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Old 08-08-2011, 11:15 PM   #1
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The "Queen's Stage"- scouting the Route

The US Pro Cycling Challenge is coming to Colorado in a couple of weeks. The most challenging stage of this, or just about any other race, will take place on Wed., Aug. 24, and runs from Gunnison to Aspen. The route covers 131 miles of mostly-mountainous terrain, and includes two crossings of the Continental Divide at over 12000 feet. There are also 16 miles of dirt road- almost unheard of in a road race at ANY level... I just picked up a 2008 Versys a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would make a two day/one night camping trip to test the bike and my gear, and to preview the race-route for those who might be interested. Oh, and I've never ridden dirt or gravel before, and this trip covers 34 miles or so of unpaved road surface. Let the fun begin!
gassing up in Carbondale, CO. That's Mt. Sopris in the distance-


Another shot of Sopris... there are some folks trying to get one of the twin summits renamed "John Denver Peak".


From Carbondale, I rode through Redstone and over Mclure Pass. On the other side is the turnoff for Kebler Pass, the first test of my dirt "skills"



This picture is a cheat... it's actually the Crested Butte side of Kebler Pass, but I thought this would be a good place for it


I'd gotten such a late start on the day, and was kinda nervous about the dirt, so I didn't stop until I got to Crested Butte. A guy on a little dirt bike passed me and asked me to keep an eye out for him because he was low on fuel... he kept looking back to see if I was going to keep up, and then gave up on me... guess his gas lasted. I actually did pretty well- only dabbed a couple of times, once avoiding some cows that ambled into the road. Also scared the crap out of a doe.


There had been some kind of street festival in CB that day... everybody was packing up. I found a great Asian restaurant called "Ryce"- it was packed. Got a Deschutes IPA draft and then waited 45 minutes for my curry noodles... but it was worth it. Headed out of CB in the dark and got a campsite just outside of Almont. Setting up in the dark, I managed to put a big lump right under my butt... but still fell asleep immediately. When I woke up at 5:30 am, it was forty degrees.



Coffee, oatmeal, and I got a fairly early start. Hit Gunnison well before 8am, and took a couple of photos:


The "W" is for Western State College.


Grabbed a snack at Safeway, and started back up the way I'd come- now on the "Queen's Stage" route. My goal was to hit Buena Vista by lunch and Aspen in time for happy hour. As you see these pics, imagine the roadway filled with cyclists- including most of the top finishers from the TDF.



The confluence of the East and Taylor rivers... some fly-fishers getting ready to put in.



The turnoff at Almont. The Alsco truck tried to zap me with its lazer, but I used counter-measures and escaped.


The Taylor River is one of the more productive (and beautiful) tailwater fisheries/canyons in the state. My Dad started taking me there when I was about 7.





The dam spillway


There are about 5 or 6 20"+ fish in this pic... I wish they showed up better


Me at Taylor reservoir, courtesy of an obliging KLR rider


Past Taylor Reservoir, the turn-off to Cottonwood Pass. This is where it is going to get REALLY interesting for the cyclists-


All the same road- switchbacks galore-


Looking back down. They're going to bring road bicycles up THAT?


The top-


Looking down the other (paved) side. Wheeeee!


Buena Vista! More Asian food for lunch- Vietnamese Pho. And a Dale's Pale.


That's it for tonight. I'll post the Independence Pass pics tomorrow.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:06 AM   #2
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Nice pics Mike! What tent and sleeping bag are you using?
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:24 PM   #3
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Sleeping gear

That's an REI Clipper tent, about 8 years old... I have a 20 year old LL Bean down bag and an Outdoor Products Insulmat air mattress. Most of the gear is just my backpacking/bicycle touring stuff. I have a Sierra Designs polarloft bag for warm/wet travel, and a smaller one-man Eureka tent I use for solo packing.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:57 PM   #4
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Continuing on from Buena Vista

So, having fueled up in almost every sense, I headed north up hwy 24 out of Buena Vista. The Arkansas River drops out of its headwaters above Leadville and provides rafters and fisherman plenty of opportunity until plunges out of the front range at Pueblo. I follow it, across the river from the train route and the old stage road up on the hillside. The bike racers will already be pretty tired- over 70 miles and one 12K pass under their belt on the day.



The turnoff onto Hwy. 82- about 45 miles to Aspen, over Independence Pass.


Twin Lakes, and the pumping station and visitor's center:


the road winds around quite a bit, travelling through pine forest, and then we get nearer timberline. That's the Pass up ahead... imagine it 125 years ago, lined with mule trains and stagecoaches.


Now we're talking. At least 4 or 5 180 degree hairpins on this ascent.


The TOP! Hey, look, it's not my motorcycle. There were about 15 Harleys up here.


Roadwork on the way down. Bad for me, good for the cyclists in two weeks. They're repairing guardrails that were destroyed last winter.


Looking back up at a typical section. It's only one lane wide in a couple of places. The Pro cyclists will be doing 50-60 mph.


Better make the corner. The drop-off in places is 800 feet.


And, the finish in Aspen. The next three photos are all taken from essentially the same spot- Galena and Main. This is the Pitkin County Courthouse, built in 1891. Charlie Sheen, Claudine Longet, and Ted Bundy were all tried here. Bundy escaped by jumping out one of those 2nd story windows.



Looking West at the Hotel Jerome, built in 1889:


Looking South up Galena towards Aspen Mt.. Aspen was once the third largest city in Colorado, before the panic of 1893. By 1930, there were maybe 600 living here- the first ski run was cut in 1936, and in 1946 the world's longest chairlift, Lift One, opened for business. A single-seat chair, it took 45 minutes to get to the top. This pic looks up the Silver Queen gondola, which opened in 1986. 3200 vertical feet in 15 minutes.
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Old 08-09-2011, 10:24 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AspentureRider View Post
And, the finish in Aspen. The next three photos are all taken from essentially the same spot- Galena and Main. This is the Pitkin County Courthouse, built in 1891. Charlie Sheen, Claudine Longet, and Ted Bundy were all tried here. Bundy escaped by jumping out one of those 2nd story windows.

Looking South up Galena towards Aspen Mt.. Aspen was once the third largest city in Colorado, before the panic of 1893. By 1930, there were maybe 600 living here- the first ski run was cut in 1936, and in 1946 the world's longest chairlift, Lift One, opened for business. A single-seat chair, it took 45 minutes to get to the top. This pic looks up the Silver Queen gondola, which opened in 1986. 3200 vertical feet in 15 minutes.
You should get a job at the Aspen Historical Society.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:34 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by GeekAndDestroy View Post
You should get a job at the Aspen Historical Society.
Har. Gotta be Jeff?
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:06 AM   #7
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Yup, that's Az .

What tires do you have on there?
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:34 AM   #8
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Tires

Avon Distanzia front
Pirelli Scorpion rear.

PO says about 2K miles.
He sent me a link to his Baja trip, which his wife did on the Versys...
http://wadventure.smugmug.com/Motorc...12033437_fnkDt
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Old 08-11-2011, 06:58 PM   #9
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Geoff- the rear is a Scorpion Trail. 150/70/17 vs. the oem 160/60/17. I've got a supermoto Maxxis I'm going to put on when this one wears out... but I don't expect to get much tread life out of it. Should be great dirt traction, though.
Evidently there aren't a lot of true trail options for the 17" front, and the 120/70/17 FR, 160/60/17 Rear supermoto combos are short-tread-life in general.
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