Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ride the Rockies 2014 Recap

Well it's been just over a week since I finished Ride the Rockies 2014.  Ride the Rockies (RTR) is a 6 day, 471 mile ride that was from Boulder to Golden.  Each year the ride accepts 2,000 people via a lottery system.  Every year the route is different.  The route this year was to go from Boulder to Winter Park, Winter Park to Steamboat Springs, Steamboat to Steamboat loop, Steamboat to Avon, Avon to Breckenridge, and Breckenridge to Golden.  Along with the miles, this year route included plenty of climbing, just over 30,000ft to be exact.

My training up to the ride was good.  I was getting in just around 200 miles a week and had a big week of just over 300 miles.  After traveling around Colorado for 10 days and doing some hiking and cycling.  I was feeling good for the ride.

Boulder to Winter Park
I had already been in Boulder for a couple of days, so all I do logistically is get my truck to Golden for the week long parking.  I arrived at the high school around 11am and dropped my bike off and headed to Golden where a bus took us back to Boulder.  It was pretty easy logistically.  Once back in Boulder, I went to check in and also drop my bag off at my tent.  For this event, you can outdoor camp, indoor camp, or even use hotels.  I went with the outdoor camping.  However, I used Sherpa Tent Service.  This service would setup a tent for you with a sleeping bag, air mattress, and put your bag in there everyday.  This would come out to be useful soon!

The great thing about this ride was that it was very easy to meet and talk to people since I was doing this by myself.  The first night I went to dinner at a burrito type location called Illegal Pete's.  It was a good dinner and by 9pm I was asleep in the tent.

My plan was to be up and on the on the road by 7am on Sunday.  The forecast was calling for around a 40% chance of thunderstorms.  Colorado weather usually hits in the afternoon and with a 84 mile and 10,000ft of climbing day ahead, I knew it was going to be a long day.  I heard people talk that you never know what kind of weather you get in the summer, so I brought along leg/arm warmers and a rain jacket.  The ride started out by heading up the Boulder Canyon.  It was slow steady climb up the canyon.  You got to see the creek flowing strong and the towering walls of the canyon.  Once we came out of the canyon, the Rockies were in view at Neaderland site of the first rest stop.  I was told that you have to eat the Flippin Jack Pancakes.  These are pancakes made my guy with a giant griddle.  He can supposedly feed 500 people an hour.  I can see why with the large griddle and a machine that pours the batter onto it.  After the pancakes and a little rest, it was back on the road.  The road out of Neaderland again was climbing.  This time the views were constant of the snow capped peaks of the Rockies.  Once at the second aid station, I realized that I was kinda of out in front of everyone.  There were very few people at this aid station.  I had a quick PB&J and hit the road.  The road took us through Central City and Blackhawk.  Both towns, were built on the Casinos in the area it seemed.  The towns reseambled old west towns, but everything was new.  There were some tough hill short hill grades in these towns, but after it was a fast downhill in Idaho Springs.  At the rest stop, you could see a thunderstorm brewing in the distance.  I quickly hit the road again hoping to get out in front of it.  As I was riding to Empire, the clouds were getting black and had a pretty strong head wind, but by the time I arrived at Empire, I had cleared the storm before the worst of it.  At the aid station, I heard that it had hailed and stormed on people back in Idaho Springs.  I thought to myself that the worst was over!  From Empire, it was time to climb Berthod Pass and then decsend into Winter Park.  The climb up was nice with nothing to hard to climb.  As I was climbing, you could feel the temperature start to drop and see the clouds build again.  I reached the top and had a quick coke due to a feeling of low sugar levels.  After the coke, I was feeling pretty good, but it did start to get cold up there and it was SNOWING a little.  As I started the ride down, I soon saw a wall of white in front of me!  As soon as I hit it, it was raining, snowing, and sleeting for a 15 mile descent into town.  I kept my hands firmly planted on the handlebars even though I couldn't feel them.  I was shaking pretty good and was freezing.  However, once I got within a mile or two of town, my hands were a little warmer due to riding hard downhill.  I quickly dropped my bike off and headed to the tent.  This was the service was great is that I didn't have to worry about setting up a tent in the cold and rain!

I showered, warmed up, got a massage, ate a burger, and then a pizza and it was off to bed again by 9pm.

Winter Park to Steamboat Springs
The weather forecast for the night before was looking good.  A clear day with temps getting into the 60s.  However, we had to get over the cold morning.  It was in the mid-20s first thing in morning and not only that, due to the rain the night before my bike had ICE all over it. Chain, derailleur, brakes, and even the hubs were all frozen solid.  I had to wait until the sun came up to dethaw my bike.  Once the sun was out the temperature warmed and it was off to ride!

The ride for today called for 94 miles and around 4000 ft of elevation.  The bulk of the climbing was at the end of ride going up Muddy Pass and then Rabbit Ear Pass.  The great thing about today is that the ride was fairly flat with some rollers in the middle.  We were able to work with a few people along the way that made this fastest day of the week.  The climb up Muddy and Rabbit's were too bad, and we had a pull from a couple of guys that were pretty strong riders. The day featured a lot of plains and a view of the mountains towards Rabbit Ears.  The descent into Steamboat was awesome.  We went from around 9000 to 6000.  It was a non-technical descent, so you could bomb down it!

That evening I had dinner at a grill just at the bottom of the Gondola, it wasn't a bad burger, but the place was slammed back. Like most nights, I was in bed by 9:30 for the ride the next morning.

Steamboat Loop
The third day called for a "rest" day if you wanted or you could ride a 54 mile loop with around 4,000ft of climbing.  They called it a non-rest day because the route was more difficult then it looked. For this ride, I was able to demo an S-works Tarmac with Sram Red.  It was an awesome bike.  It responded great to the climbs and was very stable even over rough roads.  The route featured many rollers and quick hits on climbs.  There about 5 short climbs and numerous rollers which made this for a much tougher day. Overall had a great time on this loop with plenty of good views. After the ride, I got the chance to go into Steamboat where we got to tour Kent Erickson bikes and see how handmade bikes are made and the type of bikes that they make.  I'm jealous.  I want one!

Steamboat to Avon
On Day, it was time to leave Steamboat and head on to Avon.  The route today was 82 miles with 5,000 ft of climbing.  The first 40 miles was a slow long climb.  The grade wasn't tough, but it was enough that you could push the pace without killing yourself.  Most of the views were of the plains with a small view of the mountains.  This was a tough for me towards the end.  The winds were pretty strong and the last 15 miles were a slow slog.  4 days of riding was starting to get to me!  I was happy to get to Avon.

Avon to Breckenridge
The ride today was a 74 mile ride with close to 6,000ft of climbing.  This was the "Triple Bypass" day.  We would cover three passes with the top being Fremont Pass.  This was probably the most scenic day of all.  Right off the bat, we are climbing and heading into the mountains.  After the first pass, we are heading to towards Leadville with a lot of the ride above 10,000ft.  We are in the valley, with mountains surrounding us on all sides.  There were some flatter sections at least, but I was enjoying the views.  Again, the tough part of the ride was the last 10 miles, it was a slog into Breckenridge, but I made it.  It was slightly uphill into town which made those miles tougher!

Breckenridge to Golden - The End
Well today is the last day, 77 miles and 5,500 ft of climbing on tap for today.  The morning started rather cold with temperatures near 30.  Frost had formed on my bike from the night before.  It's amazing how cold it can get at night here in Colorado.  The ride today was to take us over Loveland before a mostly downhill finish in Golden.  The climb up Loveland was great with views over the valley and A-Basin.  Once over the top, it was downhill towards Idaho Springs.  You would have thought it would have been faster, except there were some narrow bike paths and some roads that were not very good for riding fast downhill.  After Idaho Springs, we had two hills to climb before the final finish into Golden.

After 471 miles, 30000ft of climbing, I was glad to be done, but also disappointed that the ride was over.  This is a great event and the people that put on the event did an excellent job.

Below are various videos and such that I found on Ride the Rockies Facebook page

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