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by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Elevation Gain Numbers are Way Off

UPDATE 6/12/15: Ride the Rockies has updated the elevation gain numbers to 31,217. That's more like it. As predicted, the original estimate from MapMyRide was about 10,000 feet too high :)

UPDATED 3/1/15: Ride the Rockies just posted the following update to the route elevation gain numbers on the RTR Facebook page:
For those on the fence about applying for this year's ride due to the elevation profiles, please note the updated data we are now able to report having just returned from a route recon / community trip where we met with local PD, CSP and CDOT: Day 1 - 2,952 ft., Day 2 - 8,000 ft., Day 3 - 5,583 ft., Day 4 - 1,458 ft. and Day 7 - 4,511 ft. We will not be able to provide data for Day 5 and Day 6 until later this spring due to road / pass closures. This data captured on our own Garmin suggests these stages will equal 4,700 ft. less of climbing than previously reported. Registration closes today at 5PM MST. Best of luck in the lottery - hope to see you this June! www.ridetherockies.com
Based on what I know about Day 6 from Salida to Canyon City (see below), you can take off another 3,000 feet, bringing the approximate elevation gain down to around 33,000!

When I first saw the elevation gain number for Ride the Rockies 2015, announced a week ago, I thought they were ridiculous. More than 40,000 feet in seven days of riding is a lot (nearly 5,800 average per day). Last year's ride, at 33,000 was the most of any of the eight RTRs I have completed and more than enough for me (average 5,500 per day over 6 days). As it turns out, the 2015 numbers, as advertised aren't just ridiculous, they are off. WAY off.

To their credit, I learned about the overestimation from a post on the RTR Facebook page. The reason for the error became clear when the ride organizers explained that they used MapMyRide to chart the course and estimate the elevation gain (MapMyRide is notoriously bad at estimating elevation gain).

For example, the day five route, a mostly downhill 66 mile ride from Salida to Canon City is listed as 5,834 feet of climbing. That is simply absurd. True, it includes the steepest two mile stretch of climbing I have ever done tackled, up to the south rim of the Royal Gorge, but its not 5,800 ft. of climbing, even with the addition of Skyline Drive to the route this year. Not even close. We rode this route on the final day in 2006 and my Garmin Edge clocked it at 2,216 ft. I know Garmin is not infallible , but that's less than half the advertised gain! Conservatively, the MapMyRide estimate is off 3,000 ft.

The other obvious error is the advertised gain on day one. There is no way the ride around Colorado National Monument is 4,702 feet of elevation gain. We rode that route on day one of my first RTR in 2005 but I don't have a record of the elevation gain that day (didn't have a Garmin yet!). But according to a comment thread on the RTR Facebook page, "Ride the Rockies covered this same route five years ago (2010) at which point they (accurately) promoted it having an elevation gain of approximately 2.5k feet."  So there's another 2,000 ft. over-estimated by MapMyRide.

So the good news is that the 40,000+ estimate could be at least 5,000 feet too high. That's a lot better than last year when RTR underestimated the elevation gain by the same amount! That's right, this is not the first time the estimates have been off. Last year they estimated the route at 28,000 and it ended up being more than 33,000! That was just painful.

The bad news is RTR staff have said they won't correct the numbers until early May after they ride the course with GPS devices. Until then, your guess is as good as mine.

Ride on!


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