Copper Triangle road cycling event returns to Copper Mountain Resort
After a year away due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Copper Triangle road cycling event will celebrate its 15th anniversary at Copper Mountain Resort on Saturday morning, Aug. 7.
“We’re super, super excited to bring it back to the community up here after a year off,” said Scott Olmsted, event director and co-founder. “We put on a number of other events, and we can tell people are ready to be back and ready to be back on the bike. It’s been a long road, but we’re excited to be back.”
Denver resident Olmsted helped to found the Copper Triangle as an event that made the most of the unique location Copper Mountain sits in at the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Rather than a timed race, Olmsted and the event’s founders thought road cyclists would appreciate the one-day, 79-mile challenge of looping three iconic Colorado mountain passes: Fremont Pass at 11,318 feet, Tennessee Pass at 10,424 feet and Vail Pass at 10,666 feet for a total elevation gain of 6,500 feet.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s a doable challenge,” Olmsted said. “I think most riders get a nice warm-up going up to Fremont, and then Tennessee Pass is not a crazy elevation climb. But the challenge is definitely Vail Pass, riding 50 miles and having to climb over Vail Pass. People enjoy the challenge there, and feel the accomplishment after they do it.”
After cresting Vail Pass, cyclists — which this year come from 43 states, Mexico and Canada — get to enjoy the awe-inspiring descent on the Vail Pass recreation path to Copper Mountain.
“And there are spectacular views over the Red Cliff bridge,” Olmsted said. “The views definitely speak for themselves. People just want an organized event where they can go out and do this sort of thing and be supported.”
Olmsted said registration is about average for the Copper Triangle this year, with around 2,400 cyclists set to depart Copper Mountain Resort in a rolling fashion Saturday from 6-7:45 a.m.
“Everyone kind of starts out together,” Olmsted said, “but they will spread out throughout the day and go at their own pace and have a great time — stop at aid stations and soak in the views.”
On this year’s ride, cyclists will have to ride carefully on the frontage road through Vail, which is under construction. The Copper Triangle historically is held on open roads with vehicular traffic and marked and unmarked hazards, including on the steep descents and tight curves from Fremont Pass, Tennessee Pass, Battle Mountain and Vail Pass.
This year’s event will feature a pair of Tour de France veterans in American pro cyclist Peter Stetina of Boulder and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Bobby Julich.
Stetina now races in gravel and endurance mountain bike racing after a career as a road racing cyclist between 2010 and 2019 for the Garmin–Sharp, BMC Racing Team and Trek–Segafredo teams. Julich was a top contender at the world’s best events in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including a third-place finish at the 1998 Tour de France.
“They are both riding for the first time and they just wanted to come out and mingle with the participants,” Olmsted said.
This year’s ride will once again benefit the Davis Phinney Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding programs, research, content and events for those affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Olmsted said Boulder resident Phinney himself will ride Saturday. Phinney is an Olympic bronze medalist and Tour de France stage winner who, from the late 1970s until his retirement from professional cycling in 1993, achieved more wins — 328 — than any other U.S. cyclist. In 2000, Phinney was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease. Each year, the foundation in his name reaches more than 500,000 individuals and families through online resources, events and community engagement.
“Davis is definitely a key component to Colorado cycling,” Olmsted said. “Each year he rides depending on how he’s been feeling. For a few years it was hard for him, but he does the best that he can and wants to participate.”
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