Old Man Winter Bike Rally & Run Recap

By Jennifer Findley

The forecast for last Sunday’s Old Man Winter Bike Rally & Run, high in the mid 30’s partly cloudy, perfect for a nearly 6 mile run. Maybe a little chilly for the more than 600 cyclists who tackled the 50k and 100k cycling events.

My friend Dana and I had a great time doing the run that wound through Lyons from Leslie Johnson Park, behind LHS/LMS across the bottom of the Picture Rock trail and up Old St. Vrain Road to the turn around. The course was beautiful and mostly clear, which was a pleasant surprise since I was expecting a snow packed Old St. Vrain Road.

When we finished, back at Johnson Park, we were greeted by a great expo that included a wonderful green chili from Cyclhops Cantina and Sufferfest Beer.

As much fun as we had doing the run, let’s move on to some first time gravel ride reviews.

by Paul Findley, 303cycling Ambassador

Over the past few years, I have matured from a casual bicycle rider, to someone who occasionally bikes to work, to someone that might almost be ready to refer to himself as a cyclist. I am so new to the sport that I can say October 23 rd , 2018 was my first big ride at 33 miles and 5400 feet of climbing, since that day, I parked my single speed and bought a gravel bike, started to outfit it, signed up for a few races, and put about 6 big rides with climbs under my belt to “prepare”.

To say I was slightly worried about Old Man Winter (my first bike race), is a bit of an understatement. I started the race with only two simple goals: A) Make the Rowena cutoff having consumed all fluids I was carrying and B) Finish on the clock. I am happy to report that both goals were attained.

I stayed in the pack until we hit gravel, then let them go, and got into my own head. I made Rowena in just over two hours. Swallowing mouthfuls of slush was a new and different experience, but I considered this “par for the course”. I had a great hike up to Sunshine saddle, received a thorough beating on both Linden and Old Stage roads, and then started rolling down-hill. On my way back to Hwy 36, I mistakenly convinced myself that the clock stopped at 4pm, this is when I decided to not look at my watch, but instead, push as hard as I could to the finish line.

I crossed in just over 6 hours. After finding out that I had another hour before the clock stopped, I realized just how good racing will be to both inspire and motivate me to continue exploring the sport of cycling.

For anyone thinking about getting into cycling, or who just got a shiny new bike for Christmas and is looking for something to motivate you to ride as much as you can on those chilly days between snowstorms, I say, just do it, sign up for the Old Man Winter Rally, good times will be had!

by Dan Snyder, 303cycling Ambassador

I was nervous. To say that I’m a hack in the world of bike racing and especially gravel racing would be insulting to the hacks. I’d trained hard though, in the cold and wind and snow and I was grinning ear to ear at the start. Add in an inversion contributing to toe-numbing cold, a low cloud ceiling on the plains, and snow covered roads and you have a challenging mix of conditions for this year’s Old Man Winter 100k Bike Rally.

I was in awe of the of the speed once the pace car pulled aside and increased my own pace to a level just slightly above my comfort zone and experience. Of course, I was left in the dust pretty fast by what I guessed was at least 100 riders. I’m a student I told myself, learning, “keep a pace you can sustain and don’t be an idiot on the icy corners”. While the pace was faster than I typically ride, I felt good and managed to fuel and hydrate on some straight stretches of clear pavement. I’ve never had bottles freeze until this race and I barely managed to keep them thawed enough to sip by stuffing one then the other in my jersey pockets.

After warming up to being merely chilly during the climb up Lefthand Canyon, above the inversion was the Rowena Trail, a two-mile hike-a-bike due to recent snow. I’d ridden many sections of the course to prepare and learn the terrain but hadn’t been on this section since it had snowed. Hiking/jogging gave further opportunity to warm up and sip the Slushy that my water had become.

At Sunshine Saddle the volunteers and residents were out in force cheering us all on. I “feasted” on Stinger Waffles and Bobo’s Bars to replace what I’d burned. I also replaced the water in my bottles with Nuun hydration mix which one volunteer stated wouldn’t freeze due to the salt. Perfect! I donned my puffy for the 10-mile descent and was off.

The descent went by too fast of course, but the mellow, law-abiding trip through Boulder gave me a chance to recover for the most challenging climb of the route – Linden. Ohh Linden, how I love to hate thee. This is where my training shone however. I was able to reel in a dozen or so riders as the hill progressed. It felt good. Well no it didn’t but the training had tuned my engine just for this. On the snow-packed section down to Old Stage Road they all caught me (goals – gotta train for that surface for next year…) and I had to pass them all again on the steep uphill grades of Old Stage.

After cresting Old Stage I knew the ride was in the bag. While 20+ miles remained, I knew I could ride them with relative ease. It was still cold but the sun had some out, the ice of the morning had morphed into sloppy but sticky mud and I found myself travelling with a group of riders all pulling for home. When they pulled in to the final aid station I kept going and rode the final miles alone. The closer I got to Lyons the broader my gritty grin spread. I’d done it. No falls, no slips, some errors of strategy in terms of the timed sections perhaps, but I felt good and was proud of my effort and my preparation.

I’ll be back next year. If I can cut 15 minutes from the timed sections I can crack the top 100. I’ve got the rest of the winter to hit the snowy roads and earn some competence and confidence on that medium. I’ll be ready, grin and all.

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