Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013 Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop Recap

Spectacular views from RMNP's famed Trail Ridge Road. At an altitude of 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road
is the highest location of any Colorado Triple Crown event!

Members of the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club (RMCC) tackled the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop, the final event of the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown, on Saturday, August 10, 2013. For many Colorado cyclists, the "Grand Loop" is one of the Colorado Front Range's most epic single-day cycling loops! In 2012, the RMCC-sponsored event was renamed in remembrance of Tim Kalisch, a popular RMCC member, who took his own life in August 2011, a devastating loss to the club. To Tim and many other RMCC members, the Grand Loop is the club's most epic single-day event. The crux the Grand Loop is the spectacular 5,000 foot climb up Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park, ascending into the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous highway in North America, featuring seven continuous miles above 11,000 feet and reaching a high point of 12,183 feet, the highest elevation of any event of the Colorado Triple Crown.  It is also arguably the most spectacular stretch of pavement of any of the Colorado Triple Crown events!

Billy Edwards had a record-setting performance during this year's Grand Loop, posting a record time of 11:04, bettering Mark Lowe's 2012 time by 4 minutes! Billy's performance was impressive given he completed the final 118 miles without any support and even waited for Eric Nelson to change a flat tire out side of Granby.  Congratulations, Billy!

This year's Grand Loop featured 22 starters, including eight rookies, the largest turnout ever for this event! In spite of the weather forecast for afternoon rain showers, participants encountered some of the best weather in the history of this event with comfortable temperatures (upper 50s in RMNP and the upper 60s in the Fraser Valley) and favorable winds, including an impressive tailwind from the top of Berthoud Pass back to Golden. Riders who finished later in the day were chased by some light thundershowers from Berthoud Pass back to Golden, but overall weather conditions could not have been much better!

Mark Lowe at the conclusion of the Grand Loop, relieved to be off of the bike after a day of cramps and flat legs...and after  getting a taste of his own medicine! 

With cooperative weather conditions and a speedy crew of riders, it was a day for records to fall!! Professional triathlete and endurance coach, Billy Edwards, who captained the 8-man Allied Forces-Team 4Mil to a record setting performance at this year's Race Across America (RAAM), spearheaded the day of record-setting performances, setting a new Grand Loop course record.

Eric Nelsen had another solid day on the bike. An unfortunate flat outside of Granby and lack of front-end support forced Eric to back off the hard pace set by Billy Edwards shortly after leaving Granby, CO.

Grand Loop participants got off to a blistering start in spite of the very early 3:00 am start! A group of riders, including Billy, Mark Lowe, Eric Nelsen, Steve Rudolph, Tom Miller, and RMCC newcomer, Tim Hoppin, set a blazing pace to Lyons, CO, riding the hilly 35-mile stretch from Golden to Lyons with an average speed of over 23 mph (which is very impressive given this section is ridden entirely in the dark on less than ideal road conditions)! The lead group began to splinter a bit as the they began the 3,000 foot grind up US-36 from Lyons to Estes Park, CO, just as the first hints of daylight began to set in. Upon reaching the eastern entrance to RMNP, Billy and Eric continued their aggressive pace up Trail Ridge Road, forcing Steve Rudolph and Tim Hoppin to fall back to a more sustainable pace. Four-time Grand Loop veteran and course record holder, Mark Lowe, who was hampered by an untimely bathroom break and leg cramps, also had to fall back shortly after leaving the checkpoint in Estes Park, leaving Billy and Eric out front. The duo reached the Alpine Visitor's Center in RMNP--after climbing 10,000 feet in 82 miles--in 5:15 (15.62 mph), setting the fastest recorded time to visitor center in the history of this event!

RMCC new-comer, Tim Hoppin, successfully completed his first Colorado Triple Crown event. Good to have you out there, Tim! Hopefully we'll see you for more next season!

After refueling at the RMNP checkpoint, Billy and Eric made the spectacular, twisty (but blustery) descent down the western slope of RMNP, eventually passing through western RMNP entrance and the community of Grand Lake. Before reaching Granby, however, their pace came to a complete hault when Eric experienced an untimely flat tire. Demonstrating good sportsmanship, Billy waited for Eric to change the flat, a decision that ultimately cost several valuable minutes. Riding without support, the duo was then forced to stop in Granby to refill their bottles at a local convenience store. Mark, who had passed through the RMNP alpine visitor center ten minutes behind Billy and Eric, unknowingly caught and passed the two riders in Granby. Mark was promptly tracked down by Billy, who did not want the current Grand Loop record holder to slip away.

At 53 years old, Steve Rudolph successfully completes his fastest Grand Loop to date in 12:04. Like a fine wine,
Steve continues to get better with age!

After catching up with Mark, Billy promptly dropped into his aerobars, and gradually pulled away from Triple Crown veteran as the two riders made the steep ascent along US-40 into Tabernash, CO. Mark commented afterwards, "when Billy dropped into his aerobars, there was absolutely nothing I could do! I simply didn't have the legs today to keep up with him today! He definitely rode much better today than 2011, the last time I rode the Grand Loop with him." Once out front, Billy made the 2,000 foot ascent from Winter Park, CO to the top of Berthoud Pass. At the top of the pass, Billy embranced a strong westerly tailwind, which assisted his blazing descent back toward Golden. After tackling the short but steep climb up Floyd Hill and the series of uphill rollers through Soda Springs, Billy made the final descent down Lookout Mountain, ultimately reaching the final checkpoint in Golden with a finishing time of 11:04!

With his record setting day on the bike, Billy has proven that he is a legitimate threat to capture this year's Furnace Creek 508 title, which will be contested in October 2013. Best of luck with the race, Billy!

For Billy's recap on the event: http://billythekidtriathlete.com/uncategorized/grand-loop-re-cap/

Congratulations to all of this year's Grand Loop finishers!!!


Tom Miller and Drew Knerl finished the final leg of this year's Grand Loop together. By completing this year's Grand Loop, Drew completes his first Colorado Triple Crown and Tom completes his third! Congratulations to both of you!!

Craig Howell and Kelly Shannon at the conclusion of the Grand Loop. Both riders improved on last year's time by 40 minutes! Congratulations to both of you!

Jeff Hulett of Golden, CO successfully completes his first Grand Loop and fourth event of this year's Colorado Triple Crown. Congratulations, Jeff!

Dick Wiss successfully completes his first Grand Loop since 2009! At 64 years young, Dick is perhaps the oldest rider to ever complete this challenging loop and the oldest rider to ever complete the Colorado Triple Crown!
My hat's off to you, Dick!!

Diane Benoit, at 55 years old, successfully completes the Colorado Triple Crown. Diane and RMCC distance legend, Carol Havrda, are the only two female riders in RMCC history to have completed this challenging series twice!
Congratulations, Diane!!

By completing the Grand Loop, Steve Schroer of Littleton successfully completes his first Colorado Triple Crown. Steve had a series of mechanical problems during the Cripple Creek Crippler that prevented him from completing that event! Congratulations on finishing strong!

By his own high standards, Mark Stanton had a rough day on the bike, but successfully battled through adversity
to complete his first Grand Loop! Nice ride, Mark!

The trio of Fran Summerhill, Lisa Purul, and Dave Secunda worked together to complete this year's Grand Loop. By completing this event, all three riders successfully completed the Colorado Triple Crown! Fran and Lisa are only the third and fourth female riders in club history to complete the series. And at 59 years young, Fran becomes the oldest woman to successfully complete the series! Congratulations to all of you!!!

RMCC veteran, Harris Rosenthal, successfully completes the Grand Loop!
It was good having you out there on another long event!!

Andrew and Kami White completed the Grand Loop in 16:04, the fastest known time of any mixed tandem couple to complete this challenging ride! By completing the Grand Loop, Andrew and Kami become the first couple to ever complete the Colorado Triple Crown on a tandem! This is truly an amazing feat as an unfortunate DNF
during Denver-to-Aspen meant they had to complete the series by riding the three most difficult events of the series:the Colorado Death Ride, the Cripple Creek Crippler, and Grand Loop! Congratulations to both of you!!!


RMCC club president, Charlie Henderson, still smiling after a long day of supporting riders! 

Event Notes:

  • 22 ride starters (including four women), a new record for the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop!
  • 21 finishers, also a new record for this event.
  • Congratulations to Billy Edwards for his record-setting performance in 11:04 (18.07 mph), bettering Mark Lowe's 2012 time of 11:08. Billy, along with Eric Nelsen, also established a new club record for the fastest time ever recorded to the Alpine Visitor's Center in RMNP in 5:15 (15.62 mph)!
  • Congratulations to Diane Benoit for posting the fastest solo female time of the day in 14:24 (13.89 mph)! By completing the Grand Loop, Diane becomes only the second female in club history to complete the Colorado Triple Crown twice!
  • Also, congratulations to Andrew and Kami White for posting the fastest finishing time of any mixed tandem during the Grand Loop with a time of 16:04 (12.45 mph)! 
  • By completing the Grand Loop, Mark Lowe captured the Colorado Triple Crown stage race title, the fastest cumulative time for the three original Colorado Triple Crown events (Denver-to-Aspen, Colorado Death Ride, and the Grand Loop). Eric Nelson and Steve Rudolph round out this year's stage race podium! Congratulations to all three riders. 


Special thanks to Charlie Henderson and Laura Luhn (who filled in at the last second) for providing event support for this year's Grand Loop!!




By completing the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop, the following riders have successfully completed the Colorado Triple Crown. Congratulations to all of you!!
  1. Diane Benoit
  2. Drew Knerl
  3. Lisa Purul
  4. Steve Schroer
  5. Dave Secunda
  6. Fran Summerhill
  7. Andrew and Kami White
  8. Dick Wiss

Elk enjoying the scenery along along Trail Ridge Road.




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