I was up at 3:00 A.M. making breakfast burritos for the drive up to Copper Mountain, as Carol was getting ready to come pick me up at 4:00 By 6:30, we were up at Copper, had our packets in hand and the ride numbers mounted on our bikes, ready to go.
At the first rest stop, just over Fremont Pass.
From the official Copper Triangle website:
The Colorado Cyclist Copper Triangle course is a spectacular 78-mile loop cresting three Colorado Mountain passes - Fremont Pass (elevation 11,318’), Tennessee Pass (elevation 10,424’) and Vail Pass (elevation 10,666’). The course passes three ski areas and is littered with historic mining outposts and Camp Hale, the training ground for the famous 10th Mountain Division. The total elevation gain for the course is 5,981 ft.
The temperature was about 45 degrees as we left the parking lot, at Copper Mountain, and headed immediately up Fremont Pass. The climb up Fremont is not terribly steep, but it is steep enough (and long enough) to warm you up pretty quickly and keep you warm. Carol and I (and 2000 of our closest friends) cranked our ways skyward for over an hour before we got to the first rest stop.
There, I noticed this old TREK 510:
It looked so much like something I would build, down to the skull and crossbones sticker on the stem, that I had to chase down the owner and ask her about it.
Amy told me that her boyfriend had built it for her, and was sure that it would be getting a lot of attention from guys like me. I told her to tell him that he was right, on that score. Amy was super nice, and was a real good sport about a crazy old bike builder accosting her in the middle of the ride.
We left the rest stop and bombed down the south side of Fremont Pass at close to 40 mph for a few miles. Eventually, the road flattened out, a bit, and we cruised toward Leadville. There, just on the outskirts of town, we turned onto US 24, and headed toward Tennessee Pass. After another couple of miles of downhill, we leveled out for a while before eventually starting to climb Tennessee Pass. On the climb, we pulled over to peel off a layer, or two, of clothes.
As we removed our outer layers of clothes, we stuffed them into the Bag O' Doom
Soon, we arrived at the second rest stop.
Well, we "sort of arrived" at the second rest stop...
The actual rest stop was up this hill from the highway. Neither Carol nor I really felt like climbing more, just to get a piece of a banana, or something.
So, we hung around at the Continental Divide marker, checked out the 10th Mountain Division Memorial, then continued on.
Going down Tennessee pass, on the west side of the divide, is a hoot: Ten miles of curvy downhill, with beautiful views to your left, and forest to the right.
Eventually, though, the road turns upward again and you head up Battle Mountain. While the climb is gradual, it's fairly long. But, it's nothing like climbing it from the other side, We did that climb, one year, on this ride and I will never do it again.
But, the good thing about going in the clockwise direction (like we did this year) is that you get to blast down Battle Mountain for 5 miles, or so, into Minturn. From there, it's only a couple of miles to the bike path which parallels I 70 and takes you into the west side of Vail, and to the third rest stop.
After a good rest stop, where we drank lots of water and ate peanut butter and banana bagels, we got back on the bikes and headed east through Vail. The next rest stop is only about eight miles away, on the east side of Vail, but they have it there because that is where you hit the bike path which turns sharply up and takes you over Vail Pass.
These two pictures are the view uphill and downhill from where we stopped for a short rest, a couple of miles uphill from the third rest stop. Carol's knee was bothering her, and we stopped a couple of times on the 8 or 9-mile climb up the pass. She was a real trooper, though, and made the climb despite the knee problem.
At the next place we stopped, just before heading under I 70 and up "The Wall", I spotted this little fly sitting in this flower...
...and this little one sitting in the grass picking flowers.
Soon after taking off from the flower show, we hit the steepest part of the Vail Pass Trail, the infamous "Wall". The grade increases to around 20%, briefly, and then gets a bit less steep as the trail follows alongside I 70.
"Less steep", but still quite steep enough to suit me.
Eventually, we made our way into the fourth rest stop, located at the Interstate rest area at the top of Vail Pass. There, we had a brownie, drank some water and then bundled up for the 5 or 6 mile descent back to the ski area at Copper Mountain.
Once down, we parked our bikes and went to eat the dinner provided by the event. As we walked out to the patio tables to eat our lasagna and Ceasar Salad, I heard someone calling my name.
It was my friend Sandy, whom I met through the Webbs, years ago. We sat at the table with her and ate dinner, then hung out and had a few beers, and talked about the ride (amongst other things). Eventually, the festivities wound to an end, and Carol and I headed down the hill, back to Denver after a stop in Dillon for lattes.
We got back to the house at about 8:00 PM, 16 hours after we left. It was a long, fun day.
for the ride map and elevation profile of the Copper Triangle.