Just minutes after completing a 100-mile ride from Granby, cyclist Erich Kushner had blended into the hub of activity in front of the Steamboat Springs High School.
He was making a temporary home in the small athletic field that typically plays host to football practices and Frisbee games, and he was not alone. Around him, tents were popping up faster than dandelions in a mountain meadow, and it was apparent that the hustle and bustle of the 19th annual Ride the Rockies bicycle tour had arrived.
Across town, Steamboat cyclist Gary Osteen also was happy to find a home — his home.
For him, the next two days are a chance to spend the nights out of the rain in his own bed, recover from some difficult days on the road, and recharge before Ride the Rockies resumes Thursday.
“It’s great to be home,” Osteen said. “It’s fun to be back with my kids, and getting to sleep in my own bed is a real treat.”
This year’s bicycle tour has not been a treat for most riders. Rain, cold and a road closure has hampered the ride from the start, but Kushner and Osteen said organizers have done a great job dealing with the challenges and were upbeat after arriving in Steamboat.
“It was cold and raining this morning, but once we reached the top of Gore Pass, the sky opened up, and it’s been beautiful ever since,” Kushner said. “Today’s ride really lifted our spirits.”
Riders faced periods of heavy rain as they made their way from Boulder to Estes Park on the first day of the ride Sunday.
Osteen said it was difficult to stay dry and that many of the riders on the route were not prepared for the cool mountain weather.
The ride was scheduled to travel from Estes Park to Granby on Monday, but freezing temperatures, rain and snow closed Trail Ridge Road and forced the cancellation of that leg.
“I think a lot of people were disappointed,” Osteen said. “A lot of people were saying that they entered the tour just to ride that section.”
Instead of riding, the participants boarded buses to make the three-hour trip from Estes Park to Granby. Kushner said it was the first time in the event’s 19-year-history that a stage has been canceled.
Today, riders awoke to rain and low temperatures once again. But they moved forward and were happy when conditions improved at the top of Gore Pass.
Kushner is making this year’s trip with his father, Gary. Between the two of them, the riders have participated in 13 Ride the Rockies bicycle tours.
“It’s always been kind of a family thing,” Gary said. “We are not big bicycle racers, but we love to get out and take part in events like this one.”
Both said the opening days of the tour will be forgotten by the time the riders leave Steamboat for Frisco on Thursday to begin the final two legs of the six-day, 431-mile tour. On Friday, the riders will complete their journey with a trip from Frisco to Idaho Springs.
Osteen is riding in his first Ride the Rockies with his wife, Marianne Osteen. There are 30 riders from Steamboat taking part in this year’s tour.
— To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
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