How’s your Aspen?

It’s only a 3 hour drive from Denver to Aspen, but I don’t seem to make it more than once or twice a year.  Over the past few years and through the magic of Instagram, I’ve met a handful of good people that live there.  Having lived in the mountains myself for 4 years, I know how many friends say they will come up to visit, but somehow or way it doesn’t happen.  I’d been talking with my friends Erik and Iain about getting up there and doing some riding, so I pulled the trigger.

My Sprinter van had been in the shop and took a bit longer to get back than I had thought it would.  This pushed me back a couple of hours but it was no big deal.  I was in no rush and figured I’d take advantage of the delay and catch the sunset on my way up.

Leaving Denver, I got caught in a bit of rain as I approached I-70 west.  Five minutes later, sunshine.  I love you Colorado!  An hour later, the sun was beginning to set and I was nearly to the top of Fremont Pass.  The light was just right and I had to pull the van over to capture the moment.

alpine glow

climax

I must have stayed in this spot for 45 minutes and then this happened…

purple haze

Cycling and photography have both taught me patience.  You can’t take short cuts in training and sometimes you have to stick around for a few extra minutes to get the shot.  I try to roll with the punches the best I can.

The sun and light were gone so I pressed on towards Independence Pass.  It was going on 11pm as I approached the top of the pass.  There is a big parking lot up there and I thought it would be a great place to be greeted by the sun in the morning.  5:30am, like clockwork, I woke up and rolled out of van.  Once again, the light was perfect.  It wasn’t hard to get moving.  The temperature was in the low 40’s and I had been dealing with the upper 80’s for days in a row.  It felt great!  I got some coffee going and starting looking for something to shoot.  Surrounded by 360 degrees of awesomeness, it was a bit tough to focus.  No pun intended.

on the bubble

7am and I’m supposed to be at Erik’s and ready to ride by 8 I’d better get moving!The Sprinter van does a lot of things well, but cornering is not one of them.  I took the safe approach and showed up a few minutes late.  Thank God for mountain time!  Most people that know me, know to give me a few minutes.  I generally make up for it during the ride.

Erik and I rolled out of Snowmass and began the grueling 20 mile descent to Basalt.  Along the way, we picked up Neil, a friend to Erik and Iain.  Neil had just picked cycling and had already competed in a couple of road races.  New riders are always fun to ride with.  I like their enthusiasm and if they’re willing to learn, I’ll teach them everything I know.

We rolled into Basalt and that’s where I met Iain from Aspen cycling tours for the first time.  Super nice guy, but I already knew that.  At the bottom of the canyon, we encountered a brief road closure and 4 became 5 as another rider that was already waiting, joined us.  We got on to riding along the Frying Pan river, climbing steadily up to the Ruedi Reservoir.  I played around a bit with Neil and our new friend, entertaining them with my best Froome impression.  I few super high cadence moments and my legs began to feel it.  Those two pressed on while I sat up and waited for Iain and Erik.

dam

The three of us kept climbing until we reached the top where we found Neil waiting for us.  Our fifth had been pushing on and Neil felt obliged to keep pace.  Anytime you’re doing a 6+ hour ride in the mountains, pacing is everything.  It can be really tempting to attack climbs early in the ride, but you’ll almost always pay for that later.  We all had chatted about that on the way to catch back on to him.  So on we went, paralleling the frying pan as it snaked it’s way towards Hagerman Pass.  This was the greenest I’d ever seen Colorado!  We’ve had a ton of moisture this spring and the hills were really showing off.

dark aspen copy

 

fern

This is roughly were we topped out. 9,454′ and 52.4 miles from where we left early that morning.  All we had to do now was turn around ride back to Erik’s house.  The temps had been rising but I hadn’t really noticed that too much.  Trying to keep up with Iain took up most of my thoughts.

Iain copy

two aspen copy

Even though the profile showed that we would be heading downhill, the boys assured me we’d almost certainly be facing a headwind.  I was up to the task.  We all started off together, but almost immediately Neil got separated and had fallen off the pace.  Whew!  That’s going to be tough by yourself.  I guess you’ve got to learn sometime that you’ve got to hold a wheel, even on a downhill.  Luckily for him, I was about out of water and when I saw the fire station had a hose bib, I pulled over to re up on H20.  A few minutes later, Neil rolled up.  “Never lose the group on a descent”, he said.  Lesson learned.

No more pics at this point as we all rolled in a paceline back towards Basalt.  4 became 3 as we dropped of Iain and began the 20 mile, hot climb back to Snowmass.  It was so hot, but Erik had the promise of cold beer and snacks once we arrived back at his place.  This was the only motivation I needed.  I’m a snack guy.

6:20:43, 105miles, and 8,303′ climbed.  What a great ride!  Always fun to ride with friends you don’t see very often and make new friends along the way.  I couldn’t wait to see what day two had in store for us, well, maybe after a shower, a couple beers, and some serious snacking.  Big thanks to Amy, Erik’s wife, for taking care of us with what may have been the coldest beers and tastiest veggie tray ever!

A slice of Silt

The racing here in the front range wasn’t going as planned for me, so when there was an opportunity to get out of town and race in Grand Junction, my friend Lars and I jumped on it. A few weeks before I decided to do this race, I had spent some time looking for new roads to ride on the western slope of Colorado.  Most of places west of Beaver Creek had only served as road signs and places to pull off and refuel as I headed towards destinations such as Grand Junction, Moab, and other points west.

I have used Strava to plot out routes around Denver in order to string together potential new roads.  I turned there again in hopes that I could find some hidden gems. In doing this, my starting point was the town of Silt, Colorado.  I had never even pulled off I 70 here before, so new roads where guaranteed.Fork

Where are we

I was grateful to have a co-pilot that could help me navigate these unknown stretches of tarmac.  As we drove around, I was ashamed that I had never stopped here before.  Quiet roads and unbelievable views greeted us around every bend.

clouds

Saab story

I was fairly certain that some of these roads that were going to be dirt or gravel and wanted to first have a chance to drive them to see if they were going to rideable by road bike.  stuck in a rut

With the threat of rain looming on the horizon, when we hit this section, I thought it wise to try this road another day.  We turned back and headed in the direction that we had come from.  This turned out to be a great decision.  The sun was descending and soon we’d be treated to what many call magic or golden hour.

road worthyThese ranch lands had almost no traffic and the road surfaces were nothing less than fantastic.  I was really wishing that had time to suit up and get some miles in, but I really just wanted to hang out and see what the sunset had in store for us.

horse play

grass land

cat tail

As you can see, once again, Colorado did not disappoint. The chirping of the birds, the moos of the cattle, and the light of the day had me relishing in my decision to get off the highway and see what this spot had to offer.

rock bottom

on the fence

golden road

oh hay

As we stood there and witnessed the quiet solitude of Silt, I knew that this was a place I would revisit and couldn’t wait to do so.  The fire of adventure had been stoked on this day!

in the chute