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Lots of miles simpler with skinny tires

Shauna Farnell
Preston Utley/Vail DailyHundreds of slick road cyclists exit the Elk lot in Beaver Creek early Sunday morning to start the Colorado Eagle River Ride.
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Boy, do I love my road bike. Before I talk any non-road cyclists into an “easy,” “it’s not a race,” six-hour bike ride, I’ll think twice about equipment.As my parents pulled into the Beaver Creek East Lot in Avon before 7 a.m. Sunday, 80-pound hybrid bikes in tow, I could tell before they left the car how they were sizing up other riders and bikes doing the Fourth annual Colorado Eagle River Ride.Let’s face it, the ride, which goes from Avon to Wolcott, 1,300 feet up to the first aid station at the top of Wolcott Divide, then descends and meanders up and down small hills along beautiful Colorado River Road to Dotsero before doubling back to Avon on U.S. Highway 6 is no “anyone can do it” type of affair. A road-bike is definitely the way to go.

I also signed up my mountain-biking friend who has never been on a road bike. Rather than make the 100-kilometer route her crash course in road bike adaptation, I offered to ride my mountain bike, too. However, having given my dual-suspension bike with temperamental gears and lots of maddening creaks a final once-over, I – rather cruelly, some of you will say – rescinded my offer at the last minute. “Uh, sorry,” I said. “I’m going to ride my road bike. But don’t worry. I’ll go slow.”I wouldn’t say the ride was entirely effortless for me, but I wish my friend – who, by the way, had no clipless pedals or slicks on her mountain bike – could have gotten a taste of a 68-mile road ride on a road bike. True, my road machine – a seven-speed Fuji with crossbar shifting, dating, I would guess, around circa 1987 or so – isn’t the finest vehicle itself. But it weighs a mere fraction of my friend’s 10-year-old hard tail, not to mention just a sliver of my parents’ steamrollers.My parents were miles behind us, slogging along with canvas bags, which somewhere within the duration of the ride, came to be known as “suitcases,” jostling heavily on their handle bars. And my friend, who had to do three pedal strokes for every one of mine to go the same speed, was about 25 miles away from the finish when she politely informed me that she couldn’t talk any more. With these details having a shoving match with my guilty conscience, I still thoroughly enjoyed the ride, every second of it. Endorphins got the better of my conscience, guilty or not.I don’t think I’ve every been a part of such a luxury-endowed cycling event. Not only did it begin with a pancake breakfast, but the pancakes came with blueberries and/or chocolate chips. Not only were there aid stations placed every 20-or-so miles, but there were signs informing you that you were about to reach the next one. Not only was the weather not excruciatingly hot, but the temperature, especially at the beginning during the longest climb, was absolutely perfect.

Not only were there dozens of super friendly Snowboard Outreach Society staff and volunteers manning all of the aid stations, but the volunteers drove up and down the course all day, making sure everyone was in fair condition. Not only was there an ice cream truck at mile No. 68 – which for us, was the finish line – but the truck was available outside of Agave during the post party, too.As my friend and I climbed one of the numerous short hills between Bond and Dotsero, I continually worried about my parents. I knew some people met with bad luck during the ride. I ran into one lady who was on her second tube well before the halfway mark and later found a staple inside of her tire. I heard tales of riders accidentally nudging their friends’ handle bars or wheels and crashing, and about a couple of nonfatal cyclist-versus-car collisions. We were passed by several sag wagons, all driven by volunteers asking out the window if everything was OK. Then we were passed by one that had a pair of giant construction rigs hanging out the back. On second glance, I saw they were my parents’ bicycles. The car pulled over, and both Mom and Dad were smiling and waving out the windows. They had flagged down the sag wagon at Mile No. 43, simply feeling that they’d ridden enough. It was their plan to be dropped off a half-mile from the finish so they could pedal the rest of the way in and then ask us what took so long once we showed up. As the Race Across America teams and other bionic cyclists were heading up the ride, breezing back into Avon in the time it took us to hit the halfway mark, my parents were pedaling furiously to make it to the aid stations before they closed down.



Cut short as it may have been, though, they still had a spectacular time. It was their first cycling event, and, much like anything that ends in margaritas, an exhilarating success. For those non-versed in long road trips on two wheels, however, the Colorado Eagle River Ride was one big, effective advertising campaign. If you’re going to stick to the pavement for dozens of miles at one go, it might be time for some skinny tires.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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