Saturday, January 29, 2011

crmbt century - buena vista to glenwood springs

This morning you'll ride north out of Buena Vista on US 24 with the Arkansas River on your right and the Collegiate Peaks Range on your left. Mt Yale, Mt Oxford, and Mt Harvard are all visible as you ride toward Granite, where you'll join CO 82 west toward Twin Lakes and on to Independence Pass.
When you turn onto CO 92 you will have climbed to over 9000 feet. You'll have 24 miles and more than 3000 feet to get to the top of Independence Pass. About 12 miles west of  Twin Lakes the real climbing will begin. Grades approach 7% at the steepest and you'll climb for about 7 miles before you're above the treeline and at the summit.

Independence Pass, at 12,095 feet is along the summit of the Sawatch Range between Aspen and Leadville in the White River National Forest. The only paved, through-road in the state at a higher elevation is Trail Ridge Road. It's closed every winter and some snow usually remains year-round. The name of the pass was changed after the town of Independence, three miles west of the summit, became a ghost town.

A couple thousand hardy souls inhabited Independence between 1880 and 1883. Drawn by mining opportunities, the harsh winters and gold boom bust doomed the town. In part because of the bust, the road over Independence Pass wasn't improved until 1927, and not paved until 1967. The ride from the east takes you from forests and streams to above treeline and the tundra. It passes several peaks including the highest in the state, Mt Elbert 14,433 feet.

You'll want to be off the mountain before the afternoon storms roll in, and there are too many great photo opportunities to pass up. So this will be a morning to get an early start.
The descent is long and steep, but it's not one where you'll be able to let loose. The road down into Aspen is too narrow and too busy. Take it easy, enjoy the scenery when you can, and get down in one piece. If you want you can spend some time checking out Aspen. You still have about 40 miles to go to Glenwood Springs, but it's almost entirely on the bike path, and though grades never exceed 1-2%, it's downhill all the way.

The bike path parallels Co 82 and it's a nice way to finish a long ride while giving you the chance to enjoy the scenery and maybe spot some wildlife. You'll finish the day with 103 miles, more or less, and will be ready for a well-deserved rest day in the summer resort town of Glenwood Springs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

crmbt - gunnison to buena vista

Today is going to be fun. Your ride takes you north out of Gunnison on CO 135 alongside the Taylor River.
But instead of a nice ride to Crested Butte, when you get to Almont you'll take County Road 742 and follow the river northeast all the way to Taylor Park Reservoir. It's a beautiful ride past ranches and campgrounds and trout fishing spots that will make you want to come back.
 When you reach the east side of the reservoir you'll turn east onto County Road 209, also known as Cottonwood Pass Road. This stretch of road on the west side of Cottonwood Pass is not paved. So, the first 35 miles you will have gained about 1700 feet on a paved 2-lane road. Now you have 13 miles on a dirt road to gain 2758 feet to the top of the pass. When you get to the top you'll  be in the rarified air of the Collegiate Peaks Range. Roughly between Mt Yale and Mt Princeton, two of Colorado's "14ers", more than 50 peaks of more than 14,000 feet. If you're climb to 12,126 feet isn't enough for you, come back and hike up some of these climbs.

On the east side of Cottonwood Pass you'll be on County Road 306, which is paved, and which loses 4180 feet in elevation over 20 miles. Should make for a great descent. If the weather gods can grant you one day of dry, mild conditions, this would be the day. The unpaved portion on the climb won't be bad if it's dry, and the descent will be so much more fun.

The end of your 69 miles will bring you into Buena Vista, in the high mountain desert of the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Grab a sandwich and shake at K's Dairy Delite and lounge along Cottonwood Creek in McPhelemy Park. You'll have earned a good night's rest, and you'll need it for a big century day tomorrow.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

hotchkiss to gunnison

Today you'll head out of Hotchkiss at 5331 feet on CO 92 and head south through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River on the West Elk Loop. With several beautiful climbs and descents in between, the day's ride ends in Gunnison at 7700 feet. You'll pass through Crawford and the Crawford State Park, as well as the small towns of Maher and Sapinero before passing the Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Curecanti National Recreation Area. But the highlight of the day will undoubtedly be the Black Canyon.

These pictures were taken on a ride through the canyon in 2008, and believe me they don't do it justice. I remember going around a bend on a long climb and hearing water. Looking to my right there was a waterfall right there in the rocks! You would never notice that in a car.

When you get out of the canyon and near the reservoir you'll be back on US 50 to Gunnison. Most of the climbing for the day will be done, but the road rises slightly to your destination. Riding along the water, which used to be the southern end of the canyon prior to the dams being built, offers some great views of the mesas rising out of the lake.
And after a good day on the bike you'll be ready for a good night's sleep in the cool mountain air of Gunnison. You'll want to be well rested for tomorrow, it's gonna be big.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

grand junction to hotchkiss

Sometimes on a multi-day bike tour there is a day which simply gets you from one place to another. That is, there's no special scenery or huge climb along the way. CRMBT has done a fantastic job of avoiding those days.The first day of this year's tour is as close to one of those days as you'll get with this tour. However, that's not to say it's not interesting.
Grand Junction to Hotchkiss covers 62 miles over rolling hills of the western slope of Colorado. The first nearly 2/3 of the day are on US 50, a mostly 4-lane, divided highway that is a major route through southwest Colorado. The area is sparsely populated with a high desert climate. A pleasant enough place for a ride, but some would say boring in comparison to much of the alpine scenery on tap for the rest of the week. But, there is something that makes it special.
From Grand Junction you ride southeast toward Delta, where you head east on CO 92 toward Hotchkiss. As you ride through the Grand Valley, off to the east, looking over your shoulder the whole morning, is the Grand Mesa. Rising more than 5000 feet out of the valley is the world's largest flat-top mountain. It's hard to appreciate the enormity of the mesa from a distance, but by the end of the week you will have had a chance to climb over it from the other side.And you'll realize that it's big. Really big! Even grand.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

colorado national monument - tour of the moon

The Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, CO was featured in the 1985 Kevin Costner film, American Flyers. It was the setting for the Stage of the Coors Classic Bicycle Race called the Tour of the Moon.
In 2011 "The Monument" celebrates it's 100th year. With the CRMBT starting and ending in Grand Junction, it's a great time for anyone riding the tour to get there a little early and take a ride on Rim Rock Drive. This would take you on a 23 mile ride through the park, gaining more than 2300 feet, and by adding a few roads outside the park, you could make it a 33 mile loop.
Grand Junction sits at 4597 feet on Colorado's high desert. Arriving early for the CRMBT will let you adjust to the altitude. The ride through the park will let you get a little climbing in. And the first day of the tour is only 62 miles with only a small gain in elevation. All the climbing will come from gentle rollers. So, if you're coming to ride in August, plan on a pre-ride ride on Friday or Saturday morning. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

colorado rocky mountain bike tour

If one were to go west for the 2011 Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour, one might stop for the night at say, Frisco, or Breckenridge. Then perhaps a side trip on one's bicycle over Hoosier Pass?
I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia. As I've mentioned here before, after last summer's CRMBT I had climbed 16 of the 17 highest pave passes in Colorado. The only one I'm missing is Hoosier Pass. It would probably be an out and back from Breckenridge on the north, or Fairplay on the south.

And, this year's tour would not only have me revisiting Independence Pass at 12095 feet, but crossing Cottonwood Pass at 12126 feet. Cottonwood is only paved on one side, so the climb would be up hard-packed dirt on the west, and a long, fast, paved descent on the east.
 Getting to Colorado a day or two before the tour starts is always nice anyway. It gives you a little time to adjust to the altitude and see just a little more of this place I've come to love. And, with this year's ride starting and ending in Grand Junction, I think that anyone who hasn't ridden through the Colorado National Monument would want to get there early enough to do that before CRMBT starts. And anyone who has ridden Rim Rock Drive will want to do it again.
 I love researching, planning, and dreaming about places I'm going to ride. So I'm going to find out all (almost all?) I can about the route for this year's CRMBT, and share my findings here over the next few weeks. Then all that will be left is for me to get myself back into shape to do it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

share the road......or, bike path

I found this video on the Pedal Power Cycling Team's blog.