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.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Grand Loop Updates

Last updated: 7/25/12, 10:27 pm

Please check this blog page periodically over the next 2 days for the lastest information regarding this upcoming Saturday's Grand Loop:

Registration closes Thursday evening at 7:00 pm. Please contact Mark Lowe for last minute questions regarding prequalification and preregistration (mvlowe5@comcast.net). 

Rocky Mountain National Park:
Remember to bring your National Parks pass or $10 to enter RMNP. Your Grand Loop entry fee covers the costs of running the event, but does not cover your entry into the park.

Road Construction and Traffic: 
In spite of the road construction on the service roads to the east of Idaho Springs, we are still planning to ride the original Grand Loop course at this time. As mentioned previously, CDOT is using shuttles to transport cyclists through the frontage road that is under construction. Wait times for the shuttle have been variable...10-15 minutes per report. Construction is expected to continue on July 28th on the day we ride the Grand Loop. It is very likely that riders who arrive at the construction site earlier in the afternoon will face delays at the construction site. Because of these expected delays, we are planning on having an event volunteer at the construction site who will record rider times when they arrive at and pass through construction zone. This time will be deducted from the rider's finishing time. Again this is not ideal for a timed bicycle event, but given the situation, this is the best we can do at present time. We have made contact with the CDOT project manager and they have assured us that they will do their best to accommodate the Grand Loop.

The other area of concern is US 93, between 64th Ave. and Leyden Road. Road crews are still in the process of widening the shoulders on this section of road. It is very likely that this project will not be completed by July 28th. Between 64th Ave. and Leyden Road (less than two mile section), there is no shoulder at present time. Riders need to be very careful when riding this section as there is a sharp drop-off on the shoulder on both sides of the road!! There is also a 25 yard section of grooved pavement as riders approach Leyden Road. Fortunately, riders can expect that traffic should be fairly light at 3:00 am. Bottom line: please be very careful north of Golden. We don't want your Grand Loop to end early because of a crash!

One last final note: Saturday celebrates Buffalo Bill Days in Golden. Please expect heavy traffic as you make your final descent into Golden. Please ride very carefully!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 2012 Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop

The Grand Loop...At 200 miles and 15,000+ feet of vertical gain, we don't call it "grand" for nothing! And it definitely ain't yo' mama's typical criterium course! Oh...I forgot to mention EPIC! This loop, with its spectacular high-altitude climbs and majestic mountain scenery is as spectacular as any double century ride in the world! Each year, only a handful of riders can claim they have successfully finished the Grand Loop. Well here's your chance to add your name to the list! But you better bring your "A" game. This ride is not for the faint-of-heart!

Here's a brief summary of what makes this ride truly EPIC:
  1. 200 miles, 15,000+ feet of climbing!
  2. A chance to ride Rocky Mountain National Park's famed Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in North America. Riders can expect to spend over seven miles above 11,000 feet, ultimately reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet!
  3. An amazing climb (and even more amazing descent) of Berthoud Pass, one of Colorado's most spectacular mountain passes.
  4. An opportunity to cross the Continental Divide twice in one day!
  5. A chance to dine at Golden's amazing Woody's pizzaria with its bottomless pizza buffet after the ride!! 

This is our first Grand Loop in the remembrance of Tim Kalisch, who passed last summer. Let's keep Tim in our hearts! This was his most epic ride!! 

Grand views from the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop!

General Information:

1) Ride Date: Saturday, July 28, 2012

2) Start and Finish Location: Golden, CO, Coor-Tek parking lot, 10th and Jackson Street, just to the north of Parfet Park.

3) Registration: RMCC membership, prequalification, and preregistration are required to participate in this event. This event has a $30 registration fee. (FYI: Registration fees cover the expenses of supporting the event, but do NOT cover your entrance fee into Rocky Mountain National Park. Please bring your National Parks Pass or $10 to pay for your entrance into the park. We still have openings for this ride. Preregistration will close on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm. For questions, please e-mail Mark Lowe: mvlowe5@comcast.net.

4) Ride start/check-in: Rider check-in at 2:30 am. Ride start at 3:00 am. Please be ready for a pre-ride briefing at 2:45 amLights and reflective gear are required!

5) Official support vehicles: We will have one RMCC support vehicle, which will be driven by Charlie Henderson (Charlie's cell phone: 720-480-9714). We are also planning to have volunteer support on the course. Participants are allowed to place a well-marked (BIG letters, easy to read) personal gear bag in the back of Charlie's truck prior to the start of the ride. This gear bag can be stocked with extra nutritional supplies and clothing that participants might need to successfully complete the ride. Riders will be able to access their gear bags at checkpoints along the course (see below). Faster riders may out-run the support vehicle after the Alpine Visitors Center in Rocky Mountain National Park and will not be to access their gear bags after leaving this check point. These riders need to plan ahead and bring the supplies and gear that they will need to complete this ride!

6) Personal support vehicles: Personal support vehicles are allowed (and encouraged)! However, participants riding with personal support must register their support vehicle with Charlie prior to the start of the ride (name of driver, vehicle make/model, license number, cell number). Failure to preregister your personal support vehicle will result in disqualification!

7) Checkpoints and time limits: Please keep in mind that this is a timed bike ride, but not a race. Participants have 18 hours to complete this ride to earn an official finishing time and receive Colorado Triple Crown credit. Riders can only begin riding at the official start time and must reach all checkpoints before the closing times to receive an official finishing time. We will once again be using event passports to record rider times for the Grand Loop. Riders may pick up their event passports at rider check-in, prior to the start of the ride. All riders should plan to have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff at the following official checkpoints listed below. If Charlie or RMCC event staff is not present at these checkpoints, riders should record their own times. Riders must have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff at the finish.  

  1. Lyons, Diamond Shamrock, south side of US 36 (closing time: 5:40 am)
  2. Estes Park, Safeway on right side of road at intersection of Hwy 34 and Wonderview Ave. (closing time: 8:00 am)
  3. RMNP, Alpine Visitor Center (Fall River Pass) (closing time: 12:00 noon)
  4. Granby, store on northeast corner of US 34 and US 40 (closing time: 2:00 pm)
  5. Berthoud Pass summit (closing time: 5:30 pm). If riders are going to summit Berthoud Pass after 5:00 pm, please let Charlie know!
  6. Finish: Golden, Coors-Tek Parking Lot, 10th and Jackson St. (closing time: 9:00 pm)

8) Additonal Support Points: Riders with personal support vehicles may receive support at the above checkpoint locations AND at the following locations: 1) Winter Park (any convenience store), 2) Idaho Springs, Safeway, 3) Bergen Park, El Rancho Restaurant. If the weather turns nasty, support can be anywhere!

9) Abandonment: If you need to abandon the ride for any reason, please call Charlie Henderson at 720-480-9714 as soon as possible to let him know! As previously mentioned, if you are going to summit Berthoud Pass after 5:00 pm, please call Charlie to let him know! We don't want to spend all night worrying about where you are! Please note that we do not sweep the course!

10) Emergencies: If you have an accident or injury that requires emergent attention, please call 911. Please call Charlie ASAP to let him know!

11) Event Rules: Please review the event rules before the morning of the big ride: http://coloradotriplecrown.blogspot.com/2011/05/rules-regulations-and-safety.html

Route description: The Grand Loop can be broken down into six segments:

1) Golden to Lyons, 34.5 miles.

Golden, CO, the western suburb of the Denver area, still has rustic reminders of the "Old West."

Rustic Golden, CO (elev. 5,675 feet), the western-most suburb of the Denver metropolitan area, is the starting (and ending point) for the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop. Originally founded as a mining community in the mid-1800s, Golden is a popular tourist destination with a flare for the "Old West." It is home to the Colorado School of Mines, and the famous western showman "Buffalo Bill" Cody is buried on nearby Lookout Mountain. It is also home to the world famous Coors Brewery. In spite of this fact, a cold, refreshing Coors beer is going to have to wait until after the ride. Your quest to conquer the Grand Loop is just beginning!

Starting very early in the morning in downtown Golden, participants will ride north along Washington Street, turning north onto CO 93. Highway 93, which skirts along the eastern edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains between Golden and Boulder, is a scenic, hilly route with views of the mountains to the west. As riders venture north along CO 93, they will pass the inoperative Rocky Flats Arsenal. After passing through the intersection with CO 128 (120th Ave.), riders will begin a quick three-mile descent as CO 93 plunges toward the sleeping town of Boulder, CO (elev. 5,430 feet). Be wary of road debris, potholes, and even deer while making this descent in the dark! Good lights are strongly recommended!

Boulder, CO is a true cycling gem! It has a little bit of everything for the cycling enthusiast.

As riders approach Boulder from the south, CO 93 turns into Broadway Street. Boulder is one of nation's true cycling meccas, featuring an array of riding experiences for riders of all capabilities, including insanely steep mountain climbs, scenic scrambles along the eastern Colorado plains, and easy cruiser rides along an elaborate network of bike trails. And Boulder is never short on things to do!! From riding (both road and mountain), to hiking, to camping, to riding, to kayaking, and to experiencing an endless array of dining and shopping experiences, Boulder is always a bustle with activity!! And Boulder, with its vast number of professional cyclists, runners, and triathletes, has more professional athletes per capita than any other city in the U.S. (However, even the pros would be impressed by any rider attempting to complete the Grand Loop, one of Colorado's most difficult single-day cycling adventures!) As participants cruise through Boulder, they will ride past the amazing Flatirons rock formations to the west of Boulder, the University of Colorado campus, and Boulder's famous Pearl Street Mall. At the northern outskirts of Boulder, participants will make a left-hand turn onto US 36, tackling a series of moderate rollers as US 36 veers north toward the community of Lyons, CO at the northern outskirts of Boulder County. Riders will turn west onto US 36 (also CO 66) toward Lyons (elev. 5,371 feet) to reach their first checkpoint and complete the first section of this ride. Checkpoint 1: Lyons, Diamond Shamrock, south side of US 36. This is a very popular cycling route, used by amateur and professional cyclists alike! Surrounded by red sandstone rock formations, Lyons is also extremely beautiful! Unfortunately, riders won't be able to appreciate the beauty of the sandstone rock formations as they will still be riding in the dark.

Tip: The section from Golden to Lyons is relatively "flat," gaining only 2,000 vertical feet from Golden to Lyons, all of it via punchy rollers along CO 93 and US 36. Because it is relatively flat, riders should not dilly-dally! This is your best opportunity to put time in the bank before the real climbing begins!

2) Lyons to Estes Park, 20.6 miles.

Surrounded by beautiful sandstone rock formations, Lyons, CO is an excellent starting point for many excellent Front Range rides! 

After riding through Lyons, US 36 turns northwest toward the foothills community of Estes Park, CO and Colorado's spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). From Lyons, participants will begin the first major climb of the day, a 3,000 foot, moderately steep ascent toward Estes Park. As road undulates upward, riders will catch the first glimpses of light as daylight begins to set in.

Estes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is always a popular tourist destination!

At the top of this long, 17-mile climb, participants will catch their first glimpse of the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park to the west with its beautiful snow-capped 13,000 foot peaks. Participants will also appreciate the beautiful Long's Peak to the southwest of Estes Park, which is one of the Colorado Front Range's most accessible 14ers. US 36 then makes the brisk three-mile plunge into Estes Park (elev. 7,522 feet). Estes Park is a community with true Colorado charm and has much to offer in terms of activities and shopping. More importantly, it is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, one of Colorado's largest natural (and rugged) outdoor playgrounds. Once in Estes Park, participants will turn right onto US 34 (East Wonderview Ave.), and stop at their next checkpoint, Checkpoint 2: Estes Park, the Safeway (US 36 and US 24/Wonderview Ave).

3) Estes Park to the Alpine Visitors Center via Trail Ridge Road,  28 miles.

The climb up Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park is never short on scenery, but becomes increasingly short on oxygen as the road ascends into the stratosphere!

From Estes Park, riders will continue west along US 34, climbing almost another 1,000 feet before reaching the Fall River Road park entrance. As participants continue west through Estes Park along US 34, they will pass the historic Stanley Hotel, made famous in the classic 1980 film, The Shining, a psychological horror film starring Jack NicholasAs participants ride past the notorious hotel, the word "REDRUM" will come to mind, as participants begin the murderous, 5,000 foot ascent the top of Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park! (Okay...it's not quite that bad, but it truly is an EPIC climb!)

Tip: Okay...here is an incentive to push yourself a bit from Lyons to the Fall River Road park entrance. Riders who reach the eastern park entrance before 7:00 am should be able to ride into the park without having to stop at the gate to pay the entrance fee. However, riders who reach the eastern park entrance after 7:00 am will be required to stop at the RMNP Fall River Road entrance to pay the $10 bicycle fee. Please bring your National Parks Pass to avoid having to pay the fee.

Views from the high point of Trail Ridge Road at 12,183 feet are breath-taking (literally!)

Trail Ridge Road, which traverses RMNP from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake, CO in the west, is a one of Colorado's most spectacular mountain roads. The ascent up this amazing 48-mile stretch of highway is truly a monster climb! It is the defining climb of the Grand Loop...the climb that makes the Grand Loop truly EPIC! Some would argue that Trail Ridge Road--next to the amazing high-altitude climb up Mt. Evans--is Colorado's most classic bicycle ride, an experience that every rider will remember for a lifetime! From Estes Park, the climb into RMNP is the longest sustained climb of any event in the Colorado Triple Crown Series. Reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet, it is also the highest point of all the events in the Colorado Triple Crown (and as far as I know, the highest elevation of any double century event in the world!) I won't go into exquisite detail about the climb up Trail Ridge Road as it has been described in many locations. Probably the best cycling description of this classic Colorado ride is in author Michael Seeberg's Road Biking Colorado: The Statewide Guide. If you don't own a copy of this most-excellent book, please pick up a copy. It contains excellent details regarding the climb up Trail Ridge Road, but as also many other spectacular cycling routes in Colorado...it's a must-have for any Colorado cyclist!! Here are a few important notes about riding Trail Ridge Road: 
  1. Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles long from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west, crossing Iceberg Pass (elev. 11,827 feet) and Fall River Pass (elev. 11,796 feet) near the summit of the climb. 
  2. The air is very thin at the top of RMNP. As previously mentioned, riders can expect to spend over seven consecutive miles above 11,000 feet, making Trail Ridge the highest paved highway in North America. Participants need to be adequately prepared to ride at very high altitude!
  3. Given the very high altitude, weather conditions can be very unpredictable at the top of this climb (i.e., chilly temperatures and blustery winds)! Please be prepared and bring an assortment of cold weather riding gear (e.g., jackets, arm and leg warmers, and full-fingered gloves) that you can access from your gear bag at the checkpoint at the Alpine Visitor Center.
  4. The descent down the western side of Trail Ridge Road is an absolute hoot! But it is twisty and a bit technical. Please descend carefully! Riders should be a bit leary of oncoming traffic as it is not unheard of to have a car on the wrong side of the road as drivers gawk at the splendid mountain scenery. Additonally, riders should be on the lookout for wildlife that may wander into the road.
  5. RMNP is a very popular with tourists! As a consequence, traffic can be a bit heavy at times and there is not much shoulder to ride on. However, traffic does generally move slowly and most of Trail Ridge Road has been repaved over the past few years, so the road is in excellent condition.

The Alpine Visitor Center in RMNP is a welcome sight after 10,000 feet of climbing!

After climbing for what seems to be an eternity, riders will reach the spectacular High Point of Trail Ridge Road (elev. 12,183 ft.). At that point, participants will begin the blazing descent down the western slopes of RMNP to the next checkpoint, Checkpoint 3: RMNP, Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass (elev. 11,796, feet). At this point in time, riders will have climbed over 10,000 feet in 83 miles! Riders should grab any cold-weather riding gear they will need to complete the chilly descent down the western side of Trail Ridge Road.

The views from Grand Lake, Shadow Moutain Lake, and Lake Granby continue to be stunning. However, headwinds off of the lakes can make  riding a bit slow going at times!

4) Alpine Visitor's Center, RMNP to Granby, 37.4 miles
From the RMNP Alpine Visitor's Center, riders will continue the blazing, windy descent down the western slopes of Trail Ridge Road as it plummets over 4,000 feet toward the Middle Park (Frasier) valley below. During this descent, riders will cross the Continental Divide for the first time at Milner Pass (elev. 10,758 feet). As riders approach the lower sections of Trail Ridge Road, the road will flatten out considerably and riders will face on onslaught of downhill rollers as they approach the western entrance to RMNP. The more daunting factor that riders will face, however, is the wind. Brisk headwinds blowing off Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Lake Granby to the south can make this section very challenging, especially as fatigue sets in! Riders should keep their fingers crossed that headwinds are gentle! In spite of the wind, views across the lakes are truly beautiful! Riders will cruise through Grand Lake, CO (elev. 8,437 feet), eventually reaching their next checkpoint, Checkpoint 4: Granby, store at the northeast corner of US 34 and US 40

Mountain views from the Middle Park (Frasier) Valley are always spectacular, but temperatures can be quite chilly, even during the summer months! 

5) Granby to Berthoud Pass Summit, 32.7 miles 
From Granby (elev. 7,935 feet), participants will turn left (south) onto US 40, beginning the long, gradual ascent toward the base of the next big climb of the day...Berthoud Pass. The mountain views through the Frasier Valley are truly spectacular, but temperatures are often on the chilly side! (In fact, during the winter months, the Frasier Valley can be one of the coldest places in the Continental U.S., with temperatures dipping to 50 degrees below zero!) Traffic along US 40 can be a bit heavy at times as well, but there is a decent shoulder to ride on for most of this section from Granby to Winter Park. From Granby, participants will continue riding south along US 40 as it undulates upward through the valley towns of Tabernash (elev. 8,333 feet) and Frasier (elev. 8,574 feet). After a short series of climbs, participants will reach the ski town of Winter Park (elev. 9,052 feet). Winter Park is the self-proclaimed "Mountain Bike Capital" of the U.S. And after riding through town, you will understand why as riders of all ages will be using their two-wheeled mountain rigs to cruise around town. Continuing south on US 40, riders will cruise past the Winter Park and Mary Jane ski resorts before road pitches upward and riders begin the final 8-mile, switch-back laden ascent up Berthoud Pass (elev. 11,307 feet). Note: Please use caution when climbing Berthoud Pass. There is no shoulder in several places and traffic can be heavy! After grinding up this scenic mountain climb, riders will reach their next checkpoint, Checkpoint 4: Berthoud Pass Summit, where they can appreciate the views of the old Berthoud Ski Resort.

Mountain vistas near the summit of Berthoud Pass are spectacular.  From the time riders reach Winter Park, they can expect another 2,300 feet of continuous climbing in 11 miles to the top of the pass. Thin air and weary legs can make this climb very difficult!

6) Berthoud Pass Summit to Golden, 47.2 miles.
After riders have reached the summit of Berthoud Pass, they will have covered 153 miles! Riders will once again cross the Continental Divide as they descend down the southeastern slopes of Berthoud Pass toward the town of Empire, CO (elev. 8,615 feet). The descent down US 40 to the east of Berthoud Pass is incredible...one of the most exhilarating descents in the state! This section of pavement has been repaved in recent years and has a wide, safe shoulder for cycling. With a bit of a tailwind, it is not unheard of cyclists reaching speeds of 50+ mph as US 40 plunges downhill. Riders will cruise through Empire (Tip: watch for police attempting to ticket speeding cyclists!) and then will navigate the series of frontage roads and service roads in the eastbound direction until they reach Idaho Springs, CO (elev. 7,526 feet). Idaho Springs is also a popular tourist destination, so please be a bit wary of traffic while riding through town! From Idaho Springs, riders will continue to navigate in the eastbound direction along a second series of frontage roads and bike trails.

Tip: Riders are encouraged to pre-ride the section from Idaho Springs to Floyd Hill in advance as it can be a bit confusing to navigate the series of bike trails and frontage roads on this part of the course. Bottom line: keep your bike moving east, whether you're on frontage road or bike trail and you'll (likely) end up where you're supposed to go!

Weary-legged riders will be relieved to reach final descent down Lookout Mountain to the west of Golden. Riders can now start thinking seriously about a nice, cold Coors beer or some fabulous pizza from Woody's pizzaria!

After navigating through Idaho Springs, riders will begin the final return back to Golden. At the eastern end of the Idaho Springs bike trail, riders will make a right-hand turn onto US 6 (at I-70, Exit 244). Riders will then make an immediate right-hand turn onto the I-70 Frontage Road toward the dreaded Floyd Hill. (Tip: do NOT miss this turn and continue on US 6!) At 1.9 miles, Floyd Hill is not a long climb, but at a constant eight percent grade, the climb up Floyd Hill can be extremely challenging for weary-legged riders. And coupled with the heat of afternoon sun, the climb up Floyd Hill can truly become a daunting task! At the top of Floyd Hill, the I-70 Frontage Road reconnects with US 40 and riders will make a quick descent down the eastern side of Floyd Hill (US 40) toward the scenic community of Soda Springs. Riders will continue eastbound on US 40 as it undulates upward to Bergen Park, CO (elev. 7,798 feet). Riders will then make a left-hand turn (northeast) onto the Evergreen Parkway, which connects with the eastbound lanes of I-70. Participants will ride on I-70 for 1.5 miles to the Genesee Park (Lookout Mountain) Exit. (Note: This is one of the few sections of I-70 where it is still legal for cyclists to ride without being ticketed. Riders can expect that the traffic along the interstate will be heavy and fast, but the shoulder is very wide. Riders need to stay as far to the right as possible!) After exiting I-70, riders will make the final 2,200 foot plunge down Lookout Mountain, which overlooks Golden, the Denver skyline, and the Colorado plains to the east. Riders will then return to the final checkpoint in Golden, Checkpoint 5: Coors-Tek parking lot at 10th and Jackson St. Riders should have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff.

Congratulations on completing the Grand Loop!!! It's time to take those cycling shoes off, kick back, have a nice, cold Coors beer and some pizza at Woody's!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2012 Colorado Death Ride Recap: Smokin'!

Views of beautiful Red Mountain during the daytime. Participants of this year's Death Ride were unable to appreciate the beauty (or teeth-chattering drop-offs) of Red Mountain Pass because of the 2 am start time.

The 2012 Colorado Triple Crown ventured to the southwest corner of Colorado on July 1, 2012 for the Colorado Death Ride, the second stage of this year's Triple Crown series. The Colorado Death Ride traverses the San Juan Skyway, easily one of the most spectacular series of highways in the continental U.S. and one of the most photographed regions in the state of Colorado. For cyclists, the Death Ride--with its repeated exposure to high altitude and unpredictable weather conditions--is an endeavor that is never taken lightly! The course features 16,000 feet climbing in 225 miles. It is the most difficult single-day event on the RMCC event calendar and the longest double century event on the Ultramarathon Cycling Association's (UMCA) Ultracycling Cup event calendar and arguably the highest as well, crossing three passes that exceed 10,000 feet in elevation (Molas Pass, Coal Bank Pass, and Lizard Head Pass) and one pass that even exceeds 11,000 feet in elevation (the notorious Red Mountain Pass).

Exhausted at the finish, Mark is grateful to have survived his fourth Colorado Death Ride.

This year's Death Ride had record attendance: 18 ride starters, including 15 Death Ride rookies! Riders encountered generally favorable weather conditions, but temperatures were much warmer than in previous years, ranging 10-15 degrees warmer than in 2011. As expected, however, temperatures remained chilly in Silverton, CO with an overnight low temperature of 42 degrees, a frigid way to start any ride! Wind conditions were not nearly as cooperative as in previous years. The typical southwesterly tailwinds up the scenic Dolores River Basin (from Dolores, CO to Rico, CO) were on hiatus for this year's event, instead yielding to pesky headwinds up the canyon. This 39 mile section of highway, which climbs over 2,000 feet, also proved to be the most difficult section for many riders. RMCC club president, Charlie Henderson, commented on that section of the course, "I don't know why riders find that section so difficult. It is really not very steep. But every year we have riders who are really struggling by the time they reach Rico. The warmer temperatures and wind definitely made conditions more difficult for the riders." Headwinds over the Dallas Divide were also a bit unpredictable for this year's event. Riders in the earlier part of the afternoon experienced the traditional, pleasant tailwinds while crossing over the Dallas Divide from Placerville, CO to Ridgway, CO. However, winds switched directions as the afternoon progressed, turning into an unpleasant headwinds for many participants as they made the final descent to Ridgway.

Ryan Franz, riding the Death Ride for the first time, posted another strong finish in preparation for the Hoodoo 500 in August. 

The story of the week leading up to this year's Colorado Death Ride, however, was the Weber wildfire along Hwy 160 near Mancos, CO, the southwestern section of San Juan Skyway. Unseasonably hot and dry weather conditions created extreme fire conditions across the state. With wildfires raging south of Mancos along Hwy 160 and in other parts of the state, the town of Mancos was on evaculation alert for the entire week preceding the Death Ride. The Weber fire clearly threatened to shut down this year's event. Fortunately, cooler temperatures, light rain showers, and favorable wind conditions in the final 48 hours leading up to this year's event allowed fire fighters to get an upper hand on the wildfire, allowing the Death Ride to proceed as planned. Riders did encounter some smokey conditions along Hwy 160 near the community of Cherry Creek (to the east of Mancos), but conditions were safe enough to allow the event to proceed.

Marc Moons, the 2010 and 2011 California Triple Crown Stage Race Champion, decided to take a year off from the California series to participate in the Colorado Triple Crown. Not yet fully acclimated to the thin Colorado air, Marc rode admirably in his first Colorado double century. (It was good having you out there, although I imagine my name is now highlighted in your "little black book." :)

With the Weber fire well contained, this year's Death Ride got off to a smokin' start! A group led by Mark Lowe, Ryan Franz, Marc Moons, and Paul Spencer set a blazing 20+ mph to the base of Red Mountain Pass in Ouray, CO. After reaching the base of the pass, Paul (who was riding his first high altitude double century event) backed off the pace a bit while Mark, Ryan, and Marc pressed forward, grinding their way up the windy Red Mountain Pass as it snaked its way up the mountainside. Marc, the 2010 and 2011 California Triple Crown champion, had less than one week to acclimate to the rarified Colorado air after competing in insanely hot Terrible Two double century in Santa Rosa, CA in mid-June. Marc rode admirably, refusing to get dropped during the high altitude climbs. Marc commented afterward, "the altitude was killing me!"

Steve Rudolph completed his first Colorado Death Ride (and the longest single-day cycling event of his life!) Nice job, Steve! I had no doubts that you would finish strong!

The trio continued to work together over Molas Pass and Coal Bank Pass, ultimately completing the 81 mile stretch (with nearly 7,000 feet of climbing) from Ridgway to Durango in 4.5 hours (18.1 mph). Some untimely GI issues forced Marc to seek a brief respite and he unfortunately was never able to catch back onto the wheels of the RMCC veterans. Ryan and Mark continued westward, tackling Hesperus Hill to the west of Durango, CO. As the two riders ascended the gradual 2,000 foot climb, Ryan also backed off the pace a bit, leaving Mark out front. Mark, with his typical locomotive riding style, continued to power his way forward 135 miles for a solo finish, with Ryan and Marc finishing not too far behind. 

Tom Miller continues to get faster and faster! Tom finished is second Death Ride in 13:35, 2 hours and 48 minutes faster than last year's time!
In the end, Mark eclipsed last year's course record time by seven minutes. When asked about breaking last year's record, Mark explained, "I wasn't really sure if I was going to be able to improve on last year's time. [We] made excellent time to Durango, but I lost a ton of time riding up the Dolores River Valley because of the headwinds. Fortunately, when I reached Rico, the winds switched directions and I was able to take advantage of the tailwinds over Lizardhead Pass to Telluride." Mark elaborated, "this record belongs to Ryan and Marc as much to me. Without their hard pulls during the first 81 miles to Durango, I never would have been in position to beat last year's time. Wind conditions and much warmer temperatures were not nearly as favorable this year, so this would have been impossible to accomplish without their help!"

Congratulations to all of this year's Colorado Death Riders! And for the two riders who didn't finish, I hope we'll see you back for next year's Death Ride.  

Charlie is whooped after a long day of supporting Colorado Death Riders. Thanks Charlie!

Thanks to the following individuals for making this event run smoothly:

  1. RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, for making the long drive to Ridgway to provide rider support once again for this year's event.
  2. Art and Melissa McWhirter from Durango, CO, who provided event support with aid stations in Dolores, CO and Rico, CO.
  3. Nick at Lizardhead Cyclery  in Dolores, CO for letting us park our support vehicles next to his shop.
  4. All of the rider spouses who provided support to riders along the way!

Rider Data:

  • 18 ride starters, the largest number of Death Ride starters ever!
  • 15 Colorado Death Ride rookies
  • 2 riders from out-of-state
  • 16 official finishers, 2 DNFs
  • No women...C'mon, you're killing me!!
  • New course record: 12 hours, 22 minutes (18.19 mph)
  • Three finishing times under 13 hours (First time with three sub-13 hour finishing times)
Brief Results:
  1. Mark Lowe, Arvada, CO: 12:22
  2. Ryan Franz, Boulder, CO: 12:48
  3. Marc Moons, Petaluma, CA: 12:55
Full event results will be posted on the RMCC website in the next few days...

Craig Howell finished his first Death Ride in 14:19...a most-excellent time for a rookie! 

Kelly Shannon, who completed his first Death Ride, experienced some wicked cramping after the ride, but was glad to survived! Kelly's dog unfortunately "chickened out" for this event, refusing to ride in Kelly's jersey pocket! "Bark, bark!" he explained. (Translation: "I was too big of a scaredy cat!")

Boulder's Alec Sharp used his expert mountaineering skills to conquer the climbs of the Colorado Death Ride, his first official double century event. Nice ride, Alec!

Paul Spencer, who competed in the 2011 Tour D'Afrique, completed his first high altitude double century. (You picked a tough one Paul! You are indeed mad! Nice ride!)
Michael Henderson, who never takes a bad picture, continues to dial in his double century nutrition. Nice finish, Michael!

Josh Horwood struggled a bit a times with the dreaded "bonk," but managed to finish his first Death Ride in plenty of time. Nice ride, Josh!
Tim O'Leary posted another strong finish! This was Tim's first Death Ride!

Jason Kaminski had his on-the-bike nutrition dialed in for his first Death Ride. Jason appeared much more comfortable at the finish of this event than Denver-to-Aspen. (You're one event away from finishing the Triple Crown!) Nice job!
Mel Morris ventured back to Colorado from Amarillo, TX to complete his first Death Ride. Mel appeared much more comfortable with the thin Colorado air for this event! Good to have you back!

RMCC veteran Tim Miller battled through some knee problems to successfully complete his first Death Ride. Nice ride, Tim. I hope the knee is better for the Grand Loop!
Todd LeBlanc earned the distinctive honor of the "most combative" rider for the day. Todd battled through nutritional problems, GI problems, rainstorms, and a monumental "bonk," to finish his first Death Ride in plenty of time. (They don't always go smoothly, my friend, but you hung in there! Nice job...and you still finished with a smile!)

The beautiful Mt. Sneffels range seen from the Dallas Divide. As most riders make the bomber descent toward Ridgway from the top of the divide, it's easy to forget to appreciate how spectacular this mountain vista truly is! 

Next up...the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop!