Mercier: Lance Armstrong’s Wedu FIFTY is back for its third year
Special to The Aspen Times
There is something about pinning a number on that just gets the competitive juices flowing. We’re blessed in the Roaring Fork Valley to have a plethora of events to choose from: Aspen Cycling Club’s Wednesday Night Worlds, running events, ski racing and dozens of others. Many of us, in fact, will travel great distances and pay large sums for the privilege of pinning on a number and testing ourselves.
So, if you like to test yourself on bike, think about Lance Armstrong’s Wedu FIFTY — 50 miles and more than 6,000 feet of climbing on some of the most fun but challenging mountain bike trails in the valley.
The FIFTY is officially an event, not a race. But make no mistake, people ride this thing like it’s the world championships. Maybe it’s that people want to test themselves against a dude who, according to Wikipedia, did not win seven consecutive Tours. There is nothing more satisfying than putting a guy like that in the hurt locker — not that I’d know.
Or, maybe, it’s just that people like to ride fast. After all, it is timed, and when there’s a clock, people will ask what your time was, so you’d better ride fast.
Regardless of your reason, the Wedu FIFTY is a kick-ass event, right here in Aspen. Online registration is closed, but you can still sign up Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Lance’s house, 900 W. North St. (be sure to ride your bike, or you’ll get stuck in carmageddon from the bridge detour — no joke) and Saturday morning before the 8 a.m. start at Koch Park.
Registration is $199, and a big chunk of those dollars go to the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association to maintain and build some of the very trails you’ll be riding.
The Wedu FIFTY is celebrating its third anniversary. Among the changes this year include an after party at Home Team BBQ and a shorter, 50-kilometer ride.
Both courses start with the Smuggler Road climb. If you didn’t have enough coffee, this climb will definitely wake you up. Don’t make the mistake of going too hard here, or you could be facing an even longer day when you inevitably blow up later in the ride. The Smuggler Road climb is where the initial sorting out occurs — those who are racing, those who are riding, and those who are surviving.
At the Hunter Creek cutoff, the fun begins. And by fun I mean cool, old school-style single-track. Iowa Shaft, Hunter Creek and Hummingbird are all rideable and fun. However, at the end of Hummingbird you hit the Hobbit Trail.
I don’t know the origins of this name, but I do know it sucks. It’s steep, and by now you have well over an hour of climbing in your legs. You’ll want nothing more than for this section to be over with. Whoever added this trail to the ride must be a real piece of work!
However, when you start descending, you’re in for a good time. The trail twists and turns through the forest. In just a few short minutes you’ll hit the screaming-fast descent to Lanedo and the Woody Creek road. At the road is the first of several aid stations. You’ll be about a third of the way through, so I’d suggest you spare a minute to refill your bottles and refuel with some calories.
You may also want to find a few other riders to ride with here, because you have about 10 miles of roads and bike path. This is where several riders working together can shave significant time off the ride. The 50k stays on the Rio Grande Trail and heads back to Aspen, while the 50-miler peels off and heads up toward Snowmass.
Your next section of trail is the Rim Trail in Snowmass. The beginning of the climb is a joy. It’s smooth, well-designed and not too technical. There’s another aid station along the rim trail. Don’t skip this one; you’ll definitely need the calories, and the next section of climbing is tough.
When you hit the road again, you’re coming to the last few sections of climbing. You climb up Snowmass Resort toward the Government Trail. You’re about 40-plus miles into the ride and Government is one of the classic, old school mountain bike trails. It’s rough and rocky but is bound to put a smile on your face. Most of it is rideable, but you’ll need to pay attention.
At the end of Government, you have a rip-roaring, blast of a descent back to Aspen. You’re ready to be off the bike, but this is about as fun a way to end a ride as is possible.
So, if you’re in town for the weekend and want a really classy, well-organized ride, race or just social ride, think about stopping by Lance’s place Friday and signing up.
Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services teams. He currently works as a financial advisor in Aspen and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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When mountain culture enthusiasts and athletes descend on Vail for the 20th annual Mountain Games from June 7-12, they will carry on a tradition that dates back to the 1970s in Eagle County and was once deemed illegal.