Sunday, December 30, 2012

New for 2013!

Approaching an elevation of 12,100 feet above sea level
on RMNP's famed Trail  Ridge Road.

Welcome to 2013!! What's new for this season?

Well...not much really! But there are a few subtleties worth pointing out:

  1. Registration for the events of the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown will open 2/1/2013. Please refer to the "Registration" tab for more details. 
  2. In 2013, we're including an official make-up date on the calendar (August 17, 2013) for either Denver-to-Aspen, the Cripple Creek Crippler, or the Grand Loop in case we need to postpone one of the events, whether it be dangerous weather conditions, unexpected road closures, forest fires, etc. We sincerely hope that we don't need to use this date, but we want to give every rider the best opportunity to complete the Colorado Triple Crown for 2013!
  3. As in previous years, we are going to ride the Colorado Death Ride on the weekend prior to July 4th. We usually ride the Death Ride on Sunday as it is typically the day on the holiday weekend with the lightest traffic. In 2013, however, we will ride the event on Saturday. Although we might have to contend with slightly heavier traffic, riding the event on Saturday gives us the opportunity to do a make-up ride on Sunday if for whatever reason the course is unsafe to ride on Saturday. Riders need to be prepared that if conditions were not safe to ride on Saturday, we would attempt to make up the ride on Sunday (June 30th). If conditions were still unsafe on Sunday, then the event would be cancelled for 2013. Given the immense amount of travel time from the Denver area, it is not practical to include a separate make-up date for the Death Ride. 
  4. The 2013 rendition of the Colorado Death Ride will start in Durango rather than Ridgway. After four seasons of starting this classic Colorado loop in Ridgway and riding it in the clockwise direction, we're going to start the event in Durango in 2013, riding it in the counterclockwise direction! The reason for this change is two-fold. First, starting the ride in Durango mixes things up a bit and definitely gives this epic loop a different (and perhaps more challenging) perspective. Second, we're hoping to attract greater participation from riders from the Durango area ( more excuses, Durango riders!) However, this switch potentially makes the Colorado Death Ride even harder as the climbs are steeper. Additionally, participants may have to contend with dreaded headwinds in the Dolores River Valley while riding in the downhill direction! More on this to come soon...
  5. We're swapping weekends of the Grand Loop and Cripple Creek Crippler. There are a number of reasons for this switch. First, Buffalo Bill Days in Golden (which is celebrated the last weekend in July...the same weekend that we usually ride the Grand Loop) has made the final miles of the Grand Loop extremely unsafe for participants. Riding the Crippler during the last weekend in July will move the start/end location to our trusty Ken Caryl RTD park-n-ride location in Littleton...away from the heavy traffic in Golden. Second...there's really not another weekend in July that we can move the Grand Loop without being in competition with a major ACA/BRAC race, which is not our intention. Finally, moving the Crippler to July virtually ensures that riders will encounter sizzling temperatures along Deckers Road, further adding to the challenge of the Crippler! We're almost positive that all riders will embrace this added challenge! :)
  6. Once again, the original three events of the Colorado Triple Crown Series (Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic, Colorado Death Ride, and the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop) will be run as a "staged" event. The fastest cumulative time of these events will be crowned Colorado Triple Crown Champion for 2013!
  7. And last, but not least...once again, to recognize our Colorado Triple Crown finishers for their accomplishments, finishers of the Colorado Triple Crown will be eligible for our most-stellar Triple Crown kit, designed with help from Alchemist Threadworks in Boulder, CO: 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Welcome to 2013! Now Let's Get Faster!

What?!? Are you kidding me?!? The calendar says it's still 2012! In fact, we still have one more month (and the entire holiday season) before the start of 2013!!

Well...I hate to break it to you! 2013 starts now!!

No...I'm not talking about hours of riding in frigid-cold, sub-freezing temperatures or slaving away on the trainer for hours on end with mind (and body) numbing intervals (although intervals will never hurt!). I'm talking about the preparation to become a more successful rider in 2013! are eleven tips for getting the 2013 cycling season off to a stellar start and hopefully becoming a faster rider in the upcoming new year...

1) The first step in "getting faster" is setting goals. What are your cycling goals for the 2013 season?? Perhaps it is to complete your first century event. Maybe it's to complete your first double century, or the Colorado Triple Crown for that matter. Perhaps it's to complete an Ironman Triathlon? Whatever your goals are for 2013, you need to start your planning now! This is important for two reasons. First, many events have a limited window of registration. Registration for Team Evergreen's Triple Bypass, for instance, Colorado's most famed single-day cycling tour, opens in early January and often reaches its registration cap within a few days (and sometimes in less than one day). As the saying goes, "the early bird catches the worm!" Failure to start your preparations for your 2013 events now may limit your ability to register for many popular events. Second, and perhaps more important, is that riders who train with specific goals in mind are likely to be more focused and will thus train more effectively for the upcoming season. You need to have goals to give your "down-season" training some purpose...otherwise your training will very likely be less efficient. Bottom need to start thinking about your objectives for next season NOW!!

2) Spend the money on a good bike fit! Plain and simple...if you can't ride comfortably on a bike for 100 miles, then you will suffer dearly on a 200 mile (or longer) event. Probably the best way to improve your comfort on the bike is to seek the help of a professional. It's amazing how a few small adjustments on the bike can do wonders to your overall comfort and efficiency. A professional bike fit, however, is going to come at a premium...$200 to $300 (maybe more)! But it maybe the best money that you spend on your "bike habit" for 2013. One more piece of advise is to seek a bike fit from an expert who has a background in physical therapy. No one is biomechanically perfect. We all have little kinks in our physiques that could potentially pose problems on the bike, whether it be a leg-length discrepancy, muscular inflexibility in our legs or backs, or a foot varus/valgus problems. A professional bike fitter with a background in physical therapy will be able to tease out these potential problems and can make small adjustments to a bike fit, perhaps warding off a potential injury. A professional bike fit can ultimately make you more efficient on the bike. Suggested local places to go: 1) Merrill Performance in Boulder: or 2) Boulder Center for Sports Medicine:

3) Drop weight! Plain and simple...this is the most effective way to become a faster rider, especially on hilly or mountainous terrain. The numbers are pretty staggering when you look at them, but lighter riders, with a better power-to-weight ratio, will simply be able to climb faster than a heavier (and sometimes more powerful) riders. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Our busy lifestyles and work schedules often make it very difficult for use to eat as healthy as we would like. And as the winter kicks into full swing and the days continue to get shorter and colder, it becomes more difficult to do longer calorie-burning rides. the holidays approach, try to be accountable for every calorie that goes into your mouth, including both liquid and solid calories. Riders who really struggle with putting on a lot of weight during the off-season should consider seeking help from a nutritionist or dietary expert to help them "dial in" their off-season diet and assist them with weight loss. Extra weight is guaranteed to set you back as the 2013 season begins!

4) Become more aerodyamic on the bike. Okay...this goes hand-in-hand with a good bike fit. But the physics behind this concept are not difficult to understand. If you can become more comfortable in a slightly more aerodynamic position ( don't have to ride as aero as Dave Zabriski or Fabian Cancellara), you will produce less drag and you will go faster!! Notice I said nothing about purchasing a $3000 aero wheelset or fancy aero time trial helmet (although these pieces of equipment will definitely not hurt you, but fragile, carbon aero wheels are these probably not the best equipment choice for an unsupported 200-mile bike race!) Bottom line...if you can become more comfortable in a slightly more aerodynamic position on the bike, you will go faster, even if your power output does not change significantly. But it is important to not sacrifice comfort over aerodynamics, especially for ultra-distance events!

5) Address the "show stoppers!" Your contact points on the bike, especially your feet and butt, are absolutely essential for successfully completing endurance events. You could be the strongest rider in a two or three hour road race, but if you can't ride comfortably on a bike for longer periods of time, you will suffer dearly during an ultra-distance event, which could take 12-to-24+ hours to complete! And ultra-distance events are notorious for exposing the weaknesses of even the strongest riders, especially those weaknesses related to shoes and saddles. Bottom line...if you really struggle with "hot foot" or other foot related problems, consider talking to bicycle fit specialist about your on-the-bike foot pain. A pair of semi-custom or custom orthotics may be all that it takes to improve your on-the-bike foot comfort and make you a faster rider. Other riders may have to resort to full custom shoes, such as those made by D2 Shoe, located in Eagle, CO. In addition to footwear, the off-season is an ideal time to start experimenting with different saddles. Saddle choice is clearly the most individualist equipment selection on a bicycle. And a saddle that works well for one cyclist may not necessarily work well for another cyclist.'s the time to continue your search for your personal "holy grail" of saddles, which will hopefully allow you to ride more comfortably (and faster) in 2013!

6) Nutrition. On-the-bike nutrition and hydration is essential to successfully complete any ultra-endurance competition. This point cannot be stressed enough!! And like saddles and shoes, nutritional supplements are extremely individualistic. What works well for one rider may not necessarily work well for another rider. Well, the "down-season" is the perfect time to start experimenting with different nutritional supplements--both liquids and solids--that you can use to meet your caloric requirements during different types of rides...long rides, short rides, intense rides, and recovery rides. Additionally, riders should also experiment with the amount of calories and fluids that he/she needs to consume per hour to successfully finish an ultra-cycling event. Most riders will require approximately 250 to 500 calories per hour to successfully complete an endurance cycling event and 20-28 ounces of water per hour (depending on the weather conditions) to maintain hydration. Riders should continue to dial in their on-the-bike nutrition during the winter months, which will hopefully lead to less experimentation and faster riding when the 2013 cycling season kicks into high gear!

7) Mix it up! Don't be afraid to try different aerobic activities in the "down-season!" Remember: the heart is not a "smart" muscle. It just wants to beat!! And there are so many different winter activities in Colorado that cyclists can take advantage of to maintain aerobic fitness...from snowshoeing to cross country skiing to skate skiing, etc. As cyclists, it's very easy to get "stuck in the grind" of riding day after day, even during the winter months. Well, this sort of mindset is almost guaranteed to eventually lead to an early-season plateau and burnout. Mixing your aerobic activities during the winter months will allow you to maintain (if not improve) your aerobic fitness and give your body and mind a bit of a break from the bike, which is essential for maintaining cycling enthusiasm during the peak part of the season!

8) Get Stronger! Off-season weight training is the perfect way to continue to improve muscular strength. In theory, riders who are physically stronger should be able to push larger gears and thus generate more power on the bike. Okay...I'll be perfectly honest...there's really not much scientific data that actually supports that weight training will make you a stronger rider. But weight training can allow you to improve muscular imbalances that often develop during the cycling season, making you less prone to develop injuries during the upcoming season. Additionally, since weight training is effective at promoting muscular development, and since muscle tissue is metabolically more active than other tissue types, weight training will help you burn  extra calories during the winter months, thus helping to keep your off-season weight gain to a minimum. Bottom line: Don't be afraid to get into the gym during the winter months to pump some iron! But don't wait too long to get started! It takes several months of serious strength training to get noticeable improvement in muscular strength. If you wait until February or March to start lifting weights, you will very likely "miss the boat" for making noticeable improvement in muscular strength...

9) Turn you mid-section into steel! Abs of steel are the real deal! A strong core may not necessary allow you to push larger gears or spin faster, but a strong mid-section will allow you to sit more comfortably on the bike for longer periods of time, hopefully decreasing back pain that may develop during an ultra-endurance cycling event, a guaranteed show stopper! Additionally, core strengthening exercises may help riders who have existing back injuries compensate for these injuries and keep them from getting worse, thus improving overall cycling performance. Tip: Core strengthening does not just involve doing sit-ups, an exercise that is notorious for causing low back muscle strains. If you are unsure of the types of exercises that you should be doing to really strengthen your core, I would suggest seeking help from a physical therapist or personal trainer who is well-versed in core conditioning to set up a work-out plan that is ideal for you!

10) Get a heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor is the poor man's version of a power meter. Over the past decade, power meters have become the "gold standard" for measuring cycling performance. Because of this trend, many brands of power meters have popped up on the market over the past several years, including Power Tap, Quarq, and SRM. Power meters are extremely pricey, ranging from $1,000 to $4,000! Proponents of power meters argue that they are more effective at giving objective data at evaluating cycling performance, as they are less susceptible to variables such as fatigue, dehydration, and weather/wind conditions which can skew a cyclist's heart rate. 300 watts is always going to be 300 watts, regardless of these variables. Unaffected by these variables, power meters enable cyclists to train in specific power zones, which are predetermined by lactic acid threshold testing. Power meters can be effective at not only improving cycling power (as measured in wattage), but also at assisting with active recovery, preventing cyclists from training too hard on rest days. And as cyclists, we are always into "gadgets." A power meter is a great way to "trick out" your bike out for 2013!

But, in spite of these arguments, there is really not any scientific evidence (at least that I've been able to find) that actually demonstrates that training with a power meter is more effective at improving cycling performance than training with a simple heart rate monitor. Because of the lack of legitimate scientific data, power meters may be more hype and bling than the true "holy grail" of measuring and improving cycling performance. Bottom line: If you are interested in improving your cycling performance, and don't have thousands of dollars to drop on a power meter, a simple $60 Polar Heart Rate monitor may be all that it takes to train more effectively and improve your aerobic efficiency for 2013! Once again, if you're not sure how to train effectively with a heart rate monitor, I would suggest talking to an expert to help you dial in your heart rate "training zones" to get the maximum benefits of your new training tool!

11) And finally, be sure to get some rest and relaxation during the winter months. Although it is important to maintain your aerobic conditioning and improve strength in the "down-season," it is just as important to take some time off of the bike! A little "R & R" can go a long way toward allowing your body and mind to recover from a long 2012 cycling season. Consider taking a vacation to somewhere that you won't even have access to a bike. Almost'll come back feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to tackle the season ahead! The winter months are also an excellent time to get caught up on some of the home and family obligations that you have been neglecting during the previous months. So be sure to take advantage of the "down time" during the winter months! Bottom line: a little "R & R" can go a long ways to improving your cycling performance in 2013!!

Now that you're on the road toward a faster 2013 cycling season, enjoy the holiday season ahead!!

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Save the Date! The 2013 Colorado Triple Crown Preliminary Schedule

Here are the preliminary dates for the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown:

  1. Saturday, June 15, 2013: Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic
  2. Saturday, June 29, 2013: Colorado Death Ride
  3. Saturday, July 27, 2013: Cripple Creek Crippler
  4. Saturday, August 10, 2013: Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop 
  5. Saturday, August 17, 2013: Possible make-up date for Denver-to-Aspen, Cripple Creek Crippler, OR the Grand Loop 
New for 2013
  1. A possible make-up date for Denver-to-Aspen, Cripple Creek Crippler, or the Grand Loop. Let's face it...we've been extremely fortunate the past four years as we've only had to postpone one Colorado Triple Crown event (the 2010 Denver-to-Aspen). In 2013, we're including an official make-up date on the calendar so riders can prepare for the unthinkable...whether it be dangerous weather conditions, unexpected road closures, forest fires, hillsides overrun by rabid deer, etc, etc. We sincerely hope that we don't need to use this date, but we want to give every rider the best opportunity to complete the Colorado Triple Crown for 2013!
  2. Well...what about the Colorado Death Ride?? We traditionally ride the Death Ride on the weekend of July 4th (or the weekend prior to July 4th). We usually ride the Death Ride on Sunday as it is typically the day on the holiday weekend with the lightest traffic. In 2013, however, we will ride the event on Saturday. Although we might have to contend with slightly heavier traffic, riding the event on Saturday gives us the opportunity to do a make-up ride on Sunday if for whatever reason the course is unsafe to ride on Saturday. Riders need to be prepared that if conditions were not rideable on Saturday, we would attempt to make up the ride on Sunday (June 30th). If conditions were still unsafe on Sunday, then the event would be cancelled for 2013. Given the immense amount of travel time from the Denver area, it is not practical to include a separate make-up date. 
  3. Oh...I forgot to mention that we're planning on starting the Colorado Death Ride in Durango in 2013, riding the event in the counter-clockwise direction! (Durango-->Silverton-->Ridgway-->Placerville-->Telluride-->Rico-->Dolores-->Mancos-->Durango). This will definitely present some different challenges to Death Riders in 2013. More on this to come in the months ahead!
  4. One last thing...we're swapping weekends of the Grand Loop and Cripple Creek Crippler. There are a number of reasons for this switch. First, Buffalo Bill Days in Golden (which is celebrated the last weekend in July...the same weekend that we usually ride the Grand Loop) has made the final miles of the Grand Loop extremely unsafe for participants. Riding the Crippler during the last weekend in July will move the start/end location to our trusty Ken Caryl RTD park-n-ride location in Littleton...away from the heavy traffic in Golden. Second...there's really not another weekend in July that we can move the Grand Loop without being in competition with a major ACA/BRAC race, which is not our intention...Finally, moving the Crippler to July virtually ensures that riders will encounter sizzling temperatures along Deckers Road, further adding to challenge of the Crippler! We're almost positive that all riders will embrace this added challenge! :) 
Hope everyone is enjoying their "down" season and preparing for the upcoming holidays! 

Ride safe and keep the rubber side down!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RMCC's Ryan Franz Rides Amongst the Hoodoos

On August 24th and 25th, RMCCer Ryan Franz participated in Planet Ultra's Hoodoo 500 in St. George, UT. The Hoodoo 500 is one of only a handful of 500+ mile ultracycling races contested in the U.S. each year. Ryan participated in the Voyager category of the race. As a voyager, racers are entirely support or follow vehicles. Voyagers are allowed four drop bags that may be accessed at check points along the course, but voyagers must otherwise be entirely self-sufficient and provide for their own provisions along the way. Below is Ryan's most-excellent account of his race amongst the hoodoos of southwestern Utah..... 

The Hoodoo 500 course doesn't look that formidable on a map, but it's long...519 miles, longer than the distance from Denver to the junction of I-70 and I-15 in western Utah (which is 509 miles)! The route certainly isn't flat either, featuring 30,000 feet of climbing!

Every year I choose a big event to motivate me for the season, an “exclamation point” to look forward to. This year I chose the Hoodoo 500. I had heard the course was very scenic, with lots of great climbing, and the unsupported “voyager” division is very appealing—just me and the great desert, dueling it out! I’ve certainly enjoyed supported ultra racing in the past, and my wife is a great crew chief, but with an 8-month-old now it is much harder to arrange. Planet Ultra provides drop bags for voyagers at four locations, which seemed plenty: during Paris-Brest-Paris last year I only had access to drop bags at two locations over 767 miles.

After months of training, endless hours of bike preparation, and meticulous equipment and drop bag planning, it felt good to wait at the start early Friday morning. A much cooler weather pattern was in place than in 2011, so the temperatures were pleasant. The seven of us (voyagers started at 5am, separately from other divisions) rode off into yet-unknown adventures. For a while we rode together and chatted; my old friend and mentor, Kevin Walsh, broke away from work at the last minute to make the ride, so I enjoyed catching up with him.

Starting lineup, from left: Mark Lowe, Ryan Franz, Rick Ashabranner,  Rick Jacobson,  Kevin Walsh, Andi Ramer, Ton van Daelen
Shortly before Hurricane the group spread out rapidly, everyone riding at their own pace. I watched Mark Lowe vanish into the distance with his standard fast starting pace. We had been warned about a troublesome new rumblestrip installation between Hurricane and Colorado City, but it turned out to be only a minor nuisance and traffic was on the lighter side. Rick Ashabranner passed me at a good clip on his unique TitanFlex bike, looking very efficient on the flats.

I was surprised to see Rick at the first drop bag location, Kanab, looking frustrated. Our drop bags weren’t there. Mark had obviously continued on; Rick spoke to race HQ on the phone and they said they would do their best to get the drop bags to us down the road. This was concerning, as I had started with minimal water and food to reach Kanab. I still had a bit of water and some calories, so I continued on, noting that the next gas station was only 35 miles ahead.

As I left Kanab, I marveled at the fantastic scenery. Recent monsoon activity had brought the desert alive, producing nearly neon green foliage to contrast the stunning reds and browns of the sandstone.

Just north of Kanab, UT, views toward the east of Zion National Park. Rick Ashabranner can be seen ahead. 

At the next gas station I filled water, hopeful that I would get my drop bag soon for calories. Sure enough, 100 yards after leaving the station, a race official pulled up. “I’ve got your bags here! What’s your name?” He looked in the car a bit… “Oh, I don’t have your bag, there was some mix-up.” He indicated my first drop bag would be with my second drop bag in Escalante, over 100 miles away! Exasperated, I continued on, noting that the next mini mart was 20 miles away. Unfortunately I missed that one, as mileages were a bit off and I didn’t want to backtrack—things were getting dire. I started rationing. I was down to one bar with 10 miles to the next gas station when Deb Bowling (from Planet Ultra) finally brought my bag—thank goodness! This was at the start of Red Canyon, an incredibly scenic canyon with a very nice bike path but lots of climbing. I immediately inhaled four gels and several bars, I would have bonked hard if Deb hadn’t saved me!

Starting up Red Canyon, just after a timely resupply from my delayed drop bag.

Red Canyon views

Red Canyon bike path
After Red Canyon topped out at 7800’, a thrilling descent to Tropic at 6000’ provided stunning views of Bryce Canyon. Clouds looked ominous, but out of sheer luck I rode through a narrow gap and stayed dry. I learned later that Mark Lowe had gotten quite wet there an hour before me. Next was a scenic climb back to 7600’, with steep grades at the top; I glimpsed Rick at the top, and passed him on the descent to Escalante as he stopped to don a rain jacket. I think he regretted his choice, as it only sprinkled briefly. Regardless, he arrived minutes behind me at the time station in Escalante, and left before me. As I was rearranging my gear in the hotel room, unbeknownst to me, solo (supported) racer Adam Bickett flew by at his record-setting pace.

Stunning views of the canyons to the east of Escalante

There is no better cycling than the section from Escalante to Loa. Every cyclist should ride this once in their life! The late afternoon late really brought out the rainbow of colors permeating the canyons before the town of Boulder. At one point the road followed a narrow spine of rock with lonely yet picturesque canyons to either side. There were also surprisingly steep grades—I was pretty jazzed on the scenery, but as I passed the double century mark I began to feel the miles I had ridden.

From the Escalante River crossing at 5300’, Boulder Mountain presents a big challenge. Over the next 25 miles one must climb to 9600’. Luckily, the climb is very scenic and provides constantly changing surroundings as sandstone desert transitions to alpine forest. A large storm only hours before left evidence in the form of large piles of hail, wet roads, and swirling mists. Halfway up the climb I switched on my lights and enjoyed the spooky ambiance. Several deer froze in my light, advising me to be careful when I got to the descent on the other side! The feeling at this point was very remote: I had not seen any supported riders pass yet, Mark Lowe was an hour ahead, and Rick had fallen back around Boulder. Twilight gave way to darkness and a starry sky, though a half moon enhanced shadows in the misty forest. I reached the summit feeling good, and piled on warm layers in anticipation of a chilly descent.

Amazing views of the canyons of Capital Reef National Park from the top of Boulder Mountain
after 4,500 feet steep climbing!

For some reason I didn’t feel comfortable with my normal “bombing” speed while descending Boulder Mountain. I rode conservatively, and was soon passed by the winning four-man team Veloce Santiago. Around that time, very near the halfway point, I really started to feel the miles and the late hour. The nineteen miles from the bottom of the descent (6700’) to Loa (7000’) climbed gently and felt like forever…finally I reached Loa and my third drop bag at 12:30am.

A thermos of warm soup and a change of clothes partially revived me. I headed out into the night, anticipating the battle with the “witching hour” I’ve come to expect. Unbeknownst to me I would fight another battle due to an oversight in Loa—more on that later! I climbed a seemingly endless road into the stars, the only scenery the roadside reflectors shining brightly in my light. My world shrank to a small bubble which my light could illuminate, though the wide desert sky made me feel at the same time like a vulnerable speck under an ambivalent cosmos. Temperatures sank to 45 degrees as the desert gave up its moisture and heat to a ravenous sky. I reached the high point at 8400’ and enjoyed a descent to the small town of Koosharem.

Shortly after Koosharem I realized my camelbak was becoming low and went to reach for a water bottle for the first time since Loa. With a sinking feeling I realized that I had left my bottles in Loa. At this point a couple of teams were nearby, and I considered asking them for water—but as I didn’t want the corresponding time penalty, I decided to stick it out and search for water along the way. Over the next 40 miles I tried to go light on the water and stopped several times to search for a water spigot in spooky, dilapidated towns. I hoped that someone wouldn’t notice me and take issue with a lycra-clad oddball searching around a boarded-up building at 3am!

Finally in Circleville I found a spigot hidden in the back of a run-down cafĂ©. Though the search for water was stressful, the urgency of the situation had eased the normal fight to stay awake. As I left Circleville, however, the fight came back and I entered the doldrums…riding slowly, senses dulled, heavy eyelids. The 30 miles from Circleville to Panguitch average a 0.5% grade—not enough to provide good resistance to push against, but enough to make time slow down. A noticeable headwind made the miles go even slower. I reached Panguitch at 6:45am as the sun began to light the landscape. The 90 miles from Loa to Panguitch had taken me nearly six hours, despite having the least elevation gain of any stage!

As I sleepwalked into the hotel room in Panguitch, I was very surprised to see Mark Lowe! He had just finished a two hour nap—boy did that sound nice! Mark soon departed, and I moved with molasses-like slowness to change clothes and refresh supplies for the final stage. I was trying to get going quickly, but still spent an hour in Panguitch.

The Hoodoo 500 course is anything but flat, featuring 30,000 feet of climbing!

Past Panguitch, the Cedar Breaks climb dominates the course profile and demands attention. I noticed this as I resumed riding and glanced at my routesheet, but the magnitude of the climb, with 26 hours of riding behind me, only became clear as I toiled slowly upwards. The scenery was great, and the climb would be fantastic with fresh legs, but every cell in my body wanted to lie down in each lush green meadow I passed.

Scenic views of Lake Panguitch during the climb up Cedars Break National Monument

Amazing canyon walls to the west of Cedars Break National Monument

Finally I crested 10,600’ and enjoyed the scenic rollers at the top. Next came 20 miles of falling out of heaven into Cedar City. There was a surprising amount of traffic, but the descent was still a blast. Temperatures climbed from 59 to 95 degrees in a matter of minutes.

I grabbed a sandwich in Cedar City, and noticed the headline about Lance Armstrong deciding not to fight the doping charges. Sufficiently doped with a chicken sandwich, I continued on. The last bit is a big of a (long) blur. I remember hot temperatures, driving hail, lightning, headwinds, a poor road with heavy traffic climbing up out of the town of Enterprise…my pace was slower than I wanted but pain and fatigue prevented me from going faster.

Views of the lower sections of the stunning Snow Canyon in St. George, UT
Finally I was at the top of Snow Canyon. I called race HQ to tell them I was coming home and enjoyed the final bit of desert scenery. I was surprised how long it took to get from the bottom of Snow Canyon to the finish; headwinds and traffic lights seemed to conspire against me. But, with time I crested the final hump and coasted down to the finish line. Another one for the books!

Looking back at the race, it went quite well. My bike worked flawlessly and I was generally happy with my setup. My SON generator hub, powering my taillight, headlight, and Garmin Edge 500, meant I didn’t have to worry about batteries. Turn-by-turn directions from my Edge meant I never had to wonder if I was off-route, and I could keep the backlight on at night to ensure I never missed a cue. One thing I would do differently is turning over my stem—I’ve done that in past ultra races and it increased comfort greatly. I thought I could get away with it low in this race for less drag, but in reality I spent very little time on the aerobars after 250 miles because it was very uncomfortable.

In relation to other races I’ve done in the past, Hoodoo is a much harder course than the Furnace Creek 508. Riding unsupported added more challenge than I expected—I had to carry a lot more on the bike, spent significant time at drop bags rearranging things, and lost momentum by being off the bike so much. I ended up spending a total of 3.5 hours off the bike, and each time I had to resume riding after a stop it took time to regain a rhythm and get comfortable. By the same token, I felt way better after the race than after Paris-Brest-Paris—that second night really adds a new dimension in endurance.

To summarize, I’d describe it as the perfect vacation: good adventure, gorgeous scenery, quite a bit of cycling, and a feeling of accomplishment. I recommend it if that’s your idea of a good time!

Images of a four-man team descending Snow Canyon

Friday, August 17, 2012

2012 Colorado Triple Crown Finishers

Congratulations to following riders who have successfully completed the 2012 Colorado Triple Crown. The class of 2012 has 16 riders who completed three of four events of the Colorado Triple Crown, our largest finishing class ever! Congratulations to all of you for demonstrating the mental and physical tenacity to complete Colorado's most difficult road cycling series! You have earned the honors to be called Colorado Triple Crown Finishers!!
  1. Diane Benoit, Morrison, CO* ***
  2. Ryan Franz, Boulder, CO*
  3. Michael Henderson, Dolores, CO
  4. Josh Horwood, Loveland, CO*
  5. Craig Howell, Littleton, CO*
  6. Jason Kaminski, Longmont, CO*
  7. Todd LeBlanc, Lakewood, CO*
  8. Mark Lowe, Arvada, CO
  9. Marc Moons, Petaluma, CA* **
  10. Mel Morris, Amarillo, TX* **
  11. Tom Miller, Denver, CO
  12. Eric Nelsen, Evergreen, CO*
  13. Tim O'Leary, Wheat Ridge, CO*
  14. Steve Rudolph, Westminster, CO*
  15. Kelly Shannon, Denver, CO*
  16. Paul Spencer, Denver, CO*

*First-time Colorado Triple Crown finisher
**First riders from out-of-state to finish the Colorado Triple Crown
***Third woman to finish the Colorado Triple Crown 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cripple Creek Recap: Crippled!

Scenic views of Cripple Creek, CO from CO 67 to the northeast of town. Unfortunately, participants of this year's event never got a chance to appreciate these views. A large sinkhole formed over an abandoned mining shaft on CO 67 just to the northeast of Cripple Creek during the morning of the event, closing the road and threatening to "cripple" the Crippler!

The inaugural RMCC Cripple Creek Crippler, the final stage of the 2012 Colorado Triple Crown, is in the books! And what an epic adventure it was!!

The Cripple Creek Crippler, the RMCC's newest double century challenge, is one of the nation's toughest double century events, rivaling California's Devil Mountain Double and the Alta Alpina Eight Pass Challenge for top honors. This event is not for the feint-of-heart (or the weak-kneed!). Preliminary estimates reveal the "Crippler" course probably has over 18,500 feet of climbing, nearly 1,000 feet more than original estimates. The "Crippler" has significantly more vertical gain than even the Colorado Death Ride (16,000 feet) or the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop (15,000 feet). And to top things off, the "Crippler" has one of the most difficult beginnings and endings to any double century in the nation.  By the time riders reached the first checkpoint in Conifer (after climbing Deer Creek Canyon, High Drive, and Brook Forest/Shadow Mountain), participants had already climbed 4,600 feet in under 32 miles! The final 42 miles of the "Crippler," featuring four relentless miles of 8% grades up the sun-scorched Deckers Rd and the equally long (but beautiful) climb up Foxton Canyon, are equally debilitating, tacking on an additional 4,400 feet of merciless climbing. And many riders were indeed demoralized by the seven-mile climb from the Evergreen Station market toward Cripple Creek, featuring relentless 8-12 percent grades! By the time participants had reached Cripple Creek 116 miles into the event, in fact, they already had 13,000 feet of climbing (almost the same amount of vertical gain in the entire 180-mile Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic!) in their weary legs. RMCC president, Charlie Henderson commented, "I've lived in Colorado for many years and this was the first time I've been on some of these roads! These climbs are long and steep! And they keep coming at you!!" Every participant would agree with Charlie's statement.

Marc Moons of Petaluma, CA at the conclusion of the Cripple Creek Crippler. Congratulations on successfully completing the Colorado Triple Crown, Marc! (Now you can go to Disneyland!) 
Mark Lowe at the conclusion of the "Crippler." Mark, along with RMCC president Charlie Henderson, were the masterminds of the hilly "Crippler" course. "What the he-l were we thinking?!?" Mark stated afterward.

After a very early 4 am start, the field of 13 participants spread out very quickly. A small group, including the Colorado natives Eric Nelsen and Mark Lowe, and Marc Moons of Petaluma, CA, set a brisk pace up the climbs through the Evergreen backroads to Conifer and Deckers. As the trio pulled out of Deckers, Mark went on the "offensive," picking up the pace during the 23 mile, 2,500 foot ascent from Deckers to Woodland Park. Marc, who had fallen a bit behind with his nutrition and was experiencing some problems with recurrent knee pain, backed off the pace a bit, leaving Mark and Eric out front. Mark and Eric eventually cleared the checkpoint in Divide and (after an erroneous wrong-turn shortly after cresting Ute Pass) made their way onto the scenic Twin Rocks Rd in Teller County, en route to Cripple Creek. After grinding up the relentless, steep ascent to Cripple Creek, both riders were stunned to discover that CO 67 had been closed to the northeast of Cripple Creek because of a large sink hole that had opened up in the middle of the highway shortly after the start of the event. This unexpected road closure threatened to cripple the "Crippler" and shut down the event. Charlie Henderson, who was providing event support at the Cripple Creek, however, made a game-day decision to turn the event around in Cripple Creek, running an out-and-back course from Cripple Creek back to Ken Caryl, thus salvaging the event.

Ryan Franz rode a tactical event to finish strongly at the "Crippler," although the ride left him too debilitated to actually hoist his bike over his head! Congratulations on completing all four Triple Crown events!
No matter how challenging the event, Steve Rudolph always manages a smile at the end! Congratulations Steve!

Indeed, the Cripple Creek sink hole sank the moral of many participants, forcing many riders to change their strategies for the event. In reality, the out-and-back course only added two miles in distance to the route, but the climb back up Teller County Rd 1 and Twin Rocks Rd added over 1,000 feet of additional climbing to an already tough day on the bike! Additionally, riders lost the opportunity to experience the exhilarating descent (along with the spectacular views of Pikes Peak) from the course's high point northeast of Cripple Creek back to Divide. Mark Lowe commented afterward about the detour, "Sometimes things happen that are completely out of our control. The closure of CO 67 by Cripple Creek meant a complete change in strategies for many of us...from finishing quickly to finishing safely! We all had to do our best to make the most of a difficult situation!"

Stunned by the closure of CO 67 to northeast of Cripple Creek,  Eric struggled a bit with his nutrition afterward, but regained his composure to finish strongly! Congratulations on completing the Triple Crown!

Paul Spencer completes the Cripple Creek Crippler and the Colorado Triple Crown! Congratulations Paul! (Yes...I still think you are mad!! :)

In spite of the CO 67 road closure, this year's participants did catch a much-appreciated break with the weather. Riders encountered comfortable, warm--but not brutally hot--temperatures for the duration of the event, along with a spattering of a few rain showers from Cripple Creek back to Ken Caryl, which added some cooling relief to many riders.  Many participants, however, did encounter some gusty head winds as they made the steep series of climbs up Deckers Rd and Foxton Canyon to conclude the event.

With the completion of the "Crippler," Tom Miller (who was ready to choke the designer of the "Crippler" course) becomes a two-time Colorado Triple Crown Finisher. Congratulation Tom! 
RMCC distance master Tom Knoblauch at the conclusion of the Crippler. Amazingly, Tom rode 36 miles from his home in Aurora prior to the start of the event and 36 miles home after the finish for a grand total of 282 miles for the day! (And that, my friends, is how you learn to ride a 1,200 km brevet quickly!). Congratulations Tom!

Colorado Triple Crown veteran, Dick Wiss, at the conclusion of the Cripple Creek Crippler. Nice Ride, Dick! (Our doubles can be as tough as those in sunny California!)

At the conclusion of the event, 12 of 13 ride starters successfully completed this year's Cripple Creek Crippler. By the time riders had completed the out-and-back course from Cripple Creek, total climbing estimates were just under 20,000 feet of vertical gain in 210 miles...not a bad day's work!! Congratulations to all of the participants who completed the RMCC's newest double century and Colorado's toughest double century event!!

Results of this year's Crippler Creek Crippler will be posted shortly on the RMCC website.

Albuquerque, NM native Scott Griffith after completing the Crippler (in plenty of time)! Congratulations Scott!

Lisa Purul after finishing the "Crippler." Lisa commented, "that was much harder than I thought is was going to be!" Congratulations Lisa!

Special thanks to the following individuals who graciously gave up their Saturday to provide event support for the "Crippler." The event was much more enjoyable for everyone because of all of your help! Thanks for giving up your day to make the event run smoothly!

  1. Charlie Henderson
  2. Hunter Johnson
  3. Penny Nelson 
A beautiful sunset over Deer Creek Canyon at the end of the Cripple Creek Crippler. With the conclusion of the "Crippler," the sun sets on the 2012 Colorado Triple Crown.

With the completion of the "Crippler," the following individuals have successfully completed the Colorado Triple Crown for 2012. Congratulations to all of you!!

  1. Diane Benoit, Morrison, CO* **
  2. Tom Miller, Denver, CO
  3. Marc Moons, Petaluma, CA*
  4. Eric Nelsen, Evergreen, CO*
  5. Paul Spencer, Denver, CO*
*First time Colorado Triple Crown Finisher
**Diane is only the third woman in RMCC history to complete the Colorado Triple Crown. (Diane has already informed us that she plans to return next year to become the only woman in club history to finish the Triple Crown twice! :) 

On a final note, the RMCC does not have special category for riders who successfully completed all four Colorado Triple Crown events, but we do indeed have three riders who are Colorado Triple Crown "Grand Slam" finishers for 2012. Congratulations to each of you!
  1. Ryan Franz, Boulder, CO
  2. Mark Lowe, Arvada, CO
  3. Steve Rudolph, Westminster, CO

The Cathedral Spires, photographed from the beautiful Foxton Canyon earlier in the year.