Ride the Rockies finds rough road in Aspen area for June 12-14 event

New organizer ‘behind the eight ball’ in applying for permits for event

Cyclists in Ride the Rockies soak in the scenery while on McLain Flats Road in June 2016. The annual event will return to the Aspen area June 12-14, assuming organizers supply information for necessary permits.
Aspen Times file photo

Colorado’s iconic Ride the Rockies bicycle event is scheduled to roll through the Roaring Fork Valley next week, assuming it doesn’t get derailed from what local officials contend is a lack of planning and communication.

The ride attracts hundreds of riders on a different route through the Colorado Rockies each year. This year’s 36th annual ride lands in Glenwood Springs at the end of day one on Sunday, June 12. It is scheduled to go Basalt via Missouri Heights for an overnight stay on June 13, then ascend upvalley, through Aspen and over Independence Pass on June 14.

Officials with Basalt and Pitkin County said Ride the Rockies organizers were slow to communicate their specific plans and make arrangements for special event permits.

“We have all been communicating (with them) and putting the pressure on,” said Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. “We don’t quite have all that we need yet, but Monday should be the day for everything.”

The event is trying to secure use of Lions Park near downtown for an end-of-the-day gathering. They are also seeking permission to allow camping on the Basalt Elementary School lawn.

Pitkin County officials also expressed frustration Friday about lack of communication from ride organizers.

“We have no idea what their plan is. We have not heard a word from them,” said Pitkin County commissioner chair Patti Clapper.

Suzanne Wolff, assistant planning director for the county, said additional information was requested on Friday.

Clapper said one of the biggest concerns is arrangements with first responders in case of an accident or medical emergency. She noted riders will be undertaking the grueling climb over Independence Pass, so a plan has to be in place for evacuating a rider in case of medical emergency.

The county commissioners have tentatively scheduled a closed executive session with their attorney to discuss Ride the Rockies on Tuesday. The purpose, Clapper said, is to consider options if organizers haven’t adequately responded by then.

The Aspen Times made numerous attempts to reach Chrissy Terrell, senior director of communications for the ride organizer, via telephone and email messages. She didn’t respond.

Mahoney said the lack of communication appears to stem from a change in direction with the event.

“They’ve been behind the eight ball because of new management,” he said.

The Denver Post Community Foundation operated Ride the Rockies for years. The event was acquired last year by Ventures Endurance Events, a subsidiary of Gannett’s USA Today Network Ventures, according to a statement released in November.

Mahoney said it appears the tough going in the first year extends beyond communicating with host towns. The ride has historically been capped at about 2,000 riders. Organizers told Basalt officials this year’s event will draw about 950 riders.

Assuming all permits are acquired in time, here’s how the ride will impact the Roaring Fork Valley region:

After climbing Fremont and Tennessee passes after leaving Copper Mountain Resort on Sunday, the ride goes through Glenwood Canyon on the bike path, which opened for Memorial Day Weekend. As long as the path remains open and isn’t closed by high water, as often happens during runoff, the ride will be able to use the route, according to a representative of the Colorado Department of Transportation. If the path is closed, the riders must be shuttled into Glenwood Springs.

On day two, Monday, June 13, riders will depart from an overnight in Glenwood Springs on the Rio Grande Trail, turn onto Spring Valley Road, climb past the Colorado Mountain College campus, use a network of county roads in Missouri Heights before hurling down El Jebel Road onto the valley floor. From there they will connect to Willits Lane and back to the Rio Grande to head to Basalt for refreshments. Some riders will camp in town.

Mahoney said many riders have made arrangements to stay in Snowmass Village hotels, so they will continue upvalley on the Rio Grande. The map on the ride website shows organizers routing riders into the outskirts of Aspen, then having them backtrack to Snowmass Village via the Owl Creek bike path.

Route details are posted at

On day three, Tuesday, June 14, riders will stream out of Basalt and Snowmass Village, pass through Aspen before tackling the Queen Stage with a climb of Independence Pass. They will land in Salida that night.

The rest of the route takes them to Breckenridge and an ending on Friday in Golden.

The event has visited the Roaring Fork Valley before, most recently in June 2016. It is a recreational ride, not a race. Motorists must be aware that they will encounter more cyclists than usual.

This year’s 436-mile event features two 100-mile plus days, four ascents above 11,000 feet, five crossings of the Continental Divide and a first-ever spin through Glenwood Canyon. An optional ascent of Ute Pass pushes the total mileage to 476 and boosts the total vertical gain from 27,000 to 30,000 feet.

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