Aspen Cycling Club ready to roll

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Erik Skarvan pedals down the home stretch during a June 2007 Aspen Cycling Club race at Tiehack. (Aspen Times file)

ASPEN ” Heavy snow inundated the valley Thursday, making it hard to fathom that, in less than a week, Aspen Cycling Club members will be hopping on their road bikes.

Hard to fathom, maybe, but hardly unusual, club vice president Erik Skarvan said. In its 20 years of operation, the club has seen its share of variable early-season conditions.

“I had someone ask me if snow tires are allowed,” Skarvan joked. “I told him ‘Whatever you want.’

“We’ve seen the full gamut over the years. Full-on snow, sleet, rain – we’ve had it. It’s usually a hearty race. You never know what you’re going to get.”

The club’s competitive calendar begins Wednesday with the aptly-named Difficult time trial, a six-mile test of endurance that starts and finishes at Difficult Campground, 3.5 miles east of Aspen. Competitors will start individually every 30 seconds, making their way toward Aspen on Highway 82 before turning around near the Northstar Preserve Bridge.

Forecasts call for the possibility of scattered showers and temperatures in the 50s, Skarvan said. But he’s ready for anything.

“It could actually be decent weather. We usually get sleet, 38 degrees and sometimes blowing snow,” he said. “You can bring studded road tires or cyclocross bikes. Some guys have done road time trials on mountain bikes in the past.”

Whatever their bike of choice, Skarvan expects 90-100 bikers to participate in Wednesday’s race, which begins at 6 p.m. The first few races – May 14’s Rio Grande time trial follows next week’s event – tend to garner a high level of interest, a direct result of the format, Skarvan said.

“The first couple races are shorter and less intimidating,” he added. “There’s a lot of excitement and energy.”

The club is coming off a season in which it experienced a resurgence of sorts. Nearly 200 members took part in events from May to early September – a high-water mark in the last six or so years, Skarvan said. Aspen Mountain ski patroller Max Taam took first overall in the mountain biking races and second in road to edge out Danny Sullivan. Sullivan took first in last year’s Difficult time trial – then the second race on the calendar – finishing in 10 minutes, 31 seconds.

“This is the race of truth,” Skarvan said. “There’s no hiding. It’s just you and your bike. It’s a great indicator of where you are in terms of fitness.”

Because parking near Difficult Campground is limited, organizers are asking participants to park in Aspen and ride to the starting line.

Advanced registration is not required. Racers can sign up and pay at the start between 5 and 5:50 p.m. Those with a start-time preference can pre-register, but must still check in before competing. Entry fees are $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

The season’s first post-race party, to be held at Cantina, will follow Wednesday’s action.

Race changes and or cancellations will be announced at the start, Skarvan said. He already has a contingency plan in place should wintry weather persist.

“I’m going to have a dog sledding team pulling me,” he joked.

The 2008 season will consist of 10 road bike and 10 mountain bike races, and will run through Sept. 3. For more information regarding upcoming events, visit, call the club hotline at 922-2000 or pick up a club newsletter at bike shops in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale.