16 June 2010

Bicycle Tour of Colorado - revisited

Yes, I've ridden Bicycle Tour of Colorado too

Update 2015: Route of 2015 Bicycle Tour of Colorado
Update 2013: June in Colorado and the big rides begin
Update 2012: 2012 Bicycle Tour of Colorado Route

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Bicycle Tour of Colorado begins this weekend, from June 20-26, 2010. The next year after our unforgettable (trying to forget) trip to Ride the Rockies (RtR) in 2008, we tried again. This time we tried Bicycle Tour of Colorado in 2009. I know, I can't believe I did it again. But this Tour is quite different than RtR, this tour is always a loop ride. You begin and start in the same town, which is a huge saver of time and money and logistics.

Bicycle Tour of Colorado (BTC) is also different because we rode 550 miles in 6 days of riding, with almost 28,000 feet of climbing. To complete this tour, you have to be able to ride a bike, well. The level of riders at BTC versus RtR was much much higher. These riders woke early, rode hard, and were very capable. Generally the BTC riders are far more independent, the aid stations are very simple, and there was little sense of the event that is RtR.

BTC attracts many riders from states outside of Colorado. It provides simple assistance to riders, the usual sag support, massage, morning breakfasts (reported to be not so good), and mechanic support (experienced to be not so good). Although there were some fabulously helpful Zipp Wheel demo guys (thanks Brad!) who basically saved my weeks vacation by giving me a set of wheels every day when my back hub had serious problems.

Bicycle Tour of Colorado is an event for real endurance cyclists. Most riders at this level are capable of taking care of themselves and were happy with hotels, camping services by Shuttleguy (quite good), shower trailers (adequate, but they needed one more for the men), and were happy finding meals in the local towns (which at times, hardly seemed like they got the word we were coming).

The best part of Bicycle Tour of Colorado was Monica. Monica joined Christy and I as the core threesome who went through the week together. Monica is a strong rider with a wonderful sense of humor and a go-with-the-flow manner. Whenever the three of us were together we would relax entirely. My favorite day was a 96-mile ride from Montrose, CO to Crested Butte, CO. The three of us rode together in a perfect paceline, separating on the climbs, only to come back together again on the descents or rest stops. I greatly enjoyed their company.

We were also tremendously fortunate to find shelter from a rainy night in our tents (and local black bear) in Crested Butte when a very nice couple from Texas put us up in their vacation house they were renting for 2-weeks. We had two comfy dry nights away from our otherwise fine camping service.

I have to admit we sagged! This is more like a confession. Something I thought I would never do, but I rather enjoyed. I sagged from the last rest stop into Grand Junction when my rear wheel stopped spinning correctly on the descent off the Grand Mesa. Monica and Christy sagged the highway section into Montrose, simply because they had the brilliant idea not to ride along side the loud enormous semi-trucks.

We met lots of friendly riders from Wisconsin, California, and Canada. Bicycle Tour of Colorado is a Tour I would consider doing again - with the right group. Oh and Christy wants to get a band bus and a driver next time. Just like Christy, the one with bigger ideas every year.

This year I am heading to ride in France, no week long bike tours. However Christy and I will be together at the Copper Triangle ride this year. I can't wait.

route of the 2010 Bicycle Tour of Colorado:
  • Day 1: Glenwood Springs to Hotchkiss 78.6 miles
  • Day 2: Hotchkiss to Grand Junction 90 miles
  • Day 3: Grand Junction to Montrose 60 miles (+40 miles)
  • Day 4: Montrose to Crested Butte 90.7 miles
  • Day 5: Rest day in Crested Butte
  • Day 6: Crested Butte to Buena Vista 54.9 miles - 74 miles (storm!)
  • Last Day: Buena Vista to Glenwood Springs 101.9 miles
Nice cyclists, pretty simple aid stations. In fact it looks like these people are wandering around looking for it.

Monica and I at the Start in Glenwood Springs, CO. Life gets simple pretty quickly on a week long bike tour. I like knowing all I have to do is wake and get myself on my bike to the next town. We had much more time on BTC to relax and chat. RtR seemed more chaotic.

(Left) Grabbing a breakfast burrito, along the side of the road in a town on the way up the Grand Mesa climb. Karen F. joined us at times on the ride as well, and for meals, and hosted a party with Paul in Crested Butte for everyone. (Right) Christy and I having fun at the top of Grand Mesa, CO - a long climb.

Monica & Christy in Crested Butte after a wonderful trailer shower. The next day would be a rest day.

We had a great rest day in Crested Butte, CO.

(Left) A beautiful road from Buena Vista (Twin Lakes) over Independence Pass to Aspen. (Right) At the top of the Pass. Some snow remained in June.

Should you ride Ride the Rockies or Bicycle Tour of Colorado?

Ride the Rockies was known to be much easier than Bicycle Tour of Colorado, but after last year when RtR was too easy, and BTC was too hard, both have worked to make their routes more moderate. RtR is a lottery system always ensuring they are booked to capacity. BTC still has slots available for 2010.

My suggestion would be, if you have ridden a road bike for 2-15 years, expect a number of services, like the social scene, attention from volunteers, extra activities, and consider a week long bike tour a fun challenge you would like to achieve? Then sign up for Ride the Rockies. If you have ridden a road bike for 5-20 years, know how to train, know how to fuel your body for long rides, don't need many other services, and are not a high stress rider or person? You belong at Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

If you want to stay up late partying and like to eat porkchops and pie in between your miles on a bike - go to Ragbrai. If you like the comfort of riding with a few of your friends over quiet mountain roads, then plan your own weekend-warrior getaway with a great sag person, (a good option).

Also the week of Ride the Rockies in 2008 cost us each about $1400 for the week, with hotels. Bicycle Tour of Colorado in 2009 was more in the range of $700-800 for the week. The Nuclear Bunny Blog wrote a post about the ride 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado. I wrote a previous post on Ride the Rockies - revisted in June 2010. And another post in May 2010 about Cycling Events in Colorado On Your Left. I've done Ragbrai too, so I suppose I'll be writing on that friendly Iowan event soon.

If you are interested in other Bike Tours in Colorado please read: PedalDancer.com Tours of Colorado