A friend & I have been doing a lot of 'prep' rides this summer in anticipation of the Copper Triangle Parkinson's charity ride (held the 1st Saturday of August every year). As it turned out, we did so many prep rides that the CT felt just a little too easy & definitely too early to end the 'big rides' for the season. I suggested we add the Mt Evans 'Loop' to finish the season (Evergreen to Idaho Springs to Mt Evans to Evergreen). Since we live in Loveland, CO, my friend suggested instead that we ride into Rocky Mountain National Park & up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor's Center. Even if it wasn't quite the altitude of Mt Evans, the advantages of riding more miles & being able to ride from home made it an easy decision!
The biggest fear I had (aside from never having done this many miles in a single ride) was that I was immediately leaving for two weeks of sitting in a car & eating my way across five different states. Not a good training plan for this ride! Luckily for me, the US Pro Cycling race rolled thru Boulder that first Saturday after I returned from my road trip, giving me the chance to get some post-deconditioning miles in before the AVC ride. (That race day (25Aug12) saw 105 miles of riding to the race course & back; we broke the riding up with a lot of standing around between riding to several race viewing points, & I was glad I went!)
In previous years I would've considered the 65 or so miles up to Estes Park & back a complete ride. We always take the extra time to ride thru Glen Haven, as that road sees much less traffic than the Hwy 34 canyon route. It would add a few extra miles to the day, but we decided to also go thru Glen Haven today as well. We left Loveland (elevation 4,982') at 7:15 am (Friday, Aug 31) & arrived at the Subway in Estes Park around 10:15 for our 'first lunch' sandwiches. About 1/2 hour later we were back on our bikes & rolling into RMNP. Time for 26 miles of climbing!
Having never done this ride before, I was riding a little on the conservative side. The longest continuous ride I'd ever done prior to this was last year's 95 miler thru Estes & up to the Peak to Peak Hwy, & it didn't have the length of climbs this one does. We got passed by three young guys in full kit, but we also passed several other riders as we approached Rainbow Curve & tree line.
When you arrive at the high point of TRR at Rock Cut (12,183' & 35% less oxygen than at sea level) you have to descend almost 400' for the four more miles it takes to reach the AVC. Like many of the rides around here, you have to climb to leave your destination! We arrived at the AVC around 2:15 & enjoyed our 'second lunch' sandwiches. At this point it had taken us 6-1/2 hrs of riding time to travel 60 miles.
After answering questions for a few curious tourists, we left the AVC about 3:00 pm. It started raining lightly as we climbed back up to Rock Cut. My friend was riding his carbon racing bike & had not brought any extra gear for inclement weather. I was glad I was on my randonneur with full fenders & front bag (& camera!). I put on my wool skullcap, wool arm warmers, full finger gloves & windproof vest. I also had wool leg warmers & a wool headband with me, but didn't need to use them. Aware that the light rain would make the roads incredibly slick, I rode cautiously. My friend was more concerned about being above tree line & being completely exposed to potential hail or lightning storms, so he took off like a rabbit! I got stuck behind a line of cars & didn't catch up with him for many miles. Luckily the rain lightened & the roads dried out within about 10 miles from the top.
We rode the entire way back to Loveland in about 3-1/2 hours, arriving home at 6:30 pm. On the trip back we chose the canyon route rather than returning thru Glen Haven. Unfortunately, we had a headwind the entire way from Estes to Loveland!
The totals for the day were:
Total Distance: 116 miles
Total Climbing: 8,800 feet
Total Ride Time: just over 11 hrs
Total Cycling Time: just under 9 hrs
Average Speed: about 13 mph
Overall it was a fantastic day!
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