Ride the Rockies rolls into the valley Tuesday, June 11 | PostIndependent.com

Ride the Rockies rolls into the valley Tuesday, June 11

David Krause
Aspen Times
Early morning riders cast shadows in front of their bikes as they head downvalley on the Rio Grande Trail.
Randy Essex / Post Independent

While Snowmass Village and the mountain resort are quickly becoming known as a mountain-biking hotspot, nearly 2,000 road bikes will roll into town Tuesday for an overnight stop as part of the annual Ride the Rockies.

For the first time in the event’s 34-year history, Snowmass is an official stop on the ride. The Roaring Fork Valley has been involved in the past, and this is the sixth time the ride will go over Independence Pass, but the route never has made the 5-mile jaunt up Brush Creek Road to the village.

Having the riders spend a night (or two) in Snowmass is part of the tourism group’s greater goal to continue to advance biking in Snowmass, no matter the mode.

“I keep reading biking is the new golf,” Snowmass Tourism director Rose Abellos said. “And I think that in my opinion Snowmass and the greater Roaring Fork Valley has incredible opportunity to be to biking what we are to winter sports. And it doesn’t matter if you like to go up or down.

“We are a world-class destination for skiing, and we can be a world-class destination for road biking, downhill and cross country. As we develop that, my interest is seeing Snowmass be the hub for that.”

The village continues to draw mountain bikers interested in downhill or cross country, and hosts events through the summer. Two years ago, the seven-day Haute Route was a run at opening up road bikers to Snowmass.

Ride the Rockies cyclists are responsible for their lodging along the route, and many of them will be sleeping in tents near the Snowmass Rec Center on Tuesday after an exhausting third day of the seven-day ride. If they’re not camping, they will be in lodges and hotel rooms around the upper valley after 5,779 feet of climbing in the 73-mile ride.

Abello said many of those booking rooms are staying for two nights since the Wednesday leg is to Carbondale. She said there also will be a big part for the volunteers at the first Wednesday night rodeo of the summer.

“To get those about (1,000) room nights during the week is great,” Abello said.

When cyclists leave Snowmass, the fourth stage is a recovery day going downhill; the day has an optional leg to Ashcroft in the morning, but it will be mostly downhill to Carbondale, which has a bit of a past with the event.

Carbondale was the kickoff town for the 2016 ride, and was an overnight stop for the second stage in 2012 (before going 83 miles to Leadville).

“Ride the Rockies, they pride in never repeating a route, which is pretty amazing,” said Andrea Stewart, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. “And Independence Pass is a huge draw, so we are always excited when they want to come over the pass, and it worked out for us this year. We really appreciate being an overnight location.”

Independence Pass is considered one of the Colorado meccas for cyclists, and the climb to the 12,095-foot summit from both sides has been a part of professional and amateur events.

While it’s the first time in Snowmass, it is the sixth time the Pass is on the route, including the inaugural ride in 1986 when the course went from Grand Junction to Denver via the back way. But after that first year, organizers stayed away and didn’t come back for more than 20 years.

Indy Pass was part of the 2012 and 2016 events when Carbondale was involved, but also in 2009 for Day 5 (when it finished the next day in Glenwood Springs) and in 2007 when Stage 6 went from Aspen to Leadville.

Monday night in Buena Vista riders heard from Jason Sumner about the Queen’s Stage (the most difficult day of a race or ride), what the Independence Pass section means and what they can expect. Sumner has been writing about cycling for 20 years and has published the book “75 Classic Rides: Colorado.”

“At that point, the ship has kind of sailed for gear and what they should be using,” said Sumner, who lives in Crested Butte and will be blogging each day from the ride. “Really, it is simple in that this might be a day to start a little bit earlier.”

Some riders will have a little help over the passes this year as this is the first time pedal-assisted e-bikes are allowed in the ride.

“It really accommodates a wider range of people who really want to see Colorado and wouldn’t necessarily be able to do the whole ride,” event spokeswoman Laura Driscoll said. “The e-bikes sort of open it up to a new audience.”

The audience also includes locals at the host towns. Each day after the stage there are free events for the cyclists and the public.

Tuesday in Snowmass will include food (starting at lunch) and music (starting at 4:30 p.m.) at the town center, then the first of the summer outdoor movie series is at 8 p.m. at the Base Village with the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” at the rink near The Collective.

Wednesday in Carbondale will include an extension of the weekly farmer’s market (which starts at 10 a.m.) as well as live music (starting at 11 a.m.), food vendors and a beer garden going until 8 p.m.

Another benefit of being a host city is that each year ride officials pick an organization in each town along the route for a grant. This year, Challenge Aspen in Snowmass and Youthentity in Carbondale each will receive $3,000 grants from the ride.

“It’s really nice knowing when the ride comes it’s great for economic growth and stimulation,” Stewart said. “But to give back to the communities through the grants after the ride is gone is really great.”

With it being a weekday event, volunteers still are needed along the route, including in Snowmass and Carbondale. Go to ridetherockies.com and find the “Volunteers” tab to check out openings.

dkrause@aspentimes.com


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