Mt. Evans Hill Climb

crescent

path

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb in Colorado.  You gain 6,630 vertical feet in 28 miles, starting at 7,500′ and finishing at 14,130′.  It’s the highest paved road in the northern hemisphere.  Half of the ride occurs above treeline.

Echo range

Mt. Evans solo

Mt. Evans mealtime

It’s you being challenged by the mountain.  Cycling Evans gives you an amazing sense of your surroundings.  There were nearly 1000 participants this year.  Over 400 racers, and almost 500 Gran Fondo riders, who are not officially racing, but are still taking on the challenge.  I think for everyone it is a kind of competition within yourself.  Can you make it to the top.   We all share the experience of suffering over the same course on one glorious mountain.

Bristlecones

tapestry of tundra

It’s incredible what you see up there.  Surprising how life springs forward under trying circumstances.  The ancient bristecone pines are some of the oldest beings on earth.  It seems paradoxical under such dramatic conditions those trees endure for so long.  But they do.  Getting up there by bike and sharing the experience on the mountain is a cool accomplishment.

tundra

Marmot home

Mt. Evans Sundance Images 2016

Last photo credit:  http://www.sundanceimages.com/
Visit the event site at bicyclerace.com
Thank you Team Evergreen for putting this event on!

Cycling Up America’s Mountain

“Within my first week riding, I found a local club (Big Orange) that taught me how to ride and encouraged me to start racing.” —Krista Doebel-Hickok, Women’s Hill Climb USA National Champion 2016, on how she made the transition from running to cycling

I raced the inaugural USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships August 13th on Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs.  The course begins at 9,400′ and ends above 14,100′ over 12.4 miles.  It’s an incredible ride.  I raced up Pikes Peak in 2013.  That year we raced up Mt. Evans, Colorado’s other paved mountain road summiting above 14,000′, on Saturday, and we raced Pikes Peak the next day on Sunday.  That was hard!  Knowing the course helped me relax and enjoy all the rest and recovery I could get after the drive up from New Mexico.   We toured Garden of the Gods and saw Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep grazing,  A tranquil scene.

Co Springs garden

Colorado Springs garden of the gods

Garden of the Gods bighorns

Bicycle events are like conferences, festivals, and meetings all rolled into one.  It’s invigorating connecting with so many diverse people passionate about cycling, and inspiring to see people doing their thing.  This trip turned out to be full of serendipitous connections beginning with the hotel we stayed in.  The Buffalo Lodge at the base of Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs is in the process of repurposing the historic motor lodge into a cycling adventure base.  Great!

Buffalo Lodge banner

Buffalo Lodge hosted the 12th annual Roll Bike Art festival the night before the race so we were surrounded by a rolling party.  Leagues of cyclists pedaled in throughout Friday evening.  An absolutely stellar vibe.  Cycling is not just about pedaling circles.  The whole experience counts.

Buffalo Lodge neon

Buffalo Lodge when in doubt...

I was blown away by the culture, sports and art.  A creative and inclusive community, where people are comfortable and don’t feel like they have to act tough or prove themselves.  I was especially touched by this piece of art made from recycled bike parts including chains and sprockets.  I’ve never seen hard metal and sharp edges flow in such organic and riverine form.

Buffalo Lodge art show flow

Great Sand Dunes hotsprings sunflower echoes

On race day I was up early to eat and stretch.  My race started at 7:10am.  It was a joint event, coupling a USA Cycling sanctioned race with a citizen’s ride in the Italian gran fondo tradition.  Some of my favorite events are like this, Iron Horse for instance, because you get a wider range of participation and more people riding for different reasons.  They started riders in waves and my group, Masters Men 40-49, started in the 8th wave after all the gran fondo riders.  We had 30 some riders in my group and over the first mile of the course I worked my way to the front of the pack from the back.  One rider went off the front with clear enthusiasm.  I spooled up and followed.  We worked together for a half mile and when the road pitched up in earnest, I was alone.  I rode my fastest tempo and metered it out to hold on to the top.  With a time of 1:14:34 I won my race by over two minutes, and was faster than my time in 2013 which was 1:15:33.  I had the 8th fastest time on the day behind pro/amateur elite racers.  Next year I plan to go for the top overall, but this year I’m glad I raced Masters.   It was the right choice to keep a healthy balance and meet life’s demands.  Life is more than cycling, but cycling helps with everything.

Great Sand Dunes chamisa and showers

On the way home we visited Salida and they were holding the inaugural Salida Water Festival.  There’s a growing movement in Colorado to conserve water and change public values and behaviors.  The strategy involves developing technologies to keep water pure and use it more efficiently, and incentivizing smarter behaviors.   Transportation innovation is happening similarly, coupling advances in technology with programs to shift behaviors and support values, attitudes and lifestyles that can make the legacy of our era more of a positive one, preserving our natural heritage so a healthful abundance flows downstream in time to future generations.

Salida water festival

Sand Dunes water

On the way home we stopped in the San Luis Valley at Great Sand Dunes Hot Springs.  We immersed our bodies in the waters on Sunday morning after camping out beneath the enormous sky and open space that is our heritage in the American West.   Cycling teaches me to be vulnerable, to be open, and reach out to something greater than myself.  The world of cycling is truly driven from the heart.  A cycling experience based in patience and love is just the beginning, not the end.  Poetry in motion.  Thanks to my team and sponsors for their support, all the club cyclists who teach me how to ride, and the greater community involved in cycling, who make it richer and make events like this possible.  Grateful we made the trip!

2016 Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb / USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships

2016 Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb / USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships.  Mark Aasmundstad

References
Race home and Photos http://coloradospringssports.org/index.php/events/pikes-peak-cycling-hill-climb-main
list of participants  https://www.usacycling.org/register/2016-30
photos https://www.facebook.com/pikespeakcyclinghillclimb/
results http://my4.raceresult.com/59091/?lang=#0_BEE445
buffalo lodge bicycle resort in Manitou Springs http://bicycleresort.com/
roll bike art festival in Colorado Springs http://www.rollbikeart.com/roll-2016.html
insights from the last paragraph are adapted from Weston Noble
cycling, like music, ‘allows us to have feelings we never knew we could have’

Rolling Valles Caldera

Two weekends ago Mai and I took a trip to Valles Caldera National Preserve to ride bicycles.  They have a cool network of back roads.  Cycling is such a spectacular way to explore a park.

Valles skyline

Valles Mai Sailing

Valles Caldera is a supervolcano that erupted over a million years ago.  It’s an enormous uplift with a ring of 11,000′ peaks encircling a broad expanse of  grassy meadows in the caldera beneath the rim.  There are thousands of elk there, meadows and forest, lots of open space.

Valles slant

Valles Mai leaning

Valles real live cowboy

There’s also a working ranch.  We spotted a cowboy herding cattle with his two dogs, decorative shirt filling with air, puffing out, waving in the wind.  Mai said this was the first cowboy on horseback working the range she’s seen in her two decades living in the American West.

Valles cruising with Mai

Valles on the road with Mai

It was a pretty sweet ride.  Just after noon the building clouds started to let loose in places, curtains of rain drifting in curves toward the treetops that make up the jagged skyline.  The summer monsoon is pretty predictable in the Jemez Mountains this time of year.  We finished our ride just before the lightning and roaming grey clouds closed in on our location.

Valles meadow

Valles Mai smiling

Valles water

As we celebrate 100 years of American’s National Parks, I wonder about our vision and goals for the next 100 years.  I remember reading Edward Abbey’s rants about industrial recreation, and there still seems to be a growing trend towards bigger, heavier vehicles.  That’s certainly not sustainable, as we are not growing any more open space.  It makes a lot of sense to park your car at the visitor center and ride your bike in if you can.  Experiencing parks by bicycle is perfect.

Valles Mai

Valles purples and blue

Resources–
Valles Caldera has a rich and interesting history in many ways.  One of the innovative developments that has come out of human interaction with this unique landscape is “A place-based approach to science for land management.”  More on that here:  https://www.fort.usgs.gov/sites/sense-place-place-based-approach-science-land-management/sense-place-place-based-approach

 

Pecos Mountain Solace

“One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.”  –Wallace Stegner

For the Fourth of July, Mai and I took a camping trip in northern New Mexico.  The weather is perfect there this time of year.  The landscapes of New Mexico are so diverse, and so large, you can get to just about any kind of scenery, place, environment that you would like to be in.

Aspen heights

Mai on trail

pecos wilderness

We stayed near the Santa Barbara river above Llano.  From our campsite we could hear water percolating down the mountainside, making a whooshing sound tumbling over rocks.  In the morning we hiked up the trail into the wilderness until we heard a bear snort ahead of us.  Then we turned around!  It was about time to turn around anyway.

Santa Barbara hiking

summer beauty

green light

It was beautiful.  The grace of the aspen groves rising.  The verdant mix of trees.  At 8,000 feet the air has an especially ethereal quality to it, unique to this mountain valley.

Pecos evening

Pecos sunset

Being in this place gives you a sense of renewal.  The air so clean for the trees, the water filtering down through the fine soil.  We camped lightly and left no trace but ash from our campfire in the fire ring.  Sometimes the biggest positive impact we can make is by leaving things intact and unmarked.  Our time here then had no visible results, unless we look past ourselves and across time to a larger scale where our wholeness is part of the land’s health for self-renewal.

stream

Leadership

‘I started to take a deep interest in not only transportation but land use plans’ –Secretary Foxx

’embedded in our infrastructure are the values of past eras that accepted disconnections, that accepted a view of our country of folks that are in, and folks that are out, and I think we have to have a different idea of our country in the 21st century’  —Secretary Foxx

Or watch the video and view resources on the Ladders of Opportunity website–

https://www.transportation.gov/opportunity

Building Lasting Partnerships

A big thank you to my friends at Conservation Science Partners and the Landscape Conservation Initiative for supporting the Southwest Bike Initiative.  They also brought their friends at Live Oak Associates, Inc., an ecological consulting firm, to strengthen our network.  Because of the team CSP put together, they are my bike org. of the month for May 2016.  Check out the article here announcing our collaboration promoting the role of cycling in conservation.

magenta Sandia

When I was choosing “categories” for this blog post, I started clicking every one.  This partnerships embodies all that I’ve been doing up to this point, and connects a series of journeys that began long ago.  I’m enthused to be working with such classy organizations and bright people.  LCI’s philosophy of mobilizing science through collaborative planning, education and practical experiences has been influential in instigating new approaches for solving environmental challenges.  CSP’s innovative structure and novel science applications has created a paradigm shift in how we do conservation.  LOA’s ecological expertise delivers practical solutions fostering environmental sustainability throughout California and the Western United States.  Together their collaboration is raising the bar for conservation science.

Truchas

Cycling is a great practical exercise for improving health, the environment, and building lasting partnerships.   Our cycling team builds grassroots coalitions, and increases collaboration between diverse communities around common objectives to achieve new vistas on what is possible.  Please follow SBI’s website and media to keep in touch with our development.

Kalamazoo Strong

“This is about the healing process.”  –Rider from Kalamazoo

“The roads are back to being ours again…this ride is tremendously energizing. ”  –Rider from Kalamazoo

The cycling community is amazing.  700 cyclists gathered in Kalamazoo to finish the Tuesday community ride.  This is one of the most courageous things I’ve seen, to direct the energy toward peace and healing, and to pull the community together for proactive solutions.

‘We didn’t ride with Lance.  Lance rode with us tonight,’ said a Kalamazoo cyclist.

Story here:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/lance-armstrong-rallies-kalamazoo-cycling-community-after-tragedy/