For some Ride the Rockies participants, those final miles through Clear Creek and Jefferson counties on June 17 were the literal home stretch.
About 1,100 cyclists from 49 states and nine countries made the six-day, 436-mile trek from Copper Mountain to Golden. Of course, Colorado cyclists had a homefield advantage.
One cyclist peeled off at Genesee’s Buffalo Overlook to go home, and Golden’s Russell Roundtree jokingly recalled stopping by his house to grab a cool drink before heading to the finish line.
On June 17, cyclists started their final day in Breckenridge, went over Loveland Pass, through Clear Creek County, along U.S. 40 through El Rancho and Genesee to reach Golden’s Parfet Park.
While the route changes every year, Ride the Rockies has been in Golden before.
Kimberly and Ryan Mallett, who live a few blocks from Parfet Park, said Golden hosting the finish line was partially why they did Ride the Rockies this year.
The Malletts took turns over the six-day trip — one drove the car while the other biked. Ryan did Days 1, 3 and 6; Kimberly rode Days 2 and 4; and they both rode part of Day 5.
Ryan was a first-time Ride the Rockies participant, so Kimberly let him pick which days he wanted to do, she explained.
Kimberly has now done the ride three times, and described how she’s met friends that she and Ryan now go cycling with regularly.
“We have more people to ride with now,” she said of making friends on the six-day ride. “ … It’s a ride, not a race. There’s lot of camaraderie and support — people cheering each other on.”
After arriving at the finish line festivities, Ryan said the last stretch between Floyd Hill and Parfet Park went by fast. He hit a bit of rain, but he enjoyed coming down the same roads and paths where he and Kimberly have been training.
“It was a fun week,” he said.
Evergreen’s Bob Campbell was also new to Ride the Rockies this year.
Campbell, who’s a Team Evergreen member, usually does the Bailey Hundo, which is around the same time frame as Ride the Rockies. This time, he decided to switch things up.
Those final miles through west Jeffco “felt like the cows going to the barn — everyone was really excited” to reach the finish line, he said.
Highlands Ranch’s Chris Lucas, who’s done the ride 14 times, commented: “Today was fast and a lot of fun. … It’s a phenomenal ride.”
Navigating the ups and downs
Overall, Campbell said, while the route was difficult, he was happy the weather was “generally fantastic.” He said he biked every mile and camped out every night.
Roundtree, who’s done Ride the Rockies 13 or 14 times, said this year’s weather was the best he’s ever seen.
“There was no sleet and snow, like we’ve had in years past,” he said.
Going up Loveland Pass was absolutely perfect, he described. Colorado State Patrol and race organizers closed eastbound U.S. Highway 6 to vehicle traffic, to help with the cyclists’ safety. The temperature was perfect, there was no wind, and Roundtree saw a bighorn sheep herd along the route.
It was the best day of his entire cycling career, he said.
Still, there were hiccups along the way.
Many of the returning cyclists said it was windy earlier in the week, which made climbing difficult. South Jeffco’s Richard Riecks also recalled a couple of cold nights camping.
Lucas commented how Days 1 and 3 were brutal 100-mile days, and Roundtree said high traffic volumes made Day 4’s trek over Hoosier Pass dangerous. Campbell also stated the amount of truck traffic on U.S. 285 was a drawback.
Unless future routes are safer, Roundtree continued, he wouldn’t be doing Ride the Rockies again.
There were some logistical issues with transportation and road/trail closures. Riecks said there also were a few confusing spots that weren’t properly signed.
Overall, though, Riecks and Campbell commended the volunteers and organizers for their work.
A front-row (bike) seat to Colorado
While Durango’s Gary Vance acknowledged this year’s ride had some minor issues, he plans to return next year for his 16th Ride the Rockies.
“I try to do it every year,” he said. “We had a good ride.”
Without a doubt, support staff member Janet Zang said, the best part of the trip is how people from all over the world get to see “beautiful Colorado.”
Zang and her husband, who live between Golden and Lakewood, have been involved with Ride the Rockies for several years. They’ve met all sorts of interesting people — couples who ride together, families who live in different states and meet in Colorado for a week, and people of every age group.
She enjoys returning each year to meet more people and watch them fall in love with Colorado.
First-time participant Suzi Potratz of Fruita described how the six-day trip allowed her to ride those iconic mountain passes for the first time. While they were difficult, Potratz said her mentality was to focus on where she was and take it one pedal at a time.
“It was challenging,” she continued, “but it’s so beautiful to see our country that intimately.”