Over the past few months, wedding related events have brought me to Colorado a few times. I got some great mountain biking in Salida and Fraser/Winter Park. I also got to check out the last stage of the Colorado USA Pro Tour. Colorado's terrain and beauty always leave me yearning for more.
Riding in Salida, Colorado
I grabbed a bike at Absolute Bikes in Salida. It's a great shop with a lot of neat jerseys, high caliber gear, and every type of sports bar under the sun.
The center of the riding is the small mountain that juts out behind down. It's easy to spot and has a huge S on it. You need to work for your downhill. We did a nice heavy climb up to the top, a real challenge going from 7,000 feet in altitude up to about 9,000. There were some easier trails down, but also some extremely challenging ones, ones that my borderline pro Colorado friends thought were tough.
While I chickened out, the Monarch Crest trail is regarded as one of Colorado's top 5 mountain biking trails, and probably the most difficult of those that would be considered destination trails.
I liked the town of Salida a lot. It was about 2 hours from Denver and it's a beautiful scenic drive. It is full of restaurants and has some really cool bars. A great one to check out is the Victoria Bar, which has retained much of its historic interior and facade. There seemed to be an coffeehouse vibe and a lot of good looking restaurants spanning different ethnicities and price points,
Mountain Biking in Winter Park / Fraser, Colorado
In Fraser, a few locals recommended Icebox Bikes. The store isn't much to look at but at $45 for a 24 hour rental, I got a very high end specialized cross country bike that I've seen on sale for $1,800. They did a nice job setting it up and pointed me at some good intermediate trails.
From Fraser, you can take the road behind the Conoco up a road that has a nice track alongside it called the Givelo Trail. You can also just toss your bike in your car and drive up to the ranger station. From there, you can easily access a few pretty zippy trails. I rode Creekside, Zoom, Northwest Passage, Chainsaw and a few others.
They are fairly flat and quite fast, and extremely well maintained. That's a good thing from the safety perspective. Still, they are fast, with lots of roots, rocks, embankments, and plenty of challenge to keep things fun. The Winter Park ski resort also runs lifts for downhill biking and it's easy to get a whole bunch of laps in that way, though I prefer to work for it myself! A lot of beers from the wedding to work off.
By the way, if you are looking for cool shop jersey from the area, I picked up this one as a gift for a friend in Australia, a coffee and bike lover. It was the best local jersey I saw, and you can ge it at the Total Wired Cyclery. It's connected to a coffee that shop that has incredible iced coffee.
I recommend staying at the Devil's Thumb Ranch for a luxury option in the Fraser/Winter Park area, and the YMCA of the Rockies at Snow Mountain Ranch for a budget choice. The Devil's Thumb was where I sent my wife to the spa so I could ride a bit more aggressively, and she really enjoyed it. It is nestled in a beautiful valley and has all the amenities of a luxury hotel, but also has a fly fishing pond and its own cattle and horses. And some stairs that I bombed my mountain bike down of course.
The drive up is as scenic as you can imagine, winding up and down through the Rockies. I recommend a detour to see the Red Rocks Amphitheater as you head back to Denver.
Salida vs. Fraser/Winter Park
Overall, I liked the town of Salida more than Fraser/Winter Park but thought the riding was a bit more diverse and safe in Fraser/Winter Park. Salida had some great terrain for the technically skilled and physically fit.
Denver USA Pro Challenge
There’s always a lot of bike racing in Colorado but one of the big events is the Denver USA Pro Challenge which happened to be in town as I was headed back to Denver International Airport.
I wrapped up the Colorado trip with a visit to the USA Pro Bike Tour event in Denver. The time trial event was the last stage of a 7 day race. My wife and I watched from Larimer Square. Pretty neat event. Taylor Phinney from BMC was clearly flying as he went by, and he won the stage. So was Christian Van de Velde who finished second in the stage but made up enough time to take the yellow jersey from Levi Leipheimer. It's hard to believe how fast some of these guys are cycling. Though it did look like more than one of them had bonked just like you or I might have!
Great stuff. I hope to catch more of it next year, and if my budget and conditioning permit, check out the tour Duvine runs with the Cannondale Liquigas team.