Pedal The Plains, like Ride The Rockies and other awesome cycling events, is great fun for many reasons. You know what I mean: athletic accomplishment, rider camaraderie, scenic beauty, learning about people and places, etc.
The athletic experience is always heightened when we’re trained and ready, which, of course, you already know. So what suggestions can this PTP and RTR veteran offer?
It’s always seemed sensible to me to train for the specific challenges and conditions of an upcoming ‘big event’. Early in the season when we’re riding the Rockies or triple-bypassing, it’s important to train for ‘epic climbs’: three- or four-thousand feet of elevation gain over a distance of eight to ten miles. You know: riding in your lowest gears and occasionally upshifting and standing. (You do upshift two or three gears when you stand, don’t you? Always do that!)
The terrain on Pedal The Plains is mostly rollers or long, gradual uphill stretches that rise up from a major drainage, like the South Platte River this year. So it makes sense to be training on that kind of terrain for similar distances to what we’ll have on PTP. Training for PTP on High Grade, Lefthand Canyon or Witter Gulch Road couldn’t hurt, but I’m inclined to recommend roads east of the Hogback this time of the season.
If you live up north, routes along U.S.-287 and I-25 between Broomfield and Fort Collins and Windsor are many (although development in the area has changed the rural ‘feel’ from what it once had.) I often ride from Belle Creek (Hwy-85 and 104th) up through Brighton, Lochbuie, Hudson and Kersey. County Road 49 (between I-76 and U.S.-34) is traditionally a great road for training for PTP, but not this year! It’s under major construction its entire length. It will be a dream when it’s done, but trust me: wait until it’s done!
If you live south, explore routes from Parker and Highlands Ranch through Castle Rock, Larkspur, Palmer Lake, Franktown and Elizabeth. Spruce Mountain Road from Larkspur to Palmer Lake is a great ride, and you can do a loop by taking Hwy-105 the opposite direction. Lake Gulch Road southeast of Castle Rock is another option (and much more fun without the crowds of Elephant Rock.) From there, jump onto Hwy-83 for a couple of miles to Russellville Road north to Franktown. If you’re not wild about riding uphill on Hwy-86, take Castle Oaks Parkway or Crowfoot Valley.
Perhaps my favorite PTP training ride is the Hotter’n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, Texas. Very similar terrain to our routes on PTP. But for that, you’ll have to wait until 2018, for the HHH was last Saturday.
Of course, Denver’s extensive bike path system is a convenient option, particularly along C-470. I personally favor highways and county roads where “on your left” is seldom heard, but it’s entirely up to you. Most importantly: keep racking up the miles so you will flatten PTP’s hills and slice the winds of our eastern plains with power and confidence. And you’ll have plenty of energy to dance the night away in Keenesburg and Brush!