River Ride celebrates 10th anniversary | VailDaily.com

River Ride celebrates 10th anniversary

Melanie Wong
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT River Ride2 PU 7-23

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Nearly 11 years ago, a small group of local cyclists organized a group ride humorously labeled the “Tour de Roundabouts,” a route that went from Vail to Eagle and back.

The following year, in 2001, local cyclist Arn Menconi took the ride a step further and organized the first ever Colorado-Eagle River Ride as a charity event for his youth nonprofit, SOS Outreach. About 90 riders from the area took part in riding the 100-mile loop from Avon to Dotsero and back along the Colorado and Eagle rivers.

“It started out as a way to get a group of fast guys together, ride in a peleton, and have an excuse to make jerseys,” Menconi said. “Now, the ride has grown, has turned into an event that allows people to have fun and give back through their passion for a sport.”

This year, the Comcast Colorado-Eagle River Ride celebrates its 10th anniversary and is expected to draw more than 750 riders from all over the country.

Vail resident Greg Moffet has participated in the ride all 10 years and said he remembers being excited to have a local century ride. The route was a well-known one around town, but included long stretches without places to stop for food or water.

“It was well organized, and I remember thinking how much more fun it was to do that ride with food, and not getting thirsty between Avon and Gypsum,” Moffet said. “At the time I think my kids were barely old enough to ride bikes, and now I’ve ridden it with my daughter the past two years.”

Bruce Kelly, owner of Eagle-Vail bike shop Pedal Power, was also one of the original riders, and in fact suggested the route for the ride. Originally organizers had considered several other routes, including the Leadville loop, a mountainous route that includes Vail Pass and Tennessee Pass. Kelly said he suggested the Colorado-Eagle River Ride route, also known as the “Burns Loop,” because it was a gentler ride.

Today the ride offers 100 mile, 68 mile and 42 mile options and draws everyone from families out for a relaxing cruise to hard-charging groups of cyclists. Most notably, in 2008, then Tour de France winner Floyd Landis rode the ride – the event was nearly a year after he’d won the Tour, and in the midst of allegations that he was using performance-enhancing drugs.

“I think riding with Floyd Landis was a pretty big highlight for a lot of the guys around here,” Kelly said.

The combination of riding for a cause, the rider camaraderie and the draw of great riding has made the Colorado-Eagle River Ride into SOS Outreach’s biggest fundraiser, bringing almost $50,000 to the charity each year, Menconi said.

SOS Outreach aims to positively influence underprivileged youth through adventure sports such as snowboarding, skiing, backpacking and rock climbing.

The ride has become a community-based event, sponsored by local businesses, local bike shops and run by local volunteers.

Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland remembers volunteering for the first ride at the Catamount aid station, one of the most remote points of the ride. He passed out home-grown peaches to riders, he said. Now, he and his wife are yearly riders, but he said either way it’s fun to enjoy the summer weather and see friends on the road.

“You get good weather, great riding, and goes toward a good cause. It’s one of those things – like going to the post office and seeing all your friends,” he said.

Deb Benjamin of Venture Sports in Avon has also been involved over the years, as a rider and providing mechanical support for riders on the road.

“We support the (event) because it brings a lot of activity to town for that weekend, and lets riders experience a pretty ride in town,” she said. “Plus, it’s great to have a century ride in your front yard.”

The event even has a dedicated following of supporters who are not riders – Wolcott residents Dave and Sue Mott said they have run the aid station at the Wolcott Divide “since day one.”

“We just love being up there and welcoming everyone to our hometown,” Sue Mott said. “It’s great seeing everybody, and it’s something we look forward to every year.”

Melanie Wong is development manager for SOS Outreach.

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