Let’s start with the numbers. 95 miles, almost 70% on gravel. 8,110 feet of climbing, almost entirely on gravel. And a starting altitude of 8,800 feet.
But riding gravel isn’t just about the numbers, is it? After a police-led rollout from downtown Winter Park, we bank left onto gravel and head into Arapaho National Forest. As we climb through pine and past creeks, the air gets thinner and the views get better.
We top out just shy of 10,000 feet, and then – after a refreshment break – it’s time for miles and miles of smiles as we cruise down forest roads that give way to wide-open, smooth-running dirt roads that you’ll swear are smoother than pavement.
Just past Williams Fork Reservoir we’ll part ways with the 65-mile riders and head off for a huge climb.
A short jaunt on pavement through a slot canyon takes us to Hot Sulphur Springs. Take on some sustenance here, because the fearsome Cottonwood Pass lies ahead! Okay, it’s not fearsome. It’s actually really pretty, smothered with an aspen grove over the top. But it is annoyingly steep.
With that work done, you are homeward bound.
Visit the website for info on timed segments and aid stations.