By Theresa Blake Graven
Special to The SUN
The annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies (RTR) Cycling Tour is celebrating its 35th year June 14-19.
The 35th annual RTR features the stunning roads of southwest Colorado, with this year’s start and finish situated in Durango, one of the Centennial State’s most popular outdoor recreation and tourism destinations.
The tour is prefaced with an opening day prologue, which starts in Durango on June 13 and heads to Pagosa Springs, where riders will have exclusive access to the Pagosa Springs hot springs and a gourmet catered lunch. From there, day one of the 2020 RTR will ease riders into the week with a 73-mile loop starting and ending in Durango.
And, for the third year in a row, the RTR route is a loop, simplifying logistics while taking riders on a breathtaking adventure around one of the most scenic areas in all of Colorado. Besides Durango, other host communities along this six-day, 418-mile tour include Cortez, Norwood and Ouray County. Along the way are challenging uphill encounters with Lizard Head Pass, Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass and Coal Bank Pass, which together account for the bulk of the route’s 28,484 feet of climbing.
During — and between — those ascents is a bounty of spectacular scenery. Indeed, the 2020 route rolls along the banks of the Animas River, winds through Southern Ute tribal land, climbs the Uncompahgre Plateau and ventures deep (and high) into the San Juan Mountains. This year’s route also includes a few forays off pavement and onto packed dirt roads, which means less time on busier roads and a little extra adventure. Add it all up and this will truly be the bike ride of a lifetime.
Jason Sumner, cyclist and author who helped design the course, said, “I’m truly excited about this year’s route. It has a little bit of everything, high mountain climbs, quiet country roads, amazing scenery and some great host communities. It’s definitely going to be a ride to remember.”
RTR is a noncompetitive event that’s open to cyclists of all ages. Participants are encouraged to ride at their own pace. All registrations are on a first-come, first-served basis, until the ride is sold out. Proceeds from the event benefit The Denver Post Community Foundation and all the funds raised are returned directly to Colorado nonprofits.
Registration is open to the public and a list of everything that the tour fee includes can be found on the website at www.ridetherockies.com/registration/.
To learn more about RTR, please visit www.ridetherockies.com.
Durango to Pagosa Springs
62 or 79 miles/3,470 feet or 4,750 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: Southern Ute Reservation, Navajo Reservoir, Chimney Rock National Monument
Day 1/One- and Two-Day Ride
73 miles/3,634 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: Animas River, Southern Ute Reservation, La Plata Mountains
Day 2/Two-Day Ride
Durango to Cortez
69 miles/3,610 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: Lake Nighthorse, Cheery Creek Loop, Mesa Verde
Cortez to Norwood
101 miles/6,448 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: Lizard Head Pass, San Miguel River, Norwood Hill
Norwood to Ridgway
40 miles/2,990 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: San Miguel River, Dallas Divide, San Juan Mountains
50 miles/4,196 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: Ridgway State Park, Uncompahgre Plateau, San Juan Mountains
Ridgway to Durango
85 miles/7,606 feet approximate elevation gain
Highlights: Ouray, Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass, Coal Bank Pass
By Theresa Blake Graven