By Craig Harper
For the Courier
There are no champions, but everyone is a winner in the Red Rocks Century cycling event.
The 307 riders who participated in four rides in the foothills west of Morrison ranging from 33 to 100 miles on Aug. 9 were rewarded with spectacular scenery and challenging climbs.
The real winners were Hope Communities and Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, the event’s two primary beneficiaries.
Red Rocks Century, Inc., an Englewood-based Non-Profit Organization, assumed control of the event in 2011 after two years as the Healing Wheels Tour. The four rides (also 50 and 62 miles) all begin at Bandimere Speedway and head west to Evergreen, the three shorter ones turning back and finishing in downtown Morrison.
“It’s an organized bike ride with no prizes,” said race director Morgan Landers. “It’s always been a charity ride and we have no paid race staff. It’s a nice ride that people do for charity.”
“It’s not a race. It’s just a zen-like experience where you take in the sights and sounds of nature and wildlife. It’s real different from racing,” said Larry Fullerton, executive director of Hope Communities, which provides rental housing and services for low-income families in the Denver area.
Fullerton rode the race for the first time, taking advantage of the inaugural 33-mile Challenge Ride, the easiest of the four.
“My ride was a lot of fun,” Fullerton said. “I’m a casual rider, mainly downtown on the flats. So these hills are a little much for me. But I made it to Evergreen and the coast downhill was a lot of fun. It was fun to be going that slowly to take in the sights and the sounds and see things you don’t see from the car. On Dinosaur Ridge, a coyote ran in front of us, and that was fun. And near Evergreen, a couple of young deer ran across the highway. When you’re going slower, it’s a whole different atmosphere.”
Nick Giedt of Englewood opted for the Century Ride, which features a climb to Squaw Pass, about 11,140 feet of total climbing and a 10,000-foot elevation gain.
“I wanted to try this ride because it takes some of the routes that aren’t very common to the area,” Giedt said after covering the 100 miles in 6 hours, 15 minutes. “Squaw Mountain’s very common among cyclists, but not a lot of people know about Witter Gulch. Witter Gulch is a really tough ride. It’s one of those that’s kind of scary to try when you’re self-supporting a route, but they had support stations at the bottom and top of Squaw Mountain.
“This route is especially gorgeous. It comes through a lot of the valleys. Witter is very, very pretty. And Squaw Mountain’s always gorgeous, especially after they repaved it and put a bike lane on there.”
Landers said registration numbers have “stayed fairly consistent due to the difficulty of the ride.” The Challenge Ride was added “so it would be more attractive to new riders.” She said the average rider has 7-10 years cycling experience, “so the pool is very accomplished.”