Much of Durangos cycling focus is on competitive events, but this weeks The Denver Post Ride The Rockies Colorado bicycle tour is designed for fun and fundraising.
Some 2,200 riders left Telluride as early as 5 a.m. Sunday on the first leg of the annual ride that, for most cyclists, ended in Cortez, where Medicine Horse Center of Mancos and Durango was awarded $5,000 for its equine-assisted therapies for adults and children.
Last year, Ride the Rockies raised $21,000 from sponsorships, a silent auction and other revenue for various nonprofit organizations. The money goes to The Denver Post Foundation, which then makes the awards in each stop during the six or seven days of the tour based on a competitive grant process, said Elizabeth Norris, the foundations community relations manager.
Ride the Rockies has returned more than $300,000 dollars to the foundation for Colorado nonprofits, she said.
Cyclists this year will travel 513 miles from Telluride to Colorado Springs and hit three passes higher than 9,000 feet.
Riders hit their first pass Sunday, riding over Lizard Head Pass, at 10,222 feet. The next significant climb is Wednesday when they pedal over 10,850-foot Wolf Creek Pass on Wednesday and then glide over 9,019-foot Poncha Pass on Thursday, according to Ride the Rockies staff members.
Participants will get a high-altitude thrill of a different kind Friday as they ride over the Royal Gorge Bridge, which is 956 feet above the Arkansas River. The bridge is the countrys highest suspension bridge, according to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park website.Several participants setting up camp Sunday around the Cortez Recreation Center at Parque de Vida said this years ride is easier than last year, when riders were challenged by Independence Pass and Trail Ridge Road.Still, this years ride is unbelievable; nothing compares to it, said Steve Connolly of Broomfield. Every day is a classic ride.
Kerry Steinmetz of Marshfield, Wis., said this years ride is better for him for several reasons. Last year, he joined his cousin and her husband and some friends, but that meant they stayed together as a group and didnt mix with other cyclists. While he said he loved last years ride, this year, hes alone and is meeting other cyclists.
In addition, Steinmetz said, hes more prepared for this years ride physically.
I feel great right now, he said while waiting for his tent in the parks picnic shelters, which also houses a stage where the nights entertainment was setting up.
Norris echoed Steinmetz in saying a key element of successfully completing the tour is keeping well-hydrated. This years cyclists face higher temperatures and drier weather than last year. And, because it is not a competition, cyclists can stop when and where they need to, and have a number of hydration and safety stops along the way.
At each days final stop, riders are wined, dined and entertained, tour director Chandler Smith said in a phone interview Sunday. They also have the chance to work with a variety of vendors for such services as bike tuneups and repairs, as well as parts, specialty clothing and the like.After 28 years, Norris said the tour is still in search of interesting new routes.Perhaps the most unusual cyclists this year are recently married Denver couple Twist Phelan and Jack Chapple. In addition to wearing a wedding veil and other wedding-style accoutrements, the couple is riding a custom tandem bike which has the slogan Just say yes painted on the crossbar.Thats our personal motto, Chapple said, explaining that when either member of the couple suggests doing something, the other agree do it. The one possible exception, he said, is bungee jumping.Phelan, a crime fiction novelist (and lawyer), said the couple had a bicycle-themed wedding a few weeks ago.
This is the first part of the honeymoon, she said. The second half is a bike tour in Italy.
The couple even has specialized bicycle-sized license plates that will be changed during the ride. Sundays said, Just Married, and the couple will have another one when they arrive in Colorado Springs: Still Married.In order to join the tour, cyclists such as Phelan and Chapple have to register for a lottery for 2,000 slots. Norris said Ride the Rockies usually gets from 2,500 to 3,500 registrants. She said its operated similar to the states wildlife hunting license lotteries.In addition, about 200 cyclists representing various sponsors and others join the tour. Ride the Rockies is presented by Wells Fargo as the primary sponsor.