Vail cycling: Lead riders take it easy for River Ride | VailDaily.com

Vail cycling: Lead riders take it easy for River Ride

Shauna Farnell
Vail, CO Colorado

SPT River Ride 1 DT 7-24-10

BEAVER CREEK – If anything is evident in the Colorado-Eagle River Ride, it’s that it is not a pursuit for amateurs.

Though there are a smattering of older riders and a few teens, clearly everyone who signs up for this endeavor knows what to do with two wheels and spends quite a bit of time on them – the skinny ones.

And we’re talking about more than a ride to the bar every now and then. There were, however, a handful of riders on mountain bikes and hybrids braving the event in its ninth year on Saturday.

The 2010 ride yielded about 800 cyclists in total, contributing to the proceeds that raise about $25,000 for Snowboard Outreach Society, a nonprofit founded in Vail that teaches children quality of life through snowboarding, skiing, biking, camping and number of educational outdoor pursuits.

A ride, not a race

The longest version of the ride begins in Avon, heads down highway 6 to Wolcott, then climbs Hwy 131, descends across State Bridge and turns onto the final, long beautiful stretch of mostly packed dirt on Colorado River Road to Dotsero before heading back to Avon on Hwy 6.

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This ride measurs just over 100 miles and gains about 3,500 feet, while a 68-mile version gains around 2,500 feet and finishes in Dotsero and a 42-mile ride goes to Eagle and back.

Though it is a ride and not a race, a pack of elite riders set the pace, the record of which clocks in at just more than four-and-a-half hours. In the event’s nine years, the leaders have often featured former Tour de France racers and champion bikers from across the country, but this year’s frontrunners were purely local hot shots (most of whom happen to be national and international champion athletes).

Adam Plummer is typically among the blazing lead peloton, but took a little longer than planned eating his breakfast on Saturday and was left behind, though he managed to catch the pack about 40 miles into the ride.

“They weren’t moving as fast as they sometimes do. It was really pretty relaxed this year,” Plummer said. “Sometimes those guys just go out and hammer the whole way, but this time it was a lot more social. It was a really fun ride.”

The leaders hit the finish at just over 5 hours but even those bringing up the tail end of the pack, like Golden residents Patti Schapiro and Jean Wallace, who finished the 68-mile course in about 7 hours, said it was “so worth it.”

“It was really the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever experience on any organized ride this close to Denver,” said Schapiro, who had originally planned to do the ride with her friend Ken, who passed away a few days ago, but whose photo she carried in her Camelback for motivation.

“He still did the ride with me,” she said. “That kept me going.”

Both women were doing the ride for the first time and though Wallace said it wasn’t easy, she said she couldn’t think of a better way to spend her day.

“It was really challenging, but totally rewarding,” she said.

Good weather

SOS and River Ride founder Arn Menconi said the weather was likely better than it’s ever been, dry and warm with only a slight breeze throughout the day, but as the sun got higher, heat radiated from the pavement, pedals didn’t churn as quickly, the road got longer and some riders flagged down the sag wagon for the final few miles.

“There was some fall out,” said Fred Rumford of Telluride, who finished his fourth River Ride Saturday, completing the 100-mile course in ample time to grab a couple of beers at the post-party at The Dusty Boot.

“We saw a few people waiting for the bus along Hwy 6. Well, they weren’t really waiting. They were just stopped and suffering.”

Rumford and his riding buddy, Chris Kehoe of Eagle, never succumbed to any kind of suffering, and said the ride was smooth, the aid stations placed better than in previous years and they managed to reel the road in and chat throughout the ride.

“This is a ride where you can tick the miles off quickly,” Kehoe said. “It’s really well organized – and there’s ice cream.”

As riders returned to the start and finish line at the Elk Lot below Beaver Creek, ice cream awaited, along with massage tables and shade.

Though there were plenty of flat tires and a couple of riders who said they pedaled through fainting spells, the carnage – or serious “fall out” – appeared to be at a minimum.

For more information about SOS Outreach or to make a donation, visit sosoutreach.org. To learn more about the River Ride or to keep tabs on next year’s event, visit http://www.vailvelo.com.