Monday, July 29, 2013

Cripple Creek Crippler Recap: "I'd Rather Face Death Than Be Crippled!"

Scenic views from near Southwest Platte River Road amidst the thundershowers which pummeled riders
during the final 90 miles of this year's Crippler.

On Saturday, July 27, 2013, the mighty Cripple Creek Crippler unleashed its furor on members of the RMCC as participants tackled one of the nation's most difficult double century courses! The "Crippler," which is the newest event of the Colorado Triple Crown, is truly a beast of a double century! The course features an estimated 18,600 feet of climbing (some if it rather steep at times!) in 207 miles, covering terrain from the foothills to the west of Chatfield Reservoir all the way to Cripple Creek, CO (and back). Indeed, riders are either climbing or descending for the duration of the event! California Triple Crown veteran, Tom Driscoll (from Mountain View, CA), who ventured to Colorado this summer to complete the Colorado Triple Crown, summed the event up best. "I've ridden most of California's hardest double centuries...the Mulholland Double Century, the Terrible Two, and Devil Mountain Double Century. This course is HARDER than all of those courses!" With an average altitude of 7,500 feet, the rarified Colorado air also adds to the challenge. It was a day that will long be remembered by all of this year's participants. And at the conclusion of the ride, the group consensus was unanimous: the Crippler is harder than the Colorado Death Ride! Indeed, many Colorado Triple Crown veterans would rather face death than be crippled!

Eric Nelsen is glad to have survived this year's Crippler unscathed by mechanical issues!
Eric posted the speediest time of the day in 13 hours, 17 minutes.

However, in spite of the inherent challenges of the course, the Crippler is never short on spectacular mountain scenery! Throughout the entire ride, participants are surrounded by of stunning mountain vistas, amazing red rocks formations, and serene mountain streams. Even the miles and miles of barren hillsides along Deckers Road, stripped of their trees by the 2002 Hayman fire, have a mystifying characteristic to them. Riders also catch spectacular views of Colorado's famed Pikes Peak to the east of Cripple Creek where they can see the Pikes Peak highway snaking its way to the 14,000 foot summit.

In spite of multiple flat tires and a near DNF, Mark Lowe ventured on to safely complete this year's Crippler.
At the start of the event, Eric Nelsen and Mark Lowe, accompanied early on by Steve Rudolph, set the (usual) hard pace from Ken Caryl up Deer Creek Canyon. The duo worked together during the first 80 miles of the event, tackling the steep climbs of the Evergreen backroads, including High Road and Brook Forest/Shadow Mountain before making the scenic descent through Buffalo Creek and Deckers. The duo continued south, tackling the deceptive, gradual climb to Woodland Park, eventually turning west along US-24 toward Divide. Shortly after leaving Woodland Park, Mark's long-standing history of good fortune ran out as a slashed tire sidewall and multiple flat tires left him stranded momentarily on the side of the road. Eric ventured on alone, ascending the series of steep climbs to the rustic town of Cripple Creek, which was a bustle with activity from a weekend auto show. After cresting the high point of the course (approximately 10,200) two miles to the east of Cripple Creek, Eric began the 90-mile journey back to Ken Caryl amidst a series of thunderstorms that pummeled the Front Range throughout the afternoon. After cresting the steep climbs up Deckers Road and Foxton Canyon, Eric made the exhilarating descent from Pleasant Park down High Grade Road. Eric then cleared the final short climb over South Valley Park, returning to Ken Caryl, with the day's fastest time of 13:17.

Tim Miller continues to impress with another exceptional Triple Crown event! Congratulations, Tom!!
The day was an act of survival for many RMCCers. Many riders faced an assortment of mechanical problems, including an abundance of flat tires due to the glass-laden roads, further adding to the challenge of the day! Mother Nature also decided to leave her stamp on this year's Crippler, pelting participants with a constant stream of thundershowers--some of them a bit heavy at times--for nearly 90 miles from Cripple Creek back to Littleton. None of this year's participants, not even the speediest of RMCCers, escaped Mother Nature's wrath! But in the end, neither mechanical mishaps nor the soggy afternoon weather could dampen the spirits of this hardy crew of RMCCers!

Steve Rudolph is congratulated by Eric Nelsen for finishing the Crippler.

Congratulations to all of this years finishers!! You are all a very hardy bunch of riders...some of RMCCs finest!!

Special thanks the Penny Nelsen and RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, for graciously giving up their day to provide event support for this year's event. And thanks to Diana Shannon for her assistance with recording rider times at the conclusion of the ride! 

Redemption! Kelly Shannon is pleased to have finished this year's Crippler in spite of the rain.
Kelly struggled with GI issues during last year's event, forcing him to withdraw before finishing. 

Event notes:

  • 16 rider starters, including 3 women!
  • 14 finishers (88% finishing rate), 2 DNFs...not bad for such a challenging day!
  • Congratulations to Eric Nelson for posting the speediest time of the day in 13:17. Eric, who was not spared by the thunderstorms, was forced to take shelter on the side of Deckers Road, easily costing him 20 minutes. 
  • Congratulations to Lisa Purul and Fran Summerhill, who finished together as our solo female riders with a time of 16:18.
  • Andrew and Kami White had an amazing day in spite of numerous mechanic problems during the final 90 miles on their tandem. After getting soaked with rain, Andy was borderline hypothemic at the end of the ride. Congratulations on completing this ride! I suspect that you will be the only tandem couple to complete this event for a very, very long time!
  • Congratulations to Tom Driscoll of Pleasant View, CA for completing the CCC. By completing the Crippler, Tom becomes only the second rider ever from California to complete the Colorado Triple Crown!
  • Special kudos to Mark Stanton, who earned the distinction of "most combative" rider of the day! Coming off of a crash earlier in the week, Mark survived multiple flat tires throughout the day, missing time cut-offs (and hence support) at Conifer and Deckers. In true "rando" style, Mark ventured ahead to complete this difficult route with plenty of time to spare...

Craig Howell had another exceptional Triple Crown event! Special thanks to Craig's parents for providing support to Craig and other riders throughout the day!

Eric and Penny Nelsen at the conclusion of the Crippler. (Eric...I think your wife deserves another tropical scuba diving vacation for all of the help she has given us this year!)

With the conclusion of the Cripple Creek Crippler, the following riders have successfully completed the 2013 Colorado Triple Crown. Congratulations to all of you!!!
  1. Driscoll, Tom, Mountain View, CA
  2. Howell, Craig, Littleton, CO
  3. Hulett, Jeffrey, Golden, CO
  4. Jensen, Keith, Johnstown, CO
  5. Lowe, Mark, Arvada, CO
  6. Miller, Tom, Denver, CO
  7. Nelsen, Eric, Evergreen, CO
  8. Rudolph, Steve, Westmister, CO
  9. Shannon, Kelly, Denver, CO
  10. Stanton, Mark, Black Hawk, CO

Next up...the Colorado Triple Crown grand finale...Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Next Up...The Cripple Creek Crippler!!!

Beautiful views of Pikes Peak from near Woodland Park, CO

1) Ride Date: Saturday, July 27, 2013

2) Start and Finish Location: Littleton, CO at the Ken Caryl 
RTD park-and-ride on the NE corner of Shaffer Parkway and Ken Caryl Avenue, 1/4 mile east of interstate C-470.

3) Registration: RMCC membership, prequalification, and preregistration are required to participate in this event. This event has a $40 registration fee. We still have lots of openings for this ride. Preregistration will close on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm. For questions, please e-mail Mark Lowe:

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

5) Official RMCC support vehicles: We will have two support vehicles to support this event. The primary support vehicle will be driven by Charlie Henderson. Please keep in mind that
the RMCC support vehicles are—first priority—for safety and emergencies. In the case of an emergency, these vehicles may have to leave the course without any warning. Riders must be prepared for this possibility and need to carry the provisions necessary to successfully complete the event.

6) Drop Bags. Participants are allowed to place a well-marked (BIG LETTERS) personal gear bag in Charlie’s truck. Gear bags 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) and in Cripple Creek (drop bag access marked with a *). Faster riders may outrun their drop bags after Cripple Creek and need to be prepared for this possibility! Riders are also strongly encouraged to keep a Camel Back in Charlie’s truck. Riders should consider using the Camel Back during the 50-mile downhill section from Cripple Creek to Deckers. It is possible that our support vehicle will not be in Divide as riders return from Cripple Creek.  If riders do not want to ride with a Camel Back, they may stop at a convenience store in either Divide or Woodland Park for additional water or supplies.

7) Personal support vehicles: 
  •  The RMCC allows and encourages the use of personal support vehicles for all Colorado Triple Crown events.
  • All personal support vehicles must be registered with Charlie Henderson prior to the event. Please e-mail Charlie Henderson @ with the following information prior to the event: driver of the vehicle, make of vehicle, color and license plate number. Or if last minute, please bring a note card with this information and turn it into Charlie at the start. Riders who receive support without registering their support vehicle will be disqualified.
  •  Participants may receive support from other rider’s personal support vehicle without the risk of being disqualified.
  • If the weather turns severe, support can be anywhere!!! 

8) Checkpoints and time limits: Please keep in mind that this is a timed bike ride, but not a race. Friendly competition is encouraged, but the primary goal for every rider is to finish safely! Participants have 18.5 hours (by 10:30 pm) 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 (by the official closing time) to receive an official finishing time. Like the other events of the Colorado Triple Crown, we will be using event passports to record rider times for the Cripple Creek Crippler. Riders may pick up their event passports at rider check-in, prior to the start of the ride. All riders must have their event passports validated by RMCC event staff at the following official checkpoints listed below. If RMCC event staff is not present at these checkpoints, riders should record their own times. Riders must have their event passports validated by an RMCC official at the finish.  
  • Conifer, CO: NW Corner of Co R.73 and Shadow Mountain Drive (Closing time: 7:30 am)*
  • Deckers, CO: Store at Junction of Co Rd 126 and CO 67 (Closing time: 9:30 am)*
  •  Divide, CO:  Venture Foods, Junction of US 24 and N. Co Rd 5/CO 67 (Closing time: 12:00 noon)*
  • Divide, CO: Old gas station, Junction of US 24 and CO 67/N. Co Rd 5 (Closing time: 3:30 pm)
  • Deckers, CO: Store at Junction of CO 126 and CO 67 (Closing time: 5:30 pm)*
  •  Finish: Littleton, CO: Ken Caryl RTD Park-n-Ride (Closing time: 10:30 pm)

9) Additonal Support Points: RMCC will also be providing water support (with gear bag access) in Cripple Creek on Teller Co Rd 1, just after reaching the western city limits of Cripple Creek. Riders with personal support vehicles may receive support at the above checkpoint locations AND at the following locations: 
  • Conifer: Shell gas at intersection of Co Rd 73 and US 285 
  • Woodland Park: Conoco Gas at Junction of CO 67 and US 24 (NW corner)
  •  Evergreen Station: Mile 108 along Teller Co Rd 1, before making the final series of steep climbs to Cripple Creek
  • Cripple CreekAce Hardware and Shamrock Gas on Teller Co Rd 1 (entering town)*
  • Buffalo Creek: Junction of Co Rd 126 (Deckers Road) and SW Platte River Rd
  • Foxton: Small park at the junction of SW Platter River Rd and Foxton Rd
  • Pleasant Park: Pleasant Park Grange

10) Abandonment: If you need to abandon the ride for any reason, please call or text Charlie Henderson at 720-480-9714 as soon as possible to let him know! We don't want to spend all night worrying about where you are! Please note that the RMCC support vehicles do not sweep the course, so if you are unable to finish, you need to make arrangements to find transportation home.  Special notes about abandonment: If you are having a bad day on the bike and need to abandon, it is strongly suggested that you abandon in Buffalo Creek at the turnoff for SW Platte River Road. Riders who abandon after this location will face a much more difficult return route, especially if they make it all the way to Deckers.

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

12) Event Rules: Please review the event rules before the ride on Saturday: Please review our new policy regarding “Unsportsman-like conduct.”

13) Rider safety                :
1.       Ride single file! Be sure to glance behind you (and in front of you) before attempting to pass another rider!
2.       Good lights essential for completing this ride! The first 2 hours of the ride are almost entirely in the dark! You’ll greatly appreciate being to see as you descend through the Evergreen backroads. Please watch out for wildlife crossing the roads! Riders finishing after sunset will also need to have their lights and reflective gear.

14) General Tips:
1.       Take as short of breaks as possible. Please make an attempt to limit your breaks to 10-15 minutes. After all, if your wheels aren’t turning, you’re not going anywhere!
2.       Eat and drink frequently! Make it a goal to consume 300-400 calories/hour to avoid the dreaded bonk.
3.       The last 42 miles of this event are very tough! Be sure to save some energy for the long, steep climb out of Deckers back toward Buffalo Creek as well as the long climb up Foxton Road back towards Pleasant Park.

This is our second Cripple Creek Crippler!  We wish every rider the best of luck and have a GREAT RIDE! 

Cripple Creek as viewed from the high point of the course.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013 Colorado Death Ride: Smokin'! (Deja Vu)

The West Fork fire cast a smokey haze on the Million Dollar Highway between Durango and Silverton.
Colorado Death Riders endured some difficult conditions for this year's event!

Members of the RMCC ventured to the southwest corner of Colorado on June 29, 2013 for the official Colorado Death Ride. For the first time since 1997, the RMCC started this classic high-altitude cycling loop (one of the most difficult single-day events on the RMCC calendar) in Durango, riding the 225-mile loop with 16,000 feet of climbing in the counterclockwise direction. Colorado Triple Crown event organizer, Mark Lowe (who also rides these events), commented on the change. "We've started the Colorado Death Ride in Ridgway the last four years, riding the San Juan Skyway in the clockwise direction...which is a fantastic route! But it was time for a change to keep the ride interesting for all of the participants. And many cyclists consider Durango to be the traditional starting point for this ride. It was time to get back to the roots of this ride."

Smokey skies near the summit of Molas Pass

However, this classic counterclockwise route presents some unique challenges to Death Riders. First, the counterclockwise route is extremely "top heavy" in climbing. In fact, by the time participants reach the summit of Lizard Head Pass from Durango (approximately 130 miles into the ride), riders have climbed nearly 14,000 vertical feet over five major climbs (Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass, Red Mountain Pass, Dallas Divide, and Lizard Head Pass). The final 95 miles, by comparison, has only 2,000 feet of climbing. Second, the winds--in particular the 50-mile downhill section from the summit of Lizard Head Pass to Dolores--present a unique challenge to Death Riders as participants inevitably face brisk headwinds generated by McPhee Reservoir at the bottom of the Dolores River Valley. RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, who's ridden the Death Ride in the "classic" direction six times, commented on this section of the course, "I'm not really sure which direction is more difficult...climbing from Dolores to the summit of Lizard Head Pass with a tailwind or descending from Lizard Head Pass to Dolores with a headwind." Regardless of the direction that this section is ridden, this 50-mile, sun-exposed section always takes its toll on the Death Riders. This year was not an exception as many riders found the headwind-plagued descent toward Dolores especially demoralizing.

Mark Lowe is glad to have survived his fifth overall Colorado Death Ride,
and his first in the counterclockwise direction!
Additionally, for the second straight year, wildfires--fueled by unseasonably hot, dry weather conditions in the southwestern part of the state--hampered the Colorado Death Ride. In 2012, the wildfire near the town of Mancos threatened to derail the Colorado Death Ride as US-160 remained closed until a few days prior to last year's event. This year, the West Fork wildfire, rapidly becoming one of the largest fires in Colorado history, cast a smokey haze over the San Juan Mountains, making conditions difficult at best for participants. Although the fire did not threaten to directly close any portion of the San Juan Skyway, the fire did shut down US-160 between South Fork and Wolf Creek Pass. Participants traveling from the Denver area had to make the long commute to Durango by passing through Montrose, before driving over Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass, and Coal Bank Pass, a detour that resulted in a 7-8 hour drive for many participants. In spite of the extra-long commute, 19 riders--18 from the Denver Front Range and 1 from Cortez--made the pilgrimage to Durango for this year's event, the largest field for the Colorado Death Ride since 1997!

Steve Rudolph and Eric Nelsen at the conclusion of the Colorado Death Ride. Steve caught up with Eric during the long, head wind-plagued descent from Lizard Head Pass to Dolores and the two riders finished together.

At the (very early) 2:00 am start, smoke and ash from the West Fork fire to the east of Durango permeated the air along the Million Dollar Highway, making breathing conditions especially difficult for several riders. In spite of the smokey conditions, Death Riders got off to a blazing start as they passed through the streets of Durango, receiving cheers from unsuspecting pedestrians. Three-time Colorado Triple Crown finisher, Mark Lowe, and Eric Nelsen, who was competing in his first Colorado Death Ride, spearheaded the charge up to the Durango Mountain Ski Resort, averaging over 20 mph. As soon as the riders reached the base of the formidable Coal Bank Pass, however, the pace slowed quite a bit as Mark, Eric, and the rest of Death Riders settled in for a long morning of climbing. Following the wheels of Mark and Eric, participants made their way up Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass, and the truly spectacular Red Mountain Pass from the south, before making the exhilarating 4,000+ foot plunge through Ouray to Ridgway. For the first time in many years, Death Riders had the opportunity to make this amazing descent down Red Mountain Pass in the daylight!

Terry Gorsuch from Cortez, CO completed his first Colorado Death Ride.
Congratulations, Terry!

From Ridgway, Eric (who had transitioned through the checkpoint faster than Mark) paced Mark up the steep eastern face of the Dallas Divide, where headwinds from the west had already started to pick up for the day. Mark eventually caught up with Eric near Placerville and the duo began the gradual ascent to Telluride junction, ultimately making the steep grind up Lizard Head Pass, the final major climb of the day. Near the top of the climb, Eric--who had a stellar morning of climbing--began to fall a bit behind in his nutrition, allowing Mark to slip away near the top of the pass. Alone at the top of Lizard Head Pass, Mark resorted to his most aerodynamic position to cheat the pesky headwinds of the Dolores River Valley, ultimately passing through Mancos and returning to Durango with the day's speediest time of 12 hours, 45 minutes. RMCC veteran, Steve Rudolph, who was riding his second Death Ride, eventually caught Eric on the long downhill to Dolores. The two riders finished together to claim the second spot on this year's podium. Terry Gorsuch, riding his first Death Ride and first ultra-distance cycling event, claimed the final podium spot of the day. Diane Benoit, our lone female contestant, successfully completed her first Colorado Death Ride!

Congratulations to all of this year's Colorado Death Riders!!

In spite of 3 flat tires, Tom Miller still posted an impressive finishing time!
Congratulations, Tom!

Craig Howell successfully completes his second Colorado Death Ride! Congratulations, Craig!

Drew Knerl from Vail, CO made a last ditch effort to get to Durango in time for his first Colorado Death Ride! 
Mark Stanton had a stellar Death Ride in spite of riding the RMCC 600 km brevet (375 miles)
during the previous weekend! 

The trio of Kelly Shannon, Jeffrey Hulett, and Tom Driscoll at the conclusion on the Death Ride.
Dave Secunda is ready for a cold beverage at the conclusion of this year's ride.

Steve Schroer is relieved to have finished his first Death Ride. 
Diane Benoit was our lone female finisher at this year's Death Ride! Congratulations on a stellar ride, Diane!
Keith Jenson, smooth and steady, completes his first Colorado Death ride!
Andrew and Kami White, dampened by heavy thunderstorms near Dolores, became the first couple to complete the official Colorado Death Ride on a tandem. Congratulations to both of you!!

2013 Colorado Death Ride statistics:
1) 22 preregistered riders, 19 ride starters, 2 late cancellations, 1 no-show
2) 18 Official finishers, 1 DNF
3) Mark Lowe, completing his fifth Colorado Death Ride (and first in the "classic" direction), posted the fastest overall time of the day, finishing in 12:45.
4) Diane Benoit was our only female finisher (on a standard bicycle), completing the Death Ride in 16:11. Congratulations, Diane!
5) Dick Wiss, at the ripe young age of 64, completed his second Death Ride since the inception of the Colorado Triple Crown in 2009. Dick is perhaps the oldest rider to ever complete this challenging loop in one day. Congratulations, Dick!
6) Andrew and Kami White, with much trepidation about reaching the early checkpoints at Coal Bank Pass and Ridgway in time, became the first male/female couple to successfully complete the official Colorado Death Ride on a tandem. Congratulations to both of you!
7) In the stage race portion of the competition, Mark Lowe sits in comfortable position to retain his stage race crown. The Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop is the final event of this year's staged race.

Special thanks to RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, and Penny Nelsen, who graciously gave up their day to support this event!!

RMCC president, Charlie Henderson, is ready for a beer after a long day of supporting riders
during this year's Colorado Death Ride.

In spite of the 2 am start, Penny Nelsen is still smiling at the conclusion of this year's Death Ride.
Thanks again, Penny!!!

Next up...the Cripple Creek Crippler!!!