This is a bit late, but hey late is better than never!
One of the benefits of being a Brand Ambassador for Pactimo was that they provided a free entry into the Golden Gran Fondo. Pactimo is based in Denver and this was their local race. It would also be a great opportunity to actually meet some of the Pactimo folks and other Ambassadors’. This combined with the fact that this would allow Becca to get some training miles on the Ironman Boulder Bike Course as well an opportunity to swim in Boulder Reservoir it seemed like a no brainer to book some time off of work and make a long weekend of it.
After reviewing the course descriptions I decided on the Medio route, 63 miles with 7600’ of elevation. This was the middle choice, the shorter one was 20 miles and Becca opted for this and the longer one 97 miles had nearly 11,000’ of climbing, this proved at the end of the day to be a wise choice all round!
We were fortunate enough to be staying with friends in Golden itself and the morning of the Fondo we rolled to the start line all of one mile! We met up with the Pactimo folks and a couple of other Ambassador’s from the area. We chatted until it was time to wander off to the start line. While waiting I realized I had forgotten my phone so I zipped back to the house to grab and used the back streets to get back to the start line with literally a minute to spare! I could hear the national anthem playing as I arrived back!
The Medio Route was basically three loops, up over and around Lookout Mountain back into Golden, then through Golden Gate Canyon State Park for a figure of eight and back into town again. At a high level it was two climbs but of course in reality these comprised lots of smaller climbs with false flats and on the flipside sweeping descents interspersed with switchbacks…oh and some gravel!
The climb up Lookout was uneventful, I was at the back of the pack due to the phone issue but I soon started passing people. Becca was behind me but not by much and the climb to the top was over in just under 5 miles. The climb up Lookout was a timed section, each distance had a specific section and prizes were awarded for the fastest rider. The climb was nothing too onerous or strenuous, the roll back into town was pretty fast and as the road was unknown I took it fairly easy. We rolled through the first Aid Station and topped off our water bottles. Shortly after we were back in town and Becca peeled off as her 20 miles was done.
From looking at the elevation profile I knew that the next section was basically four summits over 23 miles and then a run down to the finish with a quick climb in the middle, with that in mind it was all about pacing. The climb up through Golden Gate was the first climb, it was pretty remorseless and I was happy to take a breather when I got to the top! It’s actually classified as a Hors Categorie, well you know, without classification…as such!
The clock had just past the 3:00 mark. From here there was a quick descent into the next Aid Station at the 33 mile mark. I didn’t linger any longer than I needed to and so I headed out and through the start of the second timed section. It started of fairly easily although the road was pretty “dirty”. The road got cleaner after a mile or two and the pretty easy disappeared as a serious of relentless switchbacks and grade that went from 7% to 9% to 13% had me dismount (as well as a couple of other folks I saw) and pushing my bike up!
Luckily I remounted just in time to save the indignity of having an official photo of me walking!
I finished the timed section and then enjoyed some of the downhill that I had dragged my ass up! Even the unmade road section was ok! The loop closed and I found myself back at the prior Aid Station with 20 miles left and in my mostly a downhill ride! In my mind…ha ha ha!
After a nice rollout from the Aid Station there was a gentle climb followed by a steady twisty descent for 6 miles or so. At the bottom we turned a corner and the blacktop disappeared, the road changed to gravel and turned up as far as you could see.
I rode some, not much but some and I walked lots, a few people passed me and some of the other folks walking were just walking faster and pulled ahead. If I had thought that the other sections were tough this proved to be the hardest 2 miles of the day, pushing a bike up gravel on a 16% was, at best, sucky!
That said like all bad things it eventually ended and I was treated to hair raising gravel descent for 2 miles where I may or may have not being saying aloud “don’t crash…don’t crash” and would have felt much happier on my mountain bike with tires that measure 63mm vs my skinny road tires that measure 23mm! Luckily I didn’t crash and this section ended. From there it was a roll back out of Golden Gate Canyon Park enjoying the full width of my lane with some very patient drivers!
A left hand turn and I was back in town and over the finish line with 64 miles on the clock in just under 5:30!
The finish line area was very chilled with a beer garden, someone giving free ROLFing and a bike park. Becca and I availed ourselves of all three and hung around for the awards chatting to the Pactimo folks and other cyclists! There was a real family feel with kids hanging out with parents and just great overall atmosphere!
They started to give out awards to Piccolo riders and Becca had won not only here Age Group but she was the overall female winner! She’s a badass!
After the awards we hung on for the Raffle, it was actually great not to have anywhere else to be and the ability to just hang out on a sunny day in park with a bunch of other likeminded people was such a treat that we didn’t want to leave and miss anything. Hanging around to the end proved a wise move as we both won raffle prizes which was a great way to round out an excellent day!
Overall I was pleased with my ride, I had put in 7 weeks of solid training following a TrainerRoad plan and the high intensity workouts certainly helped with the climbing and distance on the day, the only real downside is that you don’t get to work on you bike skills. I am a wary descender at best and that is something that is only improved through doing!
As for the event, it was very well run and supported, there were only 280 or so riders across all three distances and as you would expect they strung out very quickly so you didn’t feel cramped in etc. This is one of a series of rides across the country and from what I have heard this one was one of, if not the, hardest. Certainly there were riders coming in 3-4 hours after I had finished! Well run with that local grass roots feel, if you see one in your area I highly suggest you sign up!
Lastly a big thank you to Pactimo, for not only sponsoring me and the free entry but also for sponsoring this event, like I said it has that grass roots feel and it’s from these events that the next and future generation of cyclists will come from.