Elizabeth CO is a foothills ranching town. It’s about half way between Denver and Colorado Springs, and sits at 6200′ of elevation. Tucked into a forested fold, it’s a 400 foot climb to leave town in any direction. Warming up is pedaling 200 yards to the base of a 9 percent grade. The ranching vibe was immediately evident on my first ride: four of five vehicles passing me were Cummings diesel pick-em-up trucks. Each belched a black cloud of exhaust at face level as they went by.
Once exploring outside of Elizabeth you’ll find yourself on a long ridge with several descents leading past gated communities to the valley floor. Signs abound, advertising new construction from the low 900’s. FOUNDER’S POINTE. As the prices increase, I guess you get to add an e to point. I was passed by Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, the odd Porsche and a lone DeLorean – all driven by people who smiled and waved. And so it went. Climb up the next valley and do it all again, with views of the Rampart Range and upscale subdivisions brought to you by the letter e.
I spent three days on monstrous rollers, CAT 4 and 5 climbs, and an occasional CAT 3 with 800 feet or more of ascent. Perfect pavement, blue skies, no humidity. It was time to up my game.
But before I go there, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my hosts cook a drop-dead awesome coconut curry…
I can be a reluctant cyclist. When it comes to a bit of suffering, I’ve been known to waver in my resolve. Once I get going, I’m fine…but getting to that first pedal stroke can be a doozie. I effectively sabotage any lack of motivation by methodically pre-packing the evening before, and laying out my kit neatly. Food is chosen with care, and bottles rinsed and ready. The result? No excuses the next morning. Organizational momentum 1, sloth 0.
The HC climb up to Echo Lake in the Mount Evans wilderness leads to both Juniper and Squaw passes. The grade is a moderate 5-7%, but climbs steadily at nearly 300 feet per mile.
I knew it was a going to be a special day minutes after getting on the road. Staring at me from the edge of the forest was a fox with a striking red coat and fresh kill in its mouth. She watched me without fear as I passed by. Minutes later, a hummingbird saw my red jersey and took me to be a very large flower.
I locked into my climbing cadence without consciously thinking about it: 82-88 rpm, smooth, no mashing. Powering through the switchbacks, I felt strong and composed as the views began to open up. As my altimeter marked 3000′ of climbing, pure elation took over, and I found an extra gear. It’s always like this, and my favorite experience in cycling: getting to the top. This year getting there has been sweeter, since I’m 10 pounds lighter.
After a quick out and back to Juniper and Squaw, I stopped for a bottle of orange juice and persuaded a reluctant tourist from North Carolina to take my picture. I get the reluctant part. How many times does a 6-4 guy in dark glasses and skin tight spandex ask YOU for stuff?
I ripped the 13 mile descent, hitting 75 Kph [45 mph] in the straightaways, and laughing at the vertigo feeling of hairpin turns. And just like that, Chicago Creek reappeared at the roadside. As my ears popped from the rapid descent, I touched the brakes one last time, shrugged the tension out of my shoulders, and turned into the forest service parking lot.
I don’t know where else I’d go for this.
What a sport.