Since the trip will primarily be a mountain biking trip, trail rigs will be pre-shipped out there. This means we'll probably be doing the hillclimb on rented road bikes. Haven't worked these logistics out yet. My philosophy on this is low landers are not going to be very competitive with the high altitude mountain goats from the Rockies, so why fret over having a perfectly dialed, gram shaving road bike? I'll save that for the Rock Pile in my neck of the woods. At most, a rented bike might cost a couple minutes and knock me down from 12th to 15th. BFD. The climb should take around 2hrs, 15min for me, 27 miles, almost all up. The decent is pure bliss, no brakes, except for the upper switchbacks where there isn't enough air to slow you down much.
There's been much debate over whether Mt Evans or Mt Washington is "harder." Mt Washington is certainly less predictable. Out of two July dates (Sat/Sun) and two August dates (Sat/Sun) last year, no race was held up Mt Washington due to weather. I think this might have happened once in 30+ years on Mt Evans. Like most Colorado climbs, Mt Evans is very gradual. I may want compact gearing, but not for the grade. I'll need it for going 40% of the way to space. That's right, at 14,000ft, you lose 40% of the oxygen. A 7% grade might as well be a 12% grade at New England altitudes. I won't have enough oxygen at 14,000ft to turn a modest ratio over at a decent cadence. Those that live at 7000ft will not have this problem. Some riders believe that these people carry the same advantage when they compete at sea level. They don't. The playing field is much more level. Sure, they can transport a little more O2 down here, but it makes a big difference at altitude where somebody like me will be O2 starved. It's a very asymmetrical problem. Mainly, it is just us that are disadvantaged at altitude.
Several people have asked why I would go to Colorado for a hillclimb if I don't expect to be competitive. It's simple. Like our Mt Washington, the Mt Evans climb has an air of mysticism about it, something like cult status in the fringes of the cycling community. I've biked Mt Evans once before on a mountain bike. Nearly had the mountain to myself since the upper gate was closed for the season. I shared the upper road with only a few other cyclists. Now I want to try it with 1200 cyclists on race day. Ought to be a festive occasion. Hope to see Ned Overend there kicking butt at 52 years old. If it weren't for a suspended doper, he would have taken the top podium spot on Mt Washington two years ago.
The real meat of the trip will be trail riding afterwards. Dave and I have sampled various parts of Colorado on previous trips, once together, other times on solo trips. We'll spend more days this trip and cover a bigger swath of SW Colorado and part of New Mexico. Here's a tentative list of what we plan to hit:
- Monarch Crest Trail, Salida
- South Boundary Trail, Taos, NM
- Hermosa Creek Loop, Durango
- Juncton Creek Loop, Durango
- Colorado Trail, Molas Pass to Cascade Creek, Durango
- Alien Run, Aztec, NM
- Flight of Icarus, Fruita
- Bookcliffs Trails, Zippity-do-da and Kessels Run, Fruita
End of July is a dicy time to ride in the Rockies. It's monsoon season, and in many parts lightning storms can pop up out of clear blue sky in less than an hour anytime after noon. You simply cannot be caught on an open ridgeline at 12,000ft. So rides will have to start early to finish before storms pop up. In June, some of the high altitude riding is still under snow. In September, early snow storms can shut you out. The riding season is a sliver of a window.