Denver or Bussed
First, a confession: I have lived in Boulder, Colorado for 19 years but until yesterday, I had never ridden a bike 25 miles south to our state’s hub and capital city, Denver. When you live in Boulder, you generally don’t ride too far south unless you must, because it’s more congested, often hotter, and sometimes socked in by dust.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Denver—the Broncos, the Nuggets, Rockies, Avalanche, the great restaurants, music scene, museums, Bcycle bike-sharing system, and ever-improving bikeway network. But we’ve got amazing riding up north, west, and east....
On Sunday, we had a good reason to head south. About 40 of us set off at 10 a.m. to pedal down to the final stage time trial of the USA Pro Challenge—the international week-long Colorado race that featured six of the top 13 finishers from this year’s Tour de France.
All of us had watched Saturday’s stage in Boulder—a spectacle that will likely be remembered as the greatest day of bike racing here in more than 20 years. Just about everything went right: the weather was hot and sunny, the crowds were huge and enthusiastic, the settings were magnificent, and the finish was dramatic.
But we were all ready for more, especially the novelty of riding to Denver. Our route blended smooth bike paths, dirt roads, paved public roads with striped bike lanes, and even a little bit of singletrack that is generally ridden on mountain bikes.
Most of us were on road bikes or cyclocross bikes (road bikes with fatter tires), but we managed just fine. I counted maybe two flat tires total, For 40 people and 40 miles, that’s pretty good.
A few more quick observations:
--The drive between Boulder and Denver is basically a 30-minute blur. The bike ride, with all of its twists and turns, is a fascinating three-hour blend of parkland, open space, riverside trails, riparian areas, suburban strip malls, office parks, and industrial zones.
--We saw very few directional signs. If you didn’t know the route, you’d have little chance of getting to Denver before sundown. This needs to improve. Thank goodness we were following my old friend Pete Webber (PeteWebber.com), who had ridden the exact route earlier in the week, and cyclocross legend Tim Johnson, who entertained the whole way by playing and jumping and laughing through every corner.
--This has been the hottest summer ever in Colorado. I drained five or six tall bottles of water and energy drink en route but never felt hydrated. I applied plenty of sunscreen but still burned. Early September snowstorm: where are you?
--When roads are crowded or closed (as they were in downtown Denver for the race), the bike is the only way to get around. We had no problem pedaling to within 100 yards of the starting line.
--I was happy the group took a bus home. After a full day in the sun, I was ready for a shower and some shade. I bet my bike felt the same.
The ride began with a long section of dirt and singletrack trail. Cross bikes were perfect here.
Our first glimpse of the Denver skyline.