Haute Route Rockies time trial tests cyclists
AVON — After three demanding stages in the heartland of Colorado’s Rocky mountains, cyclists in the Haute Route Rockies peloton enjoyed a shorter day’s work during Stage 4’s individual time trial on Tuesday.
In hot summer weather, the 450 strong peloton took on the 10.5-mile course featuring 2,133 feet of climbing, one by one, from Avon up to Wildridge.
Riders were faced with a decision before the start: go on the attack or treat the two climbs as a recovery ride, knowing that a Tag Heuer watch was the reward for the fastest man and woman to reach the summit.
Riding in the middle of the pack, Raymond McLellan, of Scotland, hadn’t yet decided on his strategy before setting off the start ramp.
“It’s going well so far,” he said at the start. “I don’t know if I will go easy or push myself. I will see how I feel.”
Phil Southerland, the founder of Team Type 1 Foundation, the Haute Route’s Official Charity — whose goal is to help people to survive and thrive while living with Type 1 diabetes — had a clear plan in mind this morning.
“I will go as easy as I can go today,” Southerland said. “If I can do that my legs will be better … Every day here is a big day. There have been tough moments but good people, good atmosphere, beautiful roads.”
After a rolling first 4 miles out of Nottingham Park and into east Avon and back, riders took a right turn on Buck Creek Road to begin a 2.5-mile climb. Unusual for an Haute Route event, the first climb was followed by a ripping descent with four switchbacks. Riders then climbed up 2 miles to the finish of the time trial at Wildridge, 8,566 feet above sea level.
Haute Route veteran Will Levy said the unique nature of Tuesday’s time trial offered something for everyone.
“It’s not like the time trials we’ve done in Europe in the past,” Levy said. “Flat, uphill, downhill — I loved it and I’m sure the others did as well.”
Atop Wildridge, American Kevin Batchelor said he started the day thinking he would take it easy.
“Then the legs felt pretty good, so I figured I might just keep it up and start doing some work,” he said. “I hit the first climb and I was good so I kept going.”
For Roberto Pastori from Italy, the altitude was a game changer.
“The time trial was tougher than I thought,” he said. “The altitude makes it difficult. We are Italian, our climbs are very hard and steeper but at lower altitude.”
The quickest rider on the day was American Tim Johnson, less than a second faster than overall leader Matt Busche.
In the women’s ranking, the overall leader Emma Pooley was again the fastest female, 3 minutes behind Tim Johnson.
With Tuesday’s work done, the riders enjoyed some well-earned recovery and relaxation in Avon. With three stages still to come, the mighty Independence Pass, the event’s highest mountain climb, is on the program for today.
Spectators may rise early and cheer on the cyclists as they leave Avon at 6 a.m. for a 102-mile journey over Battle Mountain, Tennessee, and Independence passes to Snowmass Village.
The first ever week of Haute Route riding in North America features a total of 507 miles of riding in the spectacular setting of the Rocky Mountains and 49,260 feet of climbing. The event finishes on Friday in Colorado Springs.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.