Sunday, July 10, 2016

2016 Colorado Classic Double Century Recap: More Epic Than Brutal!

Beautiful blue skies at 12,126 feet on top of Cottonwood Pass
during the 2016 Colorado Classic Double Century (Photo: Mark Lowe)
15 brave-hearted RMCCers ventured into the heart of the Colorado Rockies to tackle the EPIC 2016 Colorado Classic Double Century. Featuring 241 miles, 16,000 feet of climbing, and approximately 40 miles of dirt and gravel roads, the Colorado Classic Double Century is arguably the most difficult single-day cycling event on the RMCC calendar and one of the most challenging double centuries in the world. Some have argued that this perhaps Colorado's "most perfect" cycling loop! The course traverses through some of central Colorado's most pristine and rugged landscapes as it climbs four of Colorado's finest mountain passes: Independence Pass, McClure Pass, Kebler Pass, and Cottonwood Pass. Jaw-dropping, high-alpine mountain vistas, plush mountainsides covered in mountain greenery and wildflowers, and miles of "off the beaten path" dirt and gravel roads were the norm for the day. Mother Nature smiled upon this year's participants, blessing them with beautiful sunny skies, warm temperatures (even at the highest altitudes), and tailwinds from nearly every direction! This was an unexpected (and pleasant) departure from 2015, which was marred by heavy thunderstorms that turned the dirt and gravel roads on Kebler Pass and Cottonwood Pass into a muddy (and brutal) mess! This year's event had a 100% finishing rate, extremely impressive for such a challenging ride! Kudos to all of this years participants! And thanks to our wonderful volunteers who made this day EPIC for everyone!

Due to the upcoming paving project of the west side of Cottonwood Pass, which will close the pass to all traffic until the end of 2018, this event will not appear on the Colorado Triple Crown calendar again until 2019.

2016 Colorado Classic Double Century Event Summary: 

  • 241 miles, 16,000+ feet of climbing
  • 4 categorized climbs:
    • Independence Pass: (elev. 12,096 feet): HC (from Twin Lakes)
    • McClure Pass (elev. 8,763 feet): Category 2
    • Kebler Pass (elev. 10,007 feet): HC 
    • Cottonwood Pass (elev. 12,126 feet): HC (from Taylor Reservoir) 
  • 2 crossings of the Continental Divide: Independence Pass and Cottonwood Pass
  • 40 miles of dirt and gravel roads, including the stunning Kebler Pass Road (28 miles) and the western side of Cottonwood Pass (12 miles), perhaps the state's most spectacular high alpine pass.
  • 21 hour time limit
Mountain serenity from the beautiful Taylor Canyon. (Photo: Grace Turek)
  • 17 pre-registered riders
  • 15 ride starters, 2 early withdrawals. Of the riders who started, 13 were men, 2 were women
  • 15 official finishers (100% finishing rate....0 DNFs!), successfully completing this epic course in under 21 hours (avg. speed > 11.5 m.p.h.).
  • Congratulations to Ryan Franz and Walter Zitz who finished with a total elapsed time of 14 hours, 26 min. This is a new course record, beating last year's mark by 27 minutes. Congratulations to Malinda Gillispie who was our speediest female finisher with a total elapsed time of 16 hours, 24 minutes. 
Might as well keep moving. There's nothing to see here! (Yeah, right!)  (Photo: Grace Turek)
Special thanks to this year's volunteers. We simply cannot run these events in this current timed format without their assistance! Thanks again to each of you for your time and efforts!
  • Michael and Grace Turek. Mike and Grace drove our lone support vehicle, providing amazing support for this year's riders at Independence Pass, the base of Kebler Pass, and Taylor Reservoir. 
  • Nick and Debby Faes. Nick and Debby ran a fantastic aid station out of the driveway of their home in Crested Butte.
  • Mark Michel. Long-time club member, Mark Michel, ran an aid station in Carbondale, servicing riders who had just made the long descent from the top on Independence Pass to Carbondale.
Kale Olson and Caleb Carl grind their way up the slow moving (but stunning) Kebler Pass. (Photo: Grace Turek)

Ryan Franz and Walter Zitz take a well-deserved breather at the conclusion of the ride! Great ride, guys! 
Mark didn't have his "A legs" during this year's ride, but still had a nice day chasing Ryan and Walter around on the course.
Steve Rudolph musters his trademark smile after another epic adventure on the bike.
Tom Miller survived some gastrointestinal issues near Taylor Reservoir to put together another stellar ride! 
Caleb Carl, who had a stellar ride, described the Colorado Classic as "the hardest ride I've done!" (The hard rides are often the more epic and rememberable rides! Glad to add to your repertoire of memories!) 
Andy Lapkass completes his second Colorado Classic Double Century on a single speed! Amazing ride, Andy! 
Corinne "I can't keep up with anyone on the downhills" Warren and Kale Olson at the conclusion of the ride. Corinne used the 2:00 am start time to her advantage, finding riders along the way to share the work with!

Jon Sendor had another great ride to complete his second Colorado Classic Double Century! Excellent ride, Jon!
Andy Stockman and Josh Peter are relieved to have survived a colossal Colorado Triple Crown adventure! Great ride, guys!
Malinda Gillispie picked a doozy of a ride for her first Colorado Triple Crown event! Great having you out there, Malinda!
Ray Rupel experienced Kebler Pass for the first time during this year's event! Great ride, Ray.
You can check this one of your bucket list! 
Chris Ellefson successfully completes the most challenging ride of his life!
There is no shame in being the "Lantern Rouge" during a 241 mile, 16,000 foot EPIC day on the bike! 

Kale Olson and Corinne Warren grind their way up the western slope of the rugged and spectacular Cottonwood Pass (Photo: Caleb Carl)
By far my favorite picture of the day! Josh Peter, Andy Stockman, and Chris Ellefson take a breather at the base of Kebler Pass! (Photo: Mike Turek)
Okay...we're taking wagers to see if Caleb Carl gets giardia after drinking water
from the sheep-infested creek near Kebler Pass. (Photo: Kale Olson)
Kale Olson gets a taste of ice cream bars and pickles at Taylor Reservoir.....any cyclist's culinary dream! (Uhh...maybe!?!) (Photo: Mike Turek)
 Steve Rudolph takes a breather at Taylor Reservoir (Photo: Mike Turek)
Better get going! Walter Zitz, Ryan Franz, and Mark Lowe speed toward Almont with tailwind assistance from Mother Nature. (Photo: Mike Turek)
Feeling a bit sick to his stomach after riding over 200 miles for the day, Tom Miller takes a break at Taylor Reservoir. (Photo: Mike Turek)
Ray Rupel prepares to make the 2,700 foot ascent over Cottonwood Pass. (Photo: Mike Turek)
Chris Ellefson and Jon Sendor prepare for the final climb of the day! (Photo: Mike Turek) 
Ryan Franz and Walter Zitz grab a snack at the rest stop in Crested Butte. (Photo: Grace Turek)
Caleb Carl, Kale Olson, and Corinne Warren at Taylor Reservoir (Photo: Mike Turek)
Dawn breaks over Independence Pass after the early 3:00 am ride start! (Photo: Grace Turek)
Special thanks to the Mike Turek family for providing support for this year's ride! 

By completing the 2016 Colorado Classic Double Century, the following riders have successfully completed the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown. Congratulations to each of you!

  • Caleb Carl (1)
  • Ryan Franz (4)
  • Andy Lapkass* (1)
  • Mark Lowe (7)
  • Josh Peter (1)
  • Steve Rudolph (5)
  • Jon Sendor (2)
  • Andy Stockman (1)
  • Walter Zitz (3)
*Single speed

Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Cycle to Saturn Recap: Houston...We Have Liftoff!

Scenery from the "Inner Ring of Saturn": Mt. Bierstadt as viewed from Guanella Pass (Photo: Mark Lowe)
On Saturday, June 25, 2016, 22 members of the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club trepidatiously accepted the challenge to Cycle to Saturn! The Cycle to Saturn Double Century, the second event of the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown Series, is one of the most intimidating single-day events on the RMCC calendar. Cycle to Saturn is a resurrection (of sorts) of the Saturn Cycling Classic (2000 - 2002), one of the most grueling road races ever contested on U.S. soil. The original Boulder-to-Breckenridge course, which featured 14,000 feet of climbing in 140 miles and an average altitude above 9,000 feet, attracted some the nation's top professional riders. Each year the race was contested, only 20 or so pro riders would actually finish the race! Well, much has changed since 2002. For sake of turning the event into a double century, the start location was moved to Golden when the RMCC resurrected the course as a timed double century in 2014. The event was not included on the 2015 Triple Crown calendar while the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) completed the paving of Guanella Pass from Georgetown to Grant. And as this year's participants discovered, Guanella Pass is now one of most spectacular cycling passes in the state of Colorado! Paving Guanella Pass, however, did not make the Cycle to Saturn Double Century that much easier. Cycle to Saturn remains one of the most formidable double centuries in the world: 201 miles, just a tad shy of 20,000 feet of climbing, 9 categorized climbs, including 2 HC climbs (i.e., beyond category climbs - Golden Gate Canyon and Guanella Pass), and 3 high mountain passes above 11,000 feet - Guanella Pass, Hoosier Pass, and Loveland Pass, the so-called "Inner Ring of Saturn"). The course also features the hair-raising, twisty 7-mile descent down the unpaved Virginia Canyon Road (a.k.a. Oh My God Road) from Central City to Idaho Springs, preserving a key element of the original race course. And to add to the challenge, participants only have 20 hours to complete the course to receive an official finishing time! Congratulations to this year's 22 ride starters who "threw their ring into the hat" to attempt this incredibly challenging and spectacular double century!

At warp speed, the lead pack blazes up Golden Gate Canyon before the break of dawn! (Photo: Mark Lowe)

2016 Cycle to Saturn Double Century Summary:

  • 201 miles, approximately 20,000 feet of climbing
  • 9 categorized climbs:
    • Golden Gate Canyon, 9,356 feet: HC category
    • Black Hawk to Virginia Canyon Summit: Category 2
    • Guanella Pass, 11,670 feet: HC category
    • Kenosha Pass, 9,997 feet, Category 2
    • Red Hill Pass, 9,993 feet, Category 4
    • Hoosier Pass, 11,542 feet, Category 2
    • Swan Mountain Road, Category 5
    • Loveland Pass, 11,991 feet, Category 1
    • Floyd Hill, Category 3

  • 22 pre-registered riders
  • 21 ride starters, 1 pre-ride. Of the 22 riders who started, 18 were men, 3 were women.
  • 19 riders successfully completed the course within the 20 hour time limit (86% finishing rate, 10.05 mph avg speed), 2 DNFs
  • Ryan Franz, Walter Zitz, and Mark Lowe rode hard but rode socially, completing the Cycle to Saturn course in 14 hours, 5 min. (14.2 mph).
  • Corinne Warren, who successfully completed the course during a pre-ride to provide event support for this year's riders, was our only woman to successfully complete the course this year.

Nestled just below 12,000 feet in elevation, Loveland Pass is one Colorado's most spectacular cycling pass! (Photo: Mark Lowe)

Dawn breaks over Central City as viewed from Virginia Canyon (Oh My God Rd). (Photo: Craig Howell)

Special thanks to this year's volunteers! We cannot continue these events in their current timed format without your sacrifices. Thank you!
  • Craig Howell: support vehicle driver
  • Corinne Warren: support vehicle driver and maker of fantastic cookies and muffins!
  • Heidi Hartman: roving support with support vehicles and maker of fantastic cinnamon rolls!
  • Ray Rupel: provided stationary support for riders in Georgetown.
Mission accomplished! Ryan Franz, Walter Zitz, and Mark Lowe are relieved to survived their adventure to Saturn! 
Steve Rudolph rode the last 120 miles on his own, but is relieved to have finished
another Colorado Triple Crown event! Great ride, Steve!
Chris Baker and Chris Miner at Parfet Park after Cycle to Saturn. Great ride, guys! 
Tom Miller picked a doozy to kick-off his 2016 Colorado Triple Crown campaign. Kudos to you! 
Jason Kaminski, Keith Jensen, and Stephen Strayer successfully complete their mission to Cycle to Saturn! (Stephen inadvertently stopped off at Venus before coming back to earth!) Great ride, guys!
Jon Sendor had perhaps his best Triple Crown ride to date! Great ride, Jon!
Caleb Carl is relieved to have survived his journey around the Inner Ring of Saturn! Great ride! 
Andy Lapkass is on a mission to become the only rider to have ever completed the Colorado Triple Crown on a single speed! Incredible ride, Andy! 
Josh Peter, Andy Stockman, and David Fullagar survive their most challenging Triple Crown adventure to date!
Great ride, guys! 
Graham Barnes completes Cycle to Saturn on his trusty new steed! Nice ride, Graham and nice bike!
Although I do like your orange bike too!
David Nelson and Corinne Warren at Parfet Park in Golden. Great ride, David!
Next mission: Cycle to Mars, errr...High Country!
Harvey Kramer successfully completes his first Colorado Triple Crown event (and a doozy!) in preparation for the Cents Cols Challenge in France next month. Great ride, Harvey!
The overlook of Interstate 70 to the north of Loveland Pass is as spectacular as the views to the south! (Photo: Mark Lowe)
Craig Howell and pup take a play break while providing event support for Cycle to Saturn! Thanks again, Craig! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
In a state of delirium, Chris Miner realizes all too late that what he is drinking is not Coke!  (Photo: Heidi Hartman
 Ryan Franz beats up on Walter Zitz as the two riders approach the summit of Guanella Pass! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Sure and steady, Chris Baker charges toward the summit of  Guanella Pass (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Oksana Kovalenko got stuck in pedestrian traffic from the Slacker Half Marathon, but still had a great ride (and nearly 10,000 feet total climbing) to the summit of Guanella Pass. (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
David Nelson gives the "thumbs up" sign from Breckenridge! All systems are go for the long return to Golden. (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Josh Peter and Andy Stockman speed toward the Inner Ring of Saturn! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Jon Sendor looks cool, calm, and collected during his journey to Saturn. (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Tom Miller is on a mission to activate his Strava Kudos machine!  (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
In spite of coming up a bit short in her mission, Diane Benoit still had a stellar day of riding! (Photo: Craig Howell)