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!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ride the Rockies 2017 Route Announced; Welcome New Ride Director Renee Wheelock!

The annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies cycling
tour will visit the southwest part of Colorado for
the first time since 2013 (click to enlarge).
The 2017 Ride the Rockies route was announced Saturday night at a party in downtown Denver. Registration for the lottery is open until Sunday, February 26 at 5:00 p.m. MST. 

I wasn't able to attend in person this year as I was coming off a five day trip to Nashville that left me feeling as sore and exhausted as if I had just finished a week-long ride (It's no wonder, considering I took 51,608 steps covering 20.7 miles in five days at the Annual Cattle Industry Convention!). Actually, I could have gone straight from the airport to the party but the call of my own bed was strong and I went straight home and was sleeping soundly before the party ended. 

I woke up thinking about the route announcement and checked my phone. As I was hoping (and predicted in a blog post I wrote on the plane to Nashville, but forgot to post!) the route is returning to the southwestern part of the state. I was also hoping for a kinder, gentler route than the Chandler Smith-era RTRs (Smith announced his departure last July following his 10th Ride the Rockies). 

When Smith took over as Ride Director in 2007 the routes got exponentially tougher, punctuated by ridiculously long days with massive elevation gain -- like the time in 2014 he took us 88 miles and 8,800 ft. from Boulder to Winter Park (followed by a 95-mile day) or in 2015 when we rode 96 miles with 7,631 feet of gain from Grand Junction over Grand Mesa to Hotchkiss

The 2017 route will provide me with another photo opportunity at the Bay of Chickens on Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area:)

Chandler seemed to be trying to weed out recreational riders like me (who only put in 3,000-4,000 miles a year!). He put riders in dangerous situations -- like summiting 12,000 ft. Berthoud Pass after noon in a thundersnow storm -- and a 15-mile stretch of deep gravel in the middle of an 85-mile day. I’m glad he moved on. Time for a change. As I said in the post I failed to post:

"It’s time to return to the good ol’ days of tough but reasonable routes, recovery days following the brutal ones, days that don’t leave you so wiped out that you don't have enough energy to get out and party it up with the locals. Come on, RTR, you can do this. I’m counting on you!"

I think the new Ride Director, Renee Wheelock, has delivered! Advertised at 477 miles with more than 32,000 feet of gain the 2017 route is no Sunday afternoon ride in the park, but it includes a nice mix of long, tough days and shorter "recovery days" including a 39-mile "loop day" in Durango. As Wheeler said in today's Denver Post:

"We get quite a bit of feedback that participants enjoy a loop day, and some people enjoy taking that day off. Durango has a lot to offer in the way of stuff to do. The miles are short enough that people can get out and ride and enjoy."

I also prophetically hoped the route would include Ouray, saying in my unpublished post, "I've never ridden through Ouray. It would be cool to see a new town on the map." 

An amazing shot of the spectacular
and dangerous Red Mountain Pass.
Sure enough, the route includes the stretch of road known as the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray through the San Juan National Forest. This day features three mountain passes, including Red Mountain Pass (elevation 11,017), known as one of the world's most spectacular and dangerous roads!

The opportunity to ride the Million Dollar Highway pretty much seals the deal for me. Throw in Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs, Monarch Pass (the highest point of the ride at 11,312 ft. above sea level) and the finish line in Salida and this looks to be an awesome ride.

Sold. I'm planning to register for the lottery. Who else is in?

Ride on!


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