Road, MTB, Cyclocross. With so many choices of riding modalities in the state of Colorado, some days it’s hard to choose which one to do. The Oskar Blues Gold Rush Bike Rally packs all that into one race…sort of.
Brought to you by the same fine folks that put on the Old Man Winter Bike Rally, the Gold Rush definitely tests your wits with the single track off-road section of the Rowena Trail as well as your climbing skills going up Sunshine Canyon and the ever so steep Sawmill Road. With a mix of paved and gravel roads, historic canyons, and gold mining trails, the Gold Rush ride had “gold nuggets” placed on the course that could be collected and redeemed for prizes.
Honestly, this event wasn’t on my radar until a friend of mine suggested that I sign up with him. Still hesitant and cautious with my off-road skills, I figured why not. It would be good practice for cyclocross and something different. The day turned out to be a lot of hard work, full or breathtaking vistas, and as much fun one can have on two wheels. With no MTB in my stable, it was the CX bike that was brought out for the ride.
The great part about this race were the timed sections. Two for the short course (33 miles) and three for the long course (54 miles). The untimed sections you could ride as slow as you wanted, conserving your energy, enjoying the aid stations, and then hammer out the timed sections to get on the podium. The short course was a perfect mix of difficulty and fun. Riders that are gluttons for even more punishment, the long course would be your cup of tea!
At the start, I saw everything from fat bikes to mountain bikes, cyclocross, and gravel bikes. The common thread amongst all the riders was their sense of adventure and comradery. In usual fashion, I went to the back of the pack and chatted with a few of the other riders. One asked if I was the one from 303Cycling who’s giving cyclocross a whirl. Yep, that be me! He too was giving CX a try and said my posts gave him the inspiration to go for it. Yay!!!
Not going to lie, the first handful of miles were a bit tough. Over 15% grade in some spots – manageable on a road bike, but on a CX, definitely another level of fun. I looked over at other riders and their chain rings and cassette with pure envy, but we all silently bonded in our sufferfest.
The first time section on the Rowena Trail was a pure MTB single track trail. Definitely interesting on a CX bike. I had one foot unclipped the entire time as there were several sections I had to walk through. I can definitely see the draw to going off-road. Being surrounded by nature and its serenity is alluring!
Eventually the trail dumped us out onto Lefthand Canyon Road. Riding on smooth paved asphalt also has its advantages. With many road cyclists heading up to Ward that morning, part of me wanted to swap bikes just for that section. After a few miles, we made the left-hand turn onto Sawmill Road.
There was an “unofficial” aid station at the base of the climb, and I was so grateful to see it. I kept staring at the road as if it was staring back at me. I stood there and watched riders head up the hill, and one by one they got off their bikes and proceeded on foot. Uffda. I said to myself, “this hill ain’t going to climb itself.” I think I made it about one-third of the way up before deciding it was faster for me to go on foot. Talk about humbling.
The rest of the course was full of more steep gravel road climbs, followed by descents that featured washboard gravel roads. I think a trip to the dentist might be in order to refill all those fillings that came loose! Riding through Gold Hill I felt like I stepped into a time machine, waiting for a guy to come out of his humble home playing the banjo. But I will never forget seeing the remains of the Fourmile Fire. Dead black tree trunks, but out of that devastation green grass and vegetation seemed to be thriving.
The ride then takes you back down the paved road through Sunshine Canyon, which was a welcome sight for sore eyes and arms. As with any event sponsored by Oskar Blues, there was plenty of beer, street tacos, and music for post-ride relaxation. Other sponsors included Clif Bar, Pearl Izumi, and Boulder Toyota. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging race with a fun post-race party, make sure the Gold Rush Bike Rally is on your calendar!