the season after a carreer stretching back to 2008.
All images copyright Walt Hester Photography. Visit WaltHester.com to see all images from stages 6 & 7 of the 2013 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
For more on the race, go to usaprocyclingchallenge.com
After lurking quietly, a few seconds behind the leaders, Tejay van Garderen took huge time and a big step toward taking two big US races in one season. The Colorado native rode today’s Vail Pass time trial like the mature pro he is growing to be. After red-lining and blowing up two years ago, van Garderen rode the TT in a manner that was both calculated and crushing.
Van Garderen took control of the Smashburger leaders’ jersey on Thursday’s stage in which he attacked with Colombian climber Janier Acevedo of Jamis-Hagens Berman up Bechalor Gulch. Today, on the climb up Vail Pass, van Garteren hung 1:02 on rival and fellow Coloradan Tom Danielson and 1:17 on Lachlan Morton, tightening his grip on the yellow jersey.
The famous 10-mile route starts in Vail and averages about two percent until riders get out of town, then tilts up to five percent and stays there for most of the climb. Levi Leipheimer set a course record when they road here in 2011, paving the way to his Pro Challenge overall victory. Van Garderen may repeat the feat.
Van Garteren smashed the course record, crossing the line in 25:01.94. Garmin Sharp rider Andrew Talansky had held the lead and the record for a while until van Garderen, the last to leave the start house, finished his ride.
“It was certainly a tough effort,” explained van Garderen in the post-race press conference. “I don’t even know how to describe it. Up there, your lungs are searing in the thin air. You have to remind yourself that it’s okay. I was surprised that I got the stage win because I felt pretty bad coming in there at the end. Hopefully we can hold this jersey through Denver.”
Van Garteren holds the leaders’ jersey. BMC teammate Lawrence Warbasse took over the Best Young Rider on the Vail Pass, by four seconds over Swede Tobias Ludvigsson of Argos Shimano, and five seconds over former BYR Lachlan Morton. Matt Cook officially won the Nissan King of the Mountains jersey yesterday. He will be the KOM winner all the way to Denver on Sunday. Cannondale’s Peter Sagan hangs on to the Clif Bar Points jersey. That jersey may be decided on Saturday, but would take a major implosion or crash for Sagan to lose the green jersey.
Saturday’s sixth stage starts on the east side of Loveland, rides north on the east side of I-25 to Windsor for the first sprint of the day, before heading back south, then west for the second Clif Bar sprint in downtown Loveland. Soon after, the riders begin the long climb through the Big Thompson Canyon. About nine miles up the canyon, riders turn off of US 34 to follow the North Fork of the Big Thompson River to the feed zone in Glen Haven. For most of this time, riders are climbing grades between 4-6 percent. About a mile west of Glen Haven, the road take a sharp, rude pitch upward.
The Glen Haven Switchbacks a popular test for riders in the Northern Front Range. On Saturday, the 10 percent, 1.3-mile climb will be the final King of the Mountains points of the Pro Challenge.
The riders then spill into Estes Park for a loop around town, including the last Clif Bar Sprint Point right on Elkhorn Avenue in front of the town hall and Bond Park. The race heads toward Rocky Mountain National Park’s Headquarters, but turns short of the gate, heading south up the 7 percent grade of Mary’s Lake Road. The route traces the edge of the small lake before turning north on South Saint Vrain Avenue back toward downtown Eses Park. The riders turn right on Big Thompson Avenue to head east out of town and back down the Big Thompson Canyon. The run into Fort Collins will not be a freewheeling descent, however.
The race takes a familiar and popular route north from US 34 through Masonville to the climbs of Horsetooth Reservoir. The short, punchy, steep climbs may temporarily break up the peloton, but the hard men will have some time to regroup before the race blasts into Old Town.
The race comes into Old Town Fort Collins along Armstrong, before briefly turning north on Peterson, then sprinting for the finish on Mountain Avenue, just on the east side of College Avenue.
Peter Sagan will, again, be the man to beat on Saturday, though Danielson’s Garmin Sharp may try to reverse their current 1:42 deficit. It would take a monumental effort, however, especially with so much rolling and flat terrain toward the end of the stage.
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.
So the first day of the 2012 Ride the Rockies is in the books. It was a fun and beautiful ride, cruising the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I had to admit, I liked knowing that the climbing was done at 48 miles in. I’m so tired and achy.
It was climbing for better than 45 straight miles, almost from the moment we got out of Gunnison. We had a few flat spots, like the bridge across a narrow part of he Blue Mesa Reservoir, to the big point along the way.There were plenty of picture opportunities as the striped rock of the Painted Wall beckoned. It seemed wasteful not to stop, with such great vistas spread out before us. The views of the San Juans far south of the canyon also helped to take our minds off of the heat and stinging pain in our legs.
After the climbing, there was a steep, bombing descent, followed by a long run into Hotchkiss. I didn’t have the sense to take it easy over the last10 miles, and hammered like a crazy person all the way in.
The ride organizers, who have done this for more than two and a half decades, know exactly what a tired rider need. At the finishing town, a small, mostly agricultural West Slope community of Hotchkiss, massage therapists worked out knots, the smoothy booth provided replacement calories and the local school parents and kids made dinner and lunch.
And so, now I am off to bed. Visions of a bored $8,000 race bike dancing in my head. Tommorow, an Aid Station rundown, as well as a look at the Specialized Venge Pro DA.