Copper Triangle road cycling event celebrates 10 years on Aug. 1 | SummitDaily.com

Copper Triangle road cycling event celebrates 10 years on Aug. 1

A large pack of cyclist riding in the 2011 Copper Triangle begin the first major climb of the event by heading up Highway 91 to the top of Fremont Pass (11,318 feet). Now in its 11th year, the ride also heads up Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet) and Vail Pass (10,666 feet) to complete a 78-mile loop beginning and ending at Copper Mountain.
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2015 Copper Triangle

What: The 10th edition of a cycling fundraiser on a classic 78-mile loop, including three alpine summits on Fremont Pass (11,318 feet), Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet) and Vail Pass (10,666 feet)

When: Saturday, Aug. 1 at 8 a.m.

Where: Copper Mountain starting line

Cost: $155 on-site only

The event is limited to cyclists 14 years old and up. On-site registration is available Aug. 1 from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. at the Kokopeli Trail room in the Copper Conference Center. Event fees include a 2015 Copper Triangle jersey, a ticket to the post-race party, a free lunch voucher and a goodie bag, with $10 from all entries donated to the Davis Phinney Foundation. For more information on the course and registration, see www.coppertriangle.com.

For the 10th anniversary of the Copper Triangle road ride, organizers decided to change absolutely nothing.

And why should they? After all, the 78-mile loop from Copper to Leadville to Vail and back is considered one of Colorado’s classic road routes. Not only does it lead cyclists over three high-alpine passes — Fremont Pass (11,318 feet), Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet) and Vail Pass (10,666 feet) — it rewards all the lung busting with stunning vistas at the summits and serene stretches through the mountain valleys far below.

It’s Colorado cycling in a nutshell, and for roughly 3,200 riders taking to the saddle early on Aug. 1 (as in today), it’s a genuine highlight of the summer season.

“The Copper Triangle is a completely classic alpine course, with the three passes from beginning to end,” said Scot Harris, the longtime event director with organizer Colorado Cyclist. “Whether you’re coming from other mountain communities or the Front Range or out of state, this is what you picture when you’re riding the mountains of Colorado. It’s just spectacular.”

“It’s a super challenging ride, but it’s also super doable. It’s not just for people who want a day of complete suffering, like what you get with some of these highly competitive races. It’s a beautiful ride, it’s a challenge, but it’s still a blast.”

That’s not to say it’s a laid-back way to spend a Saturday. As a classic Colorado ride, the Copper Triangle is not for the faint of heart, with a combination of steep climbs, dizzying altitudes and sheer distance. Most riders finish in four to six hours, although it’s not timed like a traditional race. It’s simply an excuse to get out and tackle those enticing passes with thousands of like-minded cyclists.

“It’s a super challenging ride, but it’s also super doable,” Harris said. “It’s not just for people who want a day of complete suffering, like what you get with some of these highly competitive races. It’s a beautiful ride, it’s a challenge, but it’s still a blast.”

And, it’s the sort of ride Harris can’t pass up, even when he’s in the thick of on-site preparation. He won’t be riding the entire course this year — he’s still recovering from recent ankle surgery — but he still plans on cycling the Vail Pass section.

Along with Colorado cyclists, the ride is a major draw for folks from across the U.S. Harris estimates about 25 percent of participants come from beyond state lines, along with a relatively large collection of youth riders. The route is an undeniable draw, but after 10 years, they also expect a well-run race. And, that’s exactly what they get, with five fully stocked aid stations and a post-race party in Copper’s Center Village.

“I don’t mean to toot our own horn, but we get great feedback about the support and the course,” Harris said. “Copper does a great job, and when you have incredible weather, like what we’re hoping for this weekend, that just helps. But the foundation of this event is the course. It really is.”

Along with out-of-towners, the ride has also attracted at least one or two former pros every year since it began. It’s a signature fundraiser for the Davis Phinney Foundation, launched by the Boulder-born pro after he left the international circuit and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The event has raised roughly $140,000 every year, passing the $1 million mark this summer — right in time for the 10th anniversary.

But, after a decade, have organizers considered fiddling with the format, maybe adding an extra loop, or even a two-day course?

“That conversation happens every year, and we just haven’t come up with a formula that works better than this,” Harris said. “With this race, it’s almost like less is more.”

Fair enough. It’s hard (or simply foolish) to improve on a classic, and the Copper Triangle isn’t disappearing anytime soon. The event has reached capacity eight of the past 10 years, thanks in large part to hundreds of cyclists who wouldn’t dream of spending early August anywhere else.

“I love the course, but there’s something more than that,” Harris said. “This ride just has an incredible feel to it. It isn’t a race, but it still attracts your higher-level riders looking for a fun day on the bike. That changes the overall feel.”


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