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Crippler lives up to its name

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Grueling race challenges riders physically with 13-hour, 17,500-feet conquest over 200 miles

By Chelsy Woods Klein

Few have shed the blood, sweat and tears required to claim a Rocky Mountain Cycling Club (RMCC) Triple Crown title to their list of achievements, but on Aug. 11 five people did just that when they finished the inaugural Cripple Creek Crippler Bike Race, bringing the total number of 2012 Triple Crown achievers to 16.


The Crippler, which starts and finishes at the Ken Caryl Park and Ride, is not a timed race, but riders must complete the 200-mile course that winds through Conifer and Deckers, within 18 hours of the 4 a.m. start time. The race has a total verticle gain of 17,500 feet and steep climbs of eight to 12 percent, according to the race’s website. In order to achieve membership in The Triple Crown club, one must compete three grueling ultracycling road events.
Each of the races are single-day rides and all three have to be accomplished in one calendar year. There aren’t that many RMCC races to choose from, so racers must be prepared to ride hard and often. Mark Lowe, 38, of Arvada, and Mark Moons, 46, of Petaluma, Calif., are the kind of riders that make completing the Crippler seem easy. The Crippler made for an excellent feather in both of their caps.
Lowe, an avid cyclist, captured the Colorado Triple Crown title earlier in the season upon completing the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop race on July 28. Moons, also an avid cyclist, added Triple Crown titles to his name in Colorado and California.
“In order to compete in Colorado races you have to get here about a month ahead of the race,” Moons said. “There is no way a cyclist could come from sea level and adjust in time to be able to finish the race without spending some time here first.”
Lowe and Moons were among first to finish. Lowe gained the distinction of having completed four-of-four races within the Triple Crown series, finishing this race in 11 hours, 8 minutes at a pace of 17.97 miles per hour. Moons was officially fourth  in 11:59 at 16.69 mph. Evergreen’s Eric Nelsen came in second in 11:31 and Boulder’s Ryan Franz was third in 11:53.
Despite having to re-route their ride around a sinkhole in Cripple Creek that added time and distance to their ride it still went fairly smoothly with cool weather and relatively dry road conditions. According to Lowe, the sink hole added five or six miles to the course, which for well-trained cyclists is no big deal. But the bigger obstacle was the extra 1,600 feet of climbing.
“(The sinkhole) wasn’t that big a deal, but it was a total momentum killer,” Lowe said.
Lowe said that despite that the other big obstacle was maintaining his energy through the demanding course. He said that calorie dense liquid fuel was the key to his body’s survival, which Moons agreed was also his saving grace.
“The most important part for being able to survive this race is nutrition,” Moons said. “If you don’t have proper nutrition then your body just tanks and you can’t go anymore and solid food is hard for our body to process.”