Pedaling Eagle County
Vail CO Colorado
AVON – Rarely does a summer day go by in the valley when you don’t spot a cyclist wearing the bright red, orange or yellow jersey featuring an eagle flying out of the Colorado state “C,” the official emblem of the Colorado-Eagle River Ride. The annual fundraiser for Snowboard Outreach Society is just around the corner and has grown to be recognized as one of the region’s top century rides. Oh, and this year the jersey that comes with the ride fee is sporting a different look – one that will have people asking if you ride with Lance Armstrong because it bears a striking resemblance to his Team Radio Shack threads.
Open to cyclists of all skill levels, the ninth annual Colorado-Eagle River Ride is sponsored by The Dusty Boot and begins at 6:30 a.m. Saturday in Avon.
The ride features a 100-mile loop from Avon to Wolcott, up Highway 131 to Colorado River Road to Dotsero and back to Avon, but there is also a 100-kilometer loop that finishes in Dotsero with a shuttle ride back and a 42-mile out-and-back ride from Avon to Wolcott. Barely 100 cyclists participated when the ride began nine years ago, but two years ago, there were more than 1,000 cyclists, and the ride has become the biggest fundraiser for Snowboard Outreach Society, the Vail-based organization that now operates in eight states as well as in Canada and New Zealand, reaching nearly 5,000 children with the mission of teaching them healthy, active hobbies to inspire a positive and successful life.
“We raise over $25,000 for SOS through this ride,” said SOS founder and River Ride mastermind Arn Menconi. “One year after finishing, somebody gave us a check for $10,000. People forget that this is a charity ride. The other big rides like the Triple Bypass and the Copper Triangle event, they’re great rides but they don’t compare. The Burns loop is prettier, safer and it’s hard to do without support. Once you leave Wolcott, there’s almost no way to get water unless you rip off someone’s garden hose in McCoy. This ride and this event should be on every cyclist’s list every summer.”
The River Ride involves a series of rolling hills, including the descent to State Bridge, through the small areas of Burns and McCoy, and the highlight of the ride comes with the stretch along the Colorado River on a hard-packed dirt road that is perfectly smooth for skinny road bike tires.
“You could put slicks on a mountain bike, but a road bike is the way to go for this ride,” Menconi said. “But we’ll get everyone doing it from kids in their early teens to people in their 80s. It’s good there are three different rides people can choose from.”
The day begins with a pancake breakfast at 6 a.m. in Beaver Creek’s Elk Lot in Avon and then riders begin pedaling as they see fit between 7 and 8 a.m. Aid stations with snacks and refreshments are spotted throughout the ride. The after party takes place in The Dusty Boot at Beaver Creek, and riders finish at different times. The fast-moving lead pack, which is typically made up of local heroes – including this year’s River Ride ambassador, Mike Kloser – and sometimes even Tour de France and New York City Marathon champions -finishes the 100-mile loop in about four and a half hours, while slower riders take seven or hour hours to finish.
“We try to break five hours, both riding and resting,” said Menconi, who always pedals among the ride’s lead peloton. “The secret is to keep your heart rate down. I’ve always found this to be a very doable ride even without having a lot of training. If you keep your heart rate down, pedal steadily and stay aerobic. It’s almost no different than walking in the mall for seven hours. But the scenery is a little better. Especially once you hit Colorado River Road … it is breathtaking.”