A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ride the Rockies 2014 Day Six: Welcome to Golden!

The final descent down Lookout Mountain into Golden, Colorado, made it all worth it. Six days of riding featuring some of the toughest climbing I have done: Boulder Canyon (especially the middle third), Berthoud Pass (Empire to Mile 66). the Three Bitches (see below), Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass (a tough combo), Loveland Pass (especially Keystone to A-Basin), and Floyd Hill (a nasty little stretch of about two miles at 8-10% grade). After all that we were rewarded with a true downhill finish featuring amazing views of downtown Golden and the Coors Brewery.

I'm still not sure which of these steep climbs are the ones locals call the "Three Bitches." The first three were tough, but the two in the middle were just plain nasty. And that little bump at the end was brutal. The fact that it was a totally unnecessary detour through a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes supports my theory that ride director Chandler Smith suffers from Sadistic Personality Disorder
Day Six began in Breckenridge with a nice easy five mile cruise on the bike path until we hung a right and climbed over Swan Mountain (steep but short) and into Keystone. From Keystone to A-Basin ski area is the toughest part of the climb up Loveland Pass (straight and steep, especially the four miles below A-Basin). It was funny to see skiers heading to the slopes as we rode up to the parking lot. Three of them were Team Bar2Bar members Woody, Paul (the Pilot) and Leah (Paul's daughter, the stoker).

The Bar2Bar Ski Team gears up to ski a few runs at A-Basin int he cycling helmets and jerseys! From left: Lea, Paul (the Pilot) and Woody.
Paul and Lea drove up from their home in Frisco with the tandem and ski equipment so they could ski a few runs before finishing the ride. Woody rode up and skied a few "laps" (as he calls them) before getting back on his bike and rejoining the ride. The Bar2Bar Ski Team accomplished something I'm sure few, if any, others have done: skiing in the middle of a ride on Ride the Rockies!

The video above captures the final ascent to the summit of Loveland Pass (it's pretty long, about 20 minutes, but not much happens in the middle -- from 8:00 to 12:00 -- so feel you might want to fast forward through this section!). We had a nice tailwind up the pass. I call this tailwind "Angel's Wings" because it literally feels like you are being lifted up from an invisible force. The views from the top are awe inspiring and you definitely feel a little closer to heaven!

The next 35 miles featured a mostly downhill combination of bike path and side roads through the old mining towns of Silver Plume and Georgetown. Shawn and I rocked this section and were joined by Omar, a wounded veteran, for the stretch into Idaho Springs (we rode up some of this stretch on Day One before the snowstorm on the summit of Berthoud Pass shut down the ride).

Omar is part of a program called Ride2Recovery that helps wounded veterans recover from mental and physical injuries through cycling. After being bed ridden for three months following spinal injuries, cycling helped Omar get back up and moving. He is now training for the U.S. Paralympic Team. There were several Ride2Recovery participants on RTR this year. Click here to donate to this great cause.

It was honor to meet Omar, a veteran wounded in service to our country in Iraq. Thank you for our freedom, Omar!
Omar and I lamented being "larger" riders as we started the climb up Floyd Hill. Struggling up the steep climb (1,000 feet in two miles) I kept saying, "I don't know who Floyd is but I don't like him! Turns out he was an early rancher in Colorado. So he must have been a good guy but the hill named after him sucks!

Shawn was a great teammate, doing lots of pulling and offering words of encouragement after leaving me in his wake on the big climbs. "See you at the top," he'd shout over his shoulder as he took off. :)
After the short descent of Floyd Hill we had a little climbing to do to get to the top of Lookout Mountain, but the end was near and the thought of the final descent (and the burger I had at the aid station in Idaho Springs) gave my legs the last burst of energy they needed and soon we were overlooking Golden, the final stop on RTR2014. The following video captures the windy descent of Lookout Mountain in Golden.

Passing under the Golden Arch, Shawn and I joined the other cyclists in celebrating surviving one of the toughest Ride the Rockies in history. Given the cold weather and over 25,000 feet of climbing (considering I was about 1,500 feet below the top of Berthoud when they closed the pass to cyclists), I think this was the most challenging of the eight RTRs I have completed. Of course, that makes the feeling of crossing the finish line all the more satisfying. After all, that's why we ride, right Omar?

Shawn captured this shot of me crossing under the Golden Arch, which doubled as the finish line for Ride the Rockies 2014.

It was nice to wake up in my own bed this morning with nothing on the agenda except to rest up and getting ready to re-enter the real world. Only two weeks until my next big ride -- the Colorado Bike MS with Patty's Pack. Stay tuned for details on how you can be part of this fundraising effort to help people living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Ride on!


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