Novice riders tackle Ride the Rockies |

Novice riders tackle Ride the Rockies

Dale Shrull
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Dale Shrull Post IndependentPenny Polowchena poses for photographs with her daughter Jeri Polowchena after finishing the 2009 Ride the Rockies.

Penny Polowchena wasn’t sure what to expect when she pedaled away from Glenwood Springs on Sunday.

And she definitely wasn’t expecting the homecoming she got on Friday.

The whooping and hollering echoed through the St. Stephen’s parking lot as Penny darted under the Ride the Rockies finish-line banner.

A bunch of her co-workers from Valley View Hospital came down, armed with signs, flowers, smiles and cameras. And of course they had bunches of hugs and weren’t afraid to use them.

Penny’s smile reflected her satisfaction, jubilation and relief. It was over and she did it.

Ride the Rockies gathers 2,000 cyclists of all levels to take on the Rocky Mountains in a six-day bicycle tour. Penny is one of those novice riders. She actually just started serious cycling in March. And she was worried – 380 miles over mountain passes is cause for concern

“It kicked my butt, but I had fun,” she says smiling.

And what about that reception?

“I just started crying, I was not expecting that. It was a really nice surprise.”

Penny, 53, works in the IT department at the hospital. After she got her lottery confirmation that she was one of the lucky ones chosen, she wasn’t necessarily feeling very lucky.

“I thought, what on earth did I get myself into,” she says.

Then came the rainy, cold spring that cut down on her training time.

Then came the 380-mile ride.

Like she said, it kicked her butt, but as she glided into Glenwood Springs, her smile showed that she did a little butt-kicking of her own.

Jeri Polowchena hooked up with her mom in Basalt and rode with her on the final stretch into Glenwood.

Jeri’s smile was only slightly smaller than her moms.

“I’m very proud of her. It’s amazing to see her set a goal and go out and accomplish it, she says.

Penny had doubts a few weeks ago. Then came the 80-mile first leg; then came the very tough 80-mile second leg from Hotchkiss to Gunnison.

Then those doubts disappeared.

Bob and Jamie Darien are casual bicycle riders. Their son Logan is one of those hardcore dedicated cyclists who rides hard virtually all the time.

But this week, mom, dad and son rode the same route, and even did some extra work on Thursday.

The appeal of sleeping in their own bed was just too strong, and that’s when the trio decided to just keep on pedaling right through Aspen and ride right into Glenwood Springs – close to 100 miles.

“The most I ever rode in a day before was 15-20 miles,” she says.

“It’s like that Elton John song, ‘I’m still standing,'” Jamie says laughing.

Then her excitement bubbles over. “We did it! We really did it!”

Jamie, 56, said the key was keeping her mental focus. “It was like I had white-line fever, I just focused on that white line and kept pedaling.”

Bob, 58, said he was worried about those first two long stages and admits that the second stage left him pretty drained.

“It was a long day but we got through it,” he says.

For 26-year-old Logan, who lives in California, riding up mountain passes is routine. Tough and painful, but routine. He just retired from a professional supercross bicycle career and his training was always very intense.

That’s why he was so impressed with what his parents and everyone pulled off this week.

“I’ve got crazy respect for everyone for finishing this. I was surprised at how hard these stages were. These were all legit stages,” he says.

And he knows what a legit stage is, and he had some legitimate concerns for some of the novice riders like his parents, especially because of those first two 80-mile stages.

Logan would ride at his fast pace then wait for his parents to arrive. He said after the ultra-tough second leg, he was awfully nervous until he saw his folks cruising into Gunnison High School.

“I was really impressed. I’m pretty proud of them, and really everyone who rode.”

Then he summed it up by repeating his praise: “I’ve got crazy respect for everyone.”

Well said.

That’s one of the great things about Ride the Rockies, there are all kinds of cyclists who take the challenge.

Some are the experienced, hardcore riders who go out and power over mountain passes. Then there are those like Penny Polowchena and Bob and Jamie Darien, who toughed it out like everyone else and finished the 380 miles, and are darn proud of what they accomplished.

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