First, an introduction to our Colorado resident expert, the man with the secret plans, Sam Parker. Sam and I went to high school and college in Colorado. We go way back to when we were skinny, had hair and no beer guts. Pleistocene era or something like that.
He still lives up in the mountains doing avalanche control and celebrity guest control for Beaver Creek resorts. He also runs a bike and ski shop called Podium Sports which is a must-visit in Frisco.
He’s also worked closely with the Davis Phinney Connie Carpenter cycling camps for many a year. That’s a damn solid resume for all things related to rocky mountains and road biking in Colorado.
I asked Sam what he’s hearing about the routes and what he’d guess makes the most sense based on his long experience. Here’s his un-edited wisdom on the possible scenarios for each stage. We think he’s high on plausibility and probability. Take it away, Sam….
Prologue – Colorado Springs. Could be a downtown thing to draw attention to efforts to actually create a city center in one of the most conservative towns in the country. Can you say ‘military’? I knew that you could. Maybe it would be out at the Air Force Academy to pay tribute to UCI Pro Worlds course back in ’80 or ’90 something. I can’t remember if Moreno Argentine or Rudy Dhanens or someone like that won it.
The 1990 Jr. Worlds ran through Garden of the Gods Park and had spectacular scenery. Given the fact that by nature, prologues are short, I would think that the city center scenario would be more attractive to city marketers but Garden of the Gods is a spectacular setting with big red sandstone rock formations.
Stage 1 – Salida to Crested Butte. Least complicated route is straight up Colorado hwy 50 up and over Monarch Pass to Gunnison and then from Gunnison up Colorado 135 to Crested Butte. The climb up Monarch goes from 7,036 ft in Salida to 11,312 ft at top of pass, just under 4300ft vertical within the first 20 miles of route.
Once off the descent, it’s rolling all the way to Crested Butte. My understanding is that the finish is in the ski resort village and not in the town of CB itself. Town is at 8906ft, ski area base is at 9413, just another 500 vertical in 2 plus miles or so depending on actual finish line location. Would be around 100 miles distance for stage.
Stage 2 – Gunnison to Aspen. Its been suggested in some posts that it will go east over Cottonwood Pass (if they went over Monarch the day before) and then hit the valley floor in Buena Vista to go north to Twin Lakes and then up and over Independence Pass to Aspen.
This would be spectacular and double the vertical from the day before and absolutely brutal in mileage. Independence Pass has the most terrific scenery and above tree-line tundra and cliffs in the state. Will be brutal and long. 8000ft vertical if they do it this way and nearly 150 miles.
Stage 3 – Vail Pass Time Trial. I’ve read that it will be on the old Coors Classic course which goes along the service road parallel to I-70 going east out of Vail Village. The route is on public road for 2/3rds of the route then past a gate onto old road that is part of the Vail Pass recreation (bike) path to finish in a cul-de-sac. Between 10-12 miles and elevation gain of 1500ft.
Back in ’88 or ’89 (the year Davis Phinney won the overall for the Coors) Andy Hampsten won this time trial. Organizers had forgotten to schedule announcer for the time trial finish and I was tagged to do it because I’d done a bunch of announcing before for small local bike races. Guys were doing the whole thing in the big ring. It was impressive.
Stage 4 – Avon to Steamboat. The most likely route would be to head west out of Avon on Colorado 6 parallel to I-70 to Wolcott and then turn north on Colorado 131. From here I suspect it will go north through State Bridge, McCoy, Taponas, Yampa, Oak Creek and then into Steamboat. About 80 miles this way through rolling, high, very typical Colorado ranch country.
If they wanted to make it more interesting though, at Taponas they would go east on Colorado 134 over short gentle climbs of Lynx Pass and Gore Pass to US 40 just north of Kremmling and then head north over Rabbit Ears Pass and into Steamboat. It would be way more interesting and around 120 miles with the ascent of Rabbit Ears adding 1600ft vertical right at the end before the 2800 ft vertical descent and last 5 miles into town.
Stage 5 – Steamboat to Breckenridge. Reverse the route and head up out of Steamboat going south on US 40 immediately onto Rabbit Ears Pass. From town you gain that 2800 ft very quickly, within the first 10 miles or so. I rode this as part of a 120 mile loop back when I was a young man and started up out of Steamboat after 75 miles. At the time I was looking for any excuse to get off my bike but started to feel much better after topping out. Funny how good it feels to stop climbing sometimes.
Route would then continue south through rolling ranch country until Kremmling at about the 50 mile mark. Decision time. Stay on course going due south from Kremmling onto Colorado 9 to Silverthorne and then up to Dillon and next to shores of Lake Dillon to Breckenridge. About 110 miles and most of the climbing done on Rabbit Ears.
The rest of the route would be rolling. If they wanted to make it interesting, they could go east out of Kremmling to Williams Fork Rd and begin about 30 miles going south over some of the smoothest dirt road in the area, which would then take you up and over Ute Pass and back to Colorado 9 about 12 miles north of Silverthorne. That would be my vote. Way cooler and the view from top of Ute Pass looking at the heart of the Gore Range will be absolutely terrific.
If they are going to put any dirt into the mix for this week, this would be the place to do it. Very well maintained (people drive 60 miles an hour on this dirt road because they can) and by the time they get to the climb over Ute Pass they are back on pavement.
Stage 6 – Golden to Denver. Not a clue here for the route. Maybe they would go up to the west to gain elevation up over Lookout Mountain past Buffalo Bill’s Grave and them back down Mt. Vernon Canyon (US 6 and I-70 are parallel here) past Mother Cabrini Shrine and then into Denver via some route.
Otherwise it would be a pretty boring flat stage to finish at the Capitol Building maybe. If they go the easy way to Breckenridge the day before (not adding Ute Pass) they may add this climb on last day.
A guy who puts on several mass start events around the state is on the organizing board and he finishes one of his events at the Capitol. Good showcase for outgoing democratic Governor Ritter, a cyclist himself and big help in getting the event off the ground, and for incoming Dem Governor Hickenlooper (most recent Mayor of Denver).
Thank-you, Sam. That is the kind of thinking you can only get from someone who has lived, biked and skied in the Colorado Rockies his whole life. If anybody has other route prognostications, fire way. Sam, will be happy to answer follow-ups.