In the Saddle: Don’t fret about Ride the Rockies in Aspen
I’ve ridden in multiday, organized bicycle rides in Colorado, Iowa and Washington and have been intrigued by the differences.
In Washington, residents seemed indifferent at best, hostile at worst. I witnessed a support vehicle stop in the middle of the road in a tiny community within sight of Mount St. Helens, forcing cyclists into the oncoming lane. A couple who looked like they only leave the woods about once a month became so angry trying to get through that I thought they were going to plow into a pack of cyclists. I told the woman in the support vehicle to get off the road before she caused someone to get killed.
In Iowa, a state line to state line ride is so revered that communities lobby to play host. Ten thousand riders engulf the roads. Motorists easily avoid hassles because there are so many alternative, paved county roads.
Organizations from the Girl and Boy Scouts to church groups and from beef councils to commercial vendors set up shop at the host towns. People sit in lawn chairs in all the little towns to greet passing riders. Farmers have even been known to rig sprinkler systems for hot riders to pass under to cool down.
The reception is somewhere in between in Colorado. There aren’t many alternative routes available in the mountains, so some motorists get frustrated sharing the roads. On the other hand, many a mountain town plays great host to the rolling carnivals.
I suspect the Roaring Fork Valley will greet Ride the Rockies with a mix of apprehension and appreciation when it rolls in June 11 through 13. The official ride starts that Sunday in Carbondale. Riders will head downvalley on the Rio Grande Trail, climb into Missouri Heights, make their way across the rolling hills and plunge into El Jebel. They will make their way back to the Rio Grande Trail and into Aspen for a layover that night. The first day’s route will create a 50-mile ride with 4,253 feet in elevation gain. Residents and motorists in Missouri Heights can expect significant travel challenges during the morning.
Bright and early that Monday morning, Ride the Rockies participants will face their first major challenge with the grunt up Independence Pass to start their day. They will climb Fremont Pass, as well, after passing through Leadville. The 85-mile route takes them to Cooper Mountain. Total climbing for the day will be 7,655 feet.
There also is a prologue day that will bring a limited number of riders to county roads around Aspen on Saturday, June 11. As many as 50 riders will journey from Aspen to Snowmass Village to Snowmass Monastery via Watson Divide. They will return to Aspen via the Rio Grande Trail.
Don’t worry, non-cyclists, the disruptions won’t be anything close to the USA Pro Challenge. There will be a few more cyclists on roads than normal around Aspen and Snowmass Village on June 11. Missouri Heights will feel the brunt of the masses on June 12, and the thousands of cyclists will roll out of Aspen on the morning of June 13.
They will be in fast, out fast and won’t create big hassles. Plus, they are generally fun people who will drop a fair bit of cash in our valley.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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