Riding high in the saddle

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
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 |


Oldest rider: 82

Youngest rider: 9

Riders from 49 states

Riders from 10 countries

37% rookies

59% from Colorado

73% male, 27% female

Median age: 52

Source: Ride The Rockies

The Ride the Rockies bicycle tour needs to feature some iconic climbs to sear memories into the 2,000-plus participants, tour director Chandler Smith said.

Independence Pass east of Aspen and Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park get the honor of searing memories on this year’s ride.

The annual tour arranged by The Denver Post starts Sunday with a relatively easy ride from Carbondale to Aspen via Missouri Heights. The selected route will cover 50 miles and gain 4,253 feet in elevation.

After that “warm-up,” the riders will tackle Independence Pass on Monday, gaining roughly 4,000 feet in 21 miles out of the gate. This year’s cyclists come from 49 states and 10 countries, Smith said. The pedaling on Independence Pass is sure to suck the wind out of them by the time they top out at 12,095 feet.

Once they’ve tackled the pass, they still have to peddle on to Copper Mountain via Fremont Pass — creating an 85-mile ride with 7,655 feet in elevation gain.

The participants expect tough days with rides over high passes. After all, it is called Ride the Rockies, Smith said.

Ride starts in Carbondale

Smith and his team scouted routes and picked the Roaring Fork Valley to begin the tour. Aspen and Carbondale both have been great host communities in the past, Smith said.

He said they wanted to find a ride that wouldn’t be too tough on the riders on the first day so they could save some energy on Day 2 for Independence Pass. He believes the participants will love winding their way through Missouri Heights.

“The views up there are incredible,” he said.

Registration for the riders will be held in Carbondale on Saturday at Roaring Fork High School. Entertainment will be showcased all afternoon and evening at the intersection of Fourth and Main streets.

They get after it Sunday morning by climbing into Missouri Heights via Spring Valley Road, making their way across Coulter Creek, coming across Fender Lane before the big descent down El Jebel Road.

Once they hit the valley floor, the riders will take Willits Lane and Hooks Lane before heading upvalley on Upper and Lower River roads and McLain Flats. They enter Aspen on Cemetery Lane and make their way by trails and streets to the Aspen High School campus, where many riders will camp for the night.

Sunday night in Aspen

City of Aspen Events Director Nancy Lesley said the Highlands Alehouse will provide entertainment and operate a beer garden from 2 to 9 p.m.

Many participants will spill into town and stay at hotels and eat at restaurants. Organizers estimate hotels, restaurants and retailers in each of the six host communities will reap an estimated $250,000 as the event rolls through.

Aspen is trying to build its reputation as a cycling mecca. Exposing the scenery of the valley and the riding around Aspen is bound to draw some of them back.

“Ride the Rockies brings thousands of people to our valley and lets them experience it from the seat of a bicycle,” Lesley said. “Showcasing the Roaring Fork Valley, including Independence Pass, our goal is to have those participants come back, bring their families and fully enjoy all that we have to offer.”

Smith said 2,200 participants were selected through a lottery system. Attrition will reduce the number of riders to about 2,000.

Pirates beware

Smith said he realizes some riders from the Roaring Fork Valley who aren’t participants might glom onto the pack on Day 1 or Day 2. He’s OK with that, he said, because the locals add to the camaraderie. However, they frown on and try to prevent multistage riders who aren’t registered.

“Riding as pirates, we discourage that,” he said.

This tour is the 31st Ride the Rockies installment. The event raises money for the Denver Post Community Foundation, which will award $30,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations in the six host communities.

Renee Wheelock, community relations manager for the tour, said Raising a Reader, which prepares children from Aspen to Rifle for successful reading, will receive the Carbondale grant for $5,000. The Aspen Youth Center will receive Aspen’s $5,000 grant.


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