Aspen ride benefiting Susan G. Komen Foundation will have splendid views
Aspen. The name itself conjures up many images: great skiing, glamour, celebrities, “Dumb and Dumber,” wealth, and, of course, mansions the size of the Rocky Mountains.
Road cycling does not quickly come to mind.
So when I met with an old friend who suggested I help a cycling fundraiser for the 8th annual ride for the cure benefiting the Susan G. Komen cancer society, I was excited to be a part of the effort. I was a bit skeptical, however, that we would find great riding.
Susan G. Komen was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33. She endured nine surgeries and three rounds of chemotherapy treatments over a three-year period before the disease killed her.
During her illness, one of her primary concerns was not her own suffering, but trying to comfort, educate and help other women stricken with cancer.
After her death, her younger sister, Nancy G. Brinker, decided to carry on her fight and started the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Today, the foundation is reported to be the largest source of private funds in the fight against cancer and has raised nearly $2 billion. One of their best-known events is a nationwide run.
Aspen hosts the Ride for the Cure, with 100 percent of the funds raised benefiting the foundation. The event consists of a VIP ride on Aug. 14 and the Ride for the Cure on Aug. 21.
The VIP ride will encompass a ride from Aspen up to Maroon Bells. It will be hosted by myself and former Olympian Jame Carney. Lance Armstrong is also rumored to be riding with us. To be a VIP, one must raise $1,500 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The Ride for the Cure route will encompass roads to Maroon Bells, the Ashcroft Ghost Town, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek, the Monastery, the Aspen Deaf Camp and then back to town. It will have options for the whole family, with 10, 40, 65 and 100 mile rides. The century ride features several out-and-back sections.
Last Friday, I strapped on my helmet and clicked my cleats into the pedals to get a feel for the ride with two locals as my guide. Plus, I want to be ready for Lance in case he tries to drop me on the climb after a few glasses of wine!
We began the first leg of the ride along Maroon Creek road toward Maroon Lake and Maroon Bells. As we rolled along the creek, the canyon began to narrow and my initial skepticism about the riding potential was immediately put to rest.
The beauty of the Rocky Mountains quickly became evident. This section of road is closed to cars; only bikes and buses are allowed on the road.
The road quickly started to climb and before long we were breathing hard. The climbing on this section is only 1,700 feet over 8.5 miles, but it seems like about 1,200 of this is in the last three miles.
As we neared the top, the majestic splendor of the Maroon Bells peaks beckoned. The reflection of the mountains from the lake is absolutely beautiful. I have seen these mountains in countless photos, but had never seen them in person. I can’t wait to come back in a few weeks and ride it at night on a full moon.
The descent back to town is fast and straight and I had to use the brakes to keep my speed below 50. Apparently several moose live here, and I did not want to meet one up close and personal.
We rode back into Aspen and then began the climb to the Ashcroft Ghost Town, which lies about 10 miles south of town.
The road climbs steadily and the views of Aspen Highlands are phenomenal. The slopes are an emerald green this time of year, but it won’t be long before they are covered in snow.
The road to the Ashcroft Ghost town has several steep sections, and on one, we were passed by Liquigas/Cannondale pro rider Ted King. He was in Aspen acclimatizing for the upcoming Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.
As I watched him ride ahead, I was struck by how fit professional cyclists are. Every muscle in his legs was clearly visible and a road map of veins was laced on his calf. I had no illusions of trying to stay with him.
When we reached the ghost town we enjoyed the views for a quick minute before descending back to Aspen.
The Ashcroft road is mostly straight and very fast. There are a few off camber turns and some bumps, so it’s a good idea to be a bit conservative.
When we got back to Aspen, I was happy that the majority of the climbing was finished, but also dismayed that we had only covered 40 miles in about three hours.
Fortunately, the rest of the ride was mostly rolling terrain, with the exception of a short climb to Snowmass Village.
The downriver section along Woody Creek is fast and smooth until the turn at the Conoco onto Snowmass Creek road. From here, you gradually climb again to the old monastery. The road is a bit rough, but the views of Mt. Sopris are stunning.
My friend indicated that many of the Aspen locals who ride the event treat it like the World Championships and will essentially race from the gun.
So, if you want to beat the heat, raise some money for a great cause, ride a century in the mountains and help me hang with the Aspenites, I encourage you to register and come up for the ride. Go to komenaspen.org for registration details.
And as an added bonus, if you have a few extra days, on Aug. 24, the biggest bike race in the U.S. will be finishing a stage in downtown Aspen.
This will definitely be one of the most exciting stages of the race, but that’s another story.