Dave Shively: All uphill
July 29, 2007
Bob Cook had no trouble cycling from Idaho Springs at 7,540 feet and up to the Mt. Evans summit parking lot shy of 14,264 feet. When he was tested at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in the late ’70s, his VO2 max levels were the highest of any tested athlete at the time.
Oxygen intake is a good thing when you are racing bikes up Mt. Evans, and Cook won that race five years in a row. In 1981, Cook died of brain cancer, at age 23.
Jim Gregoire grew up with Cook in Boulder. Cook was a few years younger than Gregoire, but they would hang out, “at The Spoke on The Hill” during its heyday as “the bike shop in Colorado.”
Gregoire lost track of Cook and a lot of his Boulder brethren as he realized he was, “not cool enough to be in Boulder anymore,” and settled in Steamboat.
Gregoire, 60, rallied once again for the July 21 Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hillclimb, with an old friend in mind.
“As I was plugging away, I’d think about Bob and how fragile life is,” Gregoire said.
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The former marathoner rated his finish as a huge personal accomplishment, for good reason.
It takes drive to race up 27.4 miles and 6,580 feet. Most use the paved roads or cog railways differently to access the state’s awe-inspiring summits. I thought it defeated much of purpose of powering oneself up there when I huffed up Pikes Peak, only to see a cog-load of visitors waltz into the flavored oxygen bar at the Summit House. Nachos and donuts above tree line? I got over it quick and purchased some anyway before the gallop down.
That earned downhill is the best part, leaving me wondering: who would love an uphill-only event?
“The Hillclimb is the perfect race for unicycles – there is no sustained downhill,” answered Mark Osmun, who completed the race in 3 hours, 35 minutes.
Back problems led the 37-year-old teacher from Golden to one wheel, and the looks on the faces of competitors he passed on his brakeless, single-speed 36-inch wheel rig keep him going.
“It’s more like running, and there’s less to hang onto and you just forget about it and go faster than I would if I was running,” he said.
Regular two-wheelers are also catching on. The growing race pulled more than 1,000 participants this year.
Steamboat’s Richard Anderson was one. Johnny Spillane, who spent plenty of time on his road bike recovering from early April shoulder surgery, was another. The extra hours off the hill and in the saddle left Spillane with fitness he said “is as good as it’s ever been.”
The sprint world champ had no trouble winning his division in two hours.
But, of course, Gregoire pointed out the real reward after the race: It’s “an experience you can never have, except that day – going 50 miles an hour down a 14,000-foot mountain.”
I wish I could ride down Mt. Evans. Maybe they could build a cog railway up it.
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