‘Tour de Grand’: Ride the Rockies rolls through Grand County this week
What is Ride the Rockies?
In 1986, 1,500 cyclists pedaled off on a 300-plus mile citizen’s tour that crossed three mountain passes and became an annual tradition called Ride The Rockies. The tour that Outside Magazine called a “celebration of fitness” now celebrates its 33rd year as a beloved Colorado institution sponsored by the Denver Post Community Foundation. Ride The Rockies embraces not only cyclists but the towns, sponsors, volunteers and Colorado residents who enjoy following the annual multi-day event. Ride The Rockies’ route is different each year, but always climbs a few challenging mountain passes and showcases the state’s spectacular scenery. Daily treks can be as short as 45 miles or as long as 100 miles, but generally average 65-75 miles.
Dennis Moynihan believes he’s ready.
He’s tuned his bicycle, trained his endurance and paid hundreds of dollars in entry fees.
For the Grand County resident, the physical and mental preparation is nearly over as the 2018 Ride the Rockies kicks off this weekend in Breckenridge, stopping overnight next week in Winter Park and Grand Lake.
Moynihan, founder of KFFR 88.3 FM based in Fraser, will join nearly 2,000 cyclists in the epic six-day, 418-mile Ride the Rockies tour as it traverses the Rocky Mountains.
“It has been a challenge to budget training time,” Moynihan said. “But we have quite an advantage since we live at elevation.”
Grand County will play a major part in this year’s massive bike tour as three of the tour’s six days will focus on local road routes in the tour. The towns of Grand Lake and Winter Park will also host the riders overnight, following massive receptions for the thousands of participants and their supporters who follow. The race and its influx of people means quite a boon for local economies as riders plan to fill hotel rooms and patronize local businesses and restaurants.
The tour begins Sunday in Breckenridge, with riders navigating roadways along the I-70 corridor to Edwards then up to Steamboat Springs before heading over to Grand Lake on Wednesday, Winter Park on Thursday and then back to the starting point in Breckenridge.
All told, riders will encounter a total elevation gain of 25,000 feet.
Moynihan, and his wife, Trish Schoch, who will be riding alongside him, couldn’t be more excited. While he noted the tremendous elevation gain riders will need to overcome on several legs of the ride, he said he would be skipping out on the Grand Lake to Winter Park segment of Ride the Rockies to oversee KFFR business that day. The local radio station will be doing its first-ever live remote broadcast Thursday from Hideaway Park.
GRAND LAKE on Wednesday
Riders will pedal up and over Rabbit Ears Pass from Steamboat Springs on Wednesday and continue south to Kremmling where they will then turn east and follow the Colorado River to Grand Lake. Wednesday will be the longest single-day segment of Ride the Rockies, totalling 94.3 miles. Riders will then stay overnight in Grand Lake.
The Grand Lake community is in the thick of preparations for the massive amount of visitors expected with Ride the Rockies and, according to Grand Lake Chamber Director Samantha Bruegger, all overnight lodging accommodations within the town have been reserved for the evening. Additional space has been set aside for riders to camp at the Grand Lake Center and at Triangle Park.
The community will be accommodating riders in a variety of ways. Meals provided by the Grand Lake Women’s Club, Stone Creek Catering and Pancho & Lefty’s will be provided at the Grand Lake Center, which is serving as the headquarters for the welcome event on Wednesday. There will be evening entertainment at the Town Square Park to include live music from local band Martin and Taylor as well as an Odell Beer Garden.
Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White noted that the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce and Volunteer Coordinator Judy Tumblin are handling most of the planning and liaison duties for the community but stressed how excited he was about the upcoming event.
“The town is very proud to host Ride the Rockies,” White said. “It is an upscale, upbeat event and we are pleased they are coming back.”
Many of the businesses in Grand Lake are gearing up for host day including one of Grand Lake’s newest establishments, the Grand Lake Bike Company. The business is planning a book release and signing party for a book written by one of the business’s owners, Scott Hicks, about the history of mountain biking in Grand County. That event begins at 5 p.m.
WINTER PARK on Thursday
Riders will emerge from their tents and lodging accommodations Thursday morning for the shortest leg of the week-long tour, a 31.3 mile ride to Winter Park that will take riders up to the Granby mesa via County Road 61. After a brief pit stop at Polhamus Park in Granby, riders will continue south through Tabernash and Fraser to the host community of Winter Park.
Headquarters for the stopover in Winter Park will technically be in Fraser, at the Grand Park Community Recreation Center. The Fraser River Valley Lions Club will provide lunch on Thursday and breakfast on Friday. Entertainment Friday night will be at Hideaway Park and includes live performances by Intuit Band and the Gasoline Lollipops.
Fraser & Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Catherine Ross said she is trilled to have Ride the Rockies back in Winter Park after a somewhat troubled year in 2014, the last time the tour went through Winter Park, when snow and inclement weather prevented many riders from making a trip up and over Berthoud Pass.
“We are excited and appreciate the community support,” Ross said. “We are ready to show them why we are a top adventure town. We are hoping for a less dramatic year (than in 2014).”
Deirdre Moynihan, tour director for Ride the Rockies this year, is hurriedly finalizing the last details as she works through to the start of the ride on Sunday.
There are roughly 2,100 riders registered for the event this year, though she noted that each year approximately 200 riders who are registered do not actually make it for the ride due to “life circumstances” ranging from injuries to new job responsibilities. While Moynihan did not have specific figures for the 2018 ride, her data from 2017 shows that the average age of riders in 2017 was 52. The oldest rider registered this year is an 84-year-old man from California.
“I’m going to guess we have a younger crowd (this year),” Moynihan remarked. “We have marketed it to a younger population.”
Dennis Moynihan is Deirdre Moynihan’s brother. He said he wanted to support her as she takes the reins of the popular cycling tour for the first time, calling it a “big job.”
Dennis Moynihan, who will tour for the first time this year, has been fitting training rides into his work schedule for the last several months including cycling tours throughout portions of California as well as a recent completion of the Santa Fe Century, a 100-mile cycling tour through portions of northern New Mexico.
There are 11 riders this year registered whose addresses are listed in Grand County, according to Deirdre Moynihan, including Winter Park Mayor Jimmy Lahrman and his son.
Lahrman will be riding with his 15-year-old son, providing a great bonding experience, with the tour wrapping up just before Father’s Day.
“This has been on my bucket list for a long time,” Lahrman said. “I am excited my son wanted to join in and do it with me.”
Lahrman said he is looking forward to all portions of the tour, but was especially excited that Grand County will be such a central part of this year’s event.
“I am particularly excited we are getting an opportunity to showcase our entire county to 2,500 riders,” Lahrman said. “There is virtually no area of the county that doesn’t get showcased.”
With the addition of thousands of cyclists on the roadways throughout the competition, safety becomes a concern, for both the riders and the public.
Ride the Rockies involves local and state law enforcement agencies as well as medical professionals in the tour. A team of 30 riding medics will cycle the tour with participants and are often the first responders on scene in the inevitable event of crashes, which can range from minor road rash incidents to more severe accidents. There has been two accident-related deaths over the 32-year history of Ride the Rockies, according to Moynihan.
The Tour Director also noted six Colorado State Patrol troopers are assigned to the event and can often be found at particular junctions on the route.
“From Steamboat to Grand Lake we take the left on Highway 34,” Moynihan said, referencing the intersection just west of downtown Granby where riders will turn off of U.S. Highway 40 onto U.S. Highway 34. “You will see one of our friendly Colorado State patrolmen there.”
Lt. Dan Mayer of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office said a multi-agency meeting is scheduled for Monday next week to help coordinate local response plans in the event of a major emergency, but highlighted the general need for caution and patience from local drivers.
“Our biggest message is please drive carefully those three days,” Mayer said. “There will be cyclists everywhere.”
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