Tour cyclists have the ride stuff

Cyclists on the down hill section of Rim Rock Drive at the Cokes Ovens Saturday morning during the ICON Eyecare Tour of the Moon, a recreational event with 41- and 62-mile routes through Colorado National Monument. In a change from the last couple of years, the touring cyclists will travel over Rim Rock Drive, entering the monument at the east entrance off of Monument Road near Grand Junction and exiting at the west entrance onto Highway 340 near Fruita. Cyclists were limited to the west bound lane. Colorado National Monument .Event organizers were anticipating over 2,200 riders.

Saturday's Tour of the Moon cycling ride isn't as intense as the 1985 "American Flyers" movie featuring a young road bike racer played by Kevin Costner, and it doesn't include the chance for the high stakes fame of the early 1980s Coors Classic with its stage race over Colorado National Monument.

But invite 2,200 cyclists to pedal Rim Rock Drive and mix in the current sunny, fall weather amid a backdrop of stunning red-rock cliffs and it's easy to see how the ICON Eyecare Tour of the Moon bike ride continues to sell out each year.

The supported ride over Colorado National Monument celebrated its seventh year, attracting a number of cyclists from the Front Range.

Cyclist David Bowman of Highlands Ranch was back for his fifth annual ride. He recalled the first time he pedaled the event in 2013 when the route eschewed the monument. The park and its scenic Rim Rock Drive were closed because of a federal government shutdown that year so cyclists were sent up Little Park Road instead.

"They had us going somewhere, back behind the monument," he said.

Bowman, who combined the ride in the past with visits to a child attending Colorado Mesa University, still enjoys the views.

"It's relaxing," he said. "It's a lovely, shorter ride."

In years past, the ride traversed the monument from west to east. Bowman said he heard from other cyclists they appreciated this year's ride that traveled from east to west. That meant cyclists could climb up the steep east hill early in the day, and get it out of the way during the morning's cooler temperatures.

Saturday was the first time cyclist Ron Moulton of Fort Collins had ever been to the monument, though he had stayed briefly overnight in Grand Junction a few times.

The 48-year-old also visited downtown Grand Junction for the first time on Friday night for a party in connection with the ride, and he liked the quaint nature of the town's core.

"Driving through Grand Junction you get the impression it is big and sprawling," he said.

Moulton had planned to bike with his wife and spend some time wine tasting in Palisade, however she stayed home at the last minute to help with their children's homecoming dances. With the change in plans, Moulton said he might get in some golf.

"The riding is gorgeous," he said. "It's got some of the kind of climbing rewards that the Boulder area does."

Nathan Dieher said it felt like he was riding through a "mini Grand Canyon." The 31-year-old Boulder man said he was riding the course because a friend told him about it. He was trying to hit a personal goal, and planned to ride the full 62 miles to Fruita. The course also included a 41-mile option over the monument and back to downtown Grand Junction.

"It's nice to have the experience over here," he said.

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