Ride the Rockies Tour cyclists to use Aspen-area trails for June event
As director of this year’s Ride the Rockies bicycle tour, Deirdre Moynihan is more than a little worried about the conditions on Independence Pass this year.
“There’s avalanche damage,” she said after the May 21 meeting with Pitkin County commissioners. “There’s all the snow. Can we provide the right level of support?”
This year’s Ride the Rockies Tour will spend three days in Pitkin County, bringing about 2,000 riders to the Roaring Fork Valley from June 11 to 13. They are scheduled to arrive from Buena Vista via Independence Pass their first day in Pitkin County, which is a Tuesday.
The bicyclists will travel into Aspen on Highway 82, and head through the city to the Golf Course Trail to the Owl Creek Trail and into Snowmass Village for the night.
The Pass usually opens the Thursday before Memorial Day, though that won’t happen this year because of the mountains of snow. Crews did clear a path all the way to the Pass summit from the Aspen side late last week, though the Colorado Department of Transportation postponed helicopter-based avalanche mitigation efforts until May 24 because of the latest snowstorm, said Tracy Trulove, CDOT spokeswoman.
Moynihan said she has a backup plan in case the Pass is impassable, but she’s still waiting to see what happens.
“CDOT is working very, very hard (to open it),” she said. “We’re going to go forward as if we’re going to do it.”
Ride the Rockies — this year’s event from June 9 to 15 will be the 34th annual — is a weeklong bike tour that takes a different route through the state each June.
The last time it came through Aspen was 2016, when riders also spent three days in the area. The ride began in Carbondale that year, traveled to Aspen, then over the Pass to Copper Mountain.
At that time, Pitkin County commissioners had to decide whether allow riders to use the Rio Grande Trail or route the bikers down Highway 82. The trail was eventually approved, though two commissioners at the time lobbied for the highway in favor of keeping the trail clear for tourists and locals.
Commissioner George Newman, one of those two commissioners, tried again May 21 to convince his colleagues to utilize the highway instead of the trail. Newman said he thought the highway would be the safest place for the riders because downvalley traffic in the morning is light and the road has a wide shoulder.
As they were in 2016, his fellow board members were skeptical.
“Traffic’s going 70 mph (on the highway),” Board Chairman Greg Poschman said. “I’m pretty concerned about the highway.
“I would say we’ve got these great bike trails … (and) I don’t think it would be too much to ask for one day.”
Commissioner Steve Child, a bicycle enthusiast, said he was recently picking up trash along Highway 82 in the Old Snowmass area and would not want to be riding a bicycle on the road in that area.
“I was not comfortable at all,” he said.
Commissioners not only approved use of the Rio Grande Trail, but also Brush Creek Trail and the Crystal Trail along Highway 133.
The June 12 route goes from Snowmass Village to Carbondale, via Brush Creek, the Aspenmass Trail and the Rio Grande Trail. The next day, riders will use the Crystal Trail to head up the Crystal River Valley to around the KOA Campground, where they will take Highway 133 up and over McClure Pass to Hotchkiss.
Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said she was most concerned about riders using Highway 133. The road is narrow and winding in parts, and residents have complained about inconsiderate riders, she said.
The Pitkin County portion of the course will be minded by Colorado State Patrol officers, Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies, Open Space and Trails rangers, ride officials, local medical personnel and medical staff riding with the tour, Moynihan said. She also said she needs local volunteers, who can sign up on the Tour’s website.
Riders must leave town each day within a two-hour window and are urged to be off the course by a particular time, Moynihan said. No services are available before or after those times, which keeps riders focused on biking rather than having beers at the Woody Creek Tavern, she said.
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