Mount Evans

IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO

Nine years ago I flew in from San Diego to attend a sports officials conference in Denver. I rented a bike in Idaho Springs and rode to the summit of Mount Evans. My legs were like Jello and I said I would never do this ride again. Once was enough. Until today.

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The last couple of years I was curious what the effect of riding a week about 10,000 feet may do to my ability. So this year I did it.

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The section from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake

I went to Idaho Springs with this new found fitness level. And my own bike. I remember in 2007 that I could not drink enough water. Although my plans were to include bringing a Camelbak, I forgot that at home. But I did throw two extra bottles of water in a backpack which I wore.

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The section from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake

It was near 70 degrees (20 C) when I left the parking lot at Idaho Springs at 8:00 a.m. The first 14 miles are relatively easy, well the first seven miles are definitely easy. And I was taking it easy. I was reliving the events of last week’s Ride the Rockies when I was startled by Mike from Kansas City passing me at Mile 8. Initially going as far as Mile 11, I convinced him to ride to Echo Lake (Mile 14) and we chatted the whole way.

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Entrance to Mount Evans Road at Echo Lake

There was a line of cars waiting to enter the Mount Evans Auto Road. I joined two other cyclists talking about the admission fee ($3) when a ranger came and told us that we didn’t have to wait and just to go on in. Sweet deal.

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14 Miles to the Summit

We started up the road together but after taking one photo I pulled over. My phone said that memory was full and I stopped to delete photos to free up some space. I would be rewarded for that.

About two miles up the road I saw a bear amble across the road. I could not react quickly enough to photograph him but the road cut through a hillside. The bear came from the lower section, crossed the road, then continued up the hillside into the trees.

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Echo Lake

I did not have the benefit of a Garmin tracking my ride nine years ago. I would be curious to know how this ride compared. Maybe not well.

I wanted to keep my heart rate low. I did. About three hours in Zone 1, 23 minutes in Zone 2, and I never went into Zones 3, 4, or 5. To say I didn’t push myself would be an understatement.

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But I just kept my pace steady. I tried at times not to look too far in the distance because all I could see was the road cutting through the rocks ahead. I won’t say I remember every turn from nine years ago but much of it was familiar.

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Switchbacks near the summit

However, one section I misremembered was Summit Lake. When I approached it it was nothing like I had pictured except it was still on my right. The road dipped down more than I remembered and the lake wasn’t at all how I pictured it.

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Summit Lake

The climb is a slog. It just keeps going and going. Above the tree line the road is paved but the freezing caused whole sections to buckle. It’s not bad going up because of the low speed but makes for a rough ride coming down.

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Mountain goats at the summit

Nine years ago I tried to pedal out of the saddle (standing up) and immediately sat down. I got dizzy quickly. Today I could stand with no issues. I think one week of riding at altitude made that easier for me. But yet, I think I was slower. One week at altitude may not offset 20 pounds and nine years.

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At the summit I took a couple of pictures then left. I had intended of staging my arrival by handing my phone to a stranger then going back down 200 yards or so then coming back up. But really, there is no great summit moment. Just a parking lot that people are trying to get into.

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Nine years ago I went hypothermic on the descent. Today I carried a vest and arm warmers and that was enough. I was glad to have them but would have been okay without.

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Tried to capture how steep the drop off is but I didn’t. Trust me. It’s steep.

Leaving the summit, the first five miles aren’t a lot of fun. Visually it’s hard to see how steep the road descends. At times it looks like it may go down 1-2% but is probably 6-7%. The bike wanted to fly. But every 50-100 yards was a big crack in the road. Those aren’t fun hitting at 25-30 mph.

At Summit Lake there is a bit of a climb. It was no problem this time although a 28 mile downhill uninterrupted would have been nice. The farther you descend the better the road gets.

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Beautiful Idaho Springs

Once back to Echo Lake I had a 14 mile descent on beautiful pavement. I took off my vest and warmers because the temperature at 10,600′ was a balmy 75 degrees. From there I let it roll all the way back to Idaho Springs.

Nine years ago this was a major accomplishment. Today, it was just another ride. But a ride in which I saw a bear.

 


Texas 4000

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, COLORADO

Seven years ago I received a message from a 17 year-old referee wanting to officiate in the WAGS Tournament. Thus my friendship began with Vanessa Beltran. When she was in DC she told me about the Texas 4000.

My affection for and affiliation with the Texas 4000 has grown from that day. Today was the day for me to ride from Denver to Boulder with the Texas 4000.

I arrived before their dedication circle. I met my “Bicycle Buddy,” Ayesha Kang. Or I met her again, since I actually met her in October in Austin at the Livestrong Challenge.

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Dedication Circle

I dedicated my day to Jacob Grecco, Alex Shepherd, and Jamie Roberts.

I was assigned an all girls’ group, Ayesha’s group. Out of the 20 riders, 13 were women and only seven were men.

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They had the turn by turn directions and I was only along for the ride. We stopped a lot. And we stopped at stop signs, even when it was visibly clear. One of the riders made it a point to state that the Texas 4000 stops at stop signs. I can also state that they have extensive safety training, have to ride a timed century, and ride at least 2000 miles before they ride their first mile with the Texas 4000. This group does it right.

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Ayesha now rides for Team Jacob

We meandered. Back tracked. But it was all good. We only had gone 15 miles when we came to their rest stop. One of the riders, Alex Lawrence, had family in Denver and brought out a big lunch. Her family was very proud of her to to serve the Texas 4000.

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After lunch, I wanted to keep riding but I knew there was no way I would ever find my way back. I said goodbye to Ayesha and the rest of her team. We had two alumni riders and two friends who rode out with us so I jumped in their group to ride back.

We did not back track. Maybe that was impossible. But we found a new, longer way. Life is good. At the Cherry Creek Dam in Denver, we stopped to wait for our riders. The Denver Century was being held and there was an Aid Station right where we stopped. We got some fresh cold water for our bottles, needed on this hot day. They didn’t seem to mind that we weren’t part of the Denver Century.

For one day I joined this cancer fighting team. It was a great day. Godspeed my friends.

 


Fort Collins

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO

On its sixth and final day, RTR will return to Northern Colorado with their eyes set on Devils Gulch and Horsetooth Reservoir; a stage originally planned for 2012 but rerouted by the High Park Fires. Cyclists will enjoy a 55-mile trek through Larimer County, touring the vibrant communities that not long ago were hammered by relentless rain and devastating floods. Now, standing tall as ever; a testament of community, will and grace; these towns are primed and ready for a parade of cyclists. The week will draw to a close as 2,000 friends – new and old –reflect and rejoice at Odell Brewing Company in a little town we fondly call Fort Fun!

One week goes by too fast. Hard to believe this is the last day of Ride the Rockies.

I left the Comfort Inn and went back to RTR headquarters. I noticed a number of riders were just jumping on course and going without going back to RTR headquarters, and who could blame them? But I rode uphill and went to the official start line, not to be pure in my ride but simply to meet my riding partners.

David and Christine were at the start. I sort of ignored the actual profile believing, as I told them, that we had a 20 mile downhill followed by a mostly flat run-in to Fort Collins. I was partly right. We had a 20 mile downhill.

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Looking at Estes Park with the Rocky Mountain National Park in the background.

We rolled down through Big Thompson Canyon. It was here in 1976 that a flash flood killed 143 people. The canyon is gorgeous and made for a nice descent to Loveland.

It was a perfect ride except when we were in the lowest part of the canyon. At first it appeared the highway department was doing some road work but it became more apparent that a truck hauling asphalt came by and was dropping asphalt. There was a stream of asphalt in the west bound lane. Although we were going east, the cars were trying to avoid it and black tar covered pebbles were flying towards us in our lane. Yuck.

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Big Thompson River

We turned on Buckhorn Road for a back road ride to Fort Collins. I expected a flat or maybe “lumpy” finish. This was anything but that. We stopped at Aid Station 2 where Christine caught up with her brother, Don, who joined us for a bit.

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We came to the Horsetooth Reservoir. There were three sections that appeared to be spillways but I think they were just dam retaining walls. All were close to the water and then featured a neat little climb up away from the water. These were some of the steepest grades we had all week. Many people were walking. (Not us, of course.)

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But what comes up .. must come down. On the last one I saw a real nice descent. I let it go. I was quickly up to 51 mph, my top speed of the week, when I saw a 35 MPH speed limit sign and two policemen. Oh well. If they were busting cyclists on this descent they had me. I just got down lower in my tuck and rolled by. And waved.

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Random finishers

The roll in through Fort Collins was nice. This is a very pretty city. We continued to O’Dell’s Brewery where the finish line festivities were being held.

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My car was in a lot next to the finish. Had I had my keys with me I could have put the bike away. Instead, I had to retrieve my luggage from Alpine Cycling and take all of it to the car. Then I went back for Terry Moran’s bike. He had gone home on Tuesday but Alpine moved his bike to Fort Collins so I could take it home.

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After the ride I searched out the Smoothie folks for one last Smoothies. I found a Polish Sausage to celebrate then waited for the closing ceremonies. I didn’t win the bike but heard some facts about the ride: Youngest rider was nine; Oldest was 82. Every state except West Virginia was represented. Ten countries were represented as well.

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Throughout the week we passed some amazing cyclists. I saw a blind cyclist – hopefully he was stoker on a tandem. There are always some hand cyclists, often with Ride to Recovery. There is a guy I met two years ago who has no hands – just prosthetic hooks. Since he can’t brake using hands, he has a “butt brake” where he slides back on the saddle and it applies pressure on a bar connected to a braking system. Then there is “Tim.” He rode a recumbent trike. No legs, and one functioning arm plus as prosthetic arm. Absolutely amazing.

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It was a good week and a good ride to end the week. Let’s do this next year!

 

Estes Park

ESTES PARK, COLORADO

It’s the shortest day of the week at 49 miles and the day that cyclists will fall hard; hard in love with the majestic state of Colorado. West to East, across the Continental Divide, Trail Ridge Road hugs high alpine ridges with stunning views near and far. Cyclists will be treated to 11 miles above 11,000 ft. with many scenic overlooks and beautifully maintained roads all the way to Estes Park. Rocky Mountain National Park affords the most iconic ride in our Centennial State; and one you’ll treasure for a lifetime.

I left Daven Haven and rolled out to the headquarters. It was 59 degrees. I assumed a vest for Trail Ridge Road with arm warmers would be enough.

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Rolling out of Grand Lake

Almost immediately after turning onto U.S. 34 to go into the park the temperature dropped 25 degrees. That is if it ever was 59 this morning. We could see our collective breath as we rolled into Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Admission was free if they could see the RTR wrist band or bike tag. I rolled through the gate. Freezing. The temperature dropped to 34 degrees. My fingers were freezing. I regretted not bringing along long fingered gloves.

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I pulled into the Aid Station #1. The line for Flippin Flapjacks was incredibly long as was the line for the porta-johns. I left.

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I began the climb up Trail Ridge Road in earnest. I was getting warm. I unzipped the vest and let it dangle. I was feeling good.

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When I reached Medicine Bow Curve, a sharp right hander above the tree line, I turned into the wind. It almost blew me over. It was strong (estimated by me to be 40 mph) and cold (mid 30s). I pulled over simply to put my vest back on. I had to turn my back to the wind to get it zipped. Then I was off pedaling into the wind.

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It was harder pedaling into the wind than climbing. Reaching the Gore Range Overlook many people thought we were at the summit. We weren’t. I turned the corner and was hit with a wicked cross wind. I’d rather have the head wind than the cross wind. It was hard to control the bike even while going uphill.

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The next couple of miles could best be described as rollers. And then the descent began. A very dangerous descent. The winds made it wickedly dangerous. The bike had the wobbles.

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I wanted to let the bike go (which means go really fast) but it was prudent to proceed down with caution. Darn it. Once reaching the tree line the winds were mostly blocked. Then I could ride more freely (think: no brakes). I stopped to watch a group on horses cross the road. Then made my way to Estes Park.

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At the RTR Headquarters I spent a bit of time with Clare from the Hot Shot display. She explained to each and every rider who approached that what we think about cramps is completely wrong. She introduced us to her product which was part cinnamon and part chili pepper. It will fool the nervous system and make the cramps go away.

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While there I won a T-shirt. The DJ who appears at one Aid Station every day found it too windy up on Trail Ridge Road. He was in the parking lot. And he offered one of his Tour T-shirts to “the male with the longest hair.” There were already two guys there. One, a 12 year old boy, but his hair wasn’t very long. But there was a 20-something who did have longer hair. I sort of felt bad. But not.

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The afternoon cycling session was Allen Lim, PhD. He is a sports nutritionist and founder of Scratch Labs. He spoke about where cramps came from. What he said, an error in the nervous system, tracked what Clare has said earlier.

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Clare, from Team Hot Shot

After the session I met with Allen. I told him I had two questions. The first was about Floyd Landis on Stage 17 in 2006. Was it the Jack Daniels? Damn, you had good oatmeal? Or holy s–t?

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Allen Lim, Barry Sherry

To his credit Allen told me, along with Ron and Erlinda Kiefel, everything about that day in France (and not repeating it here). I also asked about cramps and he confirmed, without endorsing, what Hot Shot was offering. I’ll be carrying that with me.

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Riding Partners – but not today. Barry, Christine, David

 

Grand Lake

GRAND LAKE, COLORADO

The day will start fast as cyclists spin along the Summit County and Dillon Dam Rec Path from Copper Mountain to Silverthorne. Once past the reservoir, cyclists will head north en route to Ute Pass Rd.; a moderate climb with panoramic views of the Gore Mountain Range. At the bottom of the pass, cyclists will test their handling skills on a 13-mile stretch of compacted dirt as they navigate their way through the open range of Grand County. Once on US 40, cyclists will roll through Byers Canyon and Hot Sulphur Springs before finishing in Grand Lake; the Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and a first time-host community of Ride The Rockies.

Everything is relaxing once you get on the bike. Getting going was the tough part for me. Staying in a condo with a Jacuzzi, I didn’t get a chance to use it until … I woke up at 2:00 a.m. What a perfect time for a two hour Jacuzzi, no?

After going back to bed at 4:00 a.m., I was up at 5:30 a.m. I washed clothes in the condo last night and had the added task of repacking everything. I didn’t have as much time as I thought.

Christine Currie, told me her group was rolling out at 7:00 a.m. and invited me to join them. Time flew by too quickly and it was almost 7:00 a.m. I finished writing two Father’s Day cards for my dad then went to close up the condo. I took my bike down to the lobby and was shocked to see that Alpine Cycling was picking up our bags at 7:00 a.m. instead of 7:15 a.m. It was 7:00 a.m.

I saw most bags were picked up and I rushed back to the fourth floor to get my bags. I was in my socks. I left the condo key in the condo, grabbed the bags and took them to the lobby. Then it hit me. My cycling shoes were in the condo. And so was the number of the property management company. I asked a couple folks if they had the number to call and they did not. And Alpine was coming for my bags.

I thought I might have to ride 1/2 mile to check in in my socks, get a new key, then go back to the condo to rescue my shoes. Before my bags left I thought I should grab some sunscreen. I opened my cycling bag and there were my shoes. What a disaster it would have been had I ridden off in my socks and sent my shoes with Alpine. Crisis averted but not without a lot of angst. Way too much angst.

The clock was running. I already missed my cycling group. I rode to the check-in lodge and handed them two cards for my dad. I was told they couldn’t take mail as though their property doesn’t receive any mail ever. Ridiculous. They gave me directions to where I could find a blue mailbox to mail them myself. Back up in the village In the opposite direction. Geez!

By the time I found the mailbox and mailed the cards it was 7:30 a.m. I was well behind.

We left via a bike path, the same path that came off of Vail Pass yesterday. It was also the same trail we followed two years ago from Avon to Breckenridge.

It was gorgeous. It was narrow. And it was no place to try to take back time on riders already down the road. But I tried. A long line of 15-20 riders at a time were riding single file. And I was the guy trying to pass them all, but always calling out “on your left” and “thank you.”

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Barry going up Ute Pass

I made great time to Aid Station 1. Still, I can’t imagine making up more than 6-7 minutes over those first 20 miles. I pulled into the Aid Station, didn’t see anyone I knew, then left. I texted Christine and told her I was past Station 1 and she told me they were still there. At Flippin’ Flapjacks. I was three miles down the road and turned back.

Reaching Aid Station 1 again, I did not see anyone familiar. So I left. I assumed I would be riding solo today, which was OK.

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There was a water stop at the base of the Ute Pass climb. Many people were pulled over, if not to refill their water bottles, but to take off their cold weather gear they had on when they rolled it. It was 34 degrees when we rolled out. Garmin was registering 30 degrees about six miles in.

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Christine Currie

I started the climb and was feeling very good. It was a five mile climb and half way up the temperature was 70 degrees. I was sweating. I passed a woman with a head cover on under her helmet and thought how how she must be. Then I remembered. I had a head cover on.

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Riders climbing Ute Pass

Between not remembering I packed my shoes this morning and then forgetting to remove the head cover, it was a forgetful day. I did a U-turn to take off my helmet to remove my head cover. It also made for a nice picture. And just then Christine and David came riding by. So I jumped back on and we rode together the rest of the day.

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View at Ute Pass

Ute Pass, at 9600′, was a low one on this trip, but was a nice climb. I was prepared for a dirt road on the descent but was surprised with pavement for the first 3.5 miles. David and I took off chasing 50 mph. I looked down and saw 49.2 which was my high for the trip so far.

We found the 13 mile dirt road which wasn’t a true dirt road. Not quite chip and tar, it was pretty solid or hard although rough in spots. But one could roll pretty easily on it and no one really had to worry about gravel.

We met up with Christine’s brother, Don Currie. But we never found her two uncles.

Once off the dirt what remained was a 44 mile ride up to Grand Lake. We went through the picturesque Byers Canyon, one I went through in the opposite direction two years ago from Winter Park to Steamboat Springs.

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Byers Canyon

At a rest stop we were by a grand lake. I was informed that it was Lake Grandby. We rode for a while past the lake and climbed a little. As we approached Grand Lake there was a lake to the right. That was Shadow Mountain Lake. Apparently the smallest lake of all in Grand Lake, is Grand Lake.

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Daven Haven Cabins

It was an 85 mile ride but I already added six extra miles in the morning, maybe more since I rolled about and forgot to start my Garmin. I stayed at Daven Haven Cabins and my luggage hadn’t arrived. With no clean clothes to change into, I thought I would explore the town and complete a century. Well, there aren’t a lot of roads here. At least paved ones.

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Grand Lake from the Adams Tunnel

I followed one, West Portal Road, looking for Adams Falls. Instead I ended back at the lake and discovered that much of the water for Grand Lake leaves via a tunnel under the Continental Divide to provide water to Denver. Pretty neat engineering.

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I spent some time at the local summer stock theater talking to the young lady in the box office. We were two days too early before they opened. Little Mermaid was opening on Friday.

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Bridge connecting Shadow Mountain Lake with Grand Lake

I finished off the century and went and showered. Dinner would be a pasta dinner at the cabins. They had erected a tent and featured three kinds of pasta for $15. It was a pleasant evening and a good dinner.

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Dinner at Daven Haven

I powered up the toys and checked my data for the day. I was very surprised to see 50.27 mph. I hit 50 after all.

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Made it. Average speed is total time, not moving time.

 


Copper Mountain Loop

COPPPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO

It’s another big day in the saddle with stunning scenery and three notable climbs. This 79-mile stage, made famous by our good friends at Copper Triangle, will take cyclists back over Fremont; past the Tenth Mountain Division Memorial; across Red Cliff Bridge; with a quick and punchy climb up Battle Mountain. With Fremont and Tennessee Pass in the rearview mirror, a stroll through Minturn and Vail await; followed by a slow and steady grind over Vail Pass – a first-time feature of Ride The Rockies.

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Morning at Copper Mountain Village

Arriving Copper Mountain last night my legs were sore. They didn’t quite reach the Jello stage but they were sore. I can imagine that many riders were in the same situation.

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Headed up towards Fremont Pass

But it’s a new morning and I am ready to tackle the Copper Triangle. Yesterday’s 11 mile descent from Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain is now today’s warm up and a bit daunting. We would need a warm up because it was 37 degrees at wheels down (7:30 a.m.).

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Flippin’ Flpajacks

Christine Currie, riding with two uncles and her brother, met me and told me they were riding a less ambitious schedule. So we started out and headed up the pass. At the top I found Flippin’ Flapjacks, my first time eating here in four years. Usually there is a long line but today I just walked up and paid the $6 for all you can eat. It’s well worth it.

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A blind cyclists at Aid Station 1 – Hopefully a stoker on a tandem.

After my hearty breakfast, we headed down off Fremont Pass. I thought I’d might get a good speed going but there was a curve at the bottom of the descent and one above average cyclist was hogging the left lane. I did not want to pass him by crossing the yellow line So I settled on 47 mph.

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Red Cliff Bridge

We rode to Leadville then turned right towards Tennessee Pass. As we approached the bottom of Tennessee Pass, Christine told me that two years ago she had spread some of her father’s ashes here. I wish we would have stopped.

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Christine Currie riding beside Eagle River

We did a brief photo op at Red Cliff Bridge. The climb up Battle Mountain was nice but the descent down was even nicer. Beautiful vistas and many curves. Not sure if I prefer one steep straight descent or a winding curved road like this one.

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Railroad tracks in Minturn

From Copper Mountain to Minturn, just before Avon, these 55 miles were a repeat of two years ago when we road from Avon to Breckenridge. In the opposite direction. Of course the first 23 miles from Copper Mountain to Leadville were a repeat of yesterday’s ride from Leadville.

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Lower Section of bike trail near Minturn

We followed the beautiful Eagle River to Minturn then turned up Vail Pass. Here we turned on a bike path which I tracked on Saturday while riding the bus to Carbondale. I was thinking I’m sure glad I don’t have to bike up that path. And now I was.

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Vail

Interstate-70 crosses Vail Pass. It’s a grind for vehicles with its 6-7% grade most of the way. Parallel to the interstate is a bike path. But it doesn’t have smooth grades. It follows the contour of the mountain, sometime 2-3% and sometimes 12-15%. It would be much easier to stay on the highway, minus all the traffic, of course.

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Vail

At an Aid Station just slightly up the climb I stopped for a Smoothie. Two, in fact, as I poured them into my water bottle. I overheard the one intel for the climb. Right after crossing a bridge (it was actually going under I-70), there is a sharp left turn and a steep hill. If you are in the big ring you will be stuck in the big ring. I shared that with Christine and we had no problem.

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Climbing Vail Pass

We climbed, getting passed by a few riders but passing many. This section was one of the harder ones. There was about 2500′ of climb over 10 miles, at altitude. And not graded like the highway was.

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Entering Copper Village

Reaching the top we decided we would pass the last Aid Station except we were held at the top. There had been an accident on the bike path on the descent and the trail was closed. We were held for 23 minutes then, once released, the state highway patrol released us just like we were on an alpine slide – two or three at a time with 30 seconds in between.

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Copper Mountain Village

Not to worry, after seeing and hearing the emergency vehicles, no one was of the notion to bomb the descent on a bike path. We rode a comfortable pace, passing just one super cautious rider.

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Scott Mercier

The afternoon seminar featured Scott Mercier. You probably never heard of Scott although he was in the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992. When he turned pro and signed with US Postal Cycling, he was offered a training program which consisted of EPO. He made a decision to walk away from pro cycling.

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Ron Kiefel, Barry Sherry, Scott Mercier

Scott was humorous and serious. His message was ultimately about integrity. He holds no bitterness to the hundreds who joined the European peleton in the 1990s and 2000s and accepted the team doctors’ training plans consisting of performance enhancing drugs. In my four years of attending Ride the Rockies it was clearly the best seminar I attended. Well done Scott!

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Red Cliff Bridge in background

 


Copper Mountain

COPPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO

Nothing screams Colorado quite like Independence Pass; the fourth highest paved roadway in the U.S., streaming with wildflowers and high alpine pools. The grade is tough and the road is narrow, but the views are well worth the grind. Once at the summit, cyclists will be rewarded with fast straights and brake-burning curves as they approach Twin Lakes. After touring the famous mining community of Leadville, it’s one last punch over Fremont Pass – home of the Climax Molybdenum Mine – before a fantastic descent to Copper Mountain Resort.

I went to breakfast at the Limelight Hotel. I proudly wore my Pittsburgh Penguins jersey (cycling) in celebration of the Pens winning the Stanley Cup last night. While I was downstairs a woman saw me and told me she was a Sharks fan from San Jose. Sorry (not).

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I rolled out of Aspen shortly after 7:00 a.m. Almost immediately the climb up Independence Pass began. I rolled past Aid Station 1 (too crowded). I passed many people saying “On your left, and Let’s Go Pens!” I wasn’t pushing myself but neither was I completely lazy when three women passed me. One was the Sharks fan, Christine Currie.

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The three of them broke up and I found myself riding with Christine. We rode together to the summit of Independence Pass. There we went our separate ways although not by design.

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After 15 minutes I began the descent off Independence Pass. I am always chasing 50 mph and I figured if Christine had ridden ahead I might catch her. And I did. We talked all the way to Aid Station 3 then rolled out together to Leadville.

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Once in Leadville, the trek up Fremont Pass was a repeat of two years ago. And I remembered it well.

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From the top of Fremont Pass it was an 11 mile descent to Copper Mountain. I was chasing 50 mph but there was a pretty formidable headwind. I only hit 48 mph.

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We arrived at Copper Mountain. Ron Kiefel was coming out and we talked with him briefly. I found my Condo, the Mill Club, then got a slice of Pizza for dinner. I was dead tired. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ride Copper Triangle tomorrow.

 


Aspen

ASPEN, COLORADO

This year’s tour starts in the shadow of Mt. Sopris and the charming community of Carbondale; a small town with big views surrounded by ranchlands and unending Colorado sky. The 50-mile day will treat cyclists to Missouri Heights – perched on a bluff – then meander along the Rio Grande Trail en route to Aspen.

It was 46 degrees when Terry Moran and I rolled out of Carbondale at 7:00 a.m. We picked up the Rio Grande rail trail and followed it along the Roaring Fork River for five miles.  I told Terry I would commit to riding with him only on the last day to ensure that he made his flight. He said he figured as much as the climbs would separate us.

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We turned onto the first climb and Ride the Rockies was officially underway.  It was the last I would see Terry. The air was thin and I was breathing heavy. But I felt good enough to roll past Aid Station 1.  I caught a guy wearing a Five Borough ride jersey and we talked all the way to station 2.

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Terrance Moran at Ride the Rockies

It’s a funny thing about talking to people on the road. Often it is without introduction of names. If you roll into a rest stop together, as we did, there may or may not be an expectation that you roll out together. In this case, I lost my mark.

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Leaving the stop I had a brief conversation with the people at the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Once back on the road we had a pretty good descent led us back to the Rio Grande Trail.

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Aid Station 2

The trail splits the Roaring Fork Golf Course. I stopped for 10 minutes to talk to one of the guys at a cart path intersection.  He told me this is a private course and hard to get on to. He also stated that Lance Armstrong comes out to play occasionally.

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Splitting Roaring Fork Golf Course

Eventually we were directed off the trail back to a road. A road which seemed to never stray far from the trail. Briefly I was with a man from Washington and a woman from Charlotte. But I noticed the trail and road never really separated. I told them I was going to jump back on the trail. It was more pleasant (no traffic).

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Except for once when I jumped back onto the road to Aid Station 4, I just stayed with the trail. I didn’t stop at the station but went through it to pick up the trail again. Then we started to get serious separation. The trail climbed higher while the road stayed near the river.

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I met a cyclist coming from Aspen. Fully loaded. He said he was just wandering. He started in Tucson but couldn’t find a campground in Aspen. He thought he might head to Canada but really just wanted to know if he could by a beer in Carbondale.

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Rio Grande Trail near Aspen. Dirt.

I stayed on the trail thinking I was doing better than everyone else. Then it turned to dirt. Oh well. It was only 2-3 miles into Aspen.

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Riding into Aspen I looked over and saw Don Sheppard on the road. I first met him in Italy two years ago.

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Once I reached the school I checked in with my friends from the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. While there seeing old friend, Lauren Hunt, two cyclists rolled in I had met this morning at the hotel. Micha and Neil had ridden the Sellaronda last year so we chatted about the route.

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Bike Corral in Aspen

I went to the hotel, the Limelight Hotel. It was 11:30 a.m. and my room wasn’t ready. I then escorted two cyclists back to the school/headquarters. I went back to check on the room. Still not ready. This time I went to eat. I found CP Burger. While I was waiting I heard the name Lance Armstrong called. When I ordered the young man told me when my order was ready they would call “Sidney Crosby.” I took that as an omen. The Penguins would win the Stanley Cup tonight.

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The cycling seminar featured the real Lance Armstrong.  It was a Q&A session with tour host, Ron Kiefel. It was a full house. Lance said his only regret was the way he treated people. He wished he could do more with cycling, but he’s banned. And he worries about the Livestrong Foundation.

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Lance Armstrong and Ron Kiefel

Lance said he owed an apology to each of us; those who defended him over the years. But he didn’t stick around to talk or apologize.


 

Carbondale

CARBONDALE, COLORADO

The day started out beautiful. Terry Moran and I left our hotel in Brighton, Colorado for the hour drive north to Fort Collins for the start of my 4th Ride the Rockies.

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Arriving Fort Collins, we were directed to a parking lot across from the Odell Brewing Company, which was the official ending point of RTR. We loaded our bikes on a truck and then boarded a bus for transport to Carbondale, the official start town of Ride the Rockies.

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The bus headed south to Denver then picked up I-70 and took that west. We had secured front row seats in the bus and had awesome vistas. I had traveled as far as Idaho Springs before but that was the farthest west I had been on this highway.

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This was my first time through the Eisenhower Tunnel and the view was spectacular. We went over Vail Pass and I was marveling at the bike path that was sometimes next to I-70. We followed I-70 through the Glenwood Canyon, truly an engineering masterpiece.

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Our route took us to Glenwood Springs which looks like a nice place to visit someday. We went through Glenwood Springs and made our way to Carbondale. Our sunny skies soon turned gray.

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Logistically, Day 0 is always the toughest at RTR. We went to the registration tent and got our credentials. Then we took out luggage and boarded a bus to our hotel. After dropping the luggage at the hotel and waiting 20 minutes for the rain to subside, we took a bus back to RTR headquarters and picked up our bikes. The rain had stopped.

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I’m not sure what happened next. I told Terry I was going to go for a bike ride although I wasn’t leaving from the school. I had a backpack which I needed to offload. I followed a trail down to the hotel, stopping at a Subway for a sandwich to take back to the room. He did not go with me.

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With gray skies, I set out on my “explorer” route. I had studied some maps and had a general idea where I was headed but wasn’t entirely sure. I found the Rio Grande Trail which is a rail trail built on the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. It connects Glenwood Springs with Aspen and runs 42 miles.

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The followed the rail trail until it moved away from the main road. Then I jumped on the road and began climbing. I had planned to follow the road until I reach Crystal Springs Road but once I did I kept going instead. The road continued up and simply looked interesting.

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A view from Panorama Drive

I came to a road called Panorama Drive. Who would want to follow that? Me, that’s who. I rode that for about five miles until I was back at the entrance. I then turned and found Crystal Springs Road. What a wild descent that was. All fun all the time. It was five miles of nothing but downhill. Glorious downhill.

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Reaching Highway 82 I trusted my instincts and went left. Looking at a map later, right would have worked even better. But left got me seven miles instead of two back to the hotel. My instincts were a little off.

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This simply allowed me to retrace some of the earlier route although I was confused about why I ended up there. But more riding. Back at the hotel we got ready for an early night with an early roll out in the morning.

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Lodging was at the Days Inn. Mostly good but the bathroom was extremely tiny. Ride the Rockies starts tomorrow!