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View Full Version : Bicycle Tour of Colorado: ~ 415 miles, 35,000 feet climbing



cindysue
07-05-2007, 07:42 PM
Bicycle Tour of Colorado: Steamboat Springs loop ~ 415 miles, 35,000 feet climbing.

Campsites: Walden, Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Leadville, Kremmling

Spent two days in Denver to acclimate and spend time with family. I knew something was wrong when I discovered a missed call from 9:30 pm the night before the ride from my friend and riding partner Denise. I called Denise the next morning to learn that she had crashed her bike after her front tire blew out coming down a mountain in Utah. A fractured Pelvis; ouch! Good thing she has a wonderful caring and adoring husband to take good care of her! The plan was for us to meet in Steamboat the night before the ride. They had driven to Utah from California with all of our bikes. That created a problem for me and a major inconvenience for them. How the heck would I be able to get my bike? Without fail and any whining, Rob offered to meet me part way between Steamboat and Salt Lake City. He spent most of the day driving back and forth to meet me while his beautiful wife was in miserable pain back in Utah. Wow! Not sure how I can ever make that up to them!

I spent the night in a hotel in Steamboat and set out the next morning for the first day of the ride. I met up with Lorri's friend Daniel who would spend the next week graciously riding along side me, obviously much slower than he would have ridden otherwise. Daniel was a real gentleman, filling in as the camera man, carrying my extra layers in his bike rack pack and waiting patiently for me at the rest stops. My time at each rest stop is increased by the fact that I have invisilign braces which require me to brush my teeth every time I eat something. There is no time or space for discretion and I got my fair share of heckling at the rest stops for my excessive hygiene. Daniel took pictures as proof!

Day 1 and more logistics

The first day took us from Steamboat Springs to Walden; 57 miles with a little bit of a climb at the beginning and then mostly flat for the remainder of the day. The aid stations were stocked perfectly for my appetite; fruit, PBJ sandwiches, and crackers. They also had Gatorade and cytomax. The first mountain pass of the tour was “Rabbit Ears” (9,426’). Daniel suggested I lift my bike over my head for the picture. One guy in the crowd joked that “it must be the first day.” Indeed, I felt strong at the end of the day, happy that I was not yet suffering from the altitude. My luck with the altitude would continue throughout the week, possibly attributed to several reasons. I was drinking lots of water and I was taking a medication called Acetazolamide. The two days in Denver may also have helped. Walden was a small bucolic town with a few restaurants, but no dedicated coffee house. I asked one of the shops where I might find a latte and she directed me to the gas station where they had a machine that dispensed coffee. Hmmmmm….

I quickly set up my tent and set in for the night. I think I was in bed by 9pm. The temperature outside was comfortable and my earplugs worked well. I woke up about 5:30am and started getting ready to head out for the day. I’m not sure why it took so long, but each day it would take me about 90 minutes to get dressed, pack up my tent, brush my teeth, etc. And each day we set out about the same time, 7:00am. Maybe it is because each morning I obsessively stuffed about a dozen zip lock bags with various clothes, toiletries, etc. It didn’t matter if I tried to organize it the night before because I inevitably had to dig through everything the next morning for something I had forgot the night before.

Day 2: Walden to Winter Park, 75 miles, Willow Creek Pass (Summit 9,621’)

Another relatively easy day on the bike; mostly rollers. The only memorable thing about Winter Park was camping out right in the middle of the resort area. Strange; my tent was right next to the Chair lift station.

Day 3: Winter Park to Copper Mountain, 76 miles (Berthoud Pass (Summit 11,315’) and Loveland Pass (Summit 11992’)

Starbucks hit the spot in the morning and we were off for the much anticipated “day 3” which would take us up two mountain passes and our highest elevation for the tour. I get to the 2nd aid station feeling strong. Daniel and I lean our bikes up against a small portable sign despite my instinct that the wind might knock over the bikes. Sure enough I come back to the bikes and Daniel tells me they fell over. Yep, right on top of my very sensitive derailleur- the one I’ve replaced twice in less than two years. I look at the bike, it seems Ok, and I resist the urge to take it over to the mechanic. We still had 40 miles to go and about 2000 feet of climbing. It was now about 11:30 am. The sky didn’t look too ominous but I had been told to be off the top of the mountain pass by 1pm. Within a few miles after leaving the rest stop, my derailleur started acting up. Rather than turn around and go back to the mechanic at the rest stop, I thought I would be ok if I just left the bike in the same gear and continued on to the next rest stop at the top of the pass. I continued riding for about 10 miles in the middle cog of my second chain ring (compact double) but unfortunately I’m not strong enough to get up a mountain in that high of a gear. Sure enough, as soon as I changed gears my bike started acting up, so rather than risk breaking a third derailleur, I pulled over when I saw the SAG. The SAG guy was going to call to see how far away a mechanic might be when lightening struck. Really! At that point, I was not prepared to wait ½ hour for a mechanic and then try to climb up a mountain with lightening and hail. Yep, hail! To top off the day, I ended up losing my Smith sunglasses on the SAG truck. Damn, I was mad! Well, at least I made it up Berthoud Pass (11,315’) and have the picture to prove it.

Day 4- the day off

I planned to get up the next day (our day off) and ride back to where I left off and climb up the pass, but Loveland was just not meant to be. I was lazy and cold the next morning and couldn’t get my butt in gear until nearly 10:30am. Within an hour, the dark clouds rolled in and I knew I would not get to the peak, so I rode my bike about 20 flat miles and called it a day. Darn! However, the day ended well with an excellent massage, clean laundry, and dessert. Yum!

Day 5: Copper Mountain to Leadville, 60 miles, Tennessee Pass (Summit 10,424’).

The descent down Vail Pass could have been fast but could have been deadly. I decided to take it slow given the narrow path and 1800 other riders on the tour. This day was harder than it looked. Not sure why but a number of other riders made the same comment. Maybe it was the cold morning, maybe it was a little laziness after the “day off.”

Day 6: Leadville to Kremmling, 74 miles, Fremont Pass (Summit 11,316’)
Nearly all downhill, I was finally rewarded with a fast and smooth descent after all that climbing. Hard to believe that we were still that high up (11,316’). We coasted into camp and found a nice flat space right near the luggage trucks and the bathrooms. Yeah! After several beers and entertaining conversation with new friends, I settled in for the last night of the tour.

Day 7: Kremmling to Steamboat Springs, 73 miles, Gore Pass (Summit 9,527’)

This day started with a climb then was mostly downhill for about 50 miles. For some reason we had kept up with a large group through the second rest stop, but then suddenly it felt like we were the only people left on the bike tour. Granted I saw truck loads of bikes being SAG’d back to Steamboat, but where did everyone go? Maybe they passed us when I got my flat tire. Maybe they passed us when we stopped for an iced latte. Well anyway, it seemed that everyone had scattered by the time we got back to the finish.

It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend it to all. Just get your training in and you’ll be fine. And the Acetazolamide might help the sea level riders. I have no complaints!

p.s. I'm not quite sure what my final mileage and elevation gain actually was. I missed the last 1500 feet or so of climbing up Loveland Pass but I made up the mileage on the day off. Some people said there was closer to 38,000 feet of climbing if you did the whole thing. Who knows?

All in all, it was a great accomplishment!!! I'm ready for the next big adventure!!!!!

Pedal Wench
07-05-2007, 08:37 PM
Awesome report!!!! (I'm still working on mine:o ) Funny - I was on a completely different trip, but I've got the same photos - Rabbit's Ear Pass and Fremont Pass! (Bonus points: the photo of my BF and me kissing on top of Independence Pass made it in the Denver Post!)

Your trip sounds ideal. I've always heard that the food at BTC's rest stops was better, and it sounds like it really was. On RTR, we only had fruit and Gatorade supplied for free - we had to buy our PBJ's from the vendors. There were plenty of vendors, but free is faster.

I hope your friend feels better. You're quite brave to set out on this adventure on your own - not sure I could have done that!

Post more pics when you get a chance. Like you, I'm hooked on Colorado, and can't wait to get back!

jobob
07-05-2007, 09:29 PM
Great report Cindy! I'm so glad you had an excellent time. You never know, someday a job opportunity might pop up out there.

Ye gods, 35,000 ft of climbing in less than a week. Beyond impressive.

Poor Denise! How long will she be out of commission? :(

aka_kim
07-05-2007, 09:45 PM
It does sound like a great accomplishment and adventure!! Great pix too - any more coming?

cindysue
07-05-2007, 11:55 PM
more pictures:

1) check out the hail on the ground and top of the blue canopy
2) brushing my teeth :p
3) cold morning in Copper Mountain. Note the gallon of water in the picture :D hydrate hydrate hydrate!

cindysue
07-05-2007, 11:58 PM
more pictures, wish I would have taken more scenic shots. It was really stunning.

cindysue
07-06-2007, 12:02 AM
Denise is holding up. I'm going to see her Friday. The doctor recommends swimming so we're going to enjoy some cool water on a hot day. Sounds like she'll be out for at least 8 weeks :(

maillotpois
07-06-2007, 08:06 AM
Wow - what a great report and beautiful photos!! Too bad about the whole lightning/derailleur thing, but sometimes it just isn't meant to be. Glad you had fun.

Was that the Denise I met on Ebbetts? Big bummer!! 8 weeks! :( I have to say from personal experience, sometimes being ordered off the bike can improve your cycling and your attitude in the long run. But it's tough while it's going on.

Tri Girl
07-06-2007, 01:34 PM
Wow- the photos are amazing!!! Thanks for posting about the ride- it sounds like you had a BLAST!!!

bikerz
07-06-2007, 02:38 PM
Wow Cindy - what an adventure! Those pictures are amazing - it's hard to imagine that much climbing, day after day, at that altitude!

Have you decided about the Death Ride?

maillotpois
07-06-2007, 04:41 PM
Have you decided about the Death Ride?

Oh yeah - what she said!! Should I be looking for you???

cindysue
07-06-2007, 07:46 PM
unfortunately my road bike is still in Colorado. Should arrive sometime in the next week or so but I think the death ride will just have to wait until next year. But I still think Colorado would be great training ground for the death ride, so I just might pay my sister a visit again next year if I decide to do the ride. She lives outside Denver and is a a major incentive for a potential move out there............

I'll be thinking of you all!!!!!!!!

In the mean time, I just dusted off my Bianchi touring bike......

cindysue
07-06-2007, 07:49 PM
I've always heard that the food at BTC's rest stops was better, and it sounds like it really was.

yeah - the rest stops were great. There were also pastries, trail mix with m&ms and animal crackers. I thought the overall organization was pretty good. And there were several highway patrol officers on motorbikes keeping the car road rage in check ;)

cindysue
07-06-2007, 07:52 PM
Was that the Denise I met on Ebbetts? Big bummer!! 8 weeks! :( I have to say from personal experience, sometimes being ordered off the bike can improve your cycling and your attitude in the long run. But it's tough while it's going on.

nope- Denise Yates, the other Denise on the team. She has a super positive attitude about the whole thing. She had a good day in the pool and seems well on the way to recovery...

spokewench
07-10-2007, 09:41 AM
Cindy Sue - Wonderful Ride Report! I'm glad you had a good time and good rides. Too bad about the derailleur and the lightning. We get lightning like that around here too and it's best to head for low ground. Lots of people get hit around here!

Sorry about Denise too. I'm wondering if I rode with her and Pat when I came out to ride with Pat on the cindarella ride? I'm thinking that I might have.

jan

HappyAnika
07-11-2007, 02:18 PM
Congratulations on finishing the ride. I'm glad the altitude didn't affect you. Getting caught in those afternoon rain/hail/lightning sorms sucks. That hail can really hurt. It's good to hear you had fun overall and got to see some of the prettiest parts of the state. :)

(Turns out my friend Tammy who is friends with Daniel backed out of the BTC because she spent so much time this spring training for a 4 mile swim that she felt like she wouldn't have fun on the BTC).

mimitabby
07-11-2007, 02:42 PM
wow, great ride! good work! beautiful pictures too.

BikeMomma
07-11-2007, 11:10 PM
Ok, Cin....since nobody has said it yet (but we're all thinkin' it!), I'll say it: I'm jealous as ...er...hail! Yea, that's it. ;) :p

Really -- sounds like a ride to do sometime before I'm 80. Way cool. :D

Take care...hope Denise gets better and you have fun getting to re-know your old Bianchi friend. ;)
~BikeMomma

cosc
07-12-2007, 07:26 AM
CindySue, that sounds like it was a trip of a life time. Thanks for posting your story and pics.

cindysue
07-13-2007, 07:12 AM
.....Sorry about Denise too. I'm wondering if I rode with her and Pat when I came out to ride with Pat on the cindarella ride? I'm thinking that I might have. jan

Denise P is very petite with red hair

Denise Y is tall and has perfect teeth (that sounds odd to say but it is definitely something you would notice)

cindysue
07-13-2007, 07:15 AM
It's good to hear you had fun overall and got to see some of the prettiest parts of the state. :)

I'm really wondering what the rest of the state looks like. I'm searching the want ads for planning/environmental jobs in Boulder but I may have to settle for another City if I am really serious about moving to Colorado.

.... I should probably visit my sister for a week once the snow hits before I make any final decisions.... (she lives in Parker)

HappyAnika
07-13-2007, 01:03 PM
Well, you got to see my favorite parts - the high parks (high flat areas), and the mountains with some of the highest peaks. The west side can look more like AZ and Utah in parts (Yellow's post about their ride from Telluride to Moab will show you that). The NW is still desert-y but different yet. The east is all flat plains, think Nebraska but less green.

The snow is so unpredictable at the lower elevations, meaning the front range which is loosely Colo Springs to Ft. Collins. I think it was two winters ago we never touched the snow shovel because we never got more than 2 inches at a time. Compared to last winter when we got slammed with 3 ft. at Christmas and then another 5 inches to a foot every week for the next 7 weeks, which was extremely abnormal. Every year is different. But generally our winters are pretty mild (again, at the lower elevations), compared to midwestern and eastern winters. Mountain living is a different beast, one I would gladly tackle, but its just not practical at this point for us. The front range, esp. Boulder are great because you can be in the mountains in no time, but still live reasonably close to work.

onimity
07-13-2007, 02:51 PM
I'm really wondering what the rest of the state looks like. I'm searching the want ads for planning/environmental jobs in Boulder but I may have to settle for another City if I am really serious about moving to Colorado.

.... I should probably visit my sister for a week once the snow hits before I make any final decisions.... (she lives in Parker)

Congrats on the ride and I loved the writeup. I'm hoping to do one of the big mountain rides next year.

I live in Boulder and *love* it. I'd definitely second HappyAnika's comment about the snow, though. We do get snow in the winter but the storms are usually spread out enough that it is a welcome change and it's really a climate that allows for year-round riding, except when we have a winter like this past one. I was lucky, though...I spent Dec./early Jan. in South America and missed all three of the big storms. :)

Small world, though, I was born in Walnut Creek and grew up in Parker (only back then it was a *small* town; horses outnumbered people 2:1.)

Anyhow, thanks for the writeup and good luck job-hunting in Boulder. There are plenty of surrounding cities as well that would be good to work in, if you have any questions feel free to PM me.

Anne