Adventure of the Week: The day I raced the peloton |

Adventure of the Week: The day I raced the peloton

Routt County's Coal Mine Loop is a great local road riding challenge

UCI World Team Tinkoff-Saxo tries to keep up with sports editor Joel Reichenberger on Thursday. They were ultimately more than successful in that endeavor.

— I saw 'em comin' and I let them catch me.

Team Tinkoff-Saxo, one of the elite teams competing in next week's USA Pro Challenge, were easy to pick out from far away, in their neon green jerseys and with their team support car training a few yards behind their disciplined line.

I slowed down, giving them confidence, I'm sure, and they got closer and closer.

They finally passed, and my tactics changed. I attacked, and as we rounded the corner on a turn, or attempted to — I'll explain later — I flew past the whole line and their silly support car.

I set out to ride the 50-mile loop that will be the venue for Monday's Stage 1 of the Pro Challenge, and I left one of the world's elite teams in my dust.

I grinned widely as I rocketed down a long descent and toward the Twentymile Coal Mine.

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That's an absolutely true story.

What you don't need to know is that, as soon as the team finished a brief pitstop, it quickly passed me again, and if it had opted to do two, three or perhaps four of Steamboat's beloved "Coal Mine Loops," it'd have passed me on all of those circuits, too.

By the time I neared Steamboat Springs, having "conquered" the "three (w)itches," having mastered Oak Creek Canyon and pedaled up River Road, I would have given almost everything I own for a ride from the support car I had once mocked.

The conversation is that the loop, which riders will tackle twice, is not challenging enough to break up the peloton, that a breakaway has no hope of beating the field to town.

Maybe, but I'm no professional cyclist. I'm barely even an amateur cyclist, and Thursday, one of Steamboat's signature road rides left me a whimpering, exhausted mess.

Before I limped home, I saw the beauty of one of the region's best road rides.

The ride away from Steamboat Springs is awesome. The drop down to the coal mine is fun. The three defining climbs range from challenging to long and beautiful to dull and grinding, in that order.

I said I "conquered" them, but if a newspaper deadline hadn't loomed, they may well have beaten me. I bought my bike because I liked the color of it, which is to say rides like the Coal Mine Loop aren't exactly meant for me.

I had plenty of issues, some hilarious, all painful.

Tinkoff-Saxo was just a few feet in front of me as we came to that corner. They slowed down, unsure which direction to turn, so I rode through their pack. Studying the street signs, I followed the one that promised "Oak Creek," the eventual destination, even though it was down a dirt road.

Most of the team followed, until someone was smart enough to shout them back. I meekly turned around, as well.

Later, as I caught my breath and gorged on water atop the first of the three big climbs, a pair of Cannondale-Garmin riders asked if I was OK. I promised I was, and they asked again. 
Looking near death, I can't blame them. To the credit of the six teams and probably 70 riders I saw, no one asked me if I was OK while I was actually riding.

Those guys from Tinkoff-Saxo certainly didn't need to ask. They saw me at my best.

I assume they'll always remember the day I rocketed by them on the Coal Mine Loop. 
I know I will.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

Ride the loop

To ride the USA Pro Challenge Stage 1 loop, roughly 50 miles, start in downtown Steamboat and hang a left over the 13th Street bridge. That road becomes Twentymile Road. Follow it out of town. Turn right and follow the pavement when you get the chance about 15 miles in, then turn left when the road dead ends and left again after the climbs when you reach the outskirts of Oak Creek.

Pros can do it in three or so hours.

Tip from someone who’s completed it: Those who are barely amateurs should allocate significantly more time.

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