Confessions of a First Timer: Ride the Rockies originally published on the Verde Voice of Verde Brand Communications.
Once again, I had no clue what I was in for on my bike adventure – the 2014 Ride the Rockies.
It sounded like a dream when I was researching the opportunity – six days of riding my Diamondback Equipe through the passes of Colorado. How hard could that be? The mileage total was 477 miles and the elevation gain was over 28,000 feet, but who’s counting? (Me!).
The first clue that I really didn’t have one, whatsoever, is the fact that I signed up to do the Sunshine Hill Climb race in Boulder on Saturday (yes, the day before the start of Ride the Rockies). Let’s just say that race was incredibly difficult. The grade averaged 7.6 percent, but maxed out at a spanker 23.1 percent (that’s not a typo). I think I would have loved it more had it not included over four miles of washboard-dirt roads. I did it. Likely won’t do it again.
Then, I rolled into Sunday, the epic start day of Ride the Rockies. I was so excited to get going on my adventure that I nearly forgot my jacket at the hotel! That would have been a crucial rookie mistake, as I would find out later that day.
SUNDAY: Boulder to Winter Park
I thought I was getting an early start at 7 am, but it turns out I was one of the last ones up Boulder Canyon. I’ll keep this day summary short, even though it was one of the longest and most drama-filled days. We hit dramatic lightning, rain and hail in Central City. Then there was snow of the blowing variety going up Berthoud Pass. All in all, after 10k feet of vert and just over 80 miles, we found ourselves in a dead stop at the top of Berthoud Pass. A blizzard and fog halted the ride that day and hundreds of us waited at the top of Berthoud for a ride down into Winter Park. Epic!
MONDAY: Winter Park to Steamboat
This was one of the longest distance days – I ended up doing 99 miles due to the fact that my hotel was about 10 miles from the official start line for the day. This was a picture perfect Colorado day of riding! It was just what we all signed up for. My bonus for the day was the fact that at Starbucks that morning, my new good friend George Hincapie let me take a pic with him. Later that day, he passed me with his rolling entourage and as he flew by me, said, “Hey, aren’t you my Starbucks friend?”
Oh. My. God.
TUESDAY: Steamboat rides are not for blondes
I had some work to do Tuesday morning, so I had a later start that day. It was a perfect morning weather-wise and I rode from town at around 10 a.m. to do the loop (apparently, the route we did is nicknamed by the locals as the “Three Bitches” for the climbs that anchor it). I HAD to see what that was about!
I rode out to Oak Creek (the turnaround for those riders who actually pay attention to such things like turnarounds), and proceeded to window shop via bike, completely missing the rest stop I was supposed to hit. I rode through the town and back onto the open road and kept seeing route signs. 12 miles later, I stopped at a gas station and rode up to two race officials who were staging signs, innocently asking if the gas station was that day’s turn around. The look on their faces was pretty priceless! Turns out I was following Day 4’s signage for 15 miles. I turned around and hauled a** back to Oak Creek and up and over the three climbs to finish the day at a solid 75 miles (it would have been 24 miles shorter, but again, whose counting?).
WEDNESDAY: Steamboat to Avon
Another amazing weather day, the Avon ride day was awesome. Sure it would have been more awesome if I had been buzzed again by George Hincapie, but it was super great!
THURSDAY: Avon to Breckenridge
This was one of the days I was waiting for – a three-pass climbing smorgasbord. We were going to climb Battle Mountain, Tennessee Pass and Freemont Pass! Yay! It turned out to be one of the very best days – perfect weather, three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the top of each pass, and generally? A perfect day in the saddle. I had to pinch myself because it was already day five and I had not a single issue with my Diamondback Podium Equipe – just sayin’!
FRIDAY: Breck to Golden
The route looked interesting, to say the least, for the last day. It was one pass and then a load of frontage road, bike path and even freeway, leading to the final two climbs in Floyd Hill and the back of Lookout Mountain. Then, we were able to drop into Golden via Lookout – rad! I have to say that the coolest facet of the entire trip was on Friday’s ride. Ride the Rockies secured a traffic free ascent and decent of Loveland Pass; it was truly one of the best climbs and descents of my entire life! Here’s a snap of me at the top, just before I turned about four cartwheels out of sheer joy!
Ride the Rockies was not only an amazing orchestration (I still can’t believe that over 2,000 riders do this event – the coordination is literally staggering). For me, however, the ride was a much-needed unplug. I had hours and hours on my bike every day with time to think creatively about life, Verde and many other things that I hope to do going forward. I needed that time and space far more than I realized.
My favorite part of the week? I was able to have my son Tobin along for the tour as well, thanks to my amazing employee and friend, Kyle Dowman, who joined the week with us to drive Tobin from city to city and to ride with him at each and every dirt-jump park we encountered. Having the time to hang out in the little mountain towns every day and evening with Tobin was just what I was hoping for. He’s 12 years old and I bet that next summer, he may not be so into hanging out with Mom for a week. I am so grateful to have completed the 2014 Ride the Rockies, to have my head cleared out and to have my dear boy with me for the week.