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.