Issue: May 2013
Tags: Super James, Super Flag, Steamboat Springs, road cycling, Rist Canyon Loop, Peak to Peak Highway, Maroon Bells, Lake Dillon Loop, Lake Catamount, Estes Park, Copper Triangle, confluence park, Cheyenne Canyon, Cherry Creek State Park, Carter Lake, bikes
With dry roads and sunny days stretching out ahead of us, we’re joining the frenzy—and helping you do the same—by highlighting some of the best road cycling routes (for beginners and experts alike!) along the Front Range and in Colorado’s famed high country. Clip in and enjoy the ride.
The Ride: The Copper Triangle
Distance: 92 miles round-trip
Time: 7 to 8 hours
This variation of the popular Copper Triangle route—one of Colorado’s classic alpine road cycling events, which begins at Copper Mountain Resort each August—tacks on 14 miles to start and finish in Beaver Creek and flows the opposite direction. This lung-burner is a high-altitude adventure: The route never dips below 7,400 feet in elevation, and riders spend about 31 miles above 10,000 feet. All told, roadies will log more than 6,000 feet of climbing and summit three passes: Tennessee (10,200 feet), Fremont (11,279 feet), and Vail (10,617 feet).
From the base village in Beaver Creek, you’ll roll down to Avon on Village Road and turn right along Stone Creek Drive/U.S. 6 as it follows the Eagle River to U.S. Highway 24. Stay right on 24 heading into Minturn—and then start climbing. The road kicks up sharply as it ascends to the deserted mining town of Gilman, drops down to Turkey Creek, and then winds up past Camp Hale, the training site of World War II’s 10th Mountain Division, to Ski Cooper at the top of Tennessee Pass.
A short downhill to the junction with Colorado Highway 91, just north of Leadville, is your first chance to reload on drinks and food at one of the gas stations at the end of town before heading north on 91 up Fremont Pass. Highway 91’s shoulder is wide, the grade is steady, and, in July, the Arkansas River Valley should be blossoming with alpine wildflowers. The summit of the pass is a bit anticlimactic thanks to the sprawling Climax mine facility at the top, but the smooth blacktop and views on the ride down to Copper Mountain Resort make up for the industrial feel. Take care on the stretch between miles 56 and 59: The posted speed limit is 65 mph, and there’s no shoulder on which to take refuge.
At Copper, riders will leave the road to pedal the dedicated bike path over Vail Pass, down through the town of Vail, and back to Avon. After 25 easy downhill miles, the nasty, 500-foot climb back into Beaver Creek shouldn’t hurt—at least not too much. —GD
Grab snacks in Copper to ferry up to the rest area atop Vail Pass for a picnic. The site offers views of the peaks that form the backside of Breckenridge, a just reward for wrapping up the last big climb of the day. It’s (almost) all downhill from that point.
Eagle River Ramble (Easy)
For a mellow ride out of Beaver Creek, this is about as easy as it gets. Start from the base village, head down Village Road, and then turn left at the roundabout in Avon, taking U.S. 6 west along the Eagle River Valley through Edwards to Wolcott, 13.5 miles downvalley. You can continue toward Eagle or simply turn around. Just be aware that it’s an uphill pedal on the way back.