Sunday, June 23, 2013

2013 Colorado Triple Crown Event #2: The Colorado Death Ride

The picturesque Mt. Sneffels Range, photographed from the Dallas Divide

The Colorado Death Ride is the second stage of the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown. At 225 miles, the Colorado Death Ride is the longest double century event on the UltraMarathon Cycling Association (UMCA) UltraCycling Cup calendar and one of the most difficult single-day events on the RMCC calendar. The Death Ride has LOTS of climbing! The total vertical gain for the Death Ride is 16,000 vertical feet, climbing over three mountain passes that exceed 10,000 feet in elevation and one pass that exceeds 11,000 feet! No other event on the UMCA calendar has so many individual climbs that expose riders to high altitude! The Death Ride has jaw-dropping mountain scenery that is second-to-none! The San Juan Mountains are frequently one of the most-photographed regions in the state of Colorado. After riding this route, you will understand why this is the case. Be sure to keep your digital camera in your jersey pocket. You'll definitely want to have it on this ride!

Spectacular views from Red Mountain Pass

Good luck to all of this year's Death Riders!!

Latest information, 6/27/13 @ 5:26 pm
The West Fork Fire: US-160 remains closed in both directions east of Pagosa Springs to South Fork over Wolf Creek Pass (Milemarker 158-188). Participants will need to get to Durango by driving to Montrose, then proceed to Durango via Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass, and Coal Bank Pass. This could add an additional 1.5 hours of travel time. 

For the latest on the West Fork fire:

So far, there are no new fires in direct vicinity of any section of the San Juan Skyway. Let's keep our fingers crossed that it stays this way!

General Information:

1) Ride Date: Saturday, June 29, 2013

2) Host Hotel/Start and Finish Location: Durango, CO, Durango Best Western Inn and Suites, 21382 US 160 W, Durango, CO 81303

3) Registration: Riders need to be preregistered AND prequalified to participate in this event. Registration for this event will close at 7:00 pm on Thursday, June 27, 2013. For questions about registration or prequalification, please e-mail Mark Lowe:

4) Ride start/check-in: 1) Pre-ride check-in will be on Friday, June 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm at the Best Western Durango Inn and Suites. If you are unable to make this meeting, please contact Mark Lowe (, 303-895-9532). On Saturday, July 29, 2013, sign-in starts at 1:30 am. Ride starts at 2:00 am sharp. Please be ready to ride 10 minutes early for last minute instructions. (Yes…I know this is really early! But our goal is to have a majority of the riders finish in the daylight. Lights and reflective gear are required!

5) Official support vehicles: We will have two support vehicles for this event. The primary support vehicle will be driven by Charlie Henderson (Charlie's cell phone: 720-480-9714). Participants riding without private SAG support should plan to use Charlie's truck to transport their drop bags. These drop bags will be accessible at checkpoints along the course, including Coal Bank Pass, Ridgway, and Dolores. Our secondary support vehicle will be located at the gas station at Telluride junction. Participants riding with private SAG support need to register their support vehicle with Charlie prior to the start of the ride. Riders with private SAG support may be asked to support other riders in case of an emergency.

6) Time limits: Please keep in mind that this is a timed cycling event! Participants have 19 hours to complete this ride to earn an official finishing time and to receive Colorado Triple Crown credit. Riders can only begin riding at the official start time and must reach all checkpoints before the following time cut-offs to receive an official finishing time: 1) Coal Bank Pass, 5:15 am, 2) Ridgway, 8:45 am, 3) Telluride junction, 2:45 pm, 4) Dolores, 5:30 pm. 5) Durango, 9:00 pm.

7) Additonal Support Points: Riders with private SAG support may also receive additional support at these locations: 1) Silverton, gas station, 2) Red Mountain Pass, 3) Dallas Divide, any safe pull-off, 4) Placerville, store, 5) Rico, convenience store, 6) Mancos, any safe pull-offSpecial notes about support: If the weather turns nasty, support can be anywhere!

8) Abandonment: If you need to abandon the ride for any reason, please call Charlie Henderson at 720-480-9714 as soon as possible! We don't want to spend all night worrying about where you are! Please note that we do not sweep the course.

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

10) Event Rules: Please review the event rules before the ride on Saturday:

Mountain waterfall, photographed from Imogene Pass, not far from Ouray

Monday, June 17, 2013

Denver-to-Aspen: At the Mercy of the Winds!

The Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic, contested June 15, 2013, marked the official "kick off" to the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown, Colorado's most difficult road cycling series! This year's Denver-to-Aspen had 29 preregistered riders, the largest number of riders since the RMCC ran the event as a public ride during the 1990s. On paper, the route created by Joe Lookingbill (the master-mind behind the Denver-to-Aspen course) doesn't look very formidable. The current route features 13,000+ feet of climbing in 180 miles...not a terrible stretch from Team Evergreen's Triple Bypass, which features 10,000+ feet of climbing in 120 miles. But as Denver-to-Aspen veterans know, this course--which passes through the heart of the South Park Valley--can become exponentially more difficult than the Triple Bypass, depending on the directions of the prevailing winds. This year's participants were definitely at the mercy of the winds...

South Valley Park...a little piece of Kansas nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.
The winds became increasingly intense through the valley during this year's D2A. 
In 2012, Denver-to-Aspen participants encountered some of the most favorable winds in the history of the event, conducive to producing record times for nearly every participant, including the first sub-ten hour times ever recorded in the history of the event. This year, however, the prevailing westerly winds were not as kind to Denver-to-Aspen participants. Riders who were fortunate enough to finish early in the afternoon were not as adversely affected by the westerly headwinds as those riders who finished later in the day. 

At the 4:00 am start, riders encountered comfortable temperatures in the low-60s and light northwesterly winds. However, it became apparent very early during the day that it would not be a day for records to fall. Right from the start, riders began to experience light westerly headwinds as they climbed Deer Creek Canyon to Conifer. The winds gradually intensified as riders advanced westward along US-285 through Bailey and Grant toward Kenosha Pass, the eastern gateway to the South Park Valley. Upon entering the South Park, the northwesterly winds continued to intensify for many riders. By the early afternoon, as many riders arrived at Buena Vista and the scenic Twin Lakes, many participants were getting throttled by the gusty winds. For many riders, the breezy conditions made the climb up Independence Pass (12,095 feet) seem much more difficult. The gusty conditions definitely took their toll on the psyche of many participants, including RMCC veteran, Kelly Shannon. Kelly commented on this year's windy weather, "This is my ninth Denver-to-Aspen...and these were by far the most brutal headwinds I've ever experienced!" RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, providing event support for this year's event, concurred with Kelly. "Many riders really struggled with the wind this year. The winds were much more difficult to contend with this year than last year!" 

In spite of the less-than-ideal wind conditions, a few riders did manage to post personal best times on the challenging Denver-to-Aspen course. And temperatures remained pleasant throughout the day, reaching the low-60s on top of Independence Pass and the upper-70s in Aspen, which was bustling with activity from its annual summer food and wine festival. Fortunately, skies remained rain (and snow) free for the entire day!

Views of the mountain scenery to the west of Twin Lakes

Congratulations to the trio of Brendan Billingsley, Mark Lowe, and Eric Nelsen for posting the fastest time of the day with a time of 10 hours, 5 minutes. The three riders, who were accompanied by Ryan Franz before Ryan had an unfortunate flat to the north of Buena Vista, encountered much less breezy conditions than riders who finished later in the day. This was Brendan's first Denver-to-Aspen, as well as his foray into long-distance cycling! Riding his second D2A, Eric improved on last year's time by 49 minutes. And congratulations to Diane Benoit, who once again rode hard--handling the adversity of the wind--to repeat as our first female rider!

Congratulations to all of this year's finishers!! Final results will be posted on the RMCC website soon...

Special thanks to our stellar crew of volunteers--Charlie Henderson, Hunter Johnson, Penny Nelson, and Diana Shannon--who made this year's event run flawlessly!

Here are the highlight from this year's event:
  1. 29 pre-registered riders (our largest Denver-to-Aspen in years), including 4 out-of-state riders and 5 women.
  2. 22 official finishers (88% finishing rate) who successfully completed the 180-mile course with 13,500 feet of climbing Joe Lookingbill foot course in less than 15 hours!
  3. 5 DNFs, and 2 DNSs
  4. Congratulations to Brendan Billingsley, Mark Lowe, and Eric Nelsen who were the first men's finishers of the day, posting a respectable time of 10 hours, 5 minutes (17.86 mph)...not bad given the abundance of headwinds.
  5. Diane Benoit was our first female finisher, posting a final time of 12 hours, 50 minutes (14.02 mph). Congratulations, Diane!
  6. As previously mentioned, LOTS of headwinds, which intensified as the day progressed!

Looking a bit disorganized at the conclusion of the ride, Mark Lowe, Brendan Billingsley, and Eric Nelsen are relieved to have survived this year's Denver-to-Aspen without getting too thrashed by the headwinds that worsened as the afternoon progressed. This was Brendan's foray into long-distance cycling...very nice effort indeed!
In spite of the wind, Steve Rudolph managed to post a finishing time that was only 3 minutes slower than last year.
Nice ride, Steve!

Ryan Franz suffered an untimely flat just to the north of Buena Vista, but still managed to finish  with a very impressive time, only 17 minutes behind the lead riders. Several riders fell victim to the green glass on the shoulder
of Trout Creek Pass.

Tom Miller put his newly discovered time-trialing skills to work to post his fastest Denver-to-Aspen ever! Congratulations, Tom!

Drew Knerl and Gary Lancaster finished this year's Denver-to-Aspen together. This was Drew's first D2A
and Gary's second. Nice ride to both of you!

2012 Colorado Triple Crown finisher, Craig Howell, and Mark Stanton, hoping to complete his first Colorado Triple Crown. Nice ride to both you! Craig has had more than his share of flats this season including two
during this year's D2A. However, Craig deals with adversity as well as anyone on two wheels!!

Now 9-time D2A veteran, Kelly Shannon, was a bit rattled by this year's headwinds, but has informed me that he's already looking forward to the 2014 Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic!

Diane Benoit, who once again proved that she is capable of handling adverse weather conditions, was the first female finisher of this year's D2A. When asked about the upcoming Colorado Death Ride, Diane responded, "Bring it on!!!"

Congratulations, Josh, on completing another Denver-to-Aspen!
Jason Turner successfully completed his first D2A. Congratulations, Jason!

Fran Summerhill, Lisa Purul, and David Secunda at Woody Crook at the conclusion of this year's D2A classic.

Steve Shroer at the Woody Creek tavern, glad to finished after a long day of riding!

California Triple Crown veteran, Lyresa Pleskovitch, traveled from Palo Alto, CA to ride this year's D2A classic.  Congratulations on completing a very difficult ride at altitude!!

Thomas Driscoll from Mountain View, CA, at the Woody Creek Tavern...glad to have survived
his first Colorado Triple Crown event!

RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, is still smiling after a long Day of providing ride support for this year's D2A! Thanks, Charlie! 

Next up...the Colorado Death Ride!!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Denver-to-Aspen...the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown "Kick Off"


Well...after months of preparation, June 15th is almost here! It's one week and counting until next weekend's Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic, the inaugural event of the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown! Here's a few extra notes for next weekend's event:

Latest Info, 6/14/13: 
1) Registration for the 2013 Joe Lookingbill D2A Classic is now closed. This is our last prequalifier for the other events of the Triple Crown. If you're interested in doing one of the events, please e-mail me about your cycling

2) Drop bags...a quick clarification...Riders should prepare 2 drop bags for this ride. Your primary drop bag (#1) will go in Charlie Henderson's truck and will be available in Conifer (19 miles) and Buena Vista (109 miles). Your secondary drop bag (#2) will go in Hunter Johnson's jeep and will be available on top of Kenosha Pass (50 miles). Some of the riders who are "savoring the experience" may also have access to their primary drop bags at Kenosha Pass (when Charlie catches up), but faster riders will not. In the past, we've tried to "shuttle" ahead the drop bags of the faster riders to Kenosha, but with a large number of riders and unfamiliar faces, this will be difficult to do this year. Riders will not have access to their drop bags after Buena Vista, so they should plan to grab their cool weather riding gear from their bags in Buena Vista. All drop bags will be available for pick-up at Woody Creek at the end of the ride.

3) Elevation profile for D2A can be found here:

1) Weather: The weather forecast looks good for next weekend. There is now a 30.5657% chance of showers in Buena Vista and Aspen for Saturday. High temperatures for both locations are expected to be in the low 80s. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a repeat of last year's amazing weather (and even more amazing winds)!

2) Registration: Registration is now closed. You need to preregister for this event! If you don't see your name on the event roster and you think it should be, contact Mark Lowe ASAP: Registration closes Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 10 pm. 

3) Check-In: Rider check-in begins at 3:00 AM at the Ken Caryl and C-470 RTD Park-n-Ride. The ride starts at 4:00 AM. Please arrive early and be ready to ride by 3:45 a.m.

4) Gear Bags: All riders may provide a well-marked (BIG letters, EASY TO READ) gear bag that can be placed in our primary and secondary support vehicle prior to the start of the ride. Each rider will be given a baggage tag prior to the ride that should be placed in an easy-to-see location on his/her drop bag. Small coolers are acceptable.

5) Course notes:  As of June 9, 2013, CDOT is not reporting any delays from road construction on Hwy 285, Hwy 24, or Hwy 82. And so far, no forest fires to deal with--Oops! I spoke too soon!!

6) RMCC support vehicles: We are planning on having two primary support vehicles and two secondary support vehicles for this ride. The primary support vehicles, which will be used to transport rider gear, will be located at Conifer, Kenosha Pass, and Buena Vista. The secondary support vehicles will be stocked with beverages and will be located at Fairplay and Twin Lakes. All support vehicles will be stocked with extra water, Gatorade, Cokes, and a floor pump. The primary vehicle will be driven by Charlie Henderson (cell phone: 720-480-9714). Participants riding without private SAG support should plan to use this support vehicle to transport gear bags. These gear bags will be accessible at checkpoints along the course. Participants riding with private SAG support must register their support vehicle (name of driver, cell phone number, make/model of vehicle, and license number) with Charlie prior to the start of the ride. Failure to do so will result in disqualification. Please e-mail Charlie (CharDi2528@aol.comwith this information by Thursday, June 13, or if it is last second, please bring a note card with this information and give this to Charlie prior to the start of the ride.

7) Checkpoints/Passports: After much debate, we have decided to use event passports again this year. This enables riders to record their times if they get ahead of our support vehicles. All riders should plan to have their event passports validated at the following official checkpoints: 1) Conifer (the RTD Park-n-Ride on the north side of Hwy 285), 2) Kenosha Pass Summit, 3) Buena Vista (the intersection of Hwy 24 and Pine Street along the right side of the road), 4) Twin Lakes (south side of road across from store), and 5) Woody Creek Tavern. Finishers should have their event passports validated by Charlie or RMCC staff at the Woody Creek Tavern.

8) Additonal Support Points: All riders with personal support vehicles can receive support at the above checkpoints AND at the following locations: 1) Bailey (Conoco station on the right) and 2) Fairplay (the Sinclair/Strip mall on the right as you enter town), 3) Independence Pass summit.

9) Special notes about support: 1) If the weather turns nasty, support can be anywhere! All riders should plan to grab their cool weather riding gear from their drop bags in Buena Vista. Riders will not have access to their drop bags at Twin Lakes. Remember: temperatures will likely be considerably cooler on top of Independence Pass! Additional supplies can be purchased at the Twin Lakes store, but not on Independence Pass.

10) Time cut-offs: Please note that there are a couple of errors in the pre-ride instructions that were mailed to participants this past week. The correct time cut-offs are listed below. To successfully complete Denver-to-Aspen, you must get to Buena Vista expeditiously! Riders should plan to take the shortest breaks possible at checkpoints and support points. To ensure rider safety, we have two time cut-offs: 1) Conifer: 6:20 a.m, 2) Kenosha Pass: 9:30 a.m., Buena Vista: 2:30 pm2) Twin Lakes store: 4:30 pm. If riders do not arrive at these checkpoints by these times, they will not receive official finishing time. Riders must reach the Woody Creek Tavern by 7:00 pm to receive Colorado Triple Crown credit and qualify for the other events of the Triple Crown. Riders who reach Woody Creek after 9:00 pm will not receive an official finishing time. It is RMCC policy to not have participants finish this ride by descending Independence Pass in the dark!

11) Safety: Please ride with extra caution during the event at the following locations: 1) Hwy 285, from Bailey to Kenosha Pass: this section has a very narrow shoulder! 2) Trout Creek Pass: the shoulder narrows considerably as Hwy 285 descends into Johnson Village. Traffic is fairly brisk! 3) Independence Pass (Aspen side): Hwy 82 is often littered with rocks and there are several large potholes on the descent into Aspen! The road is also very narrow in places and will have lots of traffic! (June 15th is also the same day as the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.)

12) 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! Additionally, if you are going to leave Twin Lakes after 4:00 pm or arrive in Woody Creek after 8:00 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!

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

14) Event Rules: Please review the event rules before the ride on Saturday: