Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017 Colorado Death Ride Recap

Mountain bliss: Views of Molas Lake between Molas Pass and Silverton, CO
On Saturday, June 17, 2017, members of the RMCC returned to Durango, CO after a one-year hiatus to ride the Colorado Death Ride. Mile for mile, the Colorado Death Ride is one of the most picturesque double century courses on the RMCC calendar and undoubtedly one of the most spectacular double century courses in the world. Starting and ending in Durango, CO, the course traverses the stunning San Juan Skyway in southwest Colorado. This year's rendition once again made the journey through the San Juans in the traditional counterclockwise direction. The Colorado Death Ride includes a 25-mile section of US Hwy 550 from Silverton to Ouray referred to as the "Million Dollar Highway," an engineering marvel considered by many to be one of the most stunning stretches of highway in the Continental US. The course also includes the Dallas Divide, which lies to the north of the rugged and highly photographed Mt. Sneffels (elev. 14,150 ft) mountain range. Finally, the course passes through the rugged peaks in the Telluride area, often referred to as the "Swiss Alps of the Rockies." With its incredible scenery, it is obvious why the San Juans attract tourists (and cyclists) from around the world! The Colorado Death Ride, however, is not for the faint-of-heart. With a distance of 225 miles, it is one of the longest double centuries on the UltraMarathon Cycling Association (UMCA) ultracycling calendar. And with four climbs exceeding 10,000 feet in elevation (Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass, Red Mountain Pass, and Lizard Head Pass and the Dallas Divide, which sits just below 10,000 feet), it is also one of the most oxygen-deprived double centuries on the planet.

Mother Nature smiled upon this year's Colorado Death Riders, bestowing them with abundant sunshine, temperatures that peaked around 90 degrees F (in the Durango area, cooler at higher elevations), and nary a chance for rain. This was perhaps the best weather that we've ever experienced in nine years for this event. This year's event had 22 ride starters, making in our second largest Colorado Death Ride to date. Even more impressive was the fact that all 22 riders successfully completed the course within the 19 hour time limit! Congratulations to all this year's Colorado Death Riders!

Looking south toward Silverton from Red Mountain Pass. It's a crying shame that there is nothing to look at in the San Juans!

2017 Colorado Death Ride Event Summary: 

  • 225 miles, approximately 16,500 feet of climbing
  • 7 categorized climbs:
    • Coal Bank Pass (10,640 feet): HC (Hermosa to Coal Bank Summit)
    • Molas Pass (10,910 feet): Category 3
    • Red Mountain Pass (11,018 feet): Category 2 (from Silverton)
    • Dallas Divide (8,983 feet): Category 2 (from Ridgway)
    • Lizard Head Pass (10,222 feet): HC (from Placerville)
    • Mancos Hill (Category 3)
    • Hesperus Hill (Category 4) 
  • 21 pre-registrered riders
  • 21 ride starters and one volunteer rider. Of the riders who started, 19 men, 3 woman
  • 22 official finishers (100% finishing rate! WOW!!!), successfully completing this challenging, high altitude course in under 19 hours (>11.8 m.p.h.).
  • Caleb Carl posted the fastest time of the day: 12 hours, 15 minutes (18.4 mph)! This is a new RMCC record for the Colorado Death Ride in the counterclockwise direction, beating Mark Lowe and Walter Zitz's time of 12 hours, 35 minutes in 2015. Other cycling clubs have ridden the San Juan Skyway for years, but the actual fastest time of completing the San Juan Skyway loop is unknown. The previous best time that I have seen for completing this loop was 12 hours, 17 minutes from a Durango-area rider before the inception of the Colorado Triple Crown. So it's possible that Caleb's time might be the fastest time to ever complete this loop. I will let you know if someone proves me otherwise!
  • Corinne Warren was our fastest female competitor, completing the Death Ride with a total elapsed time of 15 hours, 14 minutes (14.8 m.p.h.). It is possible that this is a RMCC female record for Colorado Death Ride course in the counterclockwise direction. Pre-2009 times were not recorded. 
Special thanks to our support crew! We can't run these events in their current timed format without their help!
  • David Nelson: support vehicle driver
  • Mark Lowe: support vehicle driver
  • Andre Schub: assisted riders at checkpoints along the course
  • Heidi Hartman: recorded finishing times in Durango

With the conclusion of the Colorado Death Ride, the following riders for completing the 2017 Colorado Triple Crown:

  • Chris Baker*
  • Caleb Carl
  • Kieran Johnson
  • Mark Lowe**
  • Tom Miller
  • Josh Peter
  • Steve Rudolph
  • Walter Zitz
*Successfully completed the Death Ride Tour Single-Day Challenge on 6/11/2017 within the 17-hour time limit.
**Completed the first 3 events as volunteer pre- or post-event rides.

A group of six riders opted for the extra-early 2 AM start time.
Like "Chariots of Fire," the main group prepares to depart from Durango at  3 AM.
Dawn breaks on Engineer Peak near the summit of Coal Bank Pass.
Riders scramble to gather their gear at the checkpoint on Coal Bank Pass.
Chris Alstrin was a bit chilled on the top of Coal Bank Pass. It took a bit of convincing on my end to get Chris to wait for his wife, Laura Anderson, at the top of the pass and preserve marital bliss! :)
Stunning views of the valley to the north of Silverton as dawn breaks on the Colorado Death Ride. 
Early morning sunlight illuminates the majestic peaks to the south of the saddle between Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass. 
Andy Lapkass grinds his way up Red Mountain Pass on his trusty single speed bicycle en route to completing this year's Death Ride!
Walter Zitz charges toward the top of Red Mountain Pass.
The death-defying descent down Red Mountain Pass is one of Colorado's most exhilarating descents!
Terry Rice, Josh Peter, and Paul Grimm take a breather after the long descent down Red Mountain Pass to the checkpoint in Ridgway.
Jerry Arnold and Harris Rosenthal take a brief rest at the Ridgway checkpoint.
Andre and Nat Schub at the Ridgway checkpoint.
The Mount Sneffels range provides a gorgeous backdrop to the Dallas Divide!
Stephen Strayer, competing in his second Death Ride in two weeks, grinds his way up the steep upper sections of the Dallas Divide. 
The jaw-dropping scenery in Telluride, the "Swiss Alps of the Rockies."
The picturesque Mt. Wilson (elev. 14,252 feet) to the southwest of Telluride.
The elusive lizard head rock formation, best viewed from the south side of Lizard Head Pass.
Caleb Carl charges down the south side of Lizard Head Pass toward Rico en route to the fastest time of the day!
Every epic double century challenges riders physically and mentally. With 50+ miles of continuous downhill into a debilitating head wind, the beautiful (but sometimes monotonous) Dolores River Canyon challenges the psyche of even the toughest Colorado Death Riders! 
Dehydrated Colorado Death Riders take a much-deserved breather at the Dolores checkpoint. Only 45 miles to go! 
Stunning mountain scenery approaching the summit of Red Mountain Pass.
Wow!!! Really?!? Gotta love Colorado!!!

Chris and Laura at the finish. (Photo: David Nelson)
A skeleton and bicycle suspended in a tree in Hesperus reminds riders that they are about 11 miles from finishing the Colorado Death Ride. (Photo: Paul Grimm)
The appropriately named Red Mountain is still clad in rapidly receding snow fields from the harsh winter of 2016-17. 
Steve Rudolph approaches the top of Red Mountain Pass. (Photo: Chris Alstrin)
Laura Anderson is in good spirits near the top of Red Mountain Pass. (Photo: Chris Alstrin)
Keith Jensen, en route to the third fastest time of the day, grinds his way up the Dallas Divide. (Photo: Chris Alstrin)
Stunning views from the summit of Molas Pass allow for a moment of reflection. (Photo: Chris Alstrin)
Caleb Carl is considering hunting for spring rolls after his RMCC record setting ride! Congratulations! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Walter Zitz was seriously considering riding the course a second time...
...But after second thought, he decided a nap might be a better idea! (Photos: Heidi Hartman)
Keith Jensen had his strongest Triple Crown ride to date, finishing third in this year's event! Great ride, Keith! (Photo: David Nelson) 
Steve Rudolph convinces Corinne Warren that it is okay to smile during these events! After all, you just completed the Colorado Death Ride! Great ride, guys! (Photo: David Nelson)
Scott Griffith looked smooth all day, beating his 2014 time by over 1.5 hours! Great ride, Scott! (Photo: David Nelson)
Stephen Strayer and Scott Griffith at the conclusion of the Death Ride. Stephen is whooped after completing his second Death Ride in two weekends! Making Cinch proud! (Photo: David Nelson)
Looks can be deceiving. Tom Miller collapsed in a state of exhaustion shortly after this picture was taken. Tom earned his Strava kudos today! (Photo: David Nelson)
Laura and Chris successfully complete their first Colorado Death Ride and first Triple Crown event. Thanks for coming out, guys! (Photo: David Nelson)
Graham Barnes rode smoothly all day to successfully complete his second Colorado Death Ride! Great ride, Graham! (Photo: David Nelson)
Jerry Arnold is perhaps the first rider from the state of Nebraska to complete the Colorado Death Ride! Congratulations, Jerry!
Nat Schub, Harris Rosenthal, Jerry Arnold, and Josh Peter. Harris battled all day to get back in the pack!
Rockin' it! Josh Peter is a Colorado Death Rider! Woohoo! 
Nat Schub looks relaxed after completing his first Colorado Death Ride. Excellent ride, Nat!
Terry Rice picked a doozy for his first Colorado Triple Crown event! You can now call yourself a "Colorado Death Rider!" Great ride! 
After completing his first Colorado Death Ride, Rico Stephen is one event away from his first Colorado Triple Crown! Great ride!
Andy Lapkass continues his single speed ways during the Colorado Death Ride. Great ride, Andy! 
Boris Mannsfield battled through multiple flat tires to complete the Colorado Death Ride and first Triple Crown event! Great to have you out there, Boris!
High school buddies, Tom Miller and Boris Mansfield: the Alabama connection!
After re-fortifying with tacos in Rico, Kieran successfully finished the Colorado Death Ride and his second consecutive Colorado Triple Crown. Congratulations on a hard fought effort! Sometimes they don't come easy!
Erika Van Meter, aided by assistance from her hubby, Mike Young, and lightning-fast transitions at checkpoints, successfully completes her second Colorado Death Ride! Great job, Erika! What an improvement!
Corinne Warren and Paul Grimm. Paul was cutting it close. But what do they call a rider who finishes with 7 minutes to spare?? A Colorado Death Rider! Great ride, Paul! 
David Nelson, recovering from a frustrating year of health issues,  is determined to be out on the road in 2018! Thanks again for your help, David!
The sun sets on a great day of riding, illuminating clouds to the east of Durango. Another Colorado Death Ride is in the books...