This route is a crowd-pleaser. Remember the old jingle about Sara Lee? “Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.” That’s a phrase that Don Draper could come up with. This route is Mad Men good. It is a longer variant of several shorter rides that are in Great Road Rides Denver combined to make a longer mash-up. There are stretches on good cycling roads like Dartmouth and Quincy, stretches on three different trail systems, and a long loop around Cherry Creek Reservoir. Were that not enough, there are also two sneaky moves through fences–surprise passages that appear like some deus ex machina to whisk you through a fence just when you think you’ve hit a dead end. And did I mention the three killer KOM sections? And, of course, there are multiple ways to shorten it if you hit by bad weather or just feel guilty that you are outside having so much fun.
Start it anywhere on the loop. For descriptive purposes I’ll assume you are beginning somewhere along the Cherry Creek Trail. Ride to Confluence Park. Follow the Platte Trail upriver (south) until you come to Dartmouth Ave. Some people prefer to get to the streets immediately and if you are one of those, you can jump onto Jason st around Habitat Park and ride it and Platte River St south to Dartmouth. It is probably faster to stay on the trail, but the view never really changes if you do. Head west on Dartmouth and climb up to the old Loretto Heights College campus, detouring (if you’re interested) at the Bryant St hill for the first KOM section. Circle the campus to the south using Irving St, Girard Ave, and Knox Ct to reach your southbound goal, Lowell Blvd. The school on the hill has had multiple names and identities in the last few years, too many to keep track of really, so I just keep calling it the old Loretto Heights College. By any name, the main building is worth a second look.
Cross Hampden Ave and keep riding south on Lowell Blvd with a detour at Oxford around the historic Fort Logan parade ground if you are interested. Otherwise exit through the fence at Lowell and Quincy Ave and keep riding south to Berry Ave. Go west for the second KOM section into the little burg of Bow Mar. Make a loop as you wish through the quiet roads taking in both the main reservoir (Marston) and the smaller Bowles reservoir where there’s a swim beach for the residents. (Don’t even think about taking your clothes off for a quick dip on a hot day.)
Ride east on Berry Ave to Jason Street. Go south a few blocks to where the street seems to dead end in a mandatory right turn. Sneak left here through an opening in the fence to gain a sidewalk next to Bowles Ave. Cross Federal Blvd at the light and continue east to the Platte River Trail. The access is a little obscure but you’ll get there if you aim for the white bubble building and bear right. Ride north on the trail to Big Dry Creek and cross the South Plate on the bridge to go east and south on the BDC Trail. It will dump you at Powers Ave and Washington St. Go north on Washington to Sunset and Clarkson St. Ride south on Clarkson to Quincy Ave. If you are running out of time, keep riding north no Clarkson to return to Denver, using Dartmouth and Franklin St, for example to return through Washington Park.
Ride Quincy Ave east to Monaco St, passing Cherry Hills Country Club and Kent Denver School along the way. The third KOM usually begins at Colorado Blvd and runs to Happy Canyon Rd. Go right to Monaco and ride to Union Blvd, then east through the Denver Tech Center to Cherry Creek Reservoir. Circumnavigate the reservoir or bypass it depending on your mood. Return to Denver on the Cherry Creek Trail.
Here’s a map of the Bow Mar section, the most likely spot where things can get confused. PDF link.
Southwestern Jefferson County has been the site of multiple large fires over the past 20 years, Buffalo Creek (1996), Hi Meadows (2000), Hayman (2002), and the Lower North Fork (2012). The Buffalo Creek Fire, through which the BMB Time Trial runs, burned almost 12,000 acres, the result of many years of fire suppression and very high fuel loads of dead branches and undergrowth. Two months later, it rained leaving behind a mess of mud, burned trees, and a weird lunar landscape.
Sixteen years later, the Buffalo Creek area looks better, with new undergrowth and the beginnings of new, small trees.
It still has fabulous mountain biking, but I didn’t know there was a time trial there you could do on a mountain bike. The Burn TT is back after a two year absence. If you love pain and suffering and bleeding out through your lungs in the midst of beautiful scenery, this one’s for you. There’s a short course (14 miles) and a long course (22) and both presumably have a fair amount of elevation gain. I’m guessing around 3,000 feet for the long course. This year’s version goes off in just a few short days (Saturday June 2) and space is limited so get your spot before it is too late. Organized and sponsored by Team Evergreen Racing, the same fine people who organize the Triple Bypass. Funny though, the mountain bike people seem to have a better sense of humor.
The Colorado State Time Trial Championships will be held on Saturday, June 16, 2013. Details are here. Shown is a new course in Keenesburg, just a short 40 minute drive up I-76 from Denver. The course is not much further than the 2012 course on the north and east side of DIA and should have much lower traffic volume. Depending on racing age and category, cyclists will ride either 20K or 40K. The course is without any long or steep hills so bring your fastest wheels.
If you’ve ever wanted to ride up Boulder Canyon without a car breathing down your neck, you can do it in the Buffalo Bicycle Classic. Now in its eleventh year, the BBC raises scholarship money for the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder. This year’s long course again rides up Boulder Canyon, traverses the Peak to Peak Highway, and descends St. Vrain Canyon to Lyons. Instead of turning south immediately, however, the long course runs up north for a 30 mile loop around Carter Lake–a big improvement over last year’s long course. On the return it passes through the well-traveled and bucolic roads of eastern Boulder County. Other shorter options are also available. Happily, the BBC has raised more than $1.6 million in scholarships for promising students and (sadly) is the single largest source of scholarships within the College. September 8, 2013. Don’t miss out. The 2012 routes are shown below.
The century season comes to a close in Colorado in late August and early September. Two rides round out the season, Venus de Miles and the Buffalo Bicycle Classic. Both are true fundraisers, the one for Greenhouse Scholars, the other for the University of Colorado College of Arts and Sciences. Venus is open only to women. The Buff is open to all. The Venus date is Sunday, September 29, and it starts and finishes in Longmont, with many options for all riders. Fees for Venus are low, approximately $90, but each participant must also donate or raise $75 for Greenhouse Scholars, so the price is comparable to other Colorado centuries. The course promises an interesting tour of eastern Boulder County farmlands with great views of foothills and mountains to the west. The 2012 century map is shown below.
The Deer Creek Challenge did not run in 2012 and may be gone for good. I’ll leave the maps up for their value. The Deer Creek Challenge bills itself as the toughest century in the country. And if you are counting only elevation gain they are probably right, since the DCC weighs in at 12,725 feet which is nothing to sneeze at. But the Triple Bypass comes close in elevation gain (10,990) and most of the Triple’s climbing is at altitude. DCC tops out at 8,700 while the Triple starts at 8,000 feet and climbs three times to 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 feet. If you plug in these numbers to the oxygen calculators at Altitude.org you quickly discover that you’ve got 10% less oxygen at the top of Loveland Pass than you did at the top of the Black Mountain climb in the Deer Creek Challenge. So it is probably a push. But who really cares? They are both amazing and different rides and each appeals to different kinds of riders. More importantly, if you’re just learning about these two rides today, the Triple is filled by lottery with registration in early January each year. Today, there’s still room for you if you want to do the reverse Triple (Avon to Bergen Park) or the Double Triple. The DCC is first come-first served and there’s still space in all the rides (there are shorter variations on the long ride). Finally, where the Triple features long, uphill climbs that go on and on, the DCC is punctuated by medium and short length climbs, some of which are desperately steep. The DCC covers familiar ground to metro Denver riders (High Grade, Parmalee Gulch, Brook Forest) and throws in stretches that get less traffic (an out and back along Foxton Road to the N. Fork of the South Platte, City View counterclockwise, Black Mountain Road). The terrain is great, the riding difficult, and the organization is top notch. Add it to the list.
At the back door to the San Luis Valley sit the little town of La Veta, a stone’s throw west of Walsenberg but not on the established route to Alamosa or the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Unless you are a restless wanderer or a kayaker scouting for possible runs on the upper reaches of the Purgatoire River, you probably wouldn’t have any reason to pass through La Veta. And yet there is a gorgeous pass waiting to be climbed.The 2013 version of the Stonewall Century is August 10. You’ll have a chance to climb Cuchara Pass twice. The Stonewall Century is that rarity among Colorado rides: an out and back. It starts in La Veta, climbs up past the old Cuchara Valley Ski Area (now trying to reinvent itself as a four season destination resort!) tops out on the Pass at just under 10,000 feet, and drops down to the small hamlet of Segundo for lunch and the turnaround. Cuchara Pass is rated as a 2.9 and a 1.3 (north and south) in the database of climbs that the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club maintains, which puts the pass (or at least the north side of it) somewhere near the low middle of Colorado passes in difficulty, harder than Vail, Berthoud, and Lookout Mountain, but not as hard as Deer Creek/High Grade, Super Flagstaff, or Squaw/Juniper. But don’t be fooled. There are 7,500 feet of climbing. The climbs on each side average about 3.5%, but that’s deceptive since the measuring starts at La Veta and Trinidad respectively. And with a stretch near the top called Soul Crusher Hill, you’ve got to expect that the climbs will get steeper before you reach the top. But that’s why we do this kind of thing, isn’t it?
This map and the profile below are both done by George Rooney, whose cartography work with Team Evergreen I’ve long admired.
The Copper Triangle is an old favorite organized by Davis Phinney to benefit the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. The 2013 date is August 3. Phinney is a celebrated Olympic and professional cyclist, and is married to Connie Carpenter, herself an Olympic speed skating and cycling medalist. Together they raised Taylor, the latest wunderkind on the professional cycling circuit. Davis Phinney was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000 and has devoted his foundation life to raising funds for research and treatment of the disease ever since. These are good people in a hard fight so if you are looking for one organized alpine ride to do this year, the Copper Triangle is a great choice. It is short at 78 miles and the elevation gain (5,981) is doable with a moderate amount of training. After climbing from Copper Mountain up Fremont Pass to Leadville you ride downhill to Vail where you begin a long pull up the west side of Vail Pass, much the longer and steeper of the two sides. And even if you are not able to make it this year to the Triangle, add the route to your bucket list. It is a good one with simple logistics, relatively easy access to services if things go awry, and many options on starting points and direction. The smart money has you start in Vail. That allows you to get the hardest climb out of the way first and lets you finish in Vail with its relative wealth (compared to Copper Mountain) of restaurants and services.
The 2013 version of the Denver Century Ride has new routes to keep it interesting. The 2013 route heads west from the Stapleton neighborhood to Red Rocks Park and Lookout Mountain before heading north to Arvada and east to southern Adams County. It finishes in Stapleton’s Central Park. There are four routes to choose from: a quarter-century, a metric century, a 75 mile ride without Lookout Mountain and the Hogback, and the full ride.
This year’s ride falls on June 16, 2013. If you’ve never ridden a century before, this is a good place to start–the elevation clocks in at 5,280, which compares favorably with Elephant Rock (5,900 feet), with the Buffalo Bicycle Classic (6,000), with the Stonewall Century (7,500 feet), with the Blue River Century (8,625), with the Triple Bypass ( 10,000), and with the Deer Creek Challenge (12,725). Only Venus de Miles, up in Boulder, has less gain (3,396).
The 2012 routes are shown below.
Elephant Rock is one of the oldest if not the oldest organized rides in the state. The 2012 date is June 3 and the ride takes in great hunks of eastern Douglas County including parts of the Black Forest area. The terrain is rolling eastern plains with (almost predictably strong) strong winds. Rides are available for almost any cyclists. There is a 7 mile family ride that circles the Douglas County Fair Grounds a couple of times, a 25 mile fat tire classic, and a 34, 60, and 100 mile ride. It all begins and ends at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, just off I-25 at exit 161, Plum Creek Parkway. Were that not enough, there’s also a marathon 24 hours of ERock mountain bike race on May 31-June 1 in the Greenland Open Space just south of Castle Rock.