Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Foothills Climbfest Recap

Thirteen RMCCers "toed the line" for the start of the 2012 Foothills Climbfest, contested on Saturday, May 26, 2012. Starting at the Ken Caryl RTD Park-n-Ride, the Climbfest is a grueling test of cycling perseverance, climbing well over 8000 feet in 80 miles. The route includes five climbs in the foothills to the southwest of Denver, including Deer Creek Canyon/High Grade Road (a true foothills classic), Shadow Mountain/Brook Forest, Parmalee Gulch, High Drive Road, Brook Forest/Shadow Mountain (in reverse). The Climbfest has become a mainstay on the RMCC calendar over the past few years. Like other RMCC Challenge Series events, it's not officially a race...but it's as close to race as any event on the RMCC calendar. Riders are encouraged to push themselves to the maximum of their cycling limits and friendly competition is encouraged.

Riders were greeted with cool but pleasant riding conditions (temperatures in the mid-60's) to start the event. However, there was an omnipresent haze in the sky from the ongoing forest fires in New Mexico. Weather conditions became increasingly adverse as the event progressed. The passage of a front brought swirly, (and at times) somewhat dangerous riding conditions, with southwesterly winds gusting over 60 mph. Temperatures warmed up throughout the day as well, reaching an unseasonably warm 90 degrees in the Denver area. The warm, windy conditions made it very difficult for riders to stay hydrated. Other riders really struggled with the smokey conditions. Participant Josh Horwood commented, "the conditions were tough! The smoke made it very difficult to breathe." In traditional RMCC fashion, however, Josh and the other participants persevered!

In spite of the tough weather conditions, riders set a blistering pace up High Grade Road early during the first climb of the day. Seth Stingley, a RMCC new-comer from Palmer Lake, set a very hard pace up the 3,000 foot Deer Creek Canyon/High Grade Road climb, with club veteran Mark Pfeil not too far behind. Not familiar with Climbfest course, Seth made an untimely wrong turn in Conifer, allowing Mark to slip into the lead....a lead that he would not relinquish for the remainder of the event. Mark finished in 4:54. Crafty club veteran, Steve Rudolph, who fell victim to a Deer Creek Canyon "tack attack," battled back from his untimely flat finish in third position with a time of 5:01.

Diane Benoit, who inadvertently showed up to this year's event, was a bit stunned when she found out the Climbfest was not the RMCC club ride. Diane commented, "What do you mean this isn't the club ride?!?" Diane decided to participant in this year's Climbfest anyway as our only female competitor, finishing with an excellent time of 5:54.

The warm, windy weather conditions were not conducive for breaking course records. Wendy Field's 2009 time of 5:31 (14.70 mph) and Mark Lowe's 2011 time of 4:23 (18.48 mph) remain the course benchmarks for this challenging event.

Congratulations to all of this year's participants! Results will be posted shortly on the RMCC mainpage.

Mark Pfeil road a stellar event, completing the challenging course in 4:54, an impressive feat given the warm temperatures and gusty winds.

Seth Stingley, in hot pursuit of Mark Pfeil at the top of Shadow Mountain, put in a tremendous effort, finishing in 4:58. This was Seth's first Climbfest, as well as his first time riding the Evergreen back roads.

 Riding the RMCC club ride which overlapped with the Climbfest, Sargent McDonald meets up with Steve Rudolph and Tom Groves at the top of Shadow Mountain. Steve commented, "How come you aren't out here, Sargent?"

Ron Sheng and Marty Medina took a quick break to refill their water bottles on Shadow Mountain.
Kerry Stewart took a quick break on top of Shadow Mountain before beginning the final jaunt back down Deer Creek Canyon.

Tom Miller, who proudly displayed his Colorado Triple Crown kit, used the Climbfest as preparation to make another run at the 2012 Colorado Triple Crown.

The Foothills Climbfest has an abundance of beautiful mountain scenery, including red rock formations at South Valley Park.

Thanks to club president, Charlie Henderson, and Mark Lowe for providing support for this year's event!