I’m not a huge fan of weekend mountain travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mountains but sitting for hours on a Friday evening of stop and go traffic while driving a loaded vehicle up a 15% grade in 90+ degree weather with 5k of your angriest friends who have the exact same idea only to repeat the feat 48 hours later pointing east is in high competition with the thought "is it worth it?"
After an entire season of Friday afternoon Denver mass exodus to high ground avoidance, I packed up the van and headed up the mountains to our community junior mountain bike camp. There’s nothing like a big smack in the face from cool temperatures and gorgeous mountain views to remind you that it should be your mission to spend as much time as humanly possible making the most of such worldly wonders.
So after camp I returned the next weekend to race, and then again the following weekend after that. With my fat tire campaign winding down to just a re-attack of the six-day life changing Breck Epic in August, I rekindled my love for travel in a few short drives up the mountains. The Winter Park series covers the summer snow free calendar months but I typically end up racing the one weekend that correlates with the Colorado Freeride Festival. I enjoy the bustle of the added racers and the opportunities of getting a glimpse into the world of big travel and bigger air. While this year the cross-country racing fell on the weekend preceding and then again after the festival, I was hardly a chore to convince me to come up and shred some singletrack awesomeness
This race begins with a thirty minute climb and then proceeds through a constantly changing, attention consuming assortment of double and singletrack. While I figured my fitness would be a limiting factor affecting my impact on this race I found myself feeling comfortable and making progress to move forward through the competition as the race progressed. Rather than dwell on fatigue, the seemingly never-ending duration of the course, or the racers chasing me, I focused instead on how enjoyable it was to be in the woods with my bike carving out the turns and flowing with the terrain. I used the presence of the other riders to keep my motivation for churning out watts high and held on for a podium despite a level or surprise at my capacity to do so.
The weekend concluded with a trip up Rollins pass to fulfill my bucket list item of scoring saddle time over the scenic trestles, and a pavement ride through the phenomena that is Rocky Mountain National Park. I must confess though that all of this amazing terrain is much more scenic when you aren’t draped over your handlebars desperately trying to extract oxygen from the high-altitude air but alas, it is way more fulfilling to see it this way.
I returned yet again the following weekend to attend the Colorado Freeride Festival as they added a short track component to the usual line up of gravity races. Perhaps a bit unorganized, it was entertaining to have half the line toed up with freeride bikes and girls who didn’t normally flaunt their spandex. It dumped rain the whole night and continued to pepper us sporadically as we warmed up which coupled with morning mountain temps in the fifties made for a very cyclocross like (or go back to bed) feel. The cross-country riders certainly prevailed through this one much to the chagrin of the trash talking big travel bikes on the start line. I scored another podium this round and set out on a mud splattered exploration of endless dirt roads that traverse the area. I wasn’t disappointed as the temps rose a bit and the sun poked out to highlight the beautiful surroundings full of every color of wildflower, distant peaks with snow covered cols, wildlife in abundance, and not many other people. It was definitely worth the drive.