Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 Colorado Mesa Double Century Recap: Monumental!

Rimrock Road winds its way through the Colorado National Monument, the "crown jewel" climb of Colorado's Western Slope.
On Saturday, May 27th, 2017, members of the RMCC traveled to Fruita, CO to tackle the Colorado Mesa Double Century, the second stage of the 2017 Colorado Triple Crown and the newest addition to the Colorado Triple Crown Series. The Colorado Mesa Double Century explores two of western Colorado's quintessential climbs, the behemoth Grand Mesa (elev. 10,875 feet), the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, and the Colorado National Monument (elev. 6,640 feet), undoubtedly the "crown jewel" climb of western Colorado. The course also includes the pastoral Kannah Creek - Purdy Mesa - Reeder Mesa loop, a lightly-traveled cycling loop that winds its way through ranching and farming land to the southeast of Grand Junction. The climb over the spectacular Grand Mesa Scenic Byway is an especially daunting climb, gaining over 6,400 feet from Interstate-70, making it one of Colorado's longest climbs.

Stunning red rock spires in the Colorado National Monument. Scenery like this during the final 25 miles of the event helped riders forget about the brutal headwinds that they experienced while riding along US-50 from Delta to Grand Junction.

On paper, the Colorado Mesa Double Century does not appear as intimidating as other events in the Colorado Triple Crown. With only 13,000 feet of climbing in 200 miles, the Colorado Mesa Double Century is not nearly as intimidating as the formidable Cycle to Saturn Double Century (200 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing) or the Colorado Classic Double Century (241 miles, including 41 miles of dirt and gravel roads and 16,000+ feet of climbing). However, all participants would agree that the Colorado Mesa Double Century is as monumental as any of the other events in the Colorado Triple Crown. The stunning course covers nearly every ecosystem that western Colorado has to offer, including spectacular high-alpine vistas, dense pine and aspen forests on the Grand Mesa, arid desert countryside, verdant farming and ranching lands, and moonscape mesas and plateaus. Indeed, the Colorado Mesa Double Century course is unlike anything else in Colorado! Colorado Triple Crown veteran, Keith Jensen, summed the course up best, describing the Colorado Mesa Double Century as "absolute soul-enriching riding!" I think almost all of the participants in this year's event would agree.

Because 200 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing is not quite monumental enough, Mother Nature decided to add to the challenge of this year's event, presenting riders with the full gamut of late spring Colorado weather, including snow showers and near-freezing temperatures (35 degrees F!) on top of the Grand Mesa and demoralizing headwinds along US-50 from Delta back to Grand Junction. By the time most participants had returned to Grand Junction, however, temperatures had warmed considerably into the upper 70s and the northwesterly headwinds had largely subsided, making for a very pleasant western Colorado evening while participants traversed the spectacular Rimrock Drive in the Colorado National Monument en route to the finish in Fruita.

Snow showers and chilly temperatures converged on riders as they approached the summit of the Grand Mesa.
This year's inaugural event attracted 27 participants, an impressive number of riders since all of this year's participants had to travel a considerable distance to Fruita. This year's event attracted 3 riders from out-of-state (2 from Utah and 1 from Nebraska), 7 Colorado Triple Crown rookies, and 4 women. Congratulations to all of this year's finishers! 

2017 Colorado Mesa Double Century Event Summary:

  • 201.8 miles, 13,000+ feet of climbing
  • 3 categorized climbs:
    • Grand Mesa Scenic Byway (North) from Mesa to Grand Mesa summit, elevation 10,875 feet: HC Category
    • Kannah Creek Climb, elevation 6,160 feet: Category 4
    • Colorado National Monument, south gate to Rimrock Drive high point, elevation 6,640 feet: Category 2
  • 30 pre-registered riders
  • 27 ride starters, 24 official finishers (89% finishing rate) successfully completed the course in less than 17.5 hours (>11.5 m.p.h.), 4 DNFs. Of the riders who started, 23 men, 4 women (You go, girls!!!), and 3 riders from out-of-state (1 from Nebraska and 2 from Utah), 1 volunteer pre-ride finisher. 
  • Congratulations to Caleb Carl who posted the fastest overall time of the day in 11 hours, 15 minutes (17.94 mph). That's cookin', folks! 
  • Congratulations to Corinne Warren who posted the fastest women's time of the day in 14:03 (14.36 mph), her fastest double century to date. Great ride, Corinne! 
Special thanks to our volunteers! We simply cannot run these events in this current timed format without their help!
  • Mike Young: Water support on Grand Mesa
  • Julie Elliott and Jerome Gonzales: Water support at the Purdy Mesa check point 
  • Joanne Vitanza: Official finishing time recorder in Fruita
  • Mark Lowe: Support vehicle driver

A man on a mission, Caleb Carl posted the day's speediest time of 11 hours, 15 minutes! Smoking'! Great ride, Caleb!!
Walter Zitz struggled with shifting problems all day from a wounded crankset, but still rode admirably to complete the Colorado Mesa Double Century safe and sound. As always, excellent ride, Walter! 

Kieran Johnson rode like a desert bat out of a hell to finish third at this year's Colorado Mesa Double Century. Impressive!!
Chris Baker was unphased by the frigid temperatures on the Grand Mesa and wicked winds along US-50. I can almost read his mind: "Thank you, may I have another!" Excellent ride, Chris!
A man known to make other riders suffer, Steve Rudolph was on a mission to deplete the supplies of Coke for other parched participants at the Purdy Creek Trailhead! Great ride, Steve!
Tom Miller was on a personal mission to win the Strava kudos war with his personal Strava kudos army! You know? I think he might have done it! Great ride, Tom!
 Stephen Strayer completes the Colorado Mesa Double Century. It was great having you back in the mix, Stephen. Way to show team Cinch how it's done! 
Kale Olson survived some dark times at the Tabeguache Trailhead check point to complete the Colorado Mesa Double Century! I'm glad you were able to hang in there!!
Triple Crown veteran, Keith Jensen, is poised to take a stab at another Colorado Triple Crown. Excellent ride, Keith!
Graham Barnes continues to ride smoothly during his quest to complete the 2017 Colorado Triple Crown!  Great ride! 
Jerry Arnold becomes our first rider from Nebraska to complete a Colorado Triple Crown event. Excellent ride, Jerry! Thanks for joining us!
Josh Peter had another smooth Colorado Mesa Double Century on his rather dapper Foundry Overland.  Excellent ride, Josh!
David Fullagar, the best-traveled cyclist on the planet (no kidding!), survived the headwinds along US-50 to have an excellent Colorado Mesa Double Century. Great to have you back, David!

Harris Rosenthal, Corinne Warren, and Nat Schub at the conclusion of the Colorado Mesa Double Century. Great ride, guys! Harris is back in good form after a crash thwarted his 2015 Denver-to-Aspen attempt. Nat Schub looked smooth all day long during his first Colorado Triple Crown event. Corinne runs a tight ship, keeping Harris and Nat in line all day. 
Ray Rupel spent much of the day riding blind without a cue sheet, but still managed to have an excellent ride! Great ride, Ray!
Felix Wong, who had the speediest transitions of the day, successfully completed the Colorado Mesa Double Century and his first Colorado Triple Crown event! Thanks for joining us, Felix!
Colorado Triple Crown veteran, Andy Lapkass, the only rider to ever complete the Colorado Triple Crown on a single speed bicycle, was back at it during the Colorado Mesa Double! Great ride, Andy!
Derek Henry survived some dark times along US-50 and at the Purdy Creek Trailhead check point to successfully complete his first Colorado Triple Crown event. (The first is always the worst, Derek!) Great ride!
Okasana Kovalenko successfully completes the Colorado Mesa Double Century and her first Colorado Triple Crown event! After several unsuccessful events, Oksana wins my award for perseverance! Congratulations, Oksana!
Smooth and steady, Jason Turner successfully completes the Colorado Mesa Double Century! Great ride, Jason!
Paul Grimm survived a minor crash that left him with a damaged rear derailleur hanger!  Great ride, Paul, especially under those circumstances. 
Oksana Kovalenko, Erika Van Meter, and Paul Grimm prepare to start their adventure at 4:00 AM.
Colorado Mesa Double Century riders try to tap into the "Force" prior to start the Colorado Mesa Double Century.
Caleb Carl leads the charge through Palisade en route to the Grand Mesa.

Spectacular morning skies greeted participants as they ascended the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway from I-70. Riders had absolutely no idea what was in store for them on top the Grand Mesa! 
Even though it was Memorial Day Weekend, snow banks still lined the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway at 10,000 feet. 
Triple Crown veteran, Keith Jensen, chugs a Coke (also known to parched cyclists as "Mother's Milk") at the Cedaredge check point. (I still prefer Pepsi! :) 
Nice bikes! Seven wonders!
Views of ancient mesas and plateaus to the north of Reeder Mesa.
Weary but good-spirited participants take a break at the Tabeguache Trailhead check point  before entering the Colorado National Monument.
Might as well keep moving! There's nothing to look at here! (Yeah, right!)
Colorado Mesa Double Century finishers relax at the conclusion of the ride as the final participants trickle in.
Riders and volunteers grab a bite to eat at the Kannah Creek Brewing Company at the conclusion of the ride. Ahhh...mountains, mesas, monuments, and memories!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder Event Recap

Anti-epic scenery, including endless miles of Easter Colorado prairie and gravel roads, is par for the course during the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. Photo: Ben Welnak
On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the RMCC continued the tradition of the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder, an event founded by founder, Ben Welnak, in 2012. The AntiEpic Gravel Grinder, as the name implies, is not classic, EPIC Colorado riding. There are no grueling high alpine climbs or breathtaking mountain vistas. In spite of its name, the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder is never short on pastoral Eastern Colorado scenery. Rolling grasslands, picturesque mesas, and miles and miles of endless gravel roads are the norm for the day. Throughout the day, participants also have striking views of the snow-capped Pikes Peak to the southwest while riding with a myriad of wildlife, including pronghorn, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, pheasants, skunks, and badgers.

For 2017, the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder became slightly more epic in nature. The course was lengthened from 168 miles to 200 miles, including a new out-and-back spur through the scenic Castlewood Canyon State Park to the east of Castle Rock before rejoining the original course in the Greenland Open Space. By reaching the double century barrier, the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder is included in this year's alluring Colorado Triple Crown, the RMCC's series of timed double century road cycling tours. The AntiEpic Gravel Grinder also becomes the only gravel road double century on the UltraMarathon Cycling Association's (UMCA) UltraCycling Cup and now serves as the perfect "tune-up" (although perhaps even slightly more difficult tune-up given the altitude and miles of sand and washboard) for the Dirty Kanza 200, undoubtedly the world's premier gravel road cycling race.
And off they go like blazing saddles! Intrepid short course riders charge onto the AntiEpic course. Photo: Mark Lowe
Two courses were once again offered to this year's participants: an anti-epic 200-mile long course with 11,000+ feet of climbing and an (extremely popular) mini-anti-epic short course, featuring 76-miles and 5,600+ feet of climbing. Both courses start and end in Woodmoor, CO (elevation 7,240 feet), traveling north through the Greenland Open Space and returning through the scenic northern perimeter of the Black Forest. During the return route to Woodmoor, participants from both events are tested by a constant barrage of steep rollers and demoralizing southwesterly headwinds. 

Mother Nature was about as cooperative as she could be for early May in Eastern Colorado. This year's event had mild temperatures in the low 70s and beautiful, turquoise skies early, which gave way to unexpected thundershowers that developed in the foothills to the west of Monument and Colorado Spring during the afternoon, producing punishing southwesterly headwinds. Long course riders were especially throttled by the gusty winds during their long, already difficult 86-mile mostly uphill (7,000+ feet of elevation gain) return from Deer Trail, the course's easternmost check point. With two events running simultaneously, this was by far our largest Challenge Series event to date!  This year's event had 16 brave-hearted long course starters and 51 short course starters. Congratulations to all of this year's participants! 

After a blazing start, short course riders stop briefly at he first check point along CR 102 and Maul Rd. (Photo: Mark Lowe)
For complete results: 2017 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder Results

2017 AntiEpic Gravel Grinder event summary:

  • Long course: 200 miles, 11,000+ feet of climbing. Time limit: 20 hours
  • Short course: 76 miles, 5,600 feet of climbing. Time limit: 9 hours


Short Course:
  • 57 pre-registered riders, 2 riders who registered day of event, 2 long course registrants switched to the short course prior to the start. 
  • 51 ride starters, 50 official finishers (98% finishing rate) successfully completed the course in less than 9 hours (>8.4 m.p.h.), 1 DNF, 4 early withdrawals, 6 DNS. Of the riders who started, 49 men, 2 women.
  • Congratulations to Brad Mosier and Chris Beaudin who finished neck-and-neck, with Brad throwing his bike over the finish line just ahead of Chris in a blazing time of 4 hours, 9 minutes (average speed 18.5 mph). (It was close! I had to review the video finish several times to determine that Brad had finished first). Brad and Chris's finishing time of 4 hours, 9 minutes is a new course record, beating Kevin Masten's previous best time of 5 hours, 3 minutes (2016). 
  • Congratulations to Kimberly Ober, who posted the fastest woman's time of the day: 5 hours, 54 minutes (13.0 mph). Kimberly was paced by her hubby, super-domestique, Keith Ober. Kimberly's time is a new woman's course record, topping Jane Fredman's time of 6 hours, 14 minutes (2016). 
Chris Beaudin and Brad Mosier celebrate at the finish! Congratulations, guys!
Tim Graczyk is satisfied with the third podium spot in the short course division after a blistering ride! Great ride, Tim!
Long course second place finisher, Tim Dodge (a.k.a, Dodger), spent over $250 for these gloves. But as you can clearly see, they are worth every penny!! 
Long Course:
  • 21 pre-registered riders, 2 long course registrants switched to the short course prior to the start. 
  • 16 ride starters, 10 official event finishers (63% finishing rate) successfully completed the AntiEpic long course in less than 20 hours (>10 m.p.h). Please note the long-course time limit was extended from 19 hours to 20 hours based on finishing times of the fastest riders, 6 DNFs, 3 DNS. Of the riders who started, 15 men, 1 brave-hearted woman! There were also 3 volunteer pre-ride finishers. 
  • Caleb Carl posted the speediest time of the inaugural double century event, posting a time elapsed time of 13 hours, 33 minutes (14.8 mph). Congratulations, Caleb! 
  • Alas, there were no female finishers this season.
Special thanks to this year's volunteers for providing support for this season's event. We cannot run these events in their current timed format without volunteer help! Thanks to Nat Schub, Josh Peter, Corinne Warren, Walter Zitz, and Mark Lowe for a long day of supporting riders! 

Caleb Carl speedily survives his first gravel road double century and professes his newfound love of gravel!  Great ride, Caleb!
Dodger spent the day chasing Caleb but is definitely well-prepared for the Dirty Kanza 200. Congrats on completing your first Triple Crown event, Tim! Kick-ass at the DK200! 
Seasoned Triple Crown veteran, Steve Rudolph, made a smooth transition onto grave roads to complete this year's AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. 
After being throttled by headwinds and hampered by a strained back, Triple Crown and DK200 veteran, Tom Miller. is able to muster a smile (for a brief moment) at the conclusion of the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder!

Ryan Franz, with only 300+ miles in his legs for the season, casually busts out a gravel road double century. One word to describe Ryan: Machine! Great ride, Ryan!
Kieran Johnson rolls in just after sunset to complete the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. Nice ride, Kieran!
Chris Baker is still smiling at the conclusion of the ride after being throttled by headwinds and then being forced to take shelter in a barn during an evening lightning storm. 
Triple Crown newbie, Ricardo Stephen, is exhausted but happy to have survived his first AntiEpic Gravel Grinder and first Colorado Triple Crown event. Congratulations! 
Josh Peter, recovering from the previous weekend's TransIowa race, spends the day chillin' with Walter Zitz  while providing support to this year's long course riders! (Photo: Walter Zitz)