Time to hit the road | VailDaily.com

Time to hit the road

Daily file photo Riders in the Vail Daily Colorado-Eagle River Ride exit the Beaver Creek East Lot last July to begin their 100 mile journey. This year's race starts at 7 a.m. this Sunday.
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What better a way to celebrate Lance Armstrong’s record-breaking sixth Tour de France victory Sunday than to hit the road for a scenic 100-mile ride along the Colorado and Eagle rivers? That’s what the Vail Daily Colorado-Eagle River Ride organizers Ron Swan and Arn Menconi are thinking as they gear up for the annual event this Sunday at 7 a.m.Now in its third year, the river ride is expected to draw as many as 400 riders this year, said Swan and Menconi, ahead of last year’s number of 260.The event has gained participants through repeat riders promoting the event through word-of-mouth as well as sound marketing. Still, both cycling enthusiasts admit that the sport’s biggest ambassador and his push for six Tour titles may be the thing most responsible for getting people back on road bikes and wanting to enter events such as theirs. “I think that probably road biking now is close to its zenith or at its zenith as a result of Lance,” Swan said.Menconi himself said that Armstrong’s influence in selling the sport of cycling is the equivalent to what Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have done for golf and basketball, respectively.People get excited about Lance Armstrong, he said. In turn, they get excited about road biking. The latter reaction is the one which is a bonus for the two local nonprofits linked to the event, the Snowboard Outreach Society, of which Menconi is founder and president, as well as the Eagle County Youth Coalition.

“Lance’s impact is huge,” Menconi said. “That’s why we have it on the 25th, the last day of the Tour because the fever that everyone has in regards to the Tour is incredible. Lance is one of those guys that you wish that the sport could package and preserve because cycling has grown exponentially as a result of his face being the sport. If a sport doesn’t have a face to it, you can’t get as emotionally involved.”Why pick this race? There are a myriad of summer endurance events in the valley to choose from, including another 100-mile bike race in August. So, why would locals choose to ride in this Sunday’s river ride?Swan said the answer is easy.”First, because it’s a local Eagle Valley event,” he said. “Secondly, it benefits charities that are in Eagle County. Third, because it’s a very scenic ride and, fourth, because it is a ride which most people are able to do. It’s not what you would call the most difficult of endurance rides.”Swan actually said the adjective that gets tossed around the most when he hears people talking about the ride is “doable.””It’s nothing like the Triple Bypass or the Ultra 100, for instance,” he said. “I think that different events appeal to different people for reasons. If you’re looking for a real challenge and it’s mountain biking, then yes, it would be the Ultra 100 or the Triple Bypass. For this event, it’s something that’s more scenic and enjoyable.”

Menconi is an avid mountain biker himself, who enjoys pushing himself. The river ride appeals to him as an athlete, however, and to other people because it is a ride, not a race. “This one is more what you would call a citizen’s ride,” Menconi said. “It’s a softer, gentler endurance race, if you will. What’s kind of ironic here is when you call 100 miles in Colorado easy. It’s still challenging, but not as challenging as something like the Triple Bypass. Our age bracket is maybe late 40, early 50s. This is for a person who rides regularly and has done some distance work.”Local world-renowned adventure racer Mike Kloser, this year’s race ambassador, said that he likes the river ride for the scenic views and the social camaraderie. After pushing himself to the limit last weekend at the 105-mile Balance Bar 24-Hour Race at Beaver Creek, Kloser is looking forward to hitting the pavement with his wife, Emily, this weekend for a relaxing ride. Or, at least a relaxing ride for Mike Kloser standards. “I’m going to ride with her at the start, and then as you get to the Wolcott climb, things typically tend to sort themselves out based on ability,” Kloser said. “I like it because it’s typically very social. Most people are just out to enjoy the day and the beautiful scenery.”Alternative routes

You don’t actually have to do a full 100 miles when you sign up for the river ride. The event actually offers a 100-kilometer route as well as a 45-mile route giving participants three options depending on their ability.”I could see families doing it, I can see every age group doing it,” Swan said. “We’ve specifically structured it so that you have an option. The 100K route was originally designed as a mountain back route. If you want to get a little bit of a taste of the 100-mile route in anticipation of perhaps doing it next year, we are going to have some buses available at Dotsero, so that rather than going out and back to Dotsero, you can start out at the East Beaver Creek lot go to Wolcott, follow the 100 mile route and end at Dotsero.”Menconi joked that the number of options afforded to riders is almost overkill. “I said we should get some flat bed trucks and put some stationary bikes back there, so people could pedal on them while they got driven around,” he said jokingly.Just remember to put some TV’s back there, so racers can watch Lance win while they get tugged along.For information on the pre-race pancake breakfast and post-race party, as well as route maps and registration materials go to http://www.sosrace.net.Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com