Cyclists on Colorado Rocky Mountain Bicycle Tour enjoy challenge, seeing the sights

A quartet of cyclists, structural engineers from Seattle, exit Saturday off Interstate 70 in Palisade. The riders were completing the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bicycle Tour, which started last week.

Denise Linn couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride riding her bicycle along with others over some of Colorado’s mountain passes.

It wasn’t so much a sense of accomplishment as it was seeing others enjoy the fifth annual Colorado Rocky Mountain Bicycle Tour, which concluded Saturday at Grand Junction High School.

“Almost everybody (on the tour) is from different states,” Linn said. “I’d say 70 percent of the people I met were from out-of-state. Everybody was enjoying it so much, it made me proud to be from Colorado.”

The 493-mile ride started a week ago today in Grand Junction and went through the Black Canyon, over Cottonwood Pass into Buena Vista, Independence Pass into Aspen, McClure Pass to Hotchkiss and over Grand Mesa back to Grand Junction.

It was Linn’s first Rocky Mountain tour, but hardly her biggest accomplishment.

Two years ago, she rode her bicycle from one coast to the other in 52 days.

“I didn’t want to be away from my husband and puppy dog that long,” Linn said. “This way, I can get some good bike riding in and not have to go too far away from home.”

Linn, 53, of Longmont enjoyed the smaller size (close to 200 riders), scenery and proximity to home.

She also appreciated riding some of the same routes the competitive professional cyclists will ride in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in one week.

“We talked about how slow we were going and how fast they’ll be going,” Linn said with a smile. “We feel like we’re cruising right along, then we would make comments, ‘Yeah, wait until those guys get here.’ All over the world there is some great cycling, but only in Colorado can you get the sustained hill climbs for 25-30 miles.”

The challenge and scenery of the mountain passes is what lured four structural engineers from the Seattle-metro area to ride the tour.

Rob Freelove, Tom Koehler, Gary Womeldorff and Jim Huck of Everett, Wash., arrived in Grand Junction a day early, rode through Colorado National Monument and visited downtown prior to the tour.

Koehler said the highlight of the ride was making it up to the top of the 12,126-foot summit on Cottonwood Pass.

“We were looking for a great ride, something four of us could do and this suited us well,” Koehler said. “They organizers did a good job.”

Bob Hoffman, 59, of Evergreen said the tour was well-organized and he felt more comfortable with the smaller tour.

“I liked this one because of the numbers,” Hoffman said. “You don’t get a number of people that’s overwhelming. Sometimes you’re fighting for a spot in the gym to sleep. This one is much more manageable. It can easily handle more riders without it becoming a burden.”

Hoffman has ridden several tours in 20-plus years, including the Denver Post Ride the Rockies, the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) and Pedal the Peaks.

“This is similar to (Pedal the Peaks) in some ways in that it goes over several big mountain passes,” Hoffman said. “I look to ride close to 100 miles a day and this one does that. They chose routes that are a challenge every day.”

Although Hoffman has done several bicycle tours, this was his first time on Grand Mesa.

“I thought the views off of that road looking back toward Hotchkiss were just spectacular,” he said. “It’s cool when you’re riding a bike to see how high you’re going. When you get to those scenic overviews, there is a certain amount of pride when you think you did it.

“We’re blessed to be able to doing something difficult.”


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