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Ride the Rockies brings thirsty bicyclists to Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Riders in the 2009 Ride The Rockies pull up to the beer garden in Aspen during the 2009 tour. Aspen will be the host city on Sunday and the riders will depart over Independence Pass Monday.
Aspen Times file photo |

ASPEN – Some 2,000-plus bicyclists descended from chilly, but beautiful Independence Pass into Aspen on Thursday, looking for Mayor Mick Ireland and beer.

The mayor was nowhere to be found in the early afternoon at the Ride the Rockies beer garden off Monarch Street, but bicyclists were quaffing $4 brews and toasting what many claimed to be the single best leg of the 24th annual tour, which began Sunday in Glenwood Springs and ends there Friday.

Ireland, an avid biker who rode along on this year’s six-day, 380-mile tour, was handing out fliers – “Make Your Last Night a Party … After All, It’s Aspen” – over the course of the ride and talking up the town.

Thursday’s Denver Post, reporting from Leadville, noted Ireland was “working the crowd so hard he would put a seasoned Chicago political huckster to shame” and offering anyone who recognized him on the streets of Aspen a free beer.

“Yeah, he said if you see him on the street, you get a free beer … haven’t seen him since,” laughed Brad Caddock of West Bend, Wis. “He was promoting everything Aspen has to offer.”

Caddock was lounging in the beer garden (where proceeds benefited Aspen’s Spring Board) with his father, Jeff Caddock. Brad was planning an evening on the town, but the elder Caddock wasn’t making any promises, blaming the strenuous ride over Independence Pass for tiring him out.

Others labeled the pass a tour highlight.

“Independence Pass is always the best. That’s one of the primary reasons why I did it this year,” said Robert Hagen of Broomfield.

“I gotta say, I think you guys have the best scenery – over Independence Pass,” agreed Curt Hull of Denver, riding the tour for his sixth time.

Bettyann Heppler of Denver, doing her first Ride the Rockies, said the rides over Monarch Pass and Independence Pass were her biggest fears heading into the tour. The latter turned out to be her favorite.

“Climbing Independence Pass was the best part. It was so beautiful and you’re so much closer to the scenery than when you’re in a car,” she said.

Her husband, Doug Pensinger, deemed the post-ride beer tents in each host community his favorite part of the ride.

With or without Ireland’s urging, some riders said they planned to make the Aspen stopover a party night, given Friday’s final leg is a 40-mile cruise downvalley to Glenwood.

“If there was ever a party night, it would be tonight,” Hull said Thursday.

“We’re going to close the place down – if there’s a place that closes at seven-thirty,” joked John Winn of Colorado Springs.

Bicyclists will be swarming through Aspen again next weekend, though they won’t be spending the night in town. The 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado also begins and ends in Glenwood Springs. It starts Sunday; riders will pass through Aspen on Saturday, June 27, as they make their way from Buena Vista to Glenwood on the final day of the tour.

janet@aspentimes.com


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