AVON — You may have noticed a cyclist or two more than usual riding down U.S. Highway 6 on Wednesday afternoon.
That would be 2,000 bicyclists rolling into Avon’s Nottingham Park, to be exact, part of the Denver Post Ride the Rockies. The six-day, 471-mile ride ended its fourth day in Avon. Riders started Wednesday morning from Steamboat Springs. Thursday morning, the ride will move on to Breckenridge via Battle Mountain, Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass.
The route changes every year, but the ride does guarantee full support across the some of the most breathtaking roads in Colorado. Different host cities are chosen as the stopping points each year. Avon, no stranger to hosting cycling events (it has played host to the USA Pro Challenge, Ride the Rockies and the Triple Bypass), pulled all the stops to welcome the bike caravan and traveling event staff.
The town provided a beer garden and live music from local musicians, including Jake Wolf & Friends, School of Rock and more. Wednesday night, the park was dotted with a multitude of tents as many riders camp throughout the tour. Still others poured into Avon restaurants to fuel up for the next day or rented a hotel or condo to rest in luxury.
Snow, then sun
Austin, Texas, resident Jamie Stowers was among the first handful of riders to arrive in Avon Wednesday morning, facing a headwind and looming clouds. She was participating in her second Ride the Rockies, riding with her father and brother as a sort of family reunion on wheels.
“I did it back in 2005, and I’m back again because it’s been too long,” she said. “Today’s route was beautiful, and you just can’t get these views riding on your own. You get to be well supported and can enjoy the ride knowing you have what you need.”
Stowers and other riders said the warm weather and sunshine they’ve experienced the last few days was welcome after a snowstorm on Berthoud Pass on Day 1 nearly derailed some riders.
Denver rider Scott Bechler shook his head remembering the snowy ride.
“It’s the Rockies in June. You never know,” said Bechler, who has done the ride almost every year since 1998.
Stowers said she recalled shivering her way up the pass in shorts and long sleeves in temperatures that sank into the 20s.
“That first day almost sent me home. As I was riding that last mile, it dawned on me that I’d have to stay at the top or ride down. When I got to the top and found out there was a warming hut, I nearly cried,” Stowers said. “I ended up meeting two people in the hut who invited me to stay with them in their condo that night, and later at the grocery store I was shivering uncontrollably and this lady I didn’t even know wrapped her arms around me and helped me around the store. I’ve just been blown away by the kindness that people have shown on this ride.”
Benefiting Colorado charities
Ride the Rockies was first created in 1986, and grants made to Colorado charities are a part of the tour since 1991. Nonprofits from each of the towns on the Ride the Rockies route are invited to apply for a $5,000 grant. This year the organization gave out $30,000 in total to a charity in each of the host cities.
Avon’s recipient was SOS Outreach, a Vail Valley-based youth development nonprofit that teaches kids leadership through a variety of outdoor activities. SOS Vice President of Operations Seth Ehrlich said the grant money will go toward providing year-round activities for 240 kids in their advanced leadership program, called University. In addition to skiing and snowboarding in the winter, participants will also get to rock climb, hike, mountain bike, camp and backpack this summer.
A silent auction tent travels to each town to the finish area for the day, where riders and visitors can bid on items throughout the tour. The silent auction has been part of the ride for 14 years.
“Every year our host communities go out of their way to make the cyclists feel welcome,” said Chandler Smith, tour director. “By providing a grant to each town, we are able to give back to the communities which help to make this event possible.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.