Steamboat Springs For some, the Tour de Wyoming is a challenging six-day ride though the mountains of Wyoming and northern Colorado. But for Pam Duckworth and Steve Kelton, of Steamboat Springs, the annual ride is more of a chance to get out on the road with family and friends.
This year's Tour de Wyoming began Saturday in Laramie, Wyo., with registration. It carries riders over four mountain passes - about 173 miles of the 366-mile trip are uphill. The ride ends Friday in Laramie.
"This is our second year for the ride," Duckworth said.
She discovered the ride after friends James Boucher and Julie "Marty" Uhlmann, who live part time in Laramie and part time in Steamboat Springs, encouraged them to take part. This year, Duckworth and Kelton will join those friends, along with their children and grandchildren, for the ride.
"This ride is very low-key, which was a draw for me," Duckworth said. "There is time to stop and smell the roses, which was very appealing for me."
Race director Amber Travsky said the low-key feel of the ride is what the volunteer organizers are shooting for - but this year's event won't be without challenges.
"The route changes every year," Travsky said. "This is our most challenging route yet."
This is the 13th year for the ride, the first time the tour will leave Wyoming and the first time it will stop in Steamboat Springs. Travsky said she's heard a few complaints because the Tour de Wyoming will spend two days in Northwest Colorado, but she said the route was the most scenic way to get to Baggs, Wyo., and the only way to include Wyoming's Sierra Madre Mountains along the way.
The ride began Saturday with a 69-mile trip from Laramie to Walden. Today, the trip takes riders 60 miles, from Walden to Steamboat Springs - the biggest town on this year's tour, outside of Laramie.
The riders will spend Monday night camping at Steamboat Springs High School or sleeping in local hotels before riding east to Craig or onto Baggs on Day 3.
Days 5 and 6 take the riders from Baggs to Saratoga, Wyo., and then from Saratoga to the University of Wyoming's recreation camp near Centennial, Wyo. The final day is the shortest of the trip, covering 30 miles from Centennial back to the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie.
"This isn't a huge ride compared to events like Ride the Rockies, but it's a very popular ride in Wyoming," Travsky said.
This year, more than 350 riders registered for the race in just nine minutes. Travsky thought interest in the ride might drop off because of the economy, but that wasn't the case.
The cost to ride in the tour is $200 and includes luggage transport, continental breakfasts, food and drink at rest stops, mechanical support and pick-up support. Next year, Travsky said, organizers might have to consider using a lottery system in order to keep the field at a manageable number.
"This is different than other tours because of its size," Kelton said. "You know a lot of people, and it has a different look and feel."
Kelton has ridden in larger tours including the Ride the Rockies and the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. He just returned from Europe, where he and Duckworth took part in a bike tour through the Pyrenees.
"It was drop-dead beautiful, but it wasn't more beautiful than the mountains around here," Kelton said. "In fact, a lot of the ride was very similar to what you find around here."
Kelton said he is looking forward to this year's Tour de Wyoming. For him, the best way to take in the scenery is on the back of a bike, and bicycle tours offer a unique experience that's hard to match.
"It's like being in a bubble," Kelton said. "You eat, sleep and bike. You look past everything else and put it on autopilot for the week."
Kelton and Duckworth are happy to be stopping in Steamboat partway through the trip. They said it should give them a chance to sleep in their own bed, eat some home-cooked food and recharge the batteries before moving on to the second part of the tour.