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Cycle Denver, Colorado

For the third year running, at the end of May I went to the good old U S of A for the annual American College of Sports Medicine conference. This year it was held in Denver, Colorado and within hours of touching down on American soil, unsurprisingly, I was pootling around on two wheels. I had brought my little lady Luana along for good company, and we set about seeing as much of the city and surroundings as possible.

Day one (Denver – Boulder – Denver: 114.9 km)

Having picked up our Specialized road bikes the night before, we fuelled up on porridge and bagels before heading straight for the cycle lanes of Denver. The air was clear and fresh and the sun was shining and we were soon whizzing past the stream on the Cherry Creek Trail before taking the usual wrong turn at Confluence Park. It mattered not as our journey took us north along the South Platte River trail, past stunning scenery and recreational pelotons, before turning west onto the Colorado Front Range Trail. Our journey took a slight detour as we hit some unexpected road works, Luana inspiring us to wade through mud and falling over in the process. Following a 10 minute ordeal removing mud from our cleats and pedals, we made it onto the cycle path running alongside the Denver Boulder Turnpike and straight towards Boulder.

As the mountains got closer and Boulder came into view, I instantly knew that this was the opportunity for a photo with my beautiful mama. Six years ago to the day she had been cruelly stolen from us, but we will never forget how she has shaped us as people and I had taken a photo of her with me for the trip. After soaking in the emotion, we dropped into downtown Boulder, a charming city with a stunning university campus and a seemingly active population. Nonetheless, activity breeds hunger and the array of bars on Pearl Street certainly cater to those needs. We plumped for a delicious fresh pretzel and a couple of empanadas at Full Cycle, a great bike shop and bar. Naturally I washed this down with a tasty local beer for further carbohydrate loading. After Luana bought some swanky purple cycling gloves, we were back on two wheels on our way back to Denver. The return trip was quick and we felt good; we had initially been apprehensive that the altitude (Denver stands ~1600 m above sea level) would affect us but those fears were quickly allayed. We were in good form.

Day two (Rest day – Denver: 29.4 km)

We decided to recover from the previous day’s cycle in the only way we know how; out on the bikes again. A casual leg spinner through the streets of Denver was the order of the day, with a quick pit stop for lunch. We were aiming to rack up some more kilometres, cycling past some “Full House” style houses and enjoying one of the many parks that Denver has to offer, before the skies darkened and then opened up on us, leaving us rather unmotivated to continue.

Day three (Denver – Golden – Lookout Mountain – Denver: 84.9 km)

We picked up a few stragglers by the name of Dean Mills and Ian Varley, old friends and cycling buddies from my time at Nottingham Trent University. In fact, since Varley was the main route planner once upon a time, I bestowed this task upon him once more. His decision was to head for a climb up Lookout Mountain and had cunningly printed out our route on A4 paper with about as much detail as a Lego figure’s face. Nonetheless, after I made a slight hiccup unclipping at some traffic lights and being the first (and only) to take a tumble (much to the delight of Deano), we managed to get our bearings and were steaming along the cycle lane of W 32nd Avenue towards Golden.

Upon our arrival in quaint little Golden, the others refuelled with Sprite while I opted for caffeine in the form of an espresso, knowing that a hit late in exercise would still benefit my performance irrelevant of my high habitual consumption (shameless plug). Then we were off. The climb to the top of Lookout Mountain had barely begun and with a quick Lance Armstrong-esque glance back at the chasing pack, I was already pulling away. Although the 7.2 km average 5% climb is by no means the most gruelling I have faced, we still had to work for the breath taking views of Golden and its surroundings as Denver soon rolled into view too. While most despise it, I absolutely love climbing and I was gaining in confidence with every cyclist that I overtook, taking sadistic pleasure in thinking my overtaking would diminish their confidence. Within 28 minutes I had reached the top, and was soaking up the incredibly views when Varley rolled in 4 minutes later, and followed a few minutes later by Deano. Although her main strength is as a sprinter, Luana isn't half bad at climbing either; she quickly finds a consistent rhythm and she joined us a further 10 minutes later to complete the group.

We paid our respects to Buffalo Bill before zooming down the mountain and having a buffalo burger to refuel. Varley paced us back to Denver at breakneck speeds that would have made Chris Froome proud. Our hearts dropped slightly as we dropped the bikes back at the rental shop, knowing that our USA cycling adventure was over. For this year at least… See you in Minneapolis for ACSM 2018?

Denver certainly has a cycling infrastructure to be proud of, with a fantastic network of cycling paths that weave through downtown and numerous scenic trails. The cycle lane linking Denver to Boulder serves as a model for connecting major cities and I can only dream about São Paulo having a cycling structure anything like that of Denver…

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