Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 6: Breckenridge to Golden

74 Miles
5,580’ Elevation Gain

I had such a great time doing Ride the Rockies.  Even though I am sore from six days on the bike, I am bummed that I'm not going to be getting back on the bike tomorrow to ride on to a new destination.  I actually felt that I was stronger today than I was on Day 1, despite the 460 miles and 30,000 vertical feet that I put on my legs this week.  

While no where near as cold as the first morning of camping, there was frost on the tent and grass when I awoke.  I decided that I'd wait till the sun was shining on the tent before getting started on my ride.  I packed up for the last time, loaded my gear onto the trucks and headed out of Breckenridge for the final day of Ride the Rockies 2014.   The first short climb of the day was the very familiar ride up Swan Mountain. After a quick descent, we started the climb up towards Keystone, A-Basin and finally the top of Loveland Pass.  I was surprised how great my legs felt and decided to ride past the Keystone aid station and straight up to the top of the pass.  In addition to just feeling great, we had a nice tail wind for most of the top part of the climb.  Upon reaching the top, I realized that my day was now mostly done even though I still had more than 50 miles left as most of the remaining mileage would be down hill.

My first stop was at the Loveland Valley aid station where the Davis Phinney Foundation folks had set up.  I stayed there only a few minutes to refuel and hydrate and then continued the long roll towards Golden.  The tailwind stayed at my back and miles quickly ticked away.  My next stop was 25 miles later when I rolled into the Idaho Springs aid station.  I met up with a bunch of other DPF riders and continue down the road.  What I didn't realize was that I was the last rider to pass through the new tunnel area before they closed it for 15 minutes to do blasting.  I didn't know this until the finish, but figured we'd somehow gotten separated and chose to press on.  

The only part of today's ride that was new to me was the climb up the backside of Floyd Hill.  I quickly realized that I wasn't missing much as the climb was hot and not very scenic.  After clearing the top of Floyd Hill, I'd only descended about a mile when my back tire blew.  It wasn't nearly as scary as I expected a blow out to be as I never came close to losing control.  I was mostly just clued in by the loud pop.  It was my first flat of the ride and wasn't too upset by it.  Besides, I don't want my tire changing skills to get rusty.  I was back on my bike in a few minutes and making the last short climb to the top of Lookout Mountain where I recently rode with Owen.  From the top of Lookout, I could see Golden just a few miles below.

It was such a bittersweet feeling as I rolled across the finish in Golden.  I was sad that the ride had come to and end but was so happy to see Rachel and Owen waiting for me.  The first thing I wanted to do was claim the new bike I'd won on the first day.  It is sweet.   Before heading home, we grabbed lunch on a patio by the finish to cheer in other DPF riders and then headed to the post-ride celebration a few blocks away.

I could not have done this ride with out the help of many people.  First, I need to thank Rachel for holding down the home front while I got to enjoy this wonderful week of riding.  Second, I am immensely grateful to the amazing staff and volunteers of the Davis Phinney Foundation who took such good care of me over the course of this week.  What a first-class organization.  Finally,  this whole thing never would have happened had John Sladek not given me this opportunity.  Thanks, John!  You're the best!

My data-  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/521386850
Morning traffic out of Breck
Stunning Summit County

The climb from Keystone up to A-Basin

Still skiing?

Still lots of snow as riders approached top of Loveland Pass

Top of Loveland Pass

DPF aid station at my home away from home- Loveland!

Golden!  The end is in sight

My new bike was waiting for me at the finish

Post ride celebrating at the DPF tent

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 5: Avon to Breckenridge

74 Miles
5,580’ Elevation Gain

Today’s ride was very familiar to me but was done in the opposite direction of how I have done it in the past.  The weather was clear but chilly when I rolled out of Avon around 7am.  The toughest thing about the day was a strong, persistent headwind that lasted most of the way into Breckenridge.  Wind is sort my cycling kryptonite.  Not only does it make the work much harder but is very psychologically taxing.  I’d much rather have one tough climb after another than a headwind and today I had both.

The first climb of the day was the beautiful climb from Minturn up to the top of Battle Mountain.  At the bottom of the valley winds the Eagle River and to the west rise the snow-capped summits of the northern Sawatch Range.  Hey, St. Petersburg Cycling Club, you are on notice- do not ride in the center of the lane the entire way up the climb.  It just takes a few yahoos like you to give all cyclists a bad reputation for holding up traffic.  The descent from Battle Mountain is short and quick and then begins the climb up to Tennessee Pass.  I’d never really thought much of Tennessee Pass, as the climb from the Leadville side of the pass is only like 500 ft.  While not terribly tough, the climb from the north side of the pass is quite respectable.  I also got my first ever view that I can recall of Ski Cooper which lies at the top of Tennessee Pass but can only really be seen when traveling north to south.  Owen may have a ski race there next season and was neat to see.

The DPF aid station was set up at the top and was my only aid stop of the day.  As always, I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and filled up my water bottles.  The view coming down from Tennessee Pass toward Leadville is one of my favorites as the real behemoths of the Rockies Mountains line up to the west- Massive, Elbert and Harvard. The ride only skirted the eastern edge of Leadville and turned east toward Fremont Pass.  Due to my many years of riding the Courage Classic, the pass is second only to Vail in familiarity.  The best part of riding Fremont is the wide, clean descent on the eastern side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.  This is a great spot to try and push 60 mph on a descent.

After passing by Copper, we moved off the road and on to the bike path that parallels I-70 through Tenmile Canyon.  There was a 40-50 foot section at the top that was under about four inches of water.  Further down the path were remnants of several avalanches that had come through taking out whole sections of trees and covering the path in deep snow and debris.  The path had been plowed but there was still a wall of snow several feet high on either side of the path in these sections. 

After reaching Frisco, I sort of felt like I’d made it to the end of the ride even though there was still about 6-8 miles of gentle climbing south toward Breckenridge.  I reached the ride finish about five hours and fifteen minutes after beginning it.  The site is nice but sort of oddly laid out.  I know that there are logistical limitations and that the ride organizers do the best they can, but you really do appreciate a convenient lay out like we had in Avon.  I set up my tent for the last time on the ride and once again got a prime spot.  Breck is a fun place to hang out and look forward to enjoying the rest of my day before I gear up for tomorrow, the last day of Ride the Rockies 2014.

My Data- http://connect.garmin.com/activity/519379467

Climbing Battle Mountain with Notch Mountain in background

Looking west on climb up Tennessee Pass

Descending Tennessee Pass for Leadville

Climbing to Fremont Pass

Bike path down Tenmile Canyon

RTR entertainment site in heart of Breckenridge

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 4: Steamboat Springs to Avon

82 Miles
5,139’ Elevation Gain

This morning, we bid farewell to Steamboat Springs and began our journey south to Avon.  I had a great time in Steamboat but won't miss two things about this stop.  First, there are flying insects the size of small aircraft buzzing around Steamboat.  I always had to remember to descend with my mouth closed. Second, due to a water supply issue, the shower trucks were set up like 1/3 of a mile away for the the camping area.  Having to make the long round trip walk after the ride was not terrible fun.

I was surprised that the camping area cleared out as early as it this morning.  I thought I was getting an early start at around 6:45am but only about a third of the tents remained when I finally got going.  For the second straight day, the weather could not have been better.  My biggest struggle for the first 30 miles was hydration.  Apparently, in my effort to start my day well hydrated, I overshot the mark.  By a lot.   I probably had to pull off to the side of the road 5 or 6 times.  I'll try to manage this a little better tomorrow.

I really enjoyed today's route.  The first twenty miles today were the same as the first twenty miles yesterday, but instead of turning west in Oak Creek, we continued south on Highway 131. The next twenty-five miles continued a slow steady climb with a bit of a tailwind.  Lots of sheep and cattle to be seen today.  There were also some very nice views of the Flat Top Mountains and a couple geological oddities too(i.e., The Finger).  I skipped the first two aid stations but was sure to stop at the third in Toponas for my daily peanut butter and jelly courtesy of the the lovely Davis Phinney Fountation volunteers.

After another short climb, we left the Yampa River drainage and dropped into the Colorado River drainage.  The descent down to the Colorado River was very clean and almost eight miles long.  I met up with a couple other DPF riders just before State Bridge and then started our last big climb of the day up and over to Wolcott.  The rider guide referred to it as a "monster climb", so I back off a bit after riding right behind Polly, the executive director of the DPF, for the the first mile.  I didn't want to run out of gas and tucked in behind a group of riders going at an easy pace.  I was surprised when the top arrived as soon as it did. It wasn't nearly as formidable I'd expected it to be.  Since I conserved energy on the climb, I decided I'd go hard all the way into Avon.  The finish in Avon was very familiar to me in that it is the exact same spot the Triple Bypass uses for their finish.  Avon is ok.  Nowhere near as much fun as Steamboat, but I'm sure I'll manage.

I understand that this is a tour not a race.  But I've figured out that if you decide to camp on Ride the Rockies, every day is a race and there are very real rewards.  The first big reward for riding fast is camping real estate.  There are definitely good, level, convenient spots and miserable spots at the far end of the field situated on a slope. The second reward is that you can set up your tent and stow your luggage before the almost inevitable afternoon rains roll through.  It might be fun if I do Ride the Rockies again to use hotels and not worry about having to beat my fellow rider to our next destination.

My data-  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/519379401

Leaving Steamboat Springs

Riding out of Oak Creek
Descending toward Flat Tops and into Phippsburg

The Finger (not sure which one)

Crossing from Yampa drainage into Colorado
Riding behind Polly and another DPF rider after the last big climb
Avon tent city

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 3: Steamboat Springs Loop

54 Miles
3,831’ Elevation Gain

Rolling out of Steamboat Springs

Climb out of Oak Creek
 Like today's route, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. It was nice that we will be staying another night in Steamboat Springs in that it allowed for a leisurely team photo and breakfast before hitting the road for the Day 3 ride.  While it was only a 54 mile "recovery" ride, today's loop to the south of Steamboat Springs offered 3,500 of mostly rolling climbing.  In fact, it reminded me a lot of the Ironman Wisconsin cycling course west of Madison. It was very pretty and pastoral and there weren't nearly as many riders as I suspect many took the day as a rest day. It was fun and uneventful and only took about three and a half hours, so there is not a lot more to say.  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Here's my data-
Rolling countryside

Happy cows

One of today's few straight roads

One of the many short steep climbs

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 2: Winter Park to Steamboat Springs

95 Miles
4,213’ Elevation Gain

What a difference a day makes.  While the morning was frigid, the appearance of the sun was greatly appreciated.  Today was really my first day of figuring out the routine.The process of eating, packing, breaking down the tent, loading my gear onto the trucks, and prepping my bike took about a hour and I was on the road shortly after 7am.  My bike did need a little attention before I could get rolling for it had a thick coating of ice across the entire frame.  The first 50 miles went by a blur.  With the exception of a stop at the Davis Phinney Foundation aid station in Hot Sulphur Springs to grab a sandwich for the road and to shed my warm layers, I pretty much cruised nonstop along the gentle downhill from Winter Park to Granby and then through Hot Sulphur Springs into Kremmling.  Kremmling was pretty much the mid-point of the ride and the start of the climb up to Rabbit Ears Pass.  The next 20 miles were an easy, gradual, rolling climb.  The grade never steep beyond 5-7% until the last two miles leading up to Muddy Pass.  By this point, I was pretty much on my own.  Most of the riders were behind me and I just had a chance to quietly pedal along and enjoy the scenery.

Much of the road between Kremmling and Muddy Pass has little to no shoulder, but the vehicles on the road were very considerate for the most part.  Some of the riders on the other hand need to loosen the hell up.  I know that mamils (middle aged men in lycra) are frequently derided and sometimes it is well earned.  Most of the riders on the tour are super nice, but there are some folks who just can't seem to chill out and enjoy themselves.  Or maybe they just find enjoyment in being a complete Richard.  I feel bad for the volunteers who get treated like garbage.  Fortunately, most of these guys have bikes that far exceed their riding skills so I was quickly able to put them behind me.

The only real climb of the day was the relatively short and easy climb from Muddy Pass up to East Rabbit Ears Pass.  While not terribly high, it was a fair bit cooler there and there was still lots of snow.  Rabbit Ears is a deceptive pass in that there is an east and west pass with a lot of rolling in between.  Every time you think you are about to begin the descent into Steamboat Springs, you are met with another short uphill.   After I actually got over the true west pass, the descent was short and fast.  I got into the finish area in Steamboat Springs shortly before 1pm.  Being one of the earlier riders, I had the pick of campsites.  The one I found should do me just fine for the next two nights.  Life is rough here.  I just enjoyed a massage, burger and beer and will soon listen to George Hincapie's seminar.  I'm hoping to make it into town this even and enjoy a soak in the Old Town hot springs.  I may not leave.

Here's my data-
Fresh snow on Winter Park
Scenery between Kremmling and Muddy Pass

The rabbit ears

East Rabbit Ears Pass, the continental divide.

My home for the next two night

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 1: Boulder to Winter Park

89 Miles
9,911’ Elevation Gain

Today was an adventure.  It started out as a perfect morning it Boulder.  To make things even sweeter, I won a new Trek cruiser bike at the starting line raffle.  I rolled out of the start just after 7am and started the long steady climb up Boulder Canyon to our first stop of the day in Nederland, renown for its eccentric residents and Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. I kept a slow steady pace and made it to the first aid station in a little under two hours.  I pushed on through, heading south on the Peak to Peak highway, until we reached Blackhawk.  It was rather satisfying to get to ride through Blackhawk as the town had prohibit cycling on city streets for a number of years.  We saw the first hints of coming weather as we started the climb toward Central City.  This typically isn't a cause for too much concern as weather usually rolls though an gives way to beautiful weather once again shortly thereafter.  The climb up to the Central City Parkway as we left Central City was extremely steep. Lots of folks just got off and walked it.  I really wanted to make it to the top on my bike and succeeded but my legs we burning by the top.  I had to and rest briefly.  Of course, it was at this moment that former Jelly Belly pro rider Alex Hagman came effortlessly zipping by on an identical bike to mine no doubt wondering if I was former teammate who had terrible let himself go.  With wounded pride but able legs I resumed the climb under gather thunder clouds.  As I started the descent down to I-70, the lighting and rain really let loose.  By the time I reach the bottom I was soaked but assumed that the worst of it was behind me.  I made a quick coffee stop in Downieville, about 55 miles in, and then continued north for the final climb up to Berthoud Pass.  It was rather discouraging when I notice the ominous clouds just above the pass, still 14 miles a ~4,000 vertical feet away.  Soon it was raining again, and then, as I neared the pass, the rain turn to snow and by the time I reach the pass around 3pm, we were enveloped in blizzard like condition. The state patrol was not allowing riders to descend the final 11 miles into Winter Park as a result of the conditions.  Hundreds of riders were forced to huddle in a small warming hut as we waited for buses to take us down to the finish. I made it down at about 4pm and was so grafeful for a warm shower and dry clothes.  It is now 7:20 pm and riders on buses are still showing up. See more here-http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25924785/berthoud-pass-blizzard-forces-ride-rockies-cyclists-need. Thankfully, Rachel and Owen had come up to cheer me on and had already set up my tent.  We had a awesome meal at Hernando's and I'm now just winding doing.  Not a bad day, bu certainly one that I had hoped to complete under my own power. Hopefully tomorrow will be nicer.
Boulder Canyon

The start in Boulder.

Tour de France ride George Hincapie in the BMC kit.

DPF Aid Station
Central City

Snow starts to fall.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ready to Ride

June 8-13, 2014
2014 Route Summary: 471 Miles

As a one car household, there are times when it can prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Owen had a birthday party to go to in the middle of the day, so I decided to ride to Boulder and make today a sort of prologue stage.  I had to meet a teammate for assistance in registration and told him I should be there around noon.  I left the house just before 10am, giving myself just over two hours to ride the 36 miles route I'd plotted out to Boulder.  The route I ended up doing is here-->

http://mapmyride.com/workout/599158005 .  DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ROUTE.   I lost my intended route shortly after passing through the downtown and spent the the next two hours weaving through Denver, Westminster, and Broomfield trying to find my. I went up and down, left and right, though industrial parks, road construction,  neighborhoods, commercial strips, around an airport and through the Flatiron Crossing Mall complex.  At one point, I dead ended at a wide stretch of Boulder Open Space and decided to just try riding my road bike over the single track mountain bike trail that looked like it went northwest in the direction of Boulder.  It did...and then turned left toward the mountains...and then turned left again so that I was now heading southeast toward Golden. Fortunately, I eventually intersected and E-W road and headed west toward Hwy 93.  By some miracle, I finally arrived the Ride the Rockies registration area at Fairview High School in Boulder at around 12:40pm.  What an idiot!

When I showed up at registration, it all got very real.  I was really going to ride this thing.  I just needed to pick up my jersey, wristband and bike numbers and would have everything I'd need to be on my way.  Lot of folks (out-of-towners I assume) had already set up their tents for the night out on the football field.  Inside, other folks were settling into the gym, the indoor option for those not using tents or hotels.  The idea of spending the night packed in a room with dozens of smelly, noisy, possibly crazy people doesn't appeal to me much and hotels are pricy, so I've opted for the tent thing.  Just not tonight.  Tonight, I'll enjoy one final evening in my over soft bed.

As I mentioned before, I will have the honor of riding with the Davis Phinney Foundation.  The last thing left for me to do in Boulder was to attend the team dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant named PastaVino. We enjoyed an excellent meal, met the Foundation staff and also met some of the other 31 riders on the DPF team.  The team was kind enough to let Rachel and Owen join me.  This is always good for me as I'm quite shy and probably would have just sat by myself like some kind of mute weirdo for two hours otherwise.  Owen was lucky enough to sit right next to Ron Kiefel at our table.
Kiefel is a seven-time Tour de France racer, Olympic bronze medalist and member of the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.  Kind of big deal.  Owen and Ron swapped riding stories and showed off bike crash scars.  It was pretty cool.  

At this point, I'm packed and ready to go.  But I have one very silly last bit of obnoxious name dropping.  The Davis Phinney Foundation is kind enough to do our laundry along the tour so that we can interact with normal people and not offer them with our odor.  Our laundry bags have are names on them.  But mine had someone else's name too, which had been crossed off.  My bag was originally for Connie Carpenter-Phinney's bag.  She won the gold medal in the cycling road race at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, as well as twelve U.S. national championships. She remains the youngest American woman to compete at the Winter Olympics.  It is a lame and nerdy thing to get excited about, but, hey, that's me.  I love my laundry bag.

Okay, let's ride.