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Preparing for the Copper Triangle

I’ve never done this event before, it’s a pretty massive one-day ride. And it sells out EVERY YEAR, so I feel super fortunate to participate!

From their website, I learned it is a:

78-mile loop cresting three Colorado Mountain passes – Fremont Pass (elevation 11,318’), Tennessee Pass (elevation 10,424’) and Vail Pass (elevation 10,666’). The total elevation gain for the course is 5,981 ft.

That’s a LOT of elevation gain! What that meant for me as I signed up: I need to do more climbing! And more big rides to prepare!

Luckily, just two weeks ago, I did the Courage Classic — it was a three-day tour totaling 157 miles (or 201 miles in my case, since I added a few extra in) and it climbed the same pass — Fremont pass — that we’ll start with at the Copper Triangle.

Unfortunately for us at the Courage Classic, Hwy 24 was temporarily closed due to the sinkhole issue, so our Courage Classic courses were amended slightly to remove that portion of the event. However, for the Copper Triangle, CDOT has found a way for us to ride from Leadville via Hwy 24 towards Vail! So I will get to see some new scenery and climb two new passes — Tennessee and Vail passes.

When you go into an event like this, preparation is key if you want to enjoy the day. You don’t sign up for a 70+ mile event with nearly 6,000 feet of elevation gain and then try to “fake it.” This type of an event requires some longer rides in the saddle, at elevation if possible, but certainly some rides with climbing, to prepare the body for three monster mountain pass climbs.

Riding 70+ miles in itself is a feat — assuming you average 15-16 mph, that is usually a 4+ hour ride. So in training I’ve been trying to do 3-4 hour rides several times/week to increase my endurance. This means that my back, butt, shoulders, neck, arms, and most importantly LEGS are accustomed to riding not one, not two, not three, but four or more hours at a time. At all three days of the Courage Classic I rode 3:30-4 hours/day. That was a HUGE endurance boost.

Last weekend I raced in Salida — doing a time trial and criterium. I also added a road ride in, giving me 3:30 ride time on Saturday which included a fast paced 45-minute criterium. This also boosted my endurance.

In addition to endurance, you have to train your body to CLIMB. Many of my local weekday training rides these last few weeks have been done on Lookout Mountain, Highway 40 (from Golden up towards the Buffalo/Lookout Mtn exit on Hwy 70), Highway 74 (from Morrison up to Evergreen), and so on. Climb climb climb. It’s not unusual for a ride here in the Golden-Morrison-Lakewood area to have 2500-4000 feet of elevation gain in 30-40 miles.

I also took part in a cruiser ride and paradium a couple nights ago in Golden and we WON for our group costume “shotgun wedding”. It consisted of us wearing old prom/bridesmaid dresses and having a BLAST on the cruiser ride. It wasn’t exactly “training” but it did constitute a ride!

To help with the extreme elements at altitude, I recently invested in the best rain jacket money can buy, from Rapha, to take with me in case I get caught in some wet stuff midday (very typical in the Colorado Mountains this time of year!).

All told, I feel I’m prepared and ready to tackle this event, which begins at 5:45am on Saturday morning! I will get to Vail early on Friday to get there for a nice easy spin on my bike to “ride out the car legs” and then get my packet and all the info I need for the ride. Then it will be a VERY early bedtime for me so that I’m up and at ‘em in time to start the early ride, in the hopes that I can outrun the rain.

I am really looking forward to the Copper Triangle and look forward to reporting back on my experience after it’s finished!

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By Megan Hottman

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