Thursday, May 14, 2015

Arapahoe Basin hosts free bike ride to preview 2015 USA Pro Challenge route

#Arapahoe Basin, Colorado.

Dave Camara / Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

It’s time to welcome the summer cycling season with style.
And maybe a bit of snow.
In a prelude to its first-ever USA Pro Challenge finish, Arapahoe Basin is hosting the Summer of Cycling community ride this Saturday. Participants follow the same grueling, near-legendary Loveland Pass route that top-level pros will tackle this August for the final leg of Stage 2, beginning at Wilderness Sports in Dillon and ending at the base of Arapahoe Basin — nearly 14.25 miles and 2,500 vertical feet later.
The free (yes, free) ride wraps up in the still-snowy base area with Pro Challenge swag, beer from Sierra Nevada and live music by Funkiphino, playing slopeside as part of the ski area’s May concert series.
There’s also an official Pro Challenge jersey up for grabs — even skiers can swing by the race tent to enter the raffle drawing — and all ride participants are eligible for two VIP passes for the Stage 2 finish on Aug. 18, to be announced when the concert wraps up around 4 p.m.
And if your legs weren’t quite destroyed by the first demanding hill climb of the season, well, there’s always skiing.
“For A-Basin, this is the start of our season, our welcome for the Pro Challenge,” ski area spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac says. “It’s exciting for us to host this community ride, and it’s really cool to have it happening as skiing is still happening. It’s just a very Colorado thing to do.”
The bike ride gets underway around 11:30 a.m. from the parking lot at Wilderness Sports. It’s not guided, per se, but shop employees will be on-hand to check gear essentials (think tire pressure and the like) before spreading out along the route to help cyclists along and, of course, enjoy the ride.
“The anticipation is that if you want to go fast, you can go as fast as you want,” says Scott Westcott, owner of Wilderness Sports and an avid cyclist. “But we know it will take some people an hour to do that last stretch from Keystone to the Basin, especially this early in the season, and we’ll be there to give support.”
Granted, Saturday’s route won’t be the exact same path the pros follow — Stage 2 begins about 100 miles to the west in Steamboat — but Westcott still warns participants to respect the climb, particularly the last 4.25-mile push from Keystone Resort to A-Basin.
“This ride will definitely make watching that stage a bit more telling,” Westcott says. “When you see how fast those guys can climb, it’s impressive. It will certainly be a test, but they are so amazing and so fit. It’s just fun to witness what they can do and know just how demanding it is.”
Cyclists cruise along the bike path between Dillon and Keystone’s Montezuma Parking Lot before moving to the asphalt on U.S. 6. Ski area employees will staff a mid-ride aid station at Keystone, where they’ll be handing out water, snacks and free A-Basin goodies. It’s also an opportunity for those with tired legs to call it a day.
If you decide to brave the 1,600 vertical feet between Keystone and A-Basin, be prepared. Not only is it a lung burner, but organizers aren’t providing transportation back to Dillon, so arrange a ride or be ready to hop on the hourly Summit Stage bus.
As usual in Summit County in May, the ride could be canceled due to nasty weather at A-Basin, but Westcott plans to bike through rain or shine. He’ll update the Wilderness Sports Facebook page on Saturday morning with any news.
Along with cycling the course, Westcott and staff also have a handful of early-season demo bikes available for participants. A small fleet of brand-new Cervelo R3 and Specialized Ruby models are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We just want to get people out riding,” Westcott says. “It’s that time of year, and if everyone can get out to have a good time, that’s all we want.”
The Summer of Cycling day at A-Basin is the first on a jam-packed roster of community rides, all leading up to Pro Challenge starting gun in Steamboat Springs on Aug. 17.
The next ride comes to Breckenridge on June 21, with a second ride at Copper still in the works. Details for both free events will be released in the next few weeks.
For now, even with the specter of snow in the forecast, organizers believe A-Basin is the perfect venue to launch a full summer of cycling in Summit.
“A-Basin is just a party,” says Jaime Harmon, a spokeswoman with the Pro Challenge. “They really know how to have fun, with great live music, and that’s a lot like our races and our finishes. And you can’t overlook one of the most incredible climbs in the state.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.