USA ProCycling Challenge in Colorado, nicknamed ‘America’s Race’, finished up after seven days of cycling races mostly in the high country from Aspen to Denver. The average elevation was something like 6,500 feet and some roads took the race to a higher level than any professional cycling race with Independence Pass at an elevation over 12,095 feet uphill from Aspen on Stage 2.
Independence Pass is a road I traveled down into Aspen in July 2011. Kelley and I talked in the car about how this would be a great road for a professional cycling race while driving back to California during the Tour de France. Then we hit a couple miles of cliffside gravel-covered road and the slow speed and rocks bouncing off the car undercarriage kind of drove that thought away from my mind.
As it turned out the road was being repaved a month before the Tour of Colorado race did the same road descent from Independence Pass into Aspen that August 2011 in the same direction we had driven into Aspen from the high country Rockies.
View from Independence Pass, Colorado 12,095 ft. (July 2011)
We spent the night in Aspen at the St. Regis on a free award night when rates were around $500 to $600. The hotel was even being remodeled and pricing at those rates.
I could not help but think that I had seen the most gorgeous view in Buena Vista on the far side of Independence Pass after an absolute torrent of hail, rain and road water in a summer deluge of black skies and fierce weather.
Driving into Buena Vista minutes after the July storm had passed by was a relief to find a town. There are not many. The 14ers of the Collegiate Peaks were still surrounded in dark skies. The view from near the Best Western Plus in Buena Vista, Colorado a small town of about 2,000 residents by the Arkansas River is one I remember. I think I would have preferred a hotel night with the view from the Best Western than our stay at the St. Regis Aspen.
Buena Vista and Collegiate Peaks with several mountains over 14,000 feet.
The Arkansas River runs through the valley and water activities are the excitement of a July day when the skies aren’t weeping angrily.
I am talking it was a scary storm to drive through when I could not see out my windows as the rain hammered on the windshield and there was no place to pull over on tiny U.S. Route 24, a few miles before Buena Vista.
Wild alpine flowers at Independence Pass.
Independence Pass was in the 50s and breezy in thin air. The storm had passed.
I experienced that once on a day in July 2011.
Colorado Tourism Commercial – Once.
This commercial played frequently during seven days of NBCSports coverage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge last week. This moved me. Kelley, not so much. She still says she is not a mountain girl after another high elevation trip through Rocky Mountain National Park last month.
Links: USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Loyalty Traveler – Elk High in Rocky Mountain National Park (July 12, 2013)
St. Regis Aspen – Too Late to Cancel (July 25, 2011)