The Five Stages of the Mount Evans Hill Climb

 

Ten years ago, when I was newer to Colorado, I naively signed up for the Mount Evans Hill Climb. I drove the course a few weeks before the race, having no idea what I was getting into. My body betrayed me with an ill-timed cold, which doubled as a convenient reason to bail on the race.

I chalked it up to the cold, but really I was just scared – of the elevation gain, the altitude, the exposure.

Most every summer since then, as the date of Mount Evans approached, I would think really hard about lining up in Idaho Springs, but could never bring myself to do it. Timing, travel, or total lack of training always seemed to be ready excuses.

Until this year, 10 days before the race, when – thanks in part to some encouragement from the Rodeo crew – I finally peer pressured myself into signing up for the 28 mile ascent of the highest paved road in North America.

I made it to the start line this time. And tried to weather the various mental stages of such a singular challenge.

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Point A to Point B

Bikes roll over things. This is due to the roundness of their wheels.

Early in the mountain biking days the bikes were simple and versatile. Suspension had not yet been invented. Technical skills were required for negotiating trails strewn with rocks or roots. As time went on mountain bikes became more specialized. They got better at going fast, they got more comfortable, they handled better. Along the way though both on and off road bikes seem to have gotten more discipline specific. If you want to go road biking you take your aero road bike, if you want to shuttle fast dirt descents you take your long travel full suspension bike. This is all great. But I think there is a style of riding that has become lost due to specialization: The Point A to Point B ride. Road, dirt, trails, paths, singletrack, doubletrack, bushwacking. The point A to point B ride is fundamentally about compromise. There is no perfect tire for covering all manner of terrain. There is no perfect geometry for both road and trail riding. Point A to Point B rides require a certain degree of adaptation and even discomfort from those who undertake them. On the other side of that coin though there is a reward: On these sorts of rides your route is limitless, your terrain variable, and your challenges constantly shifting.

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Rodeo Rally: Rollins Pass

Back in June, Nik Gilroy put out the call for a Rodeo Rally to check out some “roads” up above Rollinsville near the Continental Divide. Scott Downes joined him for the ride. And this is their account.  

Scott: “Those are the best days, when the ride is the day,” one of us said to the other over burgers and beers in the late afternoon shade. That was after we’d ventured up near the James Peak Wilderness and Rollins Pass area and spent the bulk of the day riding bikes under the hot June sun, wandering up and down burley jeep roads and dead-end double track. It was a good day.

Nik: It all started with a feeling – you know that feeling – takes hold of you and you have to acknowledge it. I wanted to get out of the normal day to day, to go somewhere I’ve never been before and to try something new. This nagging feeling would not let go. I needed to go into the mountains, to ride unchartered dirt and to get away from roads worn down by a virtual leaderboards. 

Scott: Up until this point, I had missed all previous Rodeo Rallies, many of which came down to me chickening out, because of fitness or fortitude. But I’d been uninterested in racing this year, bored with some of the same old riding, and anxious to do something different. And this would be that something.

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Trail Donkey 2.0: My First Ride In The Wild

[Ed. Note: Barry is a former Denverite who now is part of our east-coast Rodeo contingent.  This was an unsolicited review for which he received no compensation.  Actually, I still own him for the Burrito he bought me on our last ride.]

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the Trail Donkey evolve over the last year and have been eagerly awaiting the chance to actually ride one in person.  So when Twinkie offered me the chance to ride a near-production Trail Donkey on my last trip to Denver, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  I expected it to be a fun bike, which it certainly was, but in many ways it exceeded my expectations.

I arrived in town early on a Tuesday and immediately drove over to Rodeo World Headquarters.  After a short tour and a visit with Rodeo Wife & Rodeo Kids, Twinkie unveiled the goods: a 54 cm Donkey 2.0, built with a simple-yet-reliable 10-speed Force Hydro kit and a smattering of colorful yet functional parts.  As a bonus I’d be the first one to try the Donkey with an alternate wheel configuration: a set of SRAM/WTB 650b wheels shod with WTB’s newest Horizon 47c slicks.  Not quite your average build, but then again the Donkey is not your average bike!

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Photo Essay: The Unspeakable Ride

Some rides haunt you. You see a peak or a road out of the corner of your eye and you know that you must go and find where it goes. Until you do there will be no rest and yet when you decide to go there is also no rest. Fear creeps in, and doubt. Is it do-able? Can you do it? These are the scary rides with unknown outcomes. Yet these are the rides we most love.

At Rodeo failure IS an option. It’s OK to turn around and go home if necessary. But if you manage to press on and push through you accomplish something special. Something outside of the measurements of distance, power, calories, and altitude gained.

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Back in the Ring

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With my stomach growling from hunger I nursed the dregs of my nearly empty Camelbak and scanned the trail ahead. Rocks. Endless rocks. The slight uphill of the trail told me I had yet to reach the top but just how much further before the final descent, I couldn’t recall. Twelve hours on the bike had taken its toll both physically and mentally. My mind was clouded, buzzing with that blurry feeling that happens right before it all starts shutting down.  And with the exhaustion and pain, the doubt started to creep in. What the heck was I thinking? Didn’t I swear I’d never do this again? Once was enough. It’s too long. Too hard. It had been nearly a year since I’d ridden this stretch of Short Mountain and all I could focus on was getting to the long descent down to the trailhead. Just a bit further and it’s all downhill. All downhill to dinner and a break from the rocks. And with the thought of food and water on my mind, I pushed ahead. Just a bit further.

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Evening derp sessions #traildonkey

#Crossishere twelve months out of the year for us. Playing around on local trails and bike parks is a pretty great way to mix up the rhythm of the summer months between road riding and mountain biking. It is also a great way to experience familiar terrain in a new way. It is also just fun! A lot of people spend time doing cyclcoross drills to build skills and that is very useful, but we think that people should see cyclocross bikes as everyday bikes, not race day bikes. If you spend time on the bike regularly and just go out and have fun it’ll fit and ride with perfect familiarity on race day. You might just be surprised at how tame a cyclocross course is as well after you’ve finished a summer of shred on your local trails.Continue reading

The Massanutten Ring of Fire

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I believe Adventure does not have to have a logical purpose.

I believe Adventure for adventure’s sake is reason enough.  A reason to try a little harder.  To dig a little deeper.  To find out what one is truly capable of.  And often times, reflection on our most memorable Adventures starts along the lines of “I don’t know what I was thinking, but…”

I would not classify myself as an “adventurist” by any means—I have a half-dozen kids, a demanding job, and other adult responsibilities.  But the lure of an Adventure is enough to keep me going thought the minutia of long meetings and tiresome commutes during my daily grind.  About a year ago I wrote a note to my buddy G.  He and I had spent several rides together on the rocky, technical trails along Massanutten Ridge in George Washington National Forest, Northern Virgina.  I had a fleeting vision of something completely irrational and illogical.  In short, an Adventure.

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You ain’t seen nothin’, son.

 

*Blip!*

My phone lit up. Text from Peder.

“Looks wet”

His timing was uncanny. It was Monday, I had cleared most of my to-do items for the first half of the day and I was beginning to consider whether or not I’d be able to head out for a ride. My monitor glowed with the Doppler loop of Weather Underground’s precipitation map. Even though we’d been hit with a couple of days of solid rain and the clouds still sat threateningly low, the map actually showed surprisingly few green and yellow blobs of wetness.

“It’s not as wet as you think.” I texted back. My attention was fixed on a spot on the map thirty miles south of me. For about a month I’d been drawn to a place where the flowing undulations of Colorado’s prairies are suddenly, unceremoniously violated with sharp spires of sandstone sticking out of the ground at sixty degree angles. That place was called Roxborough State Park. I had never been there and I had no good reason why not. The idea of finally visiting for a first time has been a dripping faucet in the back of my mind for a better part of a month and on Monday I was considering shutting the faucet up.

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