So the addition of a second child has been a wonderful experience, but as expected it has cramped my style a bit. Sleep has been compromised (no real surprise there, right?). With the diminished sleep has come suppressed energy levels and thus motivation to ride. Of course all of this is temporary and a very small price to pay when you factor in the joys of parenthood. Fortunately, time, sleep, energy and motivation have become a bit more abundant in my life so I decided to return to riding with a bang.
I’ve lived in Colorado Springs for over ten years now and most of that time I’ve heard stories of this legendary ride from Colorado Springs down to Penrose, up Phantom Canyon and through Victor and Cripple Creek before descending back down to Colorado Springs. To add fuel to the fire, the boys from Rapha tackled this ride last summer. You can check out their short film if you’re interested in seeing some images of the area.
From my starting point on the Westside of town, this is a 122-mile loop, which amounted to 7 ½ hours of riding, 4100kj, and about 7,200 feet of elevation gain. You top out at 10,160 feet as you climb up out of Cripple Creek, another mining town from days of yore. Phantom Canyon is old railroad bed that winds its way up an absolutely amazing canyon, through a few tunnels and over several bridges (including one that has the wooden planks parallel to direction of the bridge and it has two turns in it, pretty amazing). And yes, those gaps are wide enough to swallow a road tire.
Said Canyon also involves 24 miles of dirt road climbing, taking you from 5,332 feet up to Victor at 9695 feet. Since it is an old railroad bed, the grade is pretty mellow at 3-4% most of the way. While this would seem to be pretty mundane on a paved road, after a couple of hours on a rough surface and ever increasing elevation, I was more than happy to see the once boom town of Victor.
As we made our way down Highway 50 towards Canon City, I spotted a Roadrunner along the side of the road. This is only the second one I’ve ever seen in Colorado, so I took it as omen that we were in for a good day.
We gathered a small group, four of us in total, so we would have some shelter from the wind, but we would also be able to minimize the likelihood of delays from flats, mechanicals, etc. For the most part this approach worked pretty well, but we did have one emergency bowel evacuation partway up Phantom Canyon. Luckily there are two small rest areas along the climb, so crisis was averted and we were on our way. After about halfway up the climb, we had separated into four small groups, our own little armies of one. Misery loves company, but sometimes misery loves solitude. We trickled into Victor in hopes of finding a 7-11 and all the wonderful gifts that it has to offer, but we quickly learned that Victor is not the type of town to cater to the corporate establishments. After a quick glance down both streets of downtown Victor, we quickly settled on The Fortune Club, not necessarily because it looked like the best choice, but because it was the only choice. Turns out The Fortune Club makes a some mean pies and an equally delicious cinnamon roll. In the men’s room they even have a wash basin and hose, which made for an excellent impromptu shower.
After way too long in Victor, we plunged down to Cripple Creek at 9,508 feet. A quick stop there to grab some Gatorade and we were on our way. After a short climb up above Cripple Creek we were treated to a 13-mile descent back to Divide and the final push back home down Highway 24 through Woodland Park.
I arrived home tired yet satisfied. It had been a while since I’d pushed through a ride like that. Amazing ride shared with great friends and full of laughs as we remembered some great times and created some new memories. Along the way, I was also presented with the opportunity to tackle La Ruta de los Conquistadores this year and this has definitely helped renew my motivation to get my ass in gear. I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in, but I think this one is going to require a little something extra.
If you’re ever in the Front Range, I highly suggest you give this ride a shot-Phantom Canyon won’t disappoint. Check out the route for more details.
In case you haven’t wasted enough of your day aimlessly searching for the end of the internet, here is a nice little distraction for the day. Don’t be a twatwaffle, know the rules as laid out by the Velominati lads. I’m not sure I’m in full agreement with all of the rules, but I do find most of them amusing and applicable.by