Tuesday, July 31, 2012

2012 Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop Recap

Views of RMNP from Trail Ride Road are amazing! Trail Ridge road is easily one of the most spectacular cycling roads in the world!!

The 2012 Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop is in the books! The Grand Loop, one of Colorado's most epic single-day cycling loops, features over 15,000 feet of climbing in 200 miles. The loop traverses Rocky Mountain National Park via Trail Ridge Road, one of the most spectacular high altitude highways in the world. Trail Ridge Road features seven continuous miles above 11,000 feet, reaching a maximum altitude of 12,183 feet. With an average altitude of greater than 8,000 feet, the Grand Loop is the arguably the highest double century event in the world. Only the Colorado Death Ride in the San Juans rivals the Grand Loop in average altitude.

Eric Nelsen and Mark Lowe at the finish of the Grand Loop in Golden, CO, both happy to have escaped the afternoon rain showers.

This year's event had an excellent turnout, including 20 ride starters and 19 finishers. Riders encountered pleasant, crisp riding conditions to start this year's event. The pleasant weather conditions persisted all the way to Berthoud Pass, over 150 miles into the ride. The dry, cool weather conditions, however, eventually yielded to clouds and heavy rain showers for riders who finished the home stretch from Berthoud Pass to Golden, CO after 1 pm. Probably the largest dilemma facing this year's participants, however, was the road construction project to the east of Idaho Springs. As CDOT prepared to widen the tunnels along I-70 to the east of Idaho Springs, Grand Loop participants were potentially facing long delays on the frontage roads to the east of Idaho Springs. The CDOT road construction crew, however, did an excellent job getting Grand Loop participants through the 1/2 mile work zone expeditiously, with average delays of less than five minutes.

Eric Nelsen at the conclusion of the 2012 Grand Loop. Eric rode remarkably well in his first Grand Loop and only his second ever double century event! Nice ride, Eric!

With comfortable riding conditions, this year's event a got off to a blistering pace right from the 3 am start. A group of six riders, including Ryan Franz, Mark Lowe, Marc Moons, Eric Nelsen, Steve Rudolph, and Paul Spencer established a fast moving pace line from downtown Golden along US 93 and US 36 toward Lyons, CO, the event's first checkpoint. Once in Lyons, the real climbing began in earnest as riders tackled the 3,000 foot+ climb from Lyons to Estes Park, CO, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Ryan Franz summed up the effort best afterward, stating "that pace [was] really hard!" As the intense pace continued, Steve Rudolph and Paul Spencer backed off the pace a bit, leaving the Colorado trio of Mark, Ryan, and Eric and Marc from Petaluma, CA out front.

Ryan Franz completed his second Grand Loop almost one hour faster than last year!  Nice ride, Ryan!

After reaching Rocky Mountain National Park, Marc decided to "test" the Colorado riders. Riding a "loaner" bike (after the seat tube on his own bike cracked two weeks beforehand), Marc attempted repeatedly to open a gap between himself and the Colorado riders, using punchy, out-of-the-saddle efforts to distance himself from Mark, Eric,and Ryan. With each surge, however, the Colorado riders (who were very acclimated to rarified high mountain air) would close the gap. As the riders approached 11,000 feet, the surges began to their toll of Marc's legs as he began to experience problems with cramping, probably from not having the position on his bike completely "dialed in." Mark commented about the surges, "when Marc [Moons] started to attack, I didn't want him to open up a gap. I've ridden several double century events with Marc in California before. If he senses that you are hurting, he will bury you! Even though I was having my own GI issues and problems with cramping at the time, I didn't want to give him the psychologic advantage!" Eventually, the cramping took its toll on the wily California veteran who--along with Ryan Franz--had to back off the pace a bit, leaving Mark and Eric out front to navigate the highest (and most majestic) sections of Trail Ridge Road. With the assistance of the early morning lead-out group, Mark and Eric cruised into the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center (82 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing) in a mere 5 hours, 16 minutes (16.0 mph), a new record for this event.

Marc Moons rode admirably on a "loaner" bike after the seat tube on his trusty Taylor broke two weeks before this year's Grand Loop. Marc is one event away from completing the Colorado Triple Crown!

As Mark and Eric began the twisty, chilly descent down the western slopes of Trail Ridge Road into patches of fog, Mark was forced to pull off at Milner Pass for a restroom reprieve, leaving Eric (who was riding only his second ever double century event) alone to navigate the lower sections of RMNP. Mark, a four-time Grand Loop veteran, eventually caught back up to Eric along US 34 to the north of Granby, CO. As Mark continued to push the pace on the long gradual descent toward Granby, Eric did not latch onto Mark's wheel, leaving the Colorado Triple Crown veteran out front. With the other riders isolated, Mark began the long uphill stretch through the Frasier Valley toward Berthoud Pass, cruising through the towns of Tabernash, Frasier, and Winter Park along US 40. Many riders found this section to be the most difficult of the day. The continual onslaught of uphill rollers (after 120 miles), coupled with heavy traffic along US 40, definitely took their toll on the psyche of many riders!

Steve Rudolph is a bit chilled after completing his first Grand Loop. Steve, like many of the riders who finished after  3 pm, got stuck in rain showers from Berthoud Pass to Bergen Park. (Believe it or not, there was actually a tornado reported on Mt. Evans as riders were completing the final 50-mile descent from Berthoud Pass to Golden. This was only the second time in US history that a tornado was reported above 11,000 feet!)

Upon reaching the summit of Berthoud Pass, Mark was essentially "home free," except for the short, steep climb up the dreaded Floyd Hill to the west of Evergreen. Mark eventually made the final descent down Lookout Mountain into Golden with a personal best time of 11 hours, 8 minutes. Although he was unable to catch back up with Mark, Eric continued to ride superbly, clawing his way back home and refusing to yield time to Ryan and Marc, who weren't very far behind. Eric eventually finished in 11 hours, 31 minutes, only 23 minutes off of Mark's pace.

In the end, Mark summed up this year's event, stating "this was the first time that we've ridden the Grand Loop in remembrance of long-time RMCC member, Tim Kalisch, who passed last summer. For Tim, the Grand Loop was his epic ride!" Mark continued, stating "I think Tim would have been impressed by everyone's efforts today!"

Congratulations to all of this year's finishers for completing Colorado's grandest cycling loop! Tim Kalisch would have been proud of the effort that all of you put forth this weekend! 

Rider data:
  • 20 ride starters, including 4 women (Yes...women are allowed to ride this event too! :)
  • 13 Grand Loop rookies
  • 3 riders from out-of-state
  • 19 official finishers, 1 DNF
  • New record to the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center (82.9 miles, 10,000 vertical feet): 5 hours, 11 minutes (16.0 mph)
  • New course record: 11 hours, 8 minutes (17.97 mph)
  • With the completion of the Grand Loop, there are 11 official Colorado Triple Crown finishers (so far) for 2012, including nine first-time Triple Crown finishers!

Brief Results, Men:
  1. Mark Lowe, Arvada, CO: 11:08
  2. Eric Nelsen, Evergreen, CO: 11:31
  3. Ryan Franz, Boulder, CO: 11:53

Brief Results, Women:
  1. Lisa Renee Tumminello, Littleton, CO: 13:36 (In spite of a flat tire, Lisa Renee managed to record the second fastest women's time ever posted on the Grand Loop. The women's course record is held by RMCC distance legend, Carol Havrda (13:20, 2005)
  2. Diane Benoit: 14:10
Complete results will be available on the RMCC website soon!

Special thanks to Charlie Henderson, Hunter Johnson, and Mark Michel for providing support for the Grand Loop!

Congratulations to following riders for successfully completing the Colorado Triple Crown, Colorado's most difficult road cycling series!
  1. Ryan Franz*
  2. Michael Henderson
  3. Josh Horwood*
  4. Craig Howell*
  5. Jason Kaminski*
  6. Todd LeBlanc*
  7. Mark Lowe
  8. Mel Morris*
  9. Tim O'Leary*
  10. Steve Rudolph*
  11. Kelly Shannon*
*First-time Colorado Triple Crown finisher

The completion of the Grand Loop also marks the conclusion of the Colorado Triple Crown "Stage Race." The staged portion of the Colorado Triple Crown includes the fastest cumulative time of Denver-to-Aspen, the Colorado Death Ride, and the Grand Loop. This year's podium finishers include:   
  1. Mark Lowe: 33 hours, 10 minutes (18.24 mph)
  2. Ryan Franz: 34 hours, 37 minutes (17.48 mph)
  3. Steve Rudolph: 36 hours, 59 minutes (16.36 mph)
Complete Triple Crown Stage Race results will be posted on the RMCC website soon!

Michael Henderson had his nutrition dialed in much better for this year's Grand Loop. By completing the Grand Loop, Michael becomes a two-time finisher of the Colorado Triple Crown!

Michael Henderson, Kelly Shannon, Craig Howell, and Lisa Renee Tumminello (and  son) at the finish of the 2012 Grand Loop! Congratulations to all of you!

Tim O'Leary completed his second Grand Loop over 30 minutes faster than last year. Congratulations, Tim, on completing the Colorado Triple Crown!

Josh Horwood is proud to have completed this year's Grand Loop, thus completing his first Colorado Triple Crown series! 

Jason Kaminski last rode the Grand Loop in 2005 (15:08). With several double centuries under his belt for 2012, Jason rode this year's Grand Loop 33 minutes faster than in 2005. As they say, practice makes perfect! Nice ride Jason!

Todd LeBlanc had his on-the-bike nutrition dialed in much better for the Grand Loop than he did for the Colorado Death Ride on July 1. Congratulations on becoming a Colorado Triple Crown finisher!

Paul Spencer used this year's Grand Loop as a "warm up" for the Colorado Trail mountain bike race to be contested later this week! Nice ride, Paul, and good luck!

Fran Summerhill successfully completed her first Grand Loop!  Fran is thinking about completing the entire  Colorado Triple Crown Series in 2013! Congratulations Fran!

Scott Griffith and Lisa Purul at the finish of the 2012 Grand Loop. Congratulations on  riding strong!

Mel Morris cracks a smile after a frustrating finish, Mel got lost in Bergen Park before descending Lookout Mountain into Golden! Congratulations on becoming our first out-of-state Triple Crown finisher!!

Views of RMNP's spectacular Long's Peak.