Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quad State Crusade - Four States in One Go!

Crista Borras, RUSA's Permanista (Permanents Coordinator) par excellence, has designed a scenic, challenging four-state 200k called the Quad State Crusade

"Another Hill"  (Bill Beck photo)

The topo map below gives a clue to the "corduroy" terrain gracing much of the route (controls flagged as "i"; a suggested lunch spot also flagged):

If you happen to be traveling to that area, this perm would be an enjoyable way to tag four states for your American Explorer tally ... or just to have some fun!

Entering Pennsylvania (Bill Beck photo):

Crista Borras and Chuck Wood admiring the view at Prospect Peak overlooking the Potomac (B. Beck photo):

With the advent of the American Explorer Award, we should see more and more tri-, quad-, and other multistate routes. Crista's is a great first example of a four-state perm route!

You can see more of Bill Beck's well-captioned slideshow from which these photos were taken with gracious permission.  Portrayed, among other things, is the drama of what to do on finding that Unger's Store has closed.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Riding the Brainard Lake Breeze 101k Perm Populaire

One of the latest new perm offerings is the Brainard Lake Breeze, a "mere" Permanent Populaire, but plenty of  scenery and a "quality" workout over those 101 km!

A gentle warm-up, starting from our traditional, friendly "secret control" in Niwot, brings you to Lefthand Canyon and James Canyon, where you may see seasonal warning signs:

Jamestown is an info control, so you can actually breeze right through, on your way to the Super James climb.  I was too busy climbing to give you a photo of the switchbacks and sand barrels set out for icy conditions on steep pitches, but had to stop for this reptilian painted rock near the top of the climb:

After the Super James summit, the road turns to dirt, and you get your first big views ... closer looks at the same peaks you saw leaving Niwot:

At the Brainard Lake entrance, you can pay the $1 cyclists' entry fee if they're open, or walk around the barricade if they're not (e.g., in the off-season when I rode ... mid-May still constituting off-season at this altitude).

The Brainard Lake Road, with which most of us are familiar, offers a cavalcade of great views of the Indian Peak Wilderness peeking out through pines:

At Brainard Lake itself is another information control, and a great view of Arapahoe and other peaks:

You can turn around here, or spend another two miles riding up to the Mitchell Lake and Long Lake trailheads (highly recommended, and why not, after all this climbing?).  Here we are nearing the Mitchell Lake TH, with a good view of Torrey's Peak, a favorite backcountry skiers' destination after mountain-biking up this far.

I had to skirt several snowdrifts.  Here is one standing between me and the Longs Lake TH.

The nice things about riding Brainard at this time of year: no motorists, only a few hikers and hardy cyclists ... and places to lean your bike (near the Niwot Cutoff TH):

But it's not so bad riding at high season either, in shirtsleeves at 10,000 ft., with glorious mountain wildflowers and cheerful hikers heading for the tundra.

The return starts with a descent down the Brainard Lake Road ... followed by a descent down Lefthand Canyon ... followed by a shallow, mellow descent down Neva/Niwot Road.  What a perfect way to end a ride.

Give this one a try!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jamestown - Raymond 600k/400k - A Silver Lining!

What lay in store for the stalwart "early-bird" 600k/400k riders on a boisterous weather weekend?

Michelle Grainger, Steve Le Goff, and Mark Lowe pre-rode the brevet starting Friday, and while the course checked out fine, they enjoyed very different, but at least as tough conditions as weekend riders would.

Mark summoned good spirits to say hi to the starters after finishing his ride, replete with storm-cell wind gusts, drenching rains near Greeley, high temps that made hydrating difficult, and smoke from the Hewlett Fire in Poudre Canyon.

Event-day riders faced more showers, but with temps 25 degrees cooler.  Still, a good start, as they managed to miss pre-dawn storms through force of sheer luck.

Peter Hoff poses next to the Jamestown Mercantile info control at the first of the two canyon climbs. 

 Would Raymond, the next control, at over 7,000 ft. come in under the low cloud ceiling?

It turns out the answer was "sort of," as riders rode up S. St. Vrain Canyon into chilling 40-degree rain - that was the moderately ok part - followed by a twelve-mile descent back through the rain to Lyons.  Good thing we weren't doing the Peak-to-Peak route!

Biking out of the heaviest rain at Lyons, the next hours consisted of blustery foothills sprinkles, and clawing up to Wellington in the face of a stiff northerly wind.

Clouds, winds, dim skies, and sprinkles continued southbound through Windsor, but things brightened up later in the afternoon, providing a breezy but more cheerful end to the day.

Sunday brought an entirely different experience, with clear skies (albeit chilly temps early on), mild winds, and an altogether uplifting ride.

Fresh snow graces Longs and Meeker Peak, and kindred Front Range mountains, while temps on the plains struggle above 40 degrees.

Foon Feldman savors one of the Kersey store's gargantuan homemade burritos in the warming sunlight.

JLE is happy to be wafted by a tailwind towards Erie on the home stretch.

Foon likely speaks for all riders at being glad to finish on a good note!


P.S. Tom Knoblauch ended his ride on another sort of good note, crashing on the final descent from Horsetooth into Fort Collins.  The good note is that while his bike was totaled, he escaped without injury.  That's the important thing, and we are so glad Tom survived unscathed to ride another day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding the Cripple Creek - Pine Junction 300k

I had the pleasure - and challenge! - of pre-riding Vernon Smith's Cripple Creek - Pine Junction 300k.  Riders on the inaugural event last year reported splendid scenery but quite a lot of work involved, as the route has 16,780 ft. of climbing.

Here's the route:

Starting off at 4am, you climb past the tourist shops and vintage motels of a sleeping Manitou Springs and on to US-24, which has good shoulders. 

It's a moderate 2000 ft. climb to Woodland Park at 8,400 ft., with dawn breaking over Pikes Peak.

On past Divide, and you've climbed to Ute Pass at 9,165 ft. before leaving US-24 ... after which you get a break ... before climbing some more.

The approach to Cripple Creek is on generally quiet, winding county roads - punctuated by little climbs - transiting the Florrisant Fossil Beds National Monument.  You can see some petrified stumps as you ride by.

On the day I rode, there was lots of frost from Divide through Cripple Creek.  Chilly cycling, but the payback was relatively temperate climbing in the afternoon.  This in fact is one of the challenges of this course: higher, crispy altitudes at the cool part of the day, followed by long climbs in the hotter part.

A final climb brings you to the "lip" overlooking Cripple Creek and the first checkpoint.

Cripple Creek is nothing if not imbued in mining history.

At this time of the morning, it's still pretty quiet, the hustle and bustle of tourists and gamblers yet to come.

Quiet enough in fact for the daily stroll up Main Street by the town donkeys.

Climbing out of Cripple Creek on Hwy. 67, you reach the high point of the route, at 10,223 ft.

Some fresh snow.  Many trees have leafed out, but some haven't quite done so at this altitude.

Flying back down US-24 to Woodland Park, you head out on the Deckers - Pine Junction road, with Pikes Peak at your back.

In places, Hwy. 67 seems like Forest Fire Alley, as this view of West Creek shows.

In the last decade, the area has fallen victim to the Buffalo Creek Fire, the Hayman Fire, and now the North Fork Fire.  Spring green spruces things up, and you will also see new (replacement) homes in the burnt-out areas.

After prudently tanking up on water at the friendly Deckers store, you face the climb up Six Mile Hill, of which four miles has a climbing lane, which gives you a clue right there.

And yes, that's Pikes Peak on the horizon.

Once you've descended to Pine, made the gentler seven-mile climb to Pine Junction, descended back to Pine, and climbed Six Mile Hill from the north side, it's basically downhill to the finish!

Except for a climb over West Creek, a shallow climb to Woodland Park, a "bump" of a climb at Chippewa Falls, and an uphill grade past Garden of the Gods, which hopefully you are now getting to see in daylight.

♦ ♦ ♦

Vernon's materials and course design are first-rate, including a nice, quiet route to finish in Colorado Springs.  Good thing the scenic content matches the challenge.  Thanks, Vernon!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Black Forest 300k a Cool Treat!

A cool, damp day with soggy forecast greeted the 14 stalwart riders who started off into the predawn murk on the Black Forest 300k.

Fortunately, the rain held off most of the day, and things even brightened up a bit towards Black Forest.

Paul Foley, Foon Feldman, and Tom Knoblauch blur past Chatfield Reservoir:

John Mangin shows off his powerful hub dynamo lighting system:

Ronaele Foss and Bob Dean:

A fast rider or a slow photographer?

Brent and Beth Myers chat with Tammie Nakamura (who graciously collected brevet cards at the finish!):

Tom Knoblauch banks down Perry Park Road:

Out of a fogbank, Foon Feldman and Paul Foley surmount the big climb coming into Larkspur:

... and pause to enjoy officially provided cookies, water, and coffee in Larkspur, as they arrive before the store opens:

Diane Benoit, similarly early, takes time to grab a cookie for the road:

John Mangin shows off his Selle Anatomica skyward-pointing saddle, joining other fashionable riders such as Steve Le Goff in that seat angle:

Bob Dean pulls into Larkspur, satisfied at the prospect a cool, refreshing ride:

Showers caught some riders late in the day, but a fine rando performance, and, looking on the bright side, no repeat of last year's rain/snow mix!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Riding the Moab Double Whammy 202km Permanent

I got the chance to try out Richard Stum's Moab Double Whammy 202km Permanent.

The Permanent takes in the two national parks near Moab: Arches and Canyonlands.  Despite being close to each other, they are very different in their formation, what you see, and the way the roads take you through them.

You start with Arches, which is good for several reasons.  It traverses several valleys, so the climbing at lower (warmer) elevation is better when you're fresh and it's cool.  Also, the traffic is less earlier on.

Things get started right away in the scenery department, as you climb from the entrance to the Park Avenue overlook:

You pass various rock formations, such as Balanced Rock ...

... and arches, of course:

The Lasal Mountains form a backdrop:

Nice mountain blooms at this time of year:

The transit between Arches and Canyonlands starts with the path parallel to US-191.  This was actually one of my favorite stretches, as it is very scenic and cut off from the highway.

Next is the 20-mile climb up UT-313 to the plateau.
The prevailing SSW headwinds added effort but kept me cool.

A quiet, lightly-travelled highway with a big shoulder.

Atop the Colorado Plateau, it seems you could be somewhere in the grasslands of Wyoming, but just out of sight are the canyons ...

... which you look down on once you enter the park:

The Colorado River has cut very deeply into the plateau - there are many overlooks with vast expanses like this.

The Green De Rosa - resting here against a juniper-branch fence - had a good time on the Double Whammy.

So did I and I bet you will, too!


P.S. Richard has done an excellent job designing this route and creating materials for it. He tells you exactly where you can get water (only three spots along the route), which makes a difference even in the moderate 70's and 80's when I rode it. (There are no places to get food, but it is easier to carry 200k-worth of food.)

Richard Stum at Last Chance 2008 finish