Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2014 Colorado Death Ride Recap

The spectacular San Juan Mountains from near Ouray, CO

As the 2014 iteration of the Colorado Death Ride unfurled, Mother Nature proved to be benevolent and at times even generous. Perhaps she was feeling guilty for the suffering inflicted during the Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen Classic? Cooler than seasonal temperatures, milder than normal headwinds, and scattered showers rather than rain storms prevailed for most of the riders much of the day. 

After a largely sleepless night marred by the explosion of Independence Day fireworks close to the host hotel, riders rolled out as a group from Durango at 2 a.m. towards the base of the first climb of the day, Coal Bank Pass (10,640 ft). On that first mountain the riders fractured into groups, with Mark Lowe, Eric Nelsen, Steven Philips, and Walter Zitz in the lead, giving riders just a glimpse of their taillights as they ascended. After a brief stop at the very dark checkpoint on Coal Bank Pass nearly 24 miles later, riders donned arm warmers and jackets for the chilly descent and were quickly on to the next climb, Molas Pass (10,910 ft). 

As the rising sun lightened the sky, the stunning scenery afforded by the San Juan Mountains became evident: a spectacular backdrop for a spectacular ride. Silverton proved to be warmer than expected: still chilly to be sure, but not as cold as in previous years. Red Mountain Pass looming ahead, at 11,018 ft high the literal apex of the day, proved to be difficult both as a climb and a descent, as it was rock-strewn from a recent storm, creating a virtual obstacle course for riders who would roll through later in the morning. In fact, the debris was a precursor to a rock slide later that night, which forced a temporary road closure; luckily, the riders were not affected. Upon reaching the charming mining town of Ouray, riders could not miss the swollen Uncompahgre River, flowing high above normal levels, a testament to the hard winter and deep snow pack in the mountains.

A brief descent brought riders into Ridgway and the second checkpoint, where they refueled for the next climb, up the breathtaking Dallas Divide (8,970 ft). Cresting this short climb with the benefit of a slight tailwind for most, the total elevation gained at this point, not even half way into the ride, was approximately 11,000 feet. The descent down Dallas Divide finally delivered the promised headwinds, but they were milder than expected. A riot of wildflowers blanketed the hillsides in yellow, making the descent scenic as well. A short climb to the Telluride checkpoint afforded a welcome break for all, as support volunteer Penny Nelson did her best to fulfill each rider's needs. 

Then more climbing, to the top of appropriately named Lizard Head Pass, and riders began the long descent into Dolores. The faster riders had to contend with the traditional headwinds, but the lucky later riders picked up a tailwind as afternoon showers moved into the area. Riders off the back agreed getting a little wet was a small price to pay for the unexpected push into Dolores! At this checkpoint, Charlie Henderson dispensed Gatorade and bits of wisdom with equal aplomb, before sending riders off on the last leg. With the bulk of the ride done and fatigue starting to set in for all, there was one small obstacle left...the series of rollers along US-160 back to Durango, including Mancos Hill and Hesperus Hill.  It is a good place to be a cow, with hundreds of them grazing in verdant fields along US-160, but a bad place for a Colorado Death Rider! Rise after rise after rise was left to climb. None of them steep, but after 200 miles, even the small hills took a toll on the psyche. The final, wickedly fast descent into Durango was a mixed bag, depending on when riders came in. The leaders were drenched in one of the area's first monsoons of the summer, while the showers abated and those at the back experienced minor sprinkles or nothing at all. With the lead riders done in under 13 hours, and the last rider reaching the final checkpoint well before dark, the 2014 Colorado Death Ride has to be considered a resounding success!

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

Views of the descent down the notorious Red Mountain Pass

2014 Colorado Death Ride Event Summary:

  • 225 miles, approximately 17,000 feet of climbing
  • 7 categorized climbs:
    • Coal Bank Pass (Hermosa to Coal Bank Summit): HC
    • Molas Pass: Category 3 
    • Red Mountain Pass (from Silverton): Category 2
    • Dallas Divide (from Ridgway): Category 2
    • Lizard Head Pass (from Placerville): Category 1
    • Mancos Hill: Category 3
    • Hesperus Hill: Category 4
  • 60 miles of downhill (into a headwind) from the summit of Lizard Head Pass to Dolores

  • 25 preregistered riders (our largest number of preregistered riders ever)!
  • 21 ride starters, 3 early withdrawals, 1 late withdrawal. Of the riders who started, 18 were men, 3 were women.
  • 20 official finishers, completing the course within the 19 hour time limit (95% finishing rate), 1 DNF.
  • RMCC rookie, Walter Zitz (first Colorado Death Ride) and RMCC veteran, Mark Lowe (sixth Death Ride), completed the course with the day's fastest time of 12:46 (17.63 m.p.h.)
  • Diane Benoit posted the fastest time for the women with a time of 15:44 (14.15 m.p.h.), 27 minutes faster than in 2013.

Special thanks to the following individuals who provided event support for this year's Colorado Death Ride. We could not have done this without your help!
  • RMCC president, Charlie Henderson
  • Penny Nelsen (Thanks again, Penny!!)
  • Diana Shannon (who provided personal support for one rider and random support for other riders along the course)
  • Mike Young (who provided for personal support for one rider and random support for other riders along the course)

Brief Results:  
(Complete results with splits will be posted on the new RMCC website later this year):

Name Age Cit, State Total Time
Lowe, Mark 40 Arvada, CO 12:46
Zitz, Walter 28 Lakewood, CO 12:46
Nelsen, Eric 42 Evergreen, CO 13:43
Philips, Steven 47 Boulder, CO 13:53
Cannon, Tim 51 Telluride, CO 14:00
Rudolph, Steve 54 Westminster, CO 14:00
Lancaster, Gary 47 Highlands Ranch, CO 14:34
Miller, Tom 45 Denver, CO 14:34
Rupel, Ray 59 Centennial, CO 15:23
Howell, Craig 36 Littleton, CO 15:25
Henderson, Michael 48 Dolores, CO 15:39
Benoit, Diane 56 Morrison, CO 15:54
Shannon, Kelly 53 Denver, CO  16:11
Turner, Jason 39 Monument, CO 16:13
Warren, Corinne 46 Monument, CO 16:33
Nelson, David 60 Greenwood Village, CO 17:36
Griffith, Scott 40 Albuquerque, NM 17:50
Turek, Michael 47 Longmont, CO 17:52
Grimm, Paul 45 Mesa, AZ  17:57
Van Meter, Erika 42 Aspen, CO 18:17
Pfeil, Mark 46 Boulder, CO DNF

Walter and Mark, looking a bit ragged after surviving the Colorado Death Ride and a nasty thunderstorm while descending the final 10 miles from Hesperus Hill to Durango. This was Walter's first Death Ride and Mark's sixth!
Eric Nelsen had a solid ride to complete his 2nd Death Ride. Nice ride, Eric!
Steven Philips completes his first Colorado Death Ride and first Triple Crown event!

RMCC veteran, Steve Rudolph, and RMCC rookie, Tim Cannon, survive the Colorado Death Ride.
Nice ride to the two of you!
Gary Lancaster and Tom Miller at the conclusion of the Death Ride. This was Gary's second Death Ride (first in the "classic" counterclockwise direction). Tom battled early adversity with an unexpected flat tire (less than 10 miles into the ride) to successfully complete his fourth Death Ride. 
Ray Rupel, dressed in his most patriotic cycling kit, completes his first Death Ride
in the "classic" counterclockwise direction.
Craig Howell completes his third Colorado Death Ride! Nice ride, Craig. Smooth as always!
Michael Henderson, riding his first ultra-endurance cycling event in 2 years, looks relaxed at the conclusion of the Colorado Death Ride. Great to have you back, Michael! 
Diane Benoit had a stellar day on the bike as our first female finisher. This was Diane's second consecutive Death Ride! 
After thawing out from Denver-to-Aspen, RMCC distance veteran, Kelly Shannon, had another strong day on the bike!
Jason Turner keeps on gaining valuable endurance cycling experience! Congratulations on completing
your first Death Ride!
Corinne Warren's hard training this spring allowed her to complete her first Colorado Death Ride with relative ease!
Nice ride, Corinne!
At 60 years young, David Nelson continues to impress! Great ride, David!
New Mexico's Scott Griffith joined us for his first Death Ride. (Yes...that's a TT bike, folks!)
Nice ride, Scott!
Mike Turek survived a tough day on the bike with lots of mechanical problems to complete his first Colorado Death Ride! Arizona's Paul Grimm makes the transition from ultra-endurance running to ultra-endurance cycling to complete his first Death Ride. Nice ride to the two of you!
Making a comeback to endurance cycling, Erika Van Meter finishes her first Death Ride with plenty of time to spare!
Great ride, Erika! I had no doubts that you would finish!
The Mt. Sneffels Range, as pictured from the Dallas Divide...one of many scenic vistas that Death Riders encounter
during their EPIC single-day journey! 

Next up...Yup! It's that time again!!