Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend training rides

The last two weekends I've been trying to put in some more miles on my bike in preparation for the Sunrise Century on July 24th.  This has taken me on a couple of beautiful routes which have some overlap on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, being CO-7 and CO-72 between Estes Park and, roughly, Blackhawk.  

Before last weekend, I had only ridden up there once, and that was with a loaded-down touring bike on my first bike camping trip with my friend Jody.  It's funny how much the hills look different now than they did then.

July 5, 2010

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This loop starts in Lyons and takes CO-7 to Peak-to-Peak Highway.  There it heads south to Ward before heading downhill on Lefthand Canyon Drive and returning to Lyons on US-36.  It's a classic route in this area, so there's probably not much for me to add to what's already been said and experienced.  I get the impression, though, that most folks like to go up Lefthand Canyon rather than just descend it.  But I've never been all that concerned with doing things the way everybody else does.

When entering Lyons from the east, turn off of US-36 at the Post Office sign.  You will immediately encounter Sandstone Park, which has restrooms and a water fountain.  This is where I like to start.  Highway 7 is just a block or so west of the park.

The climb up CO-7 to Peak-to-Peak is long, but not terribly steep (5% or 6% in the steepest sections).  And it's absolutely beautiful, following the St. Vrain River through the Roosevelt National Forest.

Highway 7 out of Lyons

The town of Ward must have been settled by itinerant families from New Mexico, insofar as they do not like to bother with posting signs to label their roads.  But the turn for the post office is clearly marked, and that's the road you want if you're heading down Lefthand Canyon Drive.  Immediately after making that turn, I passed a place in the town of Ward which looked like it might be a hangout for roadies and a place to wait for straggling riding partners coming up Lefthand.  But I don't like stopping very much, so I didn't stick around to see what the place had to offer.

July 11, 2010

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This ride is nice for those with the capability of doing one-way routes.   In my case, it meant having my family drive me up to Estes Park, drop me off, and meet me in Golden a few hours later.

For the first few miles coming out of Estes Park, the road isn't very good.  But eventually the shoulder widens and the traffic becomes more sparse.  There are a couple of convenience stores along the way before you get to Ward.

Peak-to-Peak Highway south of Ward

There is a traffic circle shortly after descending into Nederland.  Taking the first right (highways 119 and 72, which overlap at this point) will keep you on course.  It also passes right by a visitor's information center which has a water fountain, restrooms, and maps.  Here I took my only rest stop for the ride while refilling my water bottles and checking with the attendant to make sure I knew where I was going.

The road that climbs south out of town is pretty bad (more traffic and a narrow, crumbling shoulder), but before long, Highway 72 takes its leave of 119 and turns left.  I hadn't been on that stretch of road before, and it was a real treat.  There is a nice downhill stretch running beside a creek and railroad tracks.  But the climbing isn't done until you get past Wondervu - with a name like that, you know the place is going to be on top of something tall.

CO-72 then rushes you down Coal Creek Canyon, which eventually opens up onto a beautiful scene of pastures and the western-most plains and a nice view of downtown Denver beyond.  Once the highway is out in the open, it intersects with CO-93.  A right-hand turn takes you over eight miles and a few hills to Golden.

When I drive to Golden to climb Lookout Mountain, I like to start my rides from the park along Clear Creek, so that is where I arranged to have my family pick me up.  While I waited, I sat on a bench and watched people floating down the stream in tubes and kayaks.

It's really only about 25 miles from Golden to my house, so I guess I could have just ridden home from there.  But the multi-use path along Clear Creek is frequently crowded and isn't always conducive to riding fast.  And I had really gotten myself in the mood for pizza.  So the family and I had the all-you-can-eat buffet at Woody's Wood-Fired Pizza before heading home.

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