This ride report by Team CSP-SBI cycling ambassador Dave Theobald
After participating in a number of organized gravel rides this summer, I decided, on a lark, to race while the weather was still warm (September 30th). The event I chose was “The Crippler” — 67 miles from Canon City to Cripple Creek and back on gravel and 4WD roads. Arriving literally a minute before the start, I found myself uncomfortably at the center-front of the starting line. My immediate race strategy thus became how to sneakily progress (backwards) to the middle of the pack. I found my legs and rhythm and gratefully the top of the climb. After a fast descent with blind corners and big trucks, l finished fast and happy! Somehow, I officially have two results. I prefer my first result: 10th place, but am terrifically satisfied with my second: 20th place.
Dave Theobald is a Senior Scientist at Conservation Science Partners. Learn more about his work: https://www.csp-inc.org/about-us/core-science-staff/theobald-dave/
More on “The Crippler”: https://www.myjourneyracing.com/the-crippler-2018.html
The community here gets behind any cycling event 100%. –Howard Grotts, 2017 IHBC King of the Mountain
Cycling up Coal Bank pass, the sound of water flowing in the high mountain streams along the road, I felt completely in the moment. The road was open solely for the Iron Horse participants. I concentrated on my breathing and my mind was quiet. As I rode the bike I was aware of my surroundings. Wet evergreen needles glistening in alpine sun. The endless white of the San Juan mountains touching the blue sky. With every breath I inhaled the fragrance of sweet forest. Rivulets of water streamed down the stone-faced mountainsides, reminding me of the soothing ambiance of the Florida River rolling over the polished rocks by the cabin where we had slept. It was a seamless experience. The rhythm of heart and legs pumping. Breathing deeply in the silence. Here I am. This is the reason we cycle. To dream big and immerse ourselves in the cycling experience, becoming a part of something greater and timeless.
I enjoyed the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic more than ever this year. There are a number of events over the weekend inlcuding kids races, mountain biking, a cruiser parade, BMX, and more. I focused on Saturday’s road race from Durango to Silverton. It’s an incredible course traveling up the Animas River Valley and over two high mountain passes before making a fast, sweeping descent into Silverton. It’s one of the most beautiful courses in the country.
The community not only gets behind the events, they actually get in the events! There are thousands of riders cycling from Durango to Silverton. You can race or ride at your own pace. Either way, everyone challenges themselves and shares the cycling experience. The citizens cheering along the course are equally extraordinary, and it takes so many volunteers and staff to make the events happen. No matter if you are riding, racing, cheering, working, or waiting for your family member to finish in Silverton, all participants infuse the festivities with special value. And the event promoters are careful to make the community integral in every aspect of the weekend’s adventures.
My race went off at 7:30am Saturday. The field was stacked with impressive talent. My basic plan was to ride with the main pack for the first 20 or so flat miles through the river valley, and wait for when the climbing began in earnest to spend my energy. But I saw Sepp Kuss, a professioal cyclist from Durango, was there, as well as Howard Grotts, a superb climber. My teammate Drew saw them as well and advised me that if I could get in a break early and save some legs for the climbs, that it wouldn’t be a bad strategy. As the race rolled out of town, I found myself moving up in the pack. And then I saw an opening at the front and just kept going. I was riding solo off the front.
I rested my forearms on the tops of my bars and time trialed to the base of the first climb. On Coal Bank Pass the race official’s vehicle pulled up next to me and told me I had a six mintue gap. It was beautiful riding higher and higher into the mountains but it was getting more difficult and I knew they would be charging hard across that gap. I told myself that if I make over Coal Bank Pass still solo that I had a chance to hang on for the win. I did go over Coal Bank solo and started the Molas Pass alone as well, but when I glanced across the valley I saw the orange kit of the Rally Cycling rider Sepp Kuss about a minute behind. I was suprised how quickly he caught me and how effortlessly he spooled by, like climbing on air. I kept my own pace and started looking over my shoulder, but didn’t see anyone else. I crested Molas Pass ok, stayed safe on the descent, and pedalled hard up through the tunnel of cheering fans. You can’t help but get shivers, and feel so happy to have made it, knowing you did your best effort on the ride. It was awesome. The first person I saw was Matt Caruso of Caruso Cycleworks, my mechanic, and then I found Mai. It was a fun celebration. As the racers came in we all congratulated one another, happy for each other and the challenge, laughing as we recapped our experiences. The spirit of cycling in Durango is positive, energitic, rewarding, super fun.
The celebration continued for hours as riders rolled across the finish line. One of the best parts of the weekend was the arrival of my teammates in Silverton. Team CSP-SBI had three riders in the citizens ride. Wonderful how cycling brings us all together. Shared joy filled the atmosphere. The grace and beauty of all the people on bikes in epic landscapes.
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic reunites us with old friends and family and helps us make new ones. It is such a family friendly event. So many interesting people, it just absolutely flattens all boundaries to coming together as one community. The whole world seems bicycle-oriented, and the incredible mountains, snow, and sky make the setting especially delightful.
It is inspiring. I think the most incredible thing is experiencing the joy of others, and seeing their accomplishments. Mindy Caruso from Albuquerque won the womens race in remarkable fashion. I was so happy for Sepp Kuss, winning his hometown-race. Howard Grotts, another hometown hero, would win the mountain bike race the next day and win the inaugural King of the Mountain competition. Ned Overend was there representing the best in the cycling tradition. At 61, his experience and strength is awesome. Iron Horse turned me on to so many inspirational stories. You learn more about the triumph of the human spirit. On our podium Sepp called out “everybody up” for us to gather around him. He wanted us all on the top step with him. I feel lucky to be a part.
The story of the mens and womens pro races, w/ video, in the Durango Herald:
The kids race attracted over three hundred youth!
The BMX event was an exhilirating success:
There are more stories at the Durango Herald, and also other media such as Facebook:
2016 has been a big year for us. The highlight for me was when our new cycling team, Team CSP-SBI, won the inaugural USA Cycling National Hill Climb Championships in the master’s men 40-49 category at Pikes Peak in Colorado this July. I love climbing mountains on the bike, but there’s never been a national event for that until this year. The best things in life are not necessarily reaching your dreams, but having an experience that fulfills something beyond what you dreamed was possible.
As any competitive person knows, you appreciate achievements fully, especially because we received a lot of help. But we’re always thinking about what’s next, what’s out there in those vistas on the distant horizon. Part of sensing the moment is seeing it in the stream of our larger life journey. Every step we take in life satisfies us enough to propel us forward. It’s nice when your goals have to do with getting the most out of yourself and performing better to honor relationships and opportunities. Doing good is our humble way of saying thank you.
I have a lot people to say thank you to. I’m thanking you for your support, and sticking with me when I failed. Here it goes.
David Sandusky for leading me into the American West, and sharing some crazy bike trips on horse trails in the mountains.
Michael Hernandez, the Squadra training group (each one of you!), and the Reno Wheelmen for teaching me more on the joy of cycling.
Drew Miller for climbing mountains. I was inspired by seeing him race in 2004. We became teammates later and shared good rides.
Jim Silverman, who represents everything that is best about the cycling scene in Flagstaff. Jim mentored me by example.
Doug Loveday for being the entrepreneur behind Grand Canyon Racing, creating opportunities to race as a team, and being a great ambassador.
Joe Shannon for his passion for cycling and the environment, starting a movement in Flagstaff, getting me racing again, and sharing the love.
The faculty and students of SESES at Northern Arizona University. How they love exploring outdoors. Inspiring.
Brian Lemke and the White Mountain Road Club, for cycling tradition, commitment and community at an entirely new level.
Chris Abbott and Heather Farrell in Albuquerque, and the best of cycling, health and wellness they exemplify here. Community excellence.
All my teammates at Team CSP-SBI. Without you this would not be possible.
Mai Wakisaka for recognizing how cycling expresses us, and sharing the bike life together. What good fun!
It’s impossible to single out all the energy you pick up from cycling with people. Going through pressing circumstances together–a hard workout, a hail storm, a race–reveals character. Witnessing so much character from common people riding bikes has uplifted my sense of humanity. We have gobs of character.
You get the idea. Cycling is a social thing! And it reveals the web of life. The sport largely runs on volunteer enthusiasm, sacrifice, love and selfless commitment. But that’s not enough. Success requires structure and support. This year Team CSP-SBI was fortunate to have sponsors that literally made my cycling possible. Thank You Sponsors.
Conservation Science Partners http://www.csp-inc.org/
Specialized Bicycles https://www.specialized.com/us/en/
Landscape Conservation Initiative http://nau.edu/lci/
Live Oak Associates, Inc. http://www.loainc.com/
Congratulations on the win Team CSP-SBI. Onward.
“Good morale in cycling comes from good legs”
Sean Yates from cycling quotes at UC Santa Cruz SCIPP
I dove in and registered for the Mt. Evans hill climb this Saturday. How hard can it be…it’s only 24 miles? It is pretty hard since those 24 miles take you from around 7,000′ to over 14,000′ on the highest paved road in north America. Mountain goats are typically milling around at the top.
In addition to the race, the promoters offer a casual ride open to all. Registration is open through Friday at noon 7/22. Cyclists who love climbing mountains must make this pilgrimage at least once in our life. Each time I ride Mt. Evans I am awed by the open spaces and swayed by the Rocky Mountain high above Denver. About half the ride is above tree line. The last trees you pedal past are silent and ancient Bristlecone pines. The vistas opening as you climb upward make you feel like you’re part of the sky.
One climb I have not done is the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire. It ascends nearly a vertical mile over 7.6 road miles. Steep pitch! The Mt. Washington climb benefits a conservation nonprofit called the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, whose mission is to “to promote appreciation of the natural environment…through hands on programs…”. Pedaling up Mt. Washington is definitely hands on, a holistic way to be engaged! If the Mt. Washington hillclimb is too extreme Tin Mountain also promotes a century ride July 30 through the beautiful New England countryside. That might be a better option if you actually want to be able to talk while you ride. Riding everyday helps me pay more attention to where I’m at and what’s going on. A special event like a hill climb, grand fondo, or century ride elevates the experience. To couple a ride with a social benefit bringing together diverse people and great places makes it especially good.
The Tour of Utah starts in Zion National Park this August to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, and to promote cycling as a healthy way of recreating outdoors. This race draws top cyclists from around the world. In 700 plus miles over seven stages, the race highlights Utah’s unique heritage, challenging terrain, beautiful cultures and stunning landscapes.
In this one minute spotlight of Stage One you may have noticed the peloton (the group of cyclists) is crossing the road centerline. This is because the road is closed to public traffic for the racers’ safety. This is the case with most professional races. In amateur races roads usually remain open to the public and cyclists use the right lane. Protection is provided with a rolling enclosure (escort vehicles in front and behind), and intersections are controlled by traffic police while the racers pass through.
Cycling is a great way for Americans to appreciate our national heritage while preserving the integrity of the landscape. Cycling is a solution for “NPS’s dual mission–to prevent ecological injury to parks while simultaneously promoting tourism” (Brinkley, Rightful Heritage). It is exciting to see a cycling event highlighting features that make America unique, and showcasing our cultural identity as a healthy people inspired by our lands. Cycling is becoming as iconic to the American identity as Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and the colorful canyons of Zion.