Robin Craigen takes a break while riding the Col du Galibier mountain pass earlier this month in the French Alps.

Robin Craigen/courtesy

Robin Craigen takes a break while riding the Col du Galibier mountain pass earlier this month in the French Alps.

Spoke Talk: Our life is someone’s biking vacation

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Robin Craigen

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Read more about Craigen's cycling trip to France in Tuesday's Steamboat Today.

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Robin Craigen/courtesy

Routt County Riders President Robin Craigen and seven of his friends traveled to France early this month for a cycling trip. Picture are, from left, James Shingles, Steve Dressen, Bob Stack, Craigen, Wes Fountain, Darrin Fryer, Tim Penny and Lindsey Lambek.

— Last week, I was excited to return to Steamboat after eight days taking on the legendary peaks of the French Alps on a bike.

I was excited to return because I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to live in a place that I now know to be a world-class cycling destination. The funny thing is, the rest of the world has absolutely no idea — yet.

My journey in France can be described only as a biking trip of a lifetime that was shared with seven good friends. The itinerary was not for the faint of heart (or lungs) with an average daily vertical of almost 8,000 feet covering 460 miles. The thought of climbing Galibier, Telegraphe, Petit St Bernard, Madeleine and finishing the week with L’etape du Tour, where we raced 77 miles on a closed-road stage of this year’s Tour de France, certainly had driven us to train hard riding 120 to 200 miles per week in the spring.

You might ask yourself, “Who does this kind of thing for fun?” The answer is thousands of people. The Tour de France has inspired generations to tackle these mountains, and the outcome is a daily trail of toiling bodies driving to the summit of an impossible peak again and again and again. On the day we rode the Col du Galibier, more than 800 people made the same pilgrimage to the top. Not bad for a Tuesday.

Everywhere we went, we could see that we were not alone. Every town that we passed through seemed to be reaching out to connect with the passing throngs. It touched us in so many ways: artwork and sculptures depicting cycling or perhaps the random cry from a local of “Allez! Courage! Vive le Tour!” as we rumbled by. I confess that my personal delight was the regular supply of cafes serving espresso and tasty pastries, all justified to meet the 4,000-plus calories we were expending daily.

Living in Steamboat is so great because anytime I leave, I appreciate something new about this beautiful place each time I come back.

This time, I learned that there can be no better place to train for riding in Europe’s mountains than the Colorado Rockies. We have the vertical that climbers crave, we have scenery that feels like you are riding through a postcard and we have a welcoming, bike-friendly community. When the Europeans and others figure it out, I predict that a Tuesday summer ride along Twentymile Road or to Steamboat Lake might look quite a bit busier than it does now.

“Allez! Courage! Vive Le Tour!”

Robin Craigen is the president of Moving Mountains and serves on the board of Routt County Riders. He can be reached at robin@movingmountains.com.

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, rest of the world does not realize the Rocky Mountains exist. I think the Rockies are pretty well known with no shortage of companies offering bike tours.

Our vertical is not that interesting because it is all 6% or so. We lack the interesting climbs with stretches at 10% or more where the riders just try to survive and then try to recover before the next challenge. Here you just set a pace and ride it out. And so none of climbs will ever become famous.

What we do have is cooler mountain weather which allows riding June-August without fighting brutal heat.

And locally, the stretch from Twentymile coal mine to Oak Creek is a wonderful section that is a good test of conditioning with the last longer and milder climb being torture if tired or a speedy power climb if fit.

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