400 miles to Copper for Ride the Rockies
COPPER MOUNTAIN – After riding more than 400 miles and gaining more than 25,000 feet in elevation across Colorado, about 2,000 cyclists will wrap up the 18th annual Ride the Rockies when they roll into Copper Mountain Saturday.
Cyclists began the 2003 ride Sunday in Cortez, from where they pedaled 77 miles to Telluride. Monday’s ride took them 65 miles from Telluride to Montrose; Tuesday they rode 32 miles from Montrose to Delta; and Wednesday was the biggest day of the tour – a 102-mile ride from Delta to Gunnison. Thursday was a rest day, where a handful of Summit County cyclists, including Annie Black and her sons – Jake, 15, and twins Hunter and Zach, 12, took time to do laundry before continuing the ride today from Gunnison to Buena Vista and Saturday from Buena Vista to Copper.
“At the beginning of the ride, Paul (Balaguer, Ride the Rockies tour director) announced this would be the hardest Ride the Rockies ever,” Black said. “With the rest day, I actually think it’s made it the easiest. The 102-miler was by far the toughest part of it so far. It was 102 miles of uphill climbing in headwinds, hail and rain. When you think you’re going downhill, there’s a headwind in your face, so you’re in your easiest gear pedaling.”
Cyclists of all skill levels and from all over the world participate in the ride, which is sponsored by The Denver Post and Coors Brewing Company. Cyclists are selected through a lottery system. The oldest rider this year is Stan Tuttleman, 83, of Pennsylvania, and the youngest rider is 9-year-old James Whaley of Evergreen. Zach and Hunter Black are among the youngest riders doing the race solo (i.e. not on a tandem bike with an adult). This will mark Annie and Jake Black’s third Ride the Rockies.
“The elite cyclists are everywhere,” Annie said. “They get up and leave at 5 a.m. every day and don’t stop at the rest stops. There’s hardcore people, but we never see them on the road. We’re here to smell the flowers along the way and do the family thing.”
Depending on facilities available at the overnight stops, cyclists sleep in “the tent city,” in hotels, motels and motor homes.
The Ride the Rockies route changes every year, with last year’s ride beginning and ending in Alamosa. The ride has ended in Frisco in past years, but this will be the first time it will wrap up at Copper. Copper has been a regular stop for the Courage Classic, the 2003 edition of which will take place July 19-21 and will feature more than 2,000 cyclists who are cancer survivors and their friends and families. In the Courage Classic, cyclists ride 200 miles from Leadville and back, passing through Summit County.
Copper officials are pleased to host Ride the Rockies, as it dovetails with the resort’s new summer image as a road cycling mecca.
“It’s definitely perfect timing,” said Copper Mountain summer product manager Wing Billeisen. “We’re pretty excited to have 2,000 cyclists and their families coming through Copper in just one day. It definitely coincides well with our push to enhance road cycling.”
Copper’s own cycling events begin June 28 with the first Crank and Jams ride and gather speed July 25-27 with the fully supported Tour de France, an 85-mile ride around the Copper-Leadville-Minturn triangle.
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