Aspen’s one-wheeled wonder claims new heights on ride
ASPEN ” Just past 4:20 in the morning Saturday, Mike Tierney walked out of the door of his Aspen Highlands home, jumped on his unicycle and headed in the direction of Independence Pass.
Nearly 12 1/2 hours later, Tierney came into view near the entrance to Breckenridge, where, upon encountering his wife, he hopped off his mount to take a picture.
All in a day’s work for Aspen’s one-wheeled wonder.
“I felt great,” Tierney, 48, said of his first 100-mile outing on his unicycle. “I was sore on Sunday, but [Monday] I felt like I could have done it again.”
All told, the local ski patroller rode 101.6 miles on his 36-inch wheel. That included 11,970 feet of climbing and 10,760 feet of descending while traversing Independence Pass, then Fremont Pass.
Tierney said he couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day for the ride. By the time he started up Fremont Pass coming out of Leadville, overhead clouds intermittently blocked out the sun, supplying him with cool temperatures for his final climb. Not a drop of rain ever fell on his head.
“It was amazing,” he said. “The high country is just glowing right now.”
Before setting out, Tierney conservatively estimated that the Aspen to Breck trek would take him about 14 hours. He ended up going about 10 mph, which, adding about two and a half hours of time out of the saddle, put him in Breckenridge at 4:45 p.m. ” more than an hour ahead of schedule.
That left him more than enough time ” all of 15 minutes ” to bask in his accomplishment before jumping in the family car to drive his teenage daughter and some friends to Denver for a Jonas Brothers concert.
“The drive to Denver was no problem,” said Tierney. “There was still adrenaline and excitement from what I’d just done. Coming back [to Breckenridge] was definitely a little tougher. A couple of Red Bulls later, we were home.”
A celebrity among unicyclists around the country, Tierney isn’t the first to ever do a century ride on one wheel. By his own estimation, however, he is the first to ever do more than 10,000 feet of climbing in one 100-mile ride. He said he believes his ride Saturday may be the toughest unicycle ride ever completed.
Not that Tierney set out to set a record. He said he simply wanted to do the ride because it seemed liked the obvious next step for him. Before Saturday, he had already knocked off some of the country’s toughest hill climbs on one wheel, including last summer’s 78-mile Copper Triangle over three passes (Vail, Tennessee and Fremont).
Along with having previously ridden up and down Fremont Pass, he had also done Independence Pass too many times to count.
“Once I had gotten past my personal best, I was really excited to be in new personal territory,” Tierney said. “When I was on the bike path from Copper to Breckenridge, I was really enjoying myself. Other cyclists slowed down to talk to me and there was a lot of hooting and hollering.”
Now that his first 100 miler is out of the way, Tierney has his sights set on his next big ride: The 38-mile, 10,000-foot climb from sea level to the summit of Mount Haleakala in Maui.
He plans to do the ride on Aug. 6, if all goes as planned.
“I just confirmed all the flights and travel reservations,” Tierney said. “I can’t wait.”
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