Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop Recap

The high alpine tundra (12,000 feet elevation) as viewed from Trail Ridge Road during the 2016 Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop (Photo: Heidi Hartman)

Contested on August 20, 2016, the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop was the final event of the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown. The Grand Loop is an extremely difficulty double century! But in comparison to three of the other five events on the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown calendar (Cycle to Saturn Double Century, Colorado Classic Double Century, and the Cripple Creek Crippler), the Grand Loop looked relatively benign! However, 200 miles, 16,000 feet of climbing, and 2 crossings of the Continental Divide at very high altitude is definitely nothing to scoff at! The first 81 miles of the Grand Loop have over 10,000 feet of climbing, making the start of this double century extremely top-heavy with climbing and as difficult as any double century in the Colorado Triple Crown series. And Trail Ridge Road, with seven continuous miles above 11,000 feet and twice cresting 12,000 feet, is undoubtedly one of the most challenging (and spectacular) stretches of pavement in North America. 13 RMCC members, including 5 Grand Loop newbies, decided to accept the challenge of cycling one of Colorado's grandest loops!

The Grand Loop is ridden in memory of Tim Kalisch (1967 - 2011). For Tim, the Grand Loop was his epic ride and a ride that he looked forward to each year it appeared on the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club calendar. And with bright, sunny skies and nary a chance of rain (after an evening of heavy rains along the eastern Colorado Front Range), it was guaranteed that Tim was smiling down on this year's participants as they completed this epic course. Congratulations to all of this year's participants!

One of many amazing high-alpine valleys as viewed from Trail Ridge Road (Photo: Heidi Hartman)

2016 Grand Loop Event Summary:

  • 200 miles, 16,000 feet of climbing
  • 8 categorized climbs:
    • Wyoming Circle Climb (Golden): Cat 4
    • 93 Climb (North of Golden along CO-93): Cat 4
    • US-36 (Lyons to Estes Park): Cat 1
    • Trail Ridge Road, from Estes Park (elev. 12,183 ft): HC
    • Victory Highway Climb (North of Tabernash): Cat 4
    • Berthoud Pass, from Fraser (elev. 11,307 ft): Cat 1
    • Floyd Hill: Cat 3
    • Soda Creek Climb: Cat 4
  • 2 crossings of the Continental Divide: Milner Pass (elev. 10,758 ft, RMNP) and Berthoud Pass (elev. 11,307 ft) 
  • The courses traverses Rocky Mountain National Park via the spectacular Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in North America
  • 15 pre-registered riders
  • 13 ride starters, 2 early withdrawals. Of the riders who started, 13 were men. Alas, no woman.
  • 13 official finishers (100% finishing rate) successfully completing this epic course in under 18 hours (>11.1 m.p.h.)! 
  • Mark Lowe recorded the fastest finishing time of the day, completing the Grand Loop in a total elapsed time of 12 hrs, 8 minutes (16.5 mph). Billy Edwards holds the course record, 11 hrs, 4 min (2013).
Panoramic vistas from every direction on top of Trail Ridge Road (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Special thanks to this year's volunteers. We simply cannot run these events in their current timed format without their help! Thanks again to each of you for sacrificing your day!
  • Heidi Hartman and Walter Zitz. Heidi and Walter drove our support vehicle, allowing riders to have access to their drop bags at Lyons, Estes Park, and at the Alpine Visitors Center in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Wayne Lawton. Wayne (and his wife) gave up their day to provide an aid station support in Granby.
  • Mark Michel. Mark once again stepped up to provide Triple Crown support, providing an aid station on top of Berthoud Pass.
  • Corinne Warren. Corinne recorded finishing times at Parfet Park in Golden.

Slowed by some pesky headwinds and chilly temperatures, Mark Lowe grinds his way up Trail Ridge Road toward the Alpine Visitor center en route to a 12:08 finishing time and his 7th Grand Loop.
RMCC newbies, Craig Miller and Oliver Heckl, arrive safely in Golden with Triple Crown veteran, Steve Rudolph. Great ride, guys!
Chris Baker, who had two flats early during the course of the ride, made up time to finish with Andy Stockman, who continues to receive the "cool bike o' the day" award! Great ride! 
Exhausted at the end on the Grand Loop, Caleb Carl is relieved to have survived after an intense (perhaps too intense!) week of training! Great ride, Caleb...much faster than my first Grand Loop!
Graham Barnes shaves off over 1.5 hours from last year's Grand Loop! Excellent ride, Graham!
At 63 years young, David Nelson matches Dick Wiss to become our oldest member (and youngest at heart!) to complete the Colorado Triple Crown Series. Great ride, David! 
Fueling on Fritos, Harris Rosenthal makes a return to the Colorado Triple Crown after his 2015 season ended on a sour note with a crash during Denver to Aspen. Mark Michel (background) is contemplating knocking some sense into Harris for riding another double century! 
Jason Turner and Steve Schroer successfully navigate the tricky series of frontage roads and bike trails from Empire to Golden to complete the Grand Loop. Great ride, guys!
Patrick Nourse (with the best cycling hair of the day) completes his 3rd Grand Loop! Excellent ride, Patrick!
Chris Baker, Andy Stockman, and Caleb Carl take a breath-taking breather at the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Heidi Hartman takes a playful break from a long day of support riders during the Grand Loop (Photo: Walter Zitz)
Steve Schroer, Jason Turner, and Patrick Nourse at the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Craig Miller gets creative, using packaging tape that he purchased at a hardware store in Granby to attach his shoe and broken cleat to his pedal to successfully complete his first Grand Loop! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Oliver Heckl wisely gears up for the chilly descent down Trail Ridge Road. (Photo: Heidi Harman)
Rocky Mountain National Park: Views that never get old! The Grand Loop is EPIC Colorado riding at its best! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)

By successfully completing the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop, the following riders have successfully completed the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown:
  • Chris Baker (2)
  • Graham Barnes (2)
  • David Nelson (2)*
*At 63 years old, David ties Dick Wiss as the oldest rider to complete the Colorado Triple Crown!

Although we don't have a special category for these riders, congratulations to the following riders for successfully completing all 5 events of the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown:
  • Caleb Carl
  • Mark Lowe
  • Steve Rudolph
  • Andy Stockman