Let’s start with the numbers. 97 miles, almost entirely on gravel. 6,880 feet of climbing, again, 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.
At Williams Fork Reservoir we’ll part ways with the 68-mile riders and head off for a big loop into some wild jeep tracks.
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.
We will announce timed segments soon.