Another great day in the mountains on my bike. Heck, any day on my bike is a good day. BUT, this one turned out to be a great one.
I last rode the Copper Triangle shortly after moving to Denver in 2008. I vaguely remembered it was a pretty cool route, but didn't recall much else about it. I registered for it on a whim this past January after registering for TBP and figured I'd at least get another jersey out of it. It's only 80 miles and maybe 6,500 feet of climbing so compared to the TBP it's a relative walk in the park.
Fast forward a few months and while camping with the family I learned that one of Meg's former co-worker's boyfriend was doing the Copper Triangle and renting a condo in the base village. I reached out to him and decided to join Jeff as his other buddy had to bail out. Although I've never ridden with him before Jeff had attempted Leadville twice so I figured he'd be a great riding buddy.
I drove up to Copper Mountain that Friday evening and wasn't expecting much from the ride. Actually I was a little frustrated with work at the time and didn't leave Denver until well after 6:30p. I-70 traffic was a mess and it started pouring rain in Idaho Springs while trying to scarf down a Carl's Jr burger and fries (yes, I recognize that's probably the worst pre-ride dinner, but whatever, I didn't have many options at that point). I finally met up with Jeff in Copper and was surprised that he was planning on riding his Specialized Epic full suspension bike because his other half apparently ran over his Roubaix in the garage... ugh! It looked heavy, but was surprisingly light. The plan was to start at 5:30a so he'd have enough time to finish. I'm not an early riser, but I do like to get going, so I was game.
4:45a came quickly and we were heading to the start around 5:30a. It was super cold and I didn't have any cold weather gear, except for a Sportful Hotpack UL jacket (jacket is really a misnomer - it's really just a super light and tight fitting piece of translucent nylon), Castelli wool gloves, and my Pearl Izumi sun sleeves. I was a little chilly, but figured it would get better as soon as I started climbing. There were folks in At 5:45a we were off. I rode along with Jeff for the first mile or two and then took off at a much faster pace up Fremont Pass. I really needed to warm up and I think he realized he was going to take a long time on his mountain bike.
Fremont Pass is a wonderful climb. It's quintessential Colorado with views of the Ten Mile and Sawatch Ranges, high alpine lakes, and the remediated Climax Molybdenum mine. It's not too steep on the 12 mile climb up to Climax and it's a screaming descent into Leadville. I didn't stop at the first aid station at the top as it was probably in the mid-30's and I was dreading the descent. I knew my fingers and toes would go numb from the cold like they always do. I put on my jacket and gloves and hoped for the best. I pointed down the hill and probably hit a max speed of around 45-50 mph.
This is when things got interesting. About halfway down the pass I came up upon another rider and passed her without giving it a second thought. There weren't many riders out at this hour (passed maybe 1-2 on the descent). A few minutes later she passes me back and motions for me to catch her wheel. We alternate a few more times in a mini pace line while fighting cold wind descending into Leadville. As we near the turn for US24 she pulls up next to me and asks me how I like my Cervelo C3. We start chatting about Cervelo bikes and she mentions that she used to race for the Cervelo-Bigla womens pro cycling team. Say what? She explains that she's now with WNT Rotor and races the UCI World Tour circuit. Gaby Pilote-Fortin. Apparently she's training in Boulder but lives in Girona, Spain and was here as a VIP because Skratch Labs was one of her sponsors. I was star-struck. I know very little about women's pro cycling, but this was kind of like bumping into Peter Sagan for me. This was seriously the coolest thing ever. Anyway, we continue chatting on the way up Tennessee Pass and stop for a bottle refill while the sun is peeking over Ski Cooper. I figured she was going to drop me in the next few miles, but we ended up riding a quick, but comfortable pace from Leadville until the base of Vail Pass. She smoked me up Vail Pass and that was the last I saw of her. Climbing Vail Pass sucked as usual, but overall it was an A+ day. 5.25 hours moving on the bike, 5.75 hours total. Thanks, Gaby, for making my day! Good luck with the rest of your season!
I met up with Jeff for a beer afterwards and bragged about my new pro "friend". Surprisingly Jeff had a great ride on his full suspension too. I'll definitely be doing the Copper Triangle again next year. The ride was WAY better supported than the Triple Bypass. I never had to get off my bike at aid stations. The crews were running up to me, filling my bottles with Skratch, and handing me gels without even having to unclip. Heck, they even had folks out on the course directing traffic around pot holes. Strange, but I'll take it. ClippedIn Events and the Davis Phinney Foundation know how to put on a classy ride. Not sure why I took a 10-year hiatus from the Copper Triangle, but I'll definitely be doing it again next year and for many years to come.
In the cycling community there's a saying that "if it ain't on Strava, it didn't happen"...
Here's the "official" photo from the climb up Battle Mountain (I think, at least). Notice the lack of any rise off Gaby's headtube... man, I bought the Cervelo C3 to increase stack height over my R3 (see the next photo below from the 2008 Copper Triangle)... I enjoy being bent over less. That's what the drops are for, right?
Here's the same photo from 2008 wearing the Mirage Cycling team kit (Richardson Bike Mart - Dallas). The R3 definitely has a lower stack height and apparently I'm slimmer now that I was in 2008.
Here's my descent down Fremont Pass from Climax until above halfway to Leadville. My toes went numb as I think the temp was in the mid-30's. Unfortunately I'm not sure I reached terminal velocity as my Sportful Hotpack UL jacket was flapping in the wind crazily. Strava shows I hit 46 mph and that sounds about right. That's Mt Democrat and Mt. Lincoln (from the Ten Mile Range) in the background at the top of the descent. The video cuts out before you can see Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.
Here I'm riding with Gaby down from Tennessee Pass to Battle Mountain. I forgot how beautiful this part of the ride is. Gaby graciously put up with all of my pro cycling questions...
This is the climb up Battle Mountain before Minturn. I'm hoping the professional photos come out okay as I'm still wearing the Sportful Hotpack jacket and since it's clear it kind of looks like a full size body condom. With my luck the one time I ride with a professional I'll look like a fool...
Finally to the finish... 5.15 hours later. The one downside of this ride is that there wasn't any free beer!?! That is really the only thing they could improve... $10 for a beer after paying $125+ for the ride is a little steep (yes, I realize I got a jersey out of it too).