A throwback to a bygone era of cycling | PostIndependent.com

A throwback to a bygone era of cycling

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo courtesy of Lower Valley Heritage ChapterMembers of the 1897 Fruita Social Wheel Club pose for a photo. Cyclists will be donning similar apparel for this Sunday's L'Eroica Grand Junction-Glenwood Springs.

Chris Brown is somewhat of a cycling history buff. His Grand Junction bicycle shop features a museum that boasts an extensive collection of old bikes and memorabilia.

So it’s only natural that Brown is the man behind a throwback race inspired by an event staged in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Sunday’s L’Eroica Grand Junction-Glenwood Springs, a 100-mile jaunt beginning in Grand Junction and finishing up at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, is more of a nod to a bygone era of cycling than it is about competition.

Participants are urged to dress up in early-1900s attire and, when it comes to the bikes, the older the better. Points are awarded for the authenticity of both the costume and the ride.

While finishing times do factor into the points race, you don’t have to be the first to reach Glenwood to win the race.

“The whole points system we kind of came up with to get people in the mood,” Brown said. “You get points for knickers. You get points for wearing a cap. The older the bike, the more points.”

Brown, who will be perched atop a 1951 three-speed for the ride, has gone as far as to appoint a judge to handle scoring decisions. His aim is to be as authentic as possible in re-creating a Slope cycling event of yesteryear.

“Everybody’s getting their knickers unwadded,” Brown playfully relayed. “One girl bought bloomers.”

More than a century ago, a cycling showdown pitting the Roaring Fork Valley against the Grand Valley took form and went on to enjoy a popular run.

The event’s roots trace back to 1898, with cyclists from Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs convening to square off in a race from Basalt to Glenwood.

An excursion train would shuttle spectators to the race site. A Grand Junction band would accompany them on the train and a bevy of post-race-activities – a baseball game, first-aid contests, awards ceremony and a swim in the Hot Springs Pool – entertained the masses.

The Midland Special train would depart at 9:30 p.m. to bring the spectators, band and cyclists back to the Grand Valley.

According to Brown’s research, members of the Fruita Wheelmen cycling club may have even pedaled their way from the Grand Valley to the Roaring Fork Valley for the 1902 race. Some say they took the train.

While the historical details are somewhat spotty, the hours Brown spent digging through local history books and newspaper articles inspired him to launch his event, which also takes after a century-old Italian race dubbed L’Eroica, which translates to The Heroic in English.

Sporting vintage clothing, riders of L’Eroica cycle more than 100 miles on dirt roads.

“I thought, ‘Why can’t we put those two things together and put together a hybrid version?'” Brown said.

And so L’Eroica Grand Junction-Glenwood Springs was born.

“We tried to incorporate as many of those same elements in our deal as we possibly can,” Brown said.

Riders will depart from Main Street Bagels in Grand Junction at 6 a.m. this Sunday. Eventually, they’ll finish up at Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, where they’ll sign in at the front desk to record their time.

True to the race’s origins, riders will take the train back to Grand Junction on Monday.

Brown hopes to make the local L’Eroica an annual pastime. He’s even considering flipping the course next year, with cyclists beginning their ride in Glenwood and heading west to Grand Junction.

And he hopes to lure in riders from both valleys as the event grows.

“Some of the original newspaper articles referred to Glenwood people as cheats and liars [during the baseball games],” Brown joked, referring to accusations that umpires often helped Glenwood to victory. “We’re kind of throwing out the same challenge to Glenwood riders. Maybe they can regain some of their respect and dignity this way.”

For more information on this weekend’s ride, contact Brown at (970) 245-7939.


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