HOTSHOT at Ride The Rockies

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the annual Ride the Rockies Colorado Bicycle Tour. The six-day, cross-state tour attracts a growing community of cyclists each year. This weekend, more than 3,000 athletes will line up for a ride of a lifetime. Created by the Denver Post back in 1986, the tour has a different route each year. This year, HOTSHOT will be along the course offering muscle cramp relief through Grand Lake, Estes Park and Fort Collins from June 16 — June 17. Cyclist Don Richards has participated in the event each year since 1987 and shares his highlights and what keeps him coming back year after year. Read on:

How I first got involved with Ride the Rockies: While riding on a bike path on Independence Day, 1986, I beheld a large and long group of cyclists riding to the Tivoli near downtown Denver. Everyone was having great fun, so I followed them to what turned out to be the finish line for the very first Ride the Rockies tour. I spoke with several riders who shared their stories of six glorious days of cycling through some of Colorado’s most scenic areas, and I knew I had to sign up for it the next year. Registration for Ride the Rockies in the early years meant standing in line at the infamous Gart Sports Castle and hoping you were within the first 2,000 applicants. (Remember, this pre-dated the Internet. The online lottery came a few years later.)

My first Ride the Rockies tour in 1987 was 403 miles from Durango to Denver (also finishing at the Tivoli.) I did the tour on a 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper (with knobby tires). I wore gym shorts and polo shorts. I camped in gymnasiums in the host towns. The fourth day was 83 miles from Gunnison to Buena Vista by way of Monarch Pass, but there was a 17-mile option (and out-and-back to Ohio City). That might have been the toughest century I’ve ever done. Another highlight of my first tour was the Air Force flyover at Loveland Pass on the final day.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of the course? I predict that the most challenging parts will likely be Independence Pass, the 13 miles of gravel road north of Ute Pass and Trail Ridge Road. Each of these segments has been parts of previous RTR tours, and I remember them well.

How does one prep for Ride the Rockies? My goal has always been to have a thousand miles of training before the start of the tour. Unfortunately, this spring’s snowy and rainy weekends made it difficult to rack up that many miles, so many of us will likely be “training” on the tour itself! (I have actually always considered each event, whether it’s a weeklong tour or a one-day century to be a training ride for the next event.) My training is a mix of long-distance flatland rides and climbing rides. Because it’s often not possible to do training rides in the high mountains, I seek hilly areas west and south of Denver to train for climbing.

Advice for first-time participants in Ride the Rockies: Aside from the obvious recommendation to do a lot of pre-event training, I encourage first-time riders to remember that it’s not a race. Try to ride at a pace that will allow you to complete that day’s route before the afternoon thunderstorms start, but take time along the route to stop to enjoy the scenery, learn the history and meet the people along the way. Those are much more memorable aspects of the tour than being first to finish ever will be.






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