The Grand Loop...At 200 miles and 15,000+ feet of vertical gain, we don't call it "grand" for nothing! And it definitely ain't yo' mama's typical criterium course! Oh...I forgot to mention EPIC! This loop, with its spectacular high-altitude climbs and majestic mountain scenery is as spectacular as any double century ride in the world! Each year, only a handful of riders can claim they have successfully finished the Grand Loop. Well here's your chance to add your name to the list! But you better bring your "A" game. This ride is not for the faint-of-heart!
Here's a brief summary of what makes this ride truly EPIC:
- 200 miles, 15,000+ feet of climbing!
- A chance to ride Rocky Mountain National Park's famed Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in North America. Riders can expect to spend over seven miles above 11,000 feet, ultimately reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet!
- An amazing climb (and even more amazing descent) of Berthoud Pass, one of Colorado's most spectacular mountain passes.
- An opportunity to cross the Continental Divide twice in one day!
- A chance to dine at Golden's amazing Woody's pizzaria with its bottomless pizza buffet after the ride!!
This is our first Grand Loop in the remembrance of Tim Kalisch, who passed last summer. Let's keep Tim in our hearts! This was his most epic ride!!
|Grand views from the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop!|
1) Ride Date: Saturday, July 28, 2012
2) Start and Finish Location: Golden, CO, Coor-Tek parking lot, 10th and Jackson Street, just to the north of Parfet Park.
3) Registration: RMCC membership, prequalification, and preregistration are required to participate in this event. This event has a $30 registration fee. (FYI: Registration fees cover the expenses of supporting the event, but do NOT cover your entrance fee into Rocky Mountain National Park. Please bring your National Parks Pass or $10 to pay for your entrance into the park. We still have openings for this ride. Preregistration will close on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm. For questions, please e-mail Mark Lowe: email@example.com.
4) Ride start/check-in: Rider check-in at 2:30 am. Ride start at 3:00 am. Please be ready for a pre-ride briefing at 2:45 am. Lights and reflective gear are required!
5) Official support vehicles: We will have one RMCC support vehicle, which will be driven by Charlie Henderson (Charlie's cell phone: 720-480-9714). We are also planning to have volunteer support on the course. Participants are allowed to place a well-marked (BIG letters, easy to read) personal gear bag in the back of Charlie's truck prior to the start of the ride. This gear bag can be stocked with extra nutritional supplies and clothing that participants might need to successfully complete the ride. Riders will be able to access their gear bags at checkpoints along the course (see below). Faster riders may out-run the support vehicle after the Alpine Visitors Center in Rocky Mountain National Park and will not be to access their gear bags after leaving this check point. These riders need to plan ahead and bring the supplies and gear that they will need to complete this ride!
6) Personal support vehicles: Personal support vehicles are allowed (and encouraged)! However, participants riding with personal support must register their support vehicle with Charlie prior to the start of the ride (name of driver, vehicle make/model, license number, cell number). Failure to preregister your personal support vehicle will result in disqualification!
7) Checkpoints and time limits: Please keep in mind that this is a timed bike ride, but not a race. Participants have 18 hours to complete this ride to earn an official finishing time and receive Colorado Triple Crown credit. Riders can only begin riding at the official start time and must reach all checkpoints before the closing times to receive an official finishing time. We will once again be using event passports to record rider times for the Grand Loop. Riders may pick up their event passports at rider check-in, prior to the start of the ride. All riders should plan to have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff at the following official checkpoints listed below. If Charlie or RMCC event staff is not present at these checkpoints, riders should record their own times. Riders must have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff at the finish.
- Lyons, Diamond Shamrock, south side of US 36 (closing time: 5:40 am)
- Estes Park, Safeway on right side of road at intersection of Hwy 34 and Wonderview Ave. (closing time: 8:00 am)
- RMNP, Alpine Visitor Center (Fall River Pass) (closing time: 12:00 noon)
- Granby, store on northeast corner of US 34 and US 40 (closing time: 2:00 pm)
- Berthoud Pass summit (closing time: 5:30 pm). If riders are going to summit Berthoud Pass after 5:00 pm, please let Charlie know!
- Finish: Golden, Coors-Tek Parking Lot, 10th and Jackson St. (closing time: 9:00 pm)
8) Additonal Support Points: Riders with personal support vehicles may receive support at the above checkpoint locations AND at the following locations: 1) Winter Park (any convenience store), 2) Idaho Springs, Safeway, 3) Bergen Park, El Rancho Restaurant. If the weather turns nasty, support can be anywhere!
9) Abandonment: If you need to abandon the ride for any reason, please call Charlie Henderson at 720-480-9714 as soon as possible to let him know! As previously mentioned, if you are going to summit Berthoud Pass after 5:00 pm, please call Charlie to let him know! We don't want to spend all night worrying about where you are! Please note that we do not sweep the course!
10) Emergencies: If you have an accident or injury that requires emergent attention, please call 911. Please call Charlie ASAP to let him know!
11) Event Rules: Please review the event rules before the morning of the big ride: http://coloradotriplecrown.blogspot.com/2011/05/rules-regulations-and-safety.html
Route description: The Grand Loop can be broken down into six segments:
1) Golden to Lyons, 34.5 miles.
|Golden, CO, the western suburb of the Denver area, still has rustic reminders of the "Old West."|
Rustic Golden, CO (elev. 5,675 feet), the western-most suburb of the Denver metropolitan area, is the starting (and ending point) for the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop. Originally founded as a mining community in the mid-1800s, Golden is a popular tourist destination with a flare for the "Old West." It is home to the Colorado School of Mines, and the famous western showman "Buffalo Bill" Cody is buried on nearby Lookout Mountain. It is also home to the world famous Coors Brewery. In spite of this fact, a cold, refreshing Coors beer is going to have to wait until after the ride. Your quest to conquer the Grand Loop is just beginning!
Starting very early in the morning in downtown Golden, participants will ride north along Washington Street, turning north onto CO 93. Highway 93, which skirts along the eastern edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains between Golden and Boulder, is a scenic, hilly route with views of the mountains to the west. As riders venture north along CO 93, they will pass the inoperative Rocky Flats Arsenal. After passing through the intersection with CO 128 (120th Ave.), riders will begin a quick three-mile descent as CO 93 plunges toward the sleeping town of Boulder, CO (elev. 5,430 feet). Be wary of road debris, potholes, and even deer while making this descent in the dark! Good lights are strongly recommended!
|Boulder, CO is a true cycling gem! It has a little bit of everything for the cycling enthusiast.|
As riders approach Boulder from the south, CO 93 turns into Broadway Street. Boulder is one of nation's true cycling meccas, featuring an array of riding experiences for riders of all capabilities, including insanely steep mountain climbs, scenic scrambles along the eastern Colorado plains, and easy cruiser rides along an elaborate network of bike trails. And Boulder is never short on things to do!! From riding (both road and mountain), to hiking, to camping, to riding, to kayaking, and to experiencing an endless array of dining and shopping experiences, Boulder is always a bustle with activity!! And Boulder, with its vast number of professional cyclists, runners, and triathletes, has more professional athletes per capita than any other city in the U.S. (However, even the pros would be impressed by any rider attempting to complete the Grand Loop, one of Colorado's most difficult single-day cycling adventures!) As participants cruise through Boulder, they will ride past the amazing Flatirons rock formations to the west of Boulder, the University of Colorado campus, and Boulder's famous Pearl Street Mall. At the northern outskirts of Boulder, participants will make a left-hand turn onto US 36, tackling a series of moderate rollers as US 36 veers north toward the community of Lyons, CO at the northern outskirts of Boulder County. Riders will turn west onto US 36 (also CO 66) toward Lyons (elev. 5,371 feet) to reach their first checkpoint and complete the first section of this ride. Checkpoint 1: Lyons, Diamond Shamrock, south side of US 36. This is a very popular cycling route, used by amateur and professional cyclists alike! Surrounded by red sandstone rock formations, Lyons is also extremely beautiful! Unfortunately, riders won't be able to appreciate the beauty of the sandstone rock formations as they will still be riding in the dark.
Tip: The section from Golden to Lyons is relatively "flat," gaining only 2,000 vertical feet from Golden to Lyons, all of it via punchy rollers along CO 93 and US 36. Because it is relatively flat, riders should not dilly-dally! This is your best opportunity to put time in the bank before the real climbing begins!
2) Lyons to Estes Park, 20.6 miles.
|Surrounded by beautiful sandstone rock formations, Lyons, CO is an excellent starting point for many excellent Front Range rides!|
After riding through Lyons, US 36 turns northwest toward the foothills community of Estes Park, CO and Colorado's spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). From Lyons, participants will begin the first major climb of the day, a 3,000 foot, moderately steep ascent toward Estes Park. As road undulates upward, riders will catch the first glimpses of light as daylight begins to set in.
|Estes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is always a popular tourist destination!|
At the top of this long, 17-mile climb, participants will catch their first glimpse of the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park to the west with its beautiful snow-capped 13,000 foot peaks. Participants will also appreciate the beautiful Long's Peak to the southwest of Estes Park, which is one of the Colorado Front Range's most accessible 14ers. US 36 then makes the brisk three-mile plunge into Estes Park (elev. 7,522 feet). Estes Park is a community with true Colorado charm and has much to offer in terms of activities and shopping. More importantly, it is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, one of Colorado's largest natural (and rugged) outdoor playgrounds. Once in Estes Park, participants will turn right onto US 34 (East Wonderview Ave.), and stop at their next checkpoint, Checkpoint 2: Estes Park, the Safeway (US 36 and US 24/Wonderview Ave).
3) Estes Park to the Alpine Visitors Center via Trail Ridge Road, 28 miles.
|The climb up Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park is never short on scenery, but becomes increasingly short on oxygen as the road ascends into the stratosphere!|
From Estes Park, riders will continue west along US 34, climbing almost another 1,000 feet before reaching the Fall River Road park entrance. As participants continue west through Estes Park along US 34, they will pass the historic Stanley Hotel, made famous in the classic 1980 film, The Shining, a psychological horror film starring Jack Nicholas. As participants ride past the notorious hotel, the word "REDRUM" will come to mind, as participants begin the murderous, 5,000 foot ascent the top of Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park! (Okay...it's not quite that bad, but it truly is an EPIC climb!)
Tip: Okay...here is an incentive to push yourself a bit from Lyons to the Fall River Road park entrance. Riders who reach the eastern park entrance before 7:00 am should be able to ride into the park without having to stop at the gate to pay the entrance fee. However, riders who reach the eastern park entrance after 7:00 am will be required to stop at the RMNP Fall River Road entrance to pay the $10 bicycle fee. Please bring your National Parks Pass to avoid having to pay the fee.
|Views from the high point of Trail Ridge Road at 12,183 feet are breath-taking (literally!)|
Trail Ridge Road, which traverses RMNP from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake, CO in the west, is a one of Colorado's most spectacular mountain roads. The ascent up this amazing 48-mile stretch of highway is truly a monster climb! It is the defining climb of the Grand Loop...the climb that makes the Grand Loop truly EPIC! Some would argue that Trail Ridge Road--next to the amazing high-altitude climb up Mt. Evans--is Colorado's most classic bicycle ride, an experience that every rider will remember for a lifetime! From Estes Park, the climb into RMNP is the longest sustained climb of any event in the Colorado Triple Crown Series. Reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet, it is also the highest point of all the events in the Colorado Triple Crown (and as far as I know, the highest elevation of any double century event in the world!) I won't go into exquisite detail about the climb up Trail Ridge Road as it has been described in many locations. Probably the best cycling description of this classic Colorado ride is in author Michael Seeberg's Road Biking Colorado: The Statewide Guide. If you don't own a copy of this most-excellent book, please pick up a copy. It contains excellent details regarding the climb up Trail Ridge Road, but as also many other spectacular cycling routes in Colorado...it's a must-have for any Colorado cyclist!! Here are a few important notes about riding Trail Ridge Road:
- Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles long from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west, crossing Iceberg Pass (elev. 11,827 feet) and Fall River Pass (elev. 11,796 feet) near the summit of the climb.
- The air is very thin at the top of RMNP. As previously mentioned, riders can expect to spend over seven consecutive miles above 11,000 feet, making Trail Ridge the highest paved highway in North America. Participants need to be adequately prepared to ride at very high altitude!
- Given the very high altitude, weather conditions can be very unpredictable at the top of this climb (i.e., chilly temperatures and blustery winds)! Please be prepared and bring an assortment of cold weather riding gear (e.g., jackets, arm and leg warmers, and full-fingered gloves) that you can access from your gear bag at the checkpoint at the Alpine Visitor Center.
- The descent down the western side of Trail Ridge Road is an absolute hoot! But it is twisty and a bit technical. Please descend carefully! Riders should be a bit leary of oncoming traffic as it is not unheard of to have a car on the wrong side of the road as drivers gawk at the splendid mountain scenery. Additonally, riders should be on the lookout for wildlife that may wander into the road.
- RMNP is a very popular with tourists! As a consequence, traffic can be a bit heavy at times and there is not much shoulder to ride on. However, traffic does generally move slowly and most of Trail Ridge Road has been repaved over the past few years, so the road is in excellent condition.
|The Alpine Visitor Center in RMNP is a welcome sight after 10,000 feet of climbing!|
After climbing for what seems to be an eternity, riders will reach the spectacular High Point of Trail Ridge Road (elev. 12,183 ft.). At that point, participants will begin the blazing descent down the western slopes of RMNP to the next checkpoint, Checkpoint 3: RMNP, Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass (elev. 11,796, feet). At this point in time, riders will have climbed over 10,000 feet in 83 miles! Riders should grab any cold-weather riding gear they will need to complete the chilly descent down the western side of Trail Ridge Road.
|The views from Grand Lake, Shadow Moutain Lake, and Lake Granby continue to be stunning. However, headwinds off of the lakes can make riding a bit slow going at times!|
4) Alpine Visitor's Center, RMNP to Granby, 37.4 miles
From the RMNP Alpine Visitor's Center, riders will continue the blazing, windy descent down the western slopes of Trail Ridge Road as it plummets over 4,000 feet toward the Middle Park (Frasier) valley below. During this descent, riders will cross the Continental Divide for the first time at Milner Pass (elev. 10,758 feet). As riders approach the lower sections of Trail Ridge Road, the road will flatten out considerably and riders will face on onslaught of downhill rollers as they approach the western entrance to RMNP. The more daunting factor that riders will face, however, is the wind. Brisk headwinds blowing off Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Lake Granby to the south can make this section very challenging, especially as fatigue sets in! Riders should keep their fingers crossed that headwinds are gentle! In spite of the wind, views across the lakes are truly beautiful! Riders will cruise through Grand Lake, CO (elev. 8,437 feet), eventually reaching their next checkpoint, Checkpoint 4: Granby, store at the northeast corner of US 34 and US 40.
|Mountain views from the Middle Park (Frasier) Valley are always spectacular, but temperatures can be quite chilly, even during the summer months!|
5) Granby to Berthoud Pass Summit, 32.7 miles
From Granby (elev. 7,935 feet), participants will turn left (south) onto US 40, beginning the long, gradual ascent toward the base of the next big climb of the day...Berthoud Pass. The mountain views through the Frasier Valley are truly spectacular, but temperatures are often on the chilly side! (In fact, during the winter months, the Frasier Valley can be one of the coldest places in the Continental U.S., with temperatures dipping to 50 degrees below zero!) Traffic along US 40 can be a bit heavy at times as well, but there is a decent shoulder to ride on for most of this section from Granby to Winter Park. From Granby, participants will continue riding south along US 40 as it undulates upward through the valley towns of Tabernash (elev. 8,333 feet) and Frasier (elev. 8,574 feet). After a short series of climbs, participants will reach the ski town of Winter Park (elev. 9,052 feet). Winter Park is the self-proclaimed "Mountain Bike Capital" of the U.S. And after riding through town, you will understand why as riders of all ages will be using their two-wheeled mountain rigs to cruise around town. Continuing south on US 40, riders will cruise past the Winter Park and Mary Jane ski resorts before road pitches upward and riders begin the final 8-mile, switch-back laden ascent up Berthoud Pass (elev. 11,307 feet). Note: Please use caution when climbing Berthoud Pass. There is no shoulder in several places and traffic can be heavy! After grinding up this scenic mountain climb, riders will reach their next checkpoint, Checkpoint 4: Berthoud Pass Summit, where they can appreciate the views of the old Berthoud Ski Resort.
6) Berthoud Pass Summit to Golden, 47.2 miles.
After riders have reached the summit of Berthoud Pass, they will have covered 153 miles! Riders will once again cross the Continental Divide as they descend down the southeastern slopes of Berthoud Pass toward the town of Empire, CO (elev. 8,615 feet). The descent down US 40 to the east of Berthoud Pass is incredible...one of the most exhilarating descents in the state! This section of pavement has been repaved in recent years and has a wide, safe shoulder for cycling. With a bit of a tailwind, it is not unheard of cyclists reaching speeds of 50+ mph as US 40 plunges downhill. Riders will cruise through Empire (Tip: watch for police attempting to ticket speeding cyclists!) and then will navigate the series of frontage roads and service roads in the eastbound direction until they reach Idaho Springs, CO (elev. 7,526 feet). Idaho Springs is also a popular tourist destination, so please be a bit wary of traffic while riding through town! From Idaho Springs, riders will continue to navigate in the eastbound direction along a second series of frontage roads and bike trails.
Tip: Riders are encouraged to pre-ride the section from Idaho Springs to Floyd Hill in advance as it can be a bit confusing to navigate the series of bike trails and frontage roads on this part of the course. Bottom line: keep your bike moving east, whether you're on frontage road or bike trail and you'll (likely) end up where you're supposed to go!
|Weary-legged riders will be relieved to reach final descent down Lookout Mountain to the west of Golden. Riders can now start thinking seriously about a nice, cold Coors beer or some fabulous pizza from Woody's pizzaria!|
After navigating through Idaho Springs, riders will begin the final return back to Golden. At the eastern end of the Idaho Springs bike trail, riders will make a right-hand turn onto US 6 (at I-70, Exit 244). Riders will then make an immediate right-hand turn onto the I-70 Frontage Road toward the dreaded Floyd Hill. (Tip: do NOT miss this turn and continue on US 6!) At 1.9 miles, Floyd Hill is not a long climb, but at a constant eight percent grade, the climb up Floyd Hill can be extremely challenging for weary-legged riders. And coupled with the heat of afternoon sun, the climb up Floyd Hill can truly become a daunting task! At the top of Floyd Hill, the I-70 Frontage Road reconnects with US 40 and riders will make a quick descent down the eastern side of Floyd Hill (US 40) toward the scenic community of Soda Springs. Riders will continue eastbound on US 40 as it undulates upward to Bergen Park, CO (elev. 7,798 feet). Riders will then make a left-hand turn (northeast) onto the Evergreen Parkway, which connects with the eastbound lanes of I-70. Participants will ride on I-70 for 1.5 miles to the Genesee Park (Lookout Mountain) Exit. (Note: This is one of the few sections of I-70 where it is still legal for cyclists to ride without being ticketed. Riders can expect that the traffic along the interstate will be heavy and fast, but the shoulder is very wide. Riders need to stay as far to the right as possible!) After exiting I-70, riders will make the final 2,200 foot plunge down Lookout Mountain, which overlooks Golden, the Denver skyline, and the Colorado plains to the east. Riders will then return to the final checkpoint in Golden, Checkpoint 5: Coors-Tek parking lot at 10th and Jackson St. Riders should have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff.
Congratulations on completing the Grand Loop!!! It's time to take those cycling shoes off, kick back, have a nice, cold Coors beer and some pizza at Woody's!