Avid bicyclists participate in the Bicycle Tour of Colorado

Robert and Brenda Fletcher of Vacville, Ca., ride a tandem into downtown Grand Junction competing the 98 mile leg over the Grand Mesa

Bike Tour 6-22-9

Robert and Brenda Fletcher of Vacville, Ca., ride a tandem into downtown Grand Junction competing the 98 mile leg over the Grand Mesa

Many avid bicyclists have participated in the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, but none of them experienced a ride like they did Monday.

Close to 1,600 riders participating in the 15th annual Bicycle Tour of Colorado rode 91 miles from Hotchkiss over Grand Mesa into Grand Junction on the second day of the 513-mile, seven-day tour. Cyclists will ride from Grand Junction to Montrose today then on to Crested Butte and Buena Vista before finishing the tour Saturday in Glenwood Springs.

Monday’s ride was one they won’t soon forget.

Fred Green, 61, of Angleton, Texas, is in his sixth Tour of Colorado with a group from a biking club in his hometown near Houston.

“This was one of the toughest rides I’ve ever done,” Green said. “The climb from Hotchkiss to the top of Grand Mesa was like it would never end. It was grinding and grinding and grinding it out. It was hot too. There were a lot of people running out of water before they got to the top.

“Things like this give you a goal to shoot for, so it keeps you motivated. This year, since Jan. 1, I’ve logged a little over 5,000 miles training to get ready for this. If you don’t a day like today will get you.”

Bill Whitney, 62, of Roseville, Calif., is on his third tour and described the ride as ‘brutal.’

“Thirty-nine miles to go 5,000 feet up and no flat spots,” he said. “About 20 miles of that 39 were a steep grade, it took almost three hours.”

Whitney started his ride at 6 a.m. and made it to Grand Junction High School at 2:15 p.m.

Paula Johnson and Libby Tracy of Ross, Calif., just north of San Francisco, have participated in a 565-mile AIDS fundraiser ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but said it doesn’t compare.

“Today was really hard,” Tracy said. “Downhill might have been worse. I was freezing.”

“It was cold and windy, but otherwise we had a great day,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Alejandra Cerom of Chihuahua, Mexico, survived the Monday’s ride in her first Bicycle Tour of Colorado and even joked about Monday’s ride.

“If I knew what we did today, maybe I’d say, ‘Um…no thanks,’ ” she said. “I thought, ‘What am I doing here, suffering? OK, there’s a beautiful tree. OK, there’s a rabbit.’ ”

Her friend, Diana Almeida, who’s done the tour three previous times, admitted Monday was a tough ride.

“I didn’t think it would be this tough,” Almeida said. “The climb was longer. It was endless climbing.”

Still, it’s worth it.

“I thought it was a great idea to pedal around Colorado for seven days,” Almeida said.

“You get to see the country. I’ve been able to see a lot of Colorado. There are a lot of
beautiful places.”

Aaron Neiderhiser, 23, of Denver even struggled riding over Grand Mesa.

“I bonked on the last two miles before the summit,” he said. “I ran out of energy. I needed some more sugar. The aid station couldn’t come soon enough essentially. When I finally got there, I was going through the line, eating and getting back in the line again.”

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