The Ride the Rockies 2015 route was announce last night at the route announcement party in Denver. The 30th annual ride features a lot of familiar territory for me, including stops in two of my favorite host communities, Salida and Crested Butte. With 465 miles and more than 40,000 feet of elevation gain in seven days of riding, it will be a test of your intestinal fortitude as week as tolerance for pain in the "five points" two hands, two feet and one rear end!).
Here are some of my thoughts on the route:
Day One -- Colorado National Monument Loop (45 Miles / 4,702′ Elev. Gain). I did this ride on day one of my first Ride the Rockies in 2005. Its a scenic "warm up" ride with a fair amount of climbing.
Day Two -- Grand Junction to Hotchkiss (98 Miles / 9,069′ Elev. Gain). Day two is very similar to the second day of the 2005 ride, as well, only ending in Hotchkiss rather than Delta. The climb up Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat top mountain, is brutal. Maybe the toughest I have ever tackled. It certainly was in 2005. At 98 miles and more than 9,000 feet of elevation gain, this will be the toughest day on the 2015 ride.
Day Three -- Hotchkiss to Gunnison (78 Miles / 7,466′ Elev. Gain). I've ridden this route on a previous RTR (2010, I think). It's not terribly difficult but following the day two climb it will be tough enough! Lots of beautiful scenery.
Day Four -- Gunnison to Crested Butte (27 Miles / 1,458′ Elev. Gain). This will be a nice recovery day unless you are a masochist and go for the "Dirty 30" option (actually 35 miles) on dirt roads over Ohio and Keller Pass. Crested Butte is a beautiful spot to rest up for the remainder of the ride.
Day Five -- Crested Butte to Salida (102 Miles / 7,502′ Elev. Gain). The second hardest day on the 2015 route is a century ride including a tough climb on dirt roads over Cottonwood Pass. Hopefully you'll have enough energy to party that night in Salida, a perennial rider favorite. The overnight party in the park along the Arkansas River followed by some liquid carbo-loading at The Vic is a must.
Day Six -- Salida to Canon City (66 Miles / 5,834′ Elev. Gain). Forty-five of the 66 miles on day six are downhill but do NOT overlook the tough climb up the south rim of the Royal Gorge. It's the steepest two-mile climb I've ever ridden, hitting grades of 15-20%. But the opportunity to ride across the wooden slats of the world's tallest suspension bridge is worth it!
Day Seven -- Canon City to Westcliffe (49 Miles / 4,488′ Elev. Gain). Ride director Chandler Smith's sadist tendencies (its only a matter of time before he changes the name of the ride to "50 Shades of RTR") are showing in this mostly uphill final day. The steep 29-mile climb on tired legs will be tough. However, the views of the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) range are amazing.
So, you may have noticed me say "you" and "your" a lot in this post. I am seriously considering not registering this year and heading to Iowa for RAGBRAI in July. I've wanted to do RAGBRAI for several years now and this may just be the year to do it. The 40,000+ feet of climbing is just silly for a 6'4", 215 lb. rider like me. Besides, I've ridden nearly every road on this route and I think it is time to branch out. But we have until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 1st to decide.
So, RTR friends, are you in or out?