Annual Circle the Summit bike-tour fundraiser takes cyclists on Pro Challenge routes before the pros
Special to the Free Press
Circle the Summit bike tour
What: A bike-tour fundraiser for the paved recpath system in Summit, featuring four different routes between 30 and 100 miles. The ride is held in memory of former Summit Biking Organization founder Bob Guthrie.
Where: Frisco Day Lodge start and finish
When: Sunday, Aug. 13
Cost: $70 for adults, $20 for 17 and under
Tours take off at staggered intervals between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. A post-race lunch is held from 12-5 p.m. at the day lodge. On-site registration opens at 8:30 a.m. on ride day. Entry includes a free water bottle and lunch. To register or find out more, see http://www.CircleTheSummit.com.
It’s no secret that Summit County is a world-class destination for road biking, and, clearly, the USA Pro Challenge has taken notice. This summer, the Pro Challenge returns to Summit for the fifth year in a row, bringing a record four stages to the county. The tour is a showcase for natural scenery and mountainous terrain, but local cyclists enjoy a spectacular trail system almost every day.
On Aug. 16, the Summit Biking Organization and Avalanche Physical Therapy host Circle the Summit, also known as the Bob Guthrie Memorial Ride — a bike tour fundraiser dedicated to building and maintaining Summit’s paved trail system.
SBO has championed this cause since 2008, raising $125,000 since the tour’s first year. Their efforts have included adding to the county-wide recpath system, putting lights in tunnels, installing bike racks, improving signage and providing helmets and bikes to youth cyclists.
“There’s always natural upkeep that needs to be done, (and) there’s extensions we’d like to make,” SBO member Norm Staller said. “We’d like to see a path extend along the highway from Copper Mountain to Fremont Pass.”
Trails are a priority for every local town, including Breckenridge, home to a vast recpath and mountain-bike system.
“Residents and guests love them (trails), almost love them to death,” Breckenridge Mayor and avid cyclist John Warner said. “More capacity on trails would help maintenance. For instance, we are working on plans with Gov. John Hickenlooper to develop a bike path over Hoosier Pass in the near future.”
The Swan Mountain climb
The CTS tour takes riders on some of the most magnificent routes the county has to offer, many of which have been featured in past Pro Challenge races and will again be on the national stage when it comes to Summit Aug. 18-21.
“It’s a cool event because you can … say you rode the same section that the pros do, two days later,” CTS organizer Jeff Wescott said.
CTS will feature four different tours, ranging from 30 to 100 miles each. All four rides start in Frisco and travel past Copper to the top of Vail Pass. After the first climb, bikers get a rewarding downhill ride before three of the four tours embark on the next leg: Swan Mountain Road.
This breathtaking yet challenging ride is one of Summit’s most picturesque bike routes. It also was the site of an exciting climb at the 2013 Pro Challenge.
Swan Mountain holds a special place for many SBO members, and it traces back to Bob Guthrie. Guthrie was SBO’s founder and leader in its early years. One of his dreams was to have a bike path linking Frisco and Dillon over Swan Mountain, but, unfortunately, he passed away in 2008 before his plan came to light.
In 2011, his vision was finally answered with the construction of a recpath extension. It now runs the entire length of the road, connecting Swan Mountain to Frisco to the west, Keystone to the east and Breckenridge to the south.
“Circle the Summit was instrumental for raising funds for Swan Mountain Road,” Staller said. “Over three years, we we’re able to make this happen, and now, the section around the lake is a huge attraction.”
Keystone to A-Basin
It may be hard to believe, but Swan Mountain isn’t the most challenging item on the CTS menu. The 63-mile and 100-mile riders get the unenviable task of swallowing the Keystone/A-Basin ascent — the final climb for Stage 2 of the Pro Challenge, held just two days after CTS.
With 1,500 feet of elevation over just five miles, this ride is not for the faint of heart. It can be a very sobering experience, even for the most seasoned of riders.
“It’s a grind,” Westcott said. “There’s not a lot of recovery — you have to find your pace or a tempo that works for you. Sometimes, I feel like I’m almost going backwards when I’m on it.”
Riders who do opt to do this portion can have their times recorded via chips from Keystone to A-Basin. This gives cyclists the opportunity to compare times with their Pro Challenge brethren who ride the same route.
“There’s a lot of synergy with getting to ride the course and, a few days later, seeing pros roll into the county on the same roads,” Warner said.
The poker ride
CTS also offers a new wrinkle this year with a poker-ride format. Participants will draw a card at different checkpoints throughout the tour, and the rider with the best hand at the end wins a wine, dine and spa gift package. Three VIP Pro Challenge passes are also be up for grabs in a separate raffle.
The popularity of cycling in Summit is shown by the diverse contingency that shows up for the CTS tours. In 2014, 98 out-of-state riders from 25 different states tempted the tour.
“The ride really exposes other people to the state, and it highlights the county and its recreation,” Staller said.
But, that doesn’t mean locals aren’t invited. Organizers encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the cycling splendors they see on a regular basis — all for a good cause.
“It takes a special Summit County person to pay an entry fee to ride what they can ride every day for free,” Westcott said. “It’s easy to take for granted.”
To entice local riders further, he (also organizer of the Summit Mountain Challenge Series) is offering 50 series bonus points to any mountain biker who also comes out for CTS.
“There’s just always tremendous energy at these rides,” Staller said. “We ride all these paths for free all the time, so this is just a small way to support Summit biking.”
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