Around 2 p.m. Sunday, Breckenridge Mayor John Warner started his ride down Berthoud Pass.
It was a “miserable, cold, very wet descent,” he said Tuesday. “Probably the gnarliest descent I’ve ever done on a bicycle.”
Warner was one of the lucky — or unlucky, depending on your perspective — cyclists in the 29th annual Ride the Rockies road biking event who made it down the 11,306-foot pass.
Adverse weather forced organizers of the six-day event to shuttle hundreds of riders to that night’s stop in Winter Park.
“Biking in Breckenridge kind of teaches you about the weather,” Warner said.
He wore several layers, long leggings, wool socks, full-length gloves and a hat and rode slowly down the pass covered in water and snow. The next day, he had to replace his brake pads.
This is Warner’s seventh or eighth Ride the Rockies. His last time was in 2008, right after he became mayor and the last year the ride went through Breckenridge.
On Thursday, about 2,000 bikers will arrive in Breckenridge on their fifth day of the event put on by the Denver Post. Riders began Sunday in Boulder and will cross almost 500 miles and six mountain passes.
“It’s not a race,” said Kim Dykstra-DiLallo, spokeswoman for the town of Breckenridge. “It’s a challenging ride.”
The Breckenridge Recreation Center baseball and softball fields will turn into a tent city Thursday night, with about 1,200 people camping outside and another 200 sleeping inside.
She said everyone is invited to a party at the Riverwalk Center Thursday starting around noon, with food and beverages for sale from Foodhedz and Breckenridge Distillery and free entertainment, including belly dancers, DJ DC, Noah and the Arks, and Chris Daniels and the Kings.
“We’re really excited about having Ride the Rockies come through here,” Dykstra-DiLallo said. “The economic impact is pretty big.”
The event generates about $1.5 million in tourism for the state, she said, and brings thousands of riders and their families and friends to town. As of May 15, local occupancy levels were 50 percent higher for this Thursday, June 12, than they were for Thursday, June 13, 2013, a year when the event did not come through town.
Expect the recpath to be busier than usual between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday, she said. Riders will leave Friday morning and be gone by 9 or 10 a.m. on their way up Swan Mountain Road to Loveland Pass before ending in Golden.
Spectators can watch from anywhere along the recpath.
At the celebration Thursday, event organizers will present a $5,000 grant to Early Childhood Options, the county’s child care resource and referral agency.
Volunteers with the Team Breckenridge Sports Club will serve as members of the welcoming committee and green team crew and will provide traffic direction and bike security. In exchange, Ride the Rockies donated $1,700 to the organization.
An ordinance prohibiting camping within town limits will be relaxed Thursday night, and riders can take advantage of the Breckenridge Restaurant Association dining passport program, which normally costs $10 for meal discounts and specials.
“These are riders that we would love to have come back and see us,” she said of the bikers who represent all 50 states and about 12 countries.
Breckenridge resident Chris John, 58, said he was excited to sleep in his own bed Thursday after biking in the event.
“The first day was brutal,” he said, describing how riders climbed more than 9,900 feet and experienced lightning, hail, sleet, rain and high winds. The loop around Steamboat Springs he completed Tuesday was gorgeous, sunshiney and warm, he said, “the polar opposite of the first day.”
Another Breckenridge resident, Twyla Gurlea, 36, just started road biking about three months ago. She said her husband and four kids have been following her and supporting her the whole way and she’s loved seeing the beauty of Colorado during the ride.
“I don’t think I’d ever get to be on some of these roads if I wasn’t on a bike,” she said.