Cyclists take over valley roads
Motorists in the Roaring Fork Valley should prepare to share some roads with cyclists this week.Actually, they won’t have a choice.Ride the Rockies, an annual bicycle tour, hits the Roaring Fork Valley Wednesday and will have an impact through Friday morning. The official number of riders is 2,000, but participation swells beyond that some days.The riders roll into Glenwood Springs Wednesday after traveling through the smoke of the wildland fire outside New Castle. On Thursday, they will make the trip from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. And on Friday, they tackle Independence Pass en route to Leadville.Here are some of the ways the ride will affect the valley:• Food fights: Locals might be fighting cyclists for tables at watering holes and restaurants Wednesday in Glenwood and Thursday in Aspen. Riders are traveling only 35 miles from Rifle to Glenwood today, so they will be shopping, swimming and soaking up suds. The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association expects the fun to begin at noon with bands at Sayre Park, which is race headquarters for the day.On Thursday, the ride tackles the 43 miles between Glenwood and Aspen. Breakfast joints in Glenwood and Carbondale will be hard-hit, and some riders undoubtedly will wander off the trail to check out Basalt. Most riders will arrive in Aspen with plenty of time to browse shops, hit the Aspen Recreation Center and check out the eateries.
• Share the road: Thankfully, Ride the Rockies must use only about 1.5 miles of Highway 82, according to the race website. The route between Glenwood and Carbondale uses Garfield County roads for the most part, but a short connection is necessary on Highway 82. Once again, riders were advised of the busy morning commute on the highway, but some will hit the trail at prime time, between 7 and 9 a.m., despite the warning.
After rolling through Carbondale, riders will get off the road and onto the Rio Grande Trail all the way to Old Snowmass. The back roads into Aspen might not provide such a fast alternative Thursday for commuters trying to escape delays on the highway. The cyclists will use Lower River Road, Upper River Road through Woody Creek, then travel into Aspen via McLain Flats Road. Bike traffic could be heavy throughout the morning.
A bike path will get riders safely under Highway 82 and out to Aspen High School, headquarters for the night.Here’s the best word for the wise: If you’re traveling to Denver on Friday morning, you’d be better off avoiding Independence Pass. The cyclists are challenging themselves with a ride from Aspen to Leadville via the pass. The sag wagons are launching at 7:30 a.m., earlier than usual, to urge them to hit the trail. Nevertheless, expect the narrow roads of Independence Pass to be clogged for a considerable time Friday morning.
• Go with the flow on trails: Rio Grande Trail users need to be aware that riding parts of the route Thursday might be like paddling upstream on the Roaring Fork during spring runoff. The Ride the Rockies route will divert cyclists onto the Rio Grande from Carbondale to Old Snowmass. It will be a steady stream of riders throughout the morning and into the afternoon.”It might not be the best day to take a horse tour,” said Mike Hermes, trails director for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which manages a portion of the trail.Hermes and an official of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program stressed that the midvalley stretch remains open to all users. They said common sense might dictate that users headed downvalley will want to avoid the route rather than try to share it with 2,000-plus riders headed the other way.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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