Man describes autumnal 222-mile loop ride from Frisco to Aspen, and back (podcast)
Just a few years ago, New Jersey-transplant Patrick Linfante went to the familiar Summit County digital marketplace “One Man’s Junk” Facebook group to find what he hoped would be the road bike that would get him into cycling.
A passionate snowboarder who moved to Summit County to ride, Linfante headed into his second summer in Summit County thinking road cycling would serve as the perfect way to stay in shape for powder days. So he set his One Man’s Junk keyword search to “bike,” and not soon after stumbled across a young Breckenridge local kid refurbishing and flipping used bikes near Airport Road.
The initial bike Linfante settled on was a $50 model Linfante described as “probably from Walmart.” But it was affixed with the polka dot Tour de France stickers that signify a climber in the cycling community, and just wanting to try out the sport, Linfante settled on the cheap “Le Tour de France” model with a seat much too short for his frame.
Two weeks later, Linfante left his first purchase behind, refurbishing it further and selling it for $200. He then used that $200 toward a new purchase — also on One Mank’s Junk — of a $700 used Felt road bike.
LISTEN: In this unabridged conversation, Patrick Linfante shares his thoughts on myriad parts of the Frisco to Aspen trip, including: the beauty of the bike path through Glenwood Canyon; what it was like climbing Independence Pass from Aspen; and how and why the stretch between Twin Lakes and Leadville was the unexpected hardest part of the trip.
Five-thousand miles on the road later, Linfante just completed his grandest road biking trip yet: A two-day, 222-mile autumn loop ride from his home in Frisco, down to Glenwood Springs, over to Aspen and back home via Independence Pass.
For Linfante, though, this wasn’t a carefully planned trip mulled for months. Rather, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision during the last weekend in September to attempt the ride. The 220ish-mile trip would help him meet his personal goal of riding 500 miles for the month of September. It would also cap six straight months of riding 500 miles each for Linfante.
Beyond just the mileage goal, though, for Linfante this trip served as that kind of gateway experience between shorter 20- to 30-mile riding experiences to the kind of longer single and multi-day rides many avid cyclists live for in Colorado’s High Country.
“This has opened my mind to the idea that I want to do an Ironman,” said the 32-year-old Linfante. “It’s one of the major things I’ve done to lead me to believe I’m one notch closer to that being a possibility.”
As for this trip, Linfante knew if they didn’t set out during this final week of September, they may not have this opportunity for months. With snow falling in Summit County just days later, it was the right call for Linfante and his buddy Russ, who he recruited to join him.
The duo departed Linfante’s home at 7:30 in the morning, able to see their breath in autumn’s mountain cold. After laying out his path on the application Strava, Linfante was most looking forward to traveling to Glenwood Springs not via Interstate 70, but the bike path that runs that entire distance.
First he and Russ would have to battle through the early morning chill up to and down from Vail Pass. Reaching 45 miles per hour on the way down into Vail, Linfante was afraid he might get frostbite on his fingers. Battling through that thought, things became more comfortable as the duo descended to Glenwood Canyon.
It was there that Linfante looked forward to the top thing he expected on this trip: riding the bike path through the town rather than the highway.
“It was night and day,” Linfante said. “I have absolutely driven that and that’s exactly why I wanted to do this ride. The bike path goes underneath the highway and in between the highway. A good 7-mile stretch or so, and every single turn is another massive rock formation, another waterfall, another train track, another river next to you. And it was pretty interesting to see how our climate and weather has affected that. Because there was no water in the river, literally it was rocks.
“Instead of four minutes, it takes two hours,” he added. “And you can enjoy it, you can take your time, you can get off, you can keep riding, it is just unlike any other place you can go.”
The highlight of the gradual climb into Aspen was the orange-tinted sky at sunset with the mighty prominence of Mount Sopris serving as the star for miles on the horizon.
After staying at a motel in Aspen for the night, the second day got off to a little bit of a late start, at 8:30 a.m. While climbing the west side of Independence Pass, the mental element of cycling returned for Linfante. After his legs were beat up on day one, Linfante kept telling himself that 95 percent of cycling is mental. As he and Russ climbed the final 3 miles to the top of 12,095-foot Independence Pass, Linfante described it as “circling a cereal bowl,” due to the fact that he could see the tree-lined summit, despite its distance.
“Seeing where you have to be and knowing you have to spin your legs for another hour before you get any respite,” he said.
The descent to Twin Lakes was enjoyable before what Linfante described as the toughest part of the trip: the 15-mile stretch between Twin Lakes and the highway leading into Leadville.
With cars and trucks driving by at 70 miles per hour and 30-mile-per-hour headwinds blasting him and Russ in the face, Linfante worried for his safety on the 6-inch-wide shoulder. But they trudged through, one spin at a time.
Once they got to Leadville and eventually the top of Fremont Pass, Linfante enjoyed the speed rush that was descending to Copper Mountain. Back on the Summit County recpath, Linfante knew he made the right decision and that bigger endeavors are in store for the future.
“This really was that ride where I said, ‘OK, I can push through that threshold to the next level,’” Linfante said.
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