Gravel

“So, what did you think of the ride today?” I ask a Denver area cyclist at the end of our 35 mile ride out of Nederland, CO.

“It was great!” he says with a wide grin,  “It was….he says, pausing to find the right word,”It was sexy.” We both have a good laugh, but I know what he means. We had both arrived in Nederland that morning for a preview ride of Indian Peaks Classic, led by one of the ride’s founders, Timmy Duggan, and it was more than anyone had expected.

Timmy, a local to Nederland, has planned for years with Ian MacGregor, lifelong friend and partner in the Just Go Harder Foundation, to create a ride that highlights the amazing riding in the area as well as benefiting the foundation. And in a few weeks, their vision will come to fruition.

I started the ride with trepidation, as I am a mediocre cyclist at best, and aside from retired pro cyclist Timmy,the ride is completely comprised of Rapha Cycle Club members and Denver area club members from Denver Wheelmen and 6202 Cycling Club, all levels above me in skill and training. I had spent the past weekend riding numerous trails in the Denver area, but hadn’t put in any serious miles on my road bike in over a week, and deep down I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was in way over my head. I approached the group of riders, and saw that I was the only girl in the group. No big deal to me. After my previous cross racing season, I was used to that. Gender wasn’t the issue in this group, but I worried that ability would be. The last thing I wanted to do was hold anyone up, or make the ride less enjoyable for the others.

As we headed out and up the Peak to Peak Highway, it became even more obvious the difference in abilities, but I pushed on anyways, feeling the burn in my lungs and legs almost immediately. As I came around a corner, one of the cyclists was waiting for me to show me where the group had turned off. And then the fun began!

I love gravel road riding!! It’s a challenge for sure, but the work pays off as you ride along fields of wild flowers and hidden lakes on quiet roads. We went back and forth between the highway and looping side roads of well maintained, hard packed gravel. It’s hard to say what the highlight of the ride was. It could have been the rolling gravel roads, the epic descent from the aptly named Wondervue. It could have been the climb up Magnolia, which will be the segment for the King and Queen of the Mountain on Indian Peaks Classic. For me, it may have been the fact that I rode the ride, pushed through the hard climbs and rode even when I felt I could barely breathe.

Whatever the high point was for each individual rider, one thing is for sure, it left us all with ear to ear smiles as we enjoyed an end of ride snack and beer at Salto Coffee Works. Nederland was a hidden gem of riding, and all of us were basking in the glory of having ridden such an area. I thanked them all profusely for letting me join the ride and for their patience with me on the climbs, and headed out for what my legs later deemed an unwise afternoon mountain bike ride. I left the ride feeling exhilarated and thrilled, and can’t wait to go back on September 6 to ride more of Nederland’s roads. So yes, I guess it is a sexy ride indeed.

I want to thank George Thomas of Over The Top Cycling for the images, and for the support of the ride itself!

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