Sunday, May 29, 2011

Denver-to-Aspen: So what am I getting myself into?!?

The Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic is the first of the RMCC Triple Crown events for 2011. So what challenges will you face during this event?

Well, to sum things up:

1) An epic 180 mile day on the bike!

2) Many long climbs at high altitude with over 13,500 vertical feet of climbing!

3) Spectacular Colorado scenery, including amazing views of the Mt. Evans Wilderness, Kenosha Pass, the South Park Valley, the Collegiate Peaks, Twin Lakes, Independence Pass, the Frying Pan Wilderness, and the ritzy the town of Aspen!

4) A chance to eat at the Woody Creek Tavern where the world-class nachos that are second-to-none!

5) A chance to pre-qualify for the Death Ride and Grand Loop if you can arrive at Woody Creek in less than 15 hours!

6) Memories to last a lifetime!!!

The Denver-to-Aspen ride can be broken down into 7 different segments:

1) Littleton to Conifer, 19.1 miles.

Leaving Checkpoint #1, the RTD Park-n-Ride at C-470 and Ken Caryl, the climbing begins immediately! After riding past South Valley Park, riders will begin the grind up Deer Creek Canyon, gaining 3,000 vertical feet to the town of Conifer (basic services). Please take advantage of port-o-potty facilities in Pleasant Park along the way if you need to! From Conifer, riders will turn west onto Hwy 285 and ride 1.7 miles to Checkpoint #2, the Conifer RTD Park-n-Ride. Please note that riders will need lights to safely navigate the first segment of this ride!

2) Conifer to Kenosha Pass, 31.2 miles.

Participants will continue riding west on Hwy 285, facing an onslaught of large rollers as they pass through Pine Junction (store). Hwy 285 has an excellent shoulder to ride on during this section and traffic is usually light during the early morning hours. From Pine Junction, riders begin a short but blazing descent down Crow Hill toward the town of Bailey (basic services, personal SAG vehicles allowed here). Of note, please watch for rumble strips after Pine Junction as they will definitely catch your attention if you're not paying attention! As participants ride west from Bailey, Hwy 285 will continue to undulate upward to the town of Grant (no services). Riders will appreciate the pristine mountain scenery of the Mt. Evans Wilderness to the north!

From Grant, riders will begin a moderate climb to Checkpoint #3, the summit of Kenosha Pass, gaining approximately 1,500 vertical feet in 7 miles. Kenosha Pass is a playground for many off-road enthusiasts, including mountain bikers and four wheelers, so please be wary of traffic! By the time riders reach the top of Kenosha Pass, they will have climbed nearly 7,000 vertical feet in 50 miles!

3) Kenosha Pass to Fairplay, 20.1 miles.

After summiting Kenosha Pass, riders will begin an exhilarating 3 mile descent down the western face of the pass into the beautiful South Park Valley. As riders cruise through South Park, they will pass through the town of Jefferson (basic services) and encounter a number of sweeping rollers along the way. Hwy 285 has a descent shoulder to ride on during this section as large portions of the road have been repaved in the past few years. Riders will then encounter a short but moderate climb up Red Hill Pass (9,993 feet) before descending to the town of Fairplay (basic services). Although Fairplay is not an official checkpoint, all riders are encouraged to stop here and refuel!

4) Fairplay to Buena Vista, 38.7 miles.

From Fairplay, riders will continue on Hwy 285 as it meanders southwest through the South Park Valley. Participants will then grind their way up Trout Creek Pass (9,346 feet), a short but moderate climb (with a notorious reputation for bad weather and wind during this event!), before embarking on a scenic descent to the small town of Johnson Village (basic services). Please note: The shoulder along this section of Hwy 285 is generally good, but there is an endless stream of rumble strips south of Fairplay. The shoulder does narrow in places as you descend Trout Creek Pass to the west. Please ride this section carefully as traffic can be a bit brisk! From Johnson Village, participants will ride north for 3 miles along Hwy 24 to Checkpoint #4 in Buena Vista (basic services). Riders are encouraged to refuel in Buena Vista if they are running a bit low on supplies as there is still another 43 miles and 4,200 feet of vertical gain to the top of Independence Pass!

5) Buena Vista to Twin Lakes, 25.3 miles.

From Buena Vista, participants will continue riding north along Hwy 24, enjoying the spectacular views of the Collegiate Peaks to the west! Hwy 24 climbs subtly for approximately 20 miles from Buena Vista to Balltown (no services). The road is in excellent condition with a wide shoulder, but it is not unusual to experience pesky headwinds along this section of Hwy 24.

Riders then turn west onto Hwy 82 (Independence Pass Road) at Balltown and will ride 6 miles along the northern shores of the Twin Lakes to Checkpoint #5 at the Twin Lakes Store. The views from Twin Lakes are truly spectacular, but headwinds off of the lakes can be a bit brisk! All riders should plan to stop and refuel here before beginning the final 2,700 foot ascent to the the top of the pass!

6) Twin Lakes to Indendence Pass Summit, 17.8 miles.

From the Twin Lakes store, participants will continue west along Hwy 82, passing through lush forests with waterfalls and wildflowers. As Hwy 82 continues to undulate upward, it will enter a large bowl of plush vegetation at the base of the final ascent. From there, riders will begin the daunting task of climbing Independence Pass Road as it snakes its way five miles to the top of the pass. The air will become noticeably thinner at this point in time as riders ascend into the stratosphere!!!

7) Independence Pass Summit to Woody Creek, 28 miles (and a whole lot of downhill!).

At an elevation of 12,095 feet, Independence Pass truly is one of Colorado's most spectacular mountain passes! Enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and congratulate yourself on reaching the summit of this epic Colorado climb!  But don't celebrate too long...your work for the day is not done yet!!! You still have 28 miles (and a whole lot of downhill) to go! From the top of the pass, riders will begin a blazing descent as Hwy 82 plunges into the Frying Pan Wilderness. Please ride this descent with extreme caution  as Independence Pass Road is often strewn with large rocks and has many large potholes. The road is also very narrow in places, barely wide enough to allow one vehicle to safely pass through! The scenery, however, is absolutely stunning!!! You'll definitely wish you could spend a bit more time with your digital camera photographing aspen groves and wildflowers as you wind your way down the pass!

After descending over 4,000 vertical feet, participants will reach the ritzy town of Aspen. Riders will stay on Hwy 82 as it winds through town, cruising past the turnoff for both Snowmass Mountain Resort and the Aspen Airport (both to the west). Finally riders will turn right (east) onto Smith Way (one of the first right-hand turns after passing the airport) toward the bicycling friendly community of Woody Creek. Upon reaching your final destination at the Woody Creek Tavern, please have a RMCC official or a representative from the tavern validate your passport. Congratulations! Your hard work for the day is finally complete!!! Now enjoy some world-class nachos! Please note that the Woody Creek Tavern only accepts cash, not credit cards!