What do you think it is like to do Ride the Rockies? Ride the Rockies is one of the oldest and longest multi day bike tour in Colorado and one that is greatly misunderstood by athletic cyclists in Colorado. Started in 1986 it almost instantly became a huge success as in the following year they had to add a lottery system just to get in and that lottery system still exists today.
This years route was almost 100 miles longer than the previous route covering 545 miles and 22,067 of vertical climbing over 7 days of riding.
Over the 22 years of my athletic riding/racing life I had NEVER done that many miles in one week and why should I, criteriums, short track and cyclocross racers are rarely over 60 minutes, so any additional riding might be unnecessary. I also held the image in my head (which is mostly true) that Ride the Rockies participates are around age 50, and not anywhere near as fit as myself and friends so completing this tour should be a cake walk with beautiful scenery. True, average age probably is near 50 and are probably not as fit as your average athletic cyclists but cake walk it is NOT
So Why do Ride the Rockies? - Scenery!
Day 1 out of Telluride was absolutely beautiful! The views we got are of those seen in high end coffee table books of Colorado. Never have I been in a setting so expressive of the wonders of what Colorado has to offer. But this is a 7 day tour and it covers much terrain in Colorado and the other days while maybe not as magical as day 1 they all provided something unqiue to the ride as over the 7 days we covered 4 different “Physiographic regions” of the Colorado land. Addition to the geographical landscape the vegetation varied greatly over our days from lush forest to desert plains and beautiful grassy fields which lead right up the mountain side like out of a painting. One of my core reasons for doing Ride the Rockies was to see much of Colorado that I have not seen. Success!
For the Friends you will make
This was probably the best unexpected side effect of the tour was the friends I made on course. In the first 15 minutes of day 1 I ran into the Naked Ladies racing team and we chatted a bit about the 303cycling Challenge video they created for us and next thing you know I was spending the rest of the tour with them on AND off of the bike! As a racing team they were some of the few tuned cyclists out there (for speed) in the tour and additionally very skilled and comfortable with pack/paceline riding. But there was a problem with them, they are fast! Every day we would head out at 7:30am (which was VERY late for RTR riders, one of the existing mysteries of the tour) and we would ride a pretty good tempo for the day. So it wasn’t all Naked Ladies, there was 2 guys from Alchemist, 1 guy from Aspen (aka Ray Ramono) and Sam from RMRC. There companionship was awesome! With their strength and skill we were able to really rock a solid paceline each day saving our efforts and arrive at our destination way before others (hint, no shower lines). “But Kris you are missing the point of RTR, stop and smell the flowers and take in the views”. We did AND we would get in before the riders with flat top pedals would and continue to enjoy each others company drinking beer and talking trash and such while hanging out in the shade doing nothing. SO awesome!! Had it not been for their companionship on this tour it would have felt incomplete. It was both on the bike fun as we traveled every day hammering to the finish and after the ride was done hanging out, eating dinner together and sharing time. Hint, don’t do RTR alone
For the challenge
While RTR might have ALL TYPES of cyclists in their tour it doesn’t mean that it is easy. As mentioned earlier, I’ve never done this many miles in one week but sure I could have spent all day riding 70 miles making it an easy however riding with our tempo group we did not make it easy! One day of RTR at tempo is great, 2 is awesome but 3 is tiresome and 4 starts to wear you down... so imagine what 5, 6 and 7 do to the soul especially if your ass is getting kicked by Naked Ladies every day? Sounds better than it was. Riding like this you have to focus on eating right, resting and taking care of your “under carraige”. By 2 day I was not eating enough and by day 3 I was suffering for it. If I would have just been by myself I could have spent 10 hours to complete each day but I was not and day 3 they made me suffer harder than ever and in my mind it felt like I was competing in one of the hardest races I’d ever done! Think RTR is for lame slow tourist then you need to think again, if you want it to this ride can kick your ass harder than any weekend warrior experience you’ve ever done.
Kris Thompson - Founder of 303Cycling by day and software engineer by day too. Find me at Google+