Mt. Evans – A Road Review

Mt. Evans – A Road Review

I’ve written race reviews. I’ve written ride reviews. I’ve written some equipment reviews. Now, I respectfully submit my first ever “road review”.  I recently had the opportunity to ride my bike up the highest paved road in North America. This wasn’t the first time I’ve made the ascent; I’ve done the climb a handful of times. Once when the road was closed to traffic because of a bike race, and the others when the road was open to motorized vehicles.

What made this ascent special was that the road was closed to vehicles because of the Coronavirus. If you’re a person who will only experience North America’s highest paved road from car windows, then this is yet another thing to add to the list of what’s been taken away by the pandemic of 2020.

Let’s begin with a little history lesson. First, Mt. Evans is the most prominent peak visible to the west of Denver.Denver_at_a_Glance___VISIT_DENVER It is one of Colorado’s iconic 14ers. 14ers are peaks whose summits are at or above 14,000 feet above sea level. Colorado is home to 53 such peaks. Construction on Colorado Highway 5 began back in July of 1923. After about eight years of construction, the road opened to the public. The road is about 14 miles long and begins at an elevation of 10,600 feet at Echo Lake.  It winds through the Arapahoe National forest with trees 900 – 2,000 years old. Beautiful scenery of alpine lakes, the continental divide, wild flowers and wild life abound. 

Enough about the spectacular scenery, let’s get to the road conditions.  As the highest paved road in North America, there are some challenges that go along with maintaining the road.  Winters are long and harsh and take a toll on the road.  Let’s face it, at that elevation, most cyclists are pedaling along slowly enough to easily avoid the larger holes and cracks on the ascent.  And there are many cracks in the road, particularly from mile 9 to the summit.  There are also some wheel eating sized holes along the way.  

However, on the descent, these bumps, cracks, and holes present a danger to cyclists.  I’ve witnessed bike crashes resulting in broken bones on the descent.  The best advice I’ve received for the descent is to let some air out of the tires.  The next best thing to happen is not to have to contend with vehicles on the descent.  Without cars, cyclists can really take advantage of finding the smoothest line for the descent.  In many instances, this is right down the middle of the narrow road.

Perhaps the most exciting side effect of closing the road to motorized vehicles was the abundance of mountain goats and big horn sheep at the summit.  There were so many standing on the road, laying beside the road, playing just off the road. I wish that everyone could witness that, but I suspect the cars have a tendency to drive them further away.

It may be selfish, but I’m voting to keep the road closed to vehicles indefinitely.  Having the mountain to yourself on the bike was such a treat!  I saw all forms of bikes being ridden by riders of all ages.  One fine gentleman that I spoke with was on his second ascent of the day, and he was probably 20 years my senior.  I saw two kid trailers being pulled along by brave (and strong) parents.  What a memorable family outing that would be!

gCdxhpt+TpClequ0Jk4CDA

To the West of Mt. Evans

fullsizeoutput_528e

The Mountain Goat King

fullsizeoutput_529f

Can you see him?  And yes, the sky is really that blue in Colorado.

Ridge at 38 Crit – a Race Review

Last year I missed out on this race due to a travel conflict, so I was very excited to race this criterium this year.  Wheat Ridge Cyclery and the entire Wheat Ridge community came together to put on a top notch race.  This was apparent from the moment I arrived early on the morning of June 7th.  I had pre-registered for the race and was able to quickly pick up my race bib from the registration tent.  I saw a couple of team mates on the way back to my car.  Just as I pulled my bike out of the car, one of my team mates pedaled over and mentioned the course was open for a quick pre-ride before the next race began.  I quickly grabbed my helmet and set off to ride the course with her.

The start/finish was right in front of the Wheat Ridge Cyclery main entrance.  From there, the course went south up a shady, Ridge at 38 Course Mapslight hill and then took a left.  There were two more left turns that brought racers back to 38th Avenue, followed by a quick series of right, left and left turns that brought you back around to the front of the store again.  This course was sure to be fast and fun with all the corners.  The pavement was smooth and swept clear of gravel.  Aside from the occasional man-hole cover, you couldn’t have asked for a better race course.  It was a clear, sunny morning (finally) so wet streets would not be a factor in today’s race.

Photo courtesy of Jay Hardesty

Photo courtesy of Jay Hardesty

I lined up at the start line with 16 other category 4 women and 7 women from the 50+ masters division, for a field total of 23 racers.  We were scheduled to race for 40 minutes.  When the whistle blew, we took off in a sprint up the hill.  I knew if I didn’t stick with the peloton, I’d get dropped shortly after that first turn as the speeds increased on the downhill.  I put forth whatever effort was necessary to ensure that the peloton didn’t pull away from me on that first corner.  After a couple of laps the peloton began to settle into a very fast pace averaging 23 MPH.

In the midst of one of these laps, we heard a noise reminiscent of a shot gun blast.  I had heard this sound one time before when a tube popped mid-ride, which is precisely what had happened to one of the racers in our peloton.  Fortunately, she didn’t go down, was near the outside of the peloton, and was able to safely pull to the side of the road and stop.  Eventually, the race officials put up the number of laps remaining and the countdown began.  I tried to find as much shelter as I could as often as I could during the 15 laps of the race.  My team mates had not been able to stay with the peloton, so I didn’t have anyone I knew to work with.  When we lapped the gals that had been dropped, my team mate slipped back into the peloton on the second to the last lap.

The speed picked up for the last lap to close to 30 MPH and I began to drop off the peloton with a half a lap remaining.  At this point, my team mate pulled in front of me and led me back to the peloton, enabling me to have a sprinting pack finish.  The tactic was executed flawlessly and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.  Thanks Jen!!

This race was by far the funnest of the season.  The course was fast and curvy, just what this gal needs to fulfill her need for speed!  Well done, Wheat Ridge Cyclery, well done!