Friday, December 16, 2011

Denver to Aspen Classic

The beautiful Maroon Bells, Aspen's signature alpine peaks.
Denver to Aspen is regarded by many people to be the signature event of the RMCC. Since the club's inception in 1993, club members have been riding Denver to Aspen as preparation for much harder events such as Paris-Brest-Paris and Montreal-Boston-Montreal, some of the longest, most difficult timed bike events in the world. The original Denver-to-Aspen course started in the Denver Tech Center, climbing Deer Creek Canyon until it reached US-285 near what is now Aspen Park. From Aspen Park the course turned west along US-285 toward Kenosha Pass and the dreaded, wind-laden South Park Valley, eventually reaching Buena Vista. Riders then faced the final lung-searing climb over Independence Pass before making the exhilarating descent into Aspen.

The original course was created by Joe Lookingbill, one of the founding fathers of the RMCC. Joe was the mastermind behind the Denver to Aspen Classic and was one of the event directors when Denver to Aspen was organized as a public ride during the 1990s. Because of the extreme difficulty of this event, Denver to Aspen was never wildly popular; however, this incredibly challenging event did possess a certain mystique that would attract up to 190 riders each year. It also attracted many strong riders, including former US professional racer and Giro d'Italia contestant, Michael Carter, who to this day still holds the fastest mile-per-hour average speed. In 2015, the RMCC board of directors approved a complete revision the of Joe Lookingbill-designed course, creating an entirely different Denver-to-Aspen route to bypass the increasingly dangerous US-285. The new course climbs the iconic Lookout Mountain to the west of Denver and then ventures west along the lightly trafficked frontage roads along the I-70 corridor to the base of Loveland Pass, making the course safer for participants. The final defining climb from the beautiful Twin Lakes to the summit of Independence Pass as well as the brilliant descent into Aspen is fortunately preserved for participants.

Joe Lookingbill passed at an early age after a battle with cancer. Although we are no longer using the challenging double century course that he created, his memory and the mystique of the Denver to Aspen course that he created lives on.

The stair-step approach to Independence Pass.
Date: 6/6/2020

Start: Tortoises: 3:00 AM, Hares: 4:00 AM

Start location: Sloans Lake Park, 26th and Tennyson St., Denver, CO

End location: Woody Creek Tavern, Woody Creek, CO.

Map: Denver to Aspen

Registration: Registration opens 3/2/2020. This event has a $40 registration feel. Please register early. Registration is limited to the first 50 pre-registered riders. Registration closes June 4, 2020. RMCC membership is also required to participate in this event. For more information about membership: RMCC membership. 

Dense aspen forests line sections of Independence Pass during the screaming descent
into Aspen. 

Brief description: Denver to Aspen is an EPIC single-day adventure from the Colorado's capital city, Denver, into the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Starting at Sloan's Lake Park to the west of downtown Denver, the course ventures west, initially climbing Lookout Mountain and Mount Vernon Canyon, the eastern gateway from Denver into the Colorado Rockies. The course undulates as it passes through the historic mining communities of Idaho Springs and Georgetown before starting the long, steep climb up the rugged Loveland Pass, one of Colorado's most spectacular mountain passes. The course then traverses into Summit County, passing the ski resorts at Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Copper Mountain. Participants then climb the beautiful Fremont Pass, riding past the historic Climax Mine en route to the silver mining town of Leadville, the nation's highest incorporated city. From Leadville, participants venture south and west, passing the scenic Twin Lakes before tackling Colorado's famed Independence Pass, reaching a lung-searing altitude of 12,095 feet! Riders then make the twisty descent down the western slopes of Independence Pass to the ritzy mountain resort town of Aspen, ultimately ending at the cycling-friendly community of Woody Creek.  

Course Highlights:
  • Distance: 180 miles, a point-to-point route from Denver, CO to Woody Creek, CO
  • Climbing: 16,000 feet
  • 3 crossings of the Continental Divide: Loveland Pass, Fremont Pass, and Independence Pass
  • 6 categorized climbs:
To the west of Golden, CO, Lookout Mountain and Mount Vernon Canyon is the eastern gateway
into the Colorado Rockies.

1) Lariat Loop Climb (Lookout Mountain Pillars to I-70 entrance): Category 2: The signature climb out of Golden, CO with spectacular views of Denver skyline to the east. 
2) Floyd Hill, east to west: Category 3: A moderately steep "grunt" of a climb. 

Loveland Pass always provides captivating Colorado scenery!
3) Loveland Pass (elev. 11,990 ft): Hors Category, from Georgetown: A spectacular high alpine climb with rugged mountain sides and jaw-dropping panoramic of Colorado's finest! 

Riders roll into the checkpoint at Fremont Pass during the 2015 version of Denver to Aspen. 
4) Swan Mountain Climb: Category 4
5) Fremont Pass (elev. 11,318 ft), Category 1: Another beautiful high altitude climb that rides past the Climax Mine, a major source of molybdenum in the US.

6) Independence Pass East (elev. 12,095 feet), Hors category, from Twin Lakes: One of Colorado's best known passes, Independence Pass is the spectacular defining climb (and descent) of Denver to Aspen.

Time limit: 16.5 hours (to receive an official finishing time and Colorado Triple Crown credit)

Event organizer: Mark Lowe (e-mail:

Additional Notes:
  1. Some ultra-distance experience is encouraged (but not required) to participate in this event.
  2. Given the exposure to high altitude, severe weather is a major concern with this event. As such, riders need to be prepared, bringing their best winter- and wet-riding gear with them!
  3. The RMCC is not responsible for transportation back to Denver from Aspen. Please start working on arrangements ASAP to get you and your bike back to Denver after this event! 
  4. Lights and reflective gear are required!