May 062012
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

More than 2,000 bike tourists hanging out at a brewery during the early Fort Collins summer –– can it get any better than that?

Organizers of Colorado’s most famous and world renowned bike tour, Ride the Rockies, don’t think it can and have picked Old Town as the final destination for the 442-mile, seven-day trip for the first time in 19 years.

The adventure brings cyclists over five mountain passes and to small towns peppered throughout the mountains and is slated for June 9-15.

It will wrap up outside of Fort Collins’ landmark Odell Brewing company.

“The access in Fort Collins with all the bike lanes and paths and mapping is stupendous,” said Charlie Weinbeck, director of the Fort Collins Cycling Festival and long-time cycling advocate.

Each August the Fort Collins Cycling Festival has grown with the emerging culture in the city, and Weinbeck attributes this to a growing outreach from the city. Having Ride the Rockies end here, he said, is a signal of that growth.

“They’re gonna have a great time when they get here,” he said.

Now in its 27th year, Ride the Rockies has grown from a few riders to an internationally recognized event that has been featured on world-wide television broadcasts and in countless magazines. The event has even had to implement a lottery system in choosing who can ride because of the overwhelming demand.

Nearly 4,000 applications are received annually.

This year’s route begins in Gunnison and leads participants and hundreds of volunteers through towns including Carbondale, Leadville, Grandby and Estes Park before screaming down the Thompson Canyon and into the Fort Collins area. Support vans carry camping gear, clothing and food to each night’s stop.

Participants will climb nearly 25,000 feet in elevation before all is said and done, including a traverse along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“This year we wanted to combine six iconic rides into one rare and beautiful week of cycling,” said Chandler Smith, the tour director, in a news release. “Each day is worthwhile all by itself. Together, they make for one wild ride.”

The week-long tour is sponsored by the Denver Post and Wells Fargo. It is estimated to bring in upward of $1.5 million of tourism revenue to the state and small towns along the route.

“When they come into town, they’re gonna see a ton of great cycling culture,” Weinbeck said. “Old town is about as cool as it gets. It’s just exciting to see more people getting aware of cycling.”
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Former Senior Reporter Jason Pohl is setting off on his own 3-month bike tour from Washington State to Maine May 19. Follow him online at www.rediscover-reality.com or at news@collegian.com._

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