How to see some of the best of Colorado’s high country from the seat of your bike.

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If you’ve ridden the i25 Kia Copper Triangle, you know that it really does deserve to be named a 2014 Editor’s Choice Ride by 5280 Magazine and one of Velo News’ top rides. If you haven’t ridden it, you should know what that means so you’ll see what you’re missing. The i25 Kia Copper Triangle course is a stunning 78-mile mountain loop, cresting three majestic Colorado mountain passes – Fremont Pass, Tennessee Pass and Vail Pass with 9,200-foot Battle Mountain thrown in for good measure. Riders first traverse Fremont Pass – 11,318 feet (3,450 m) part of the Continental Divide through Colorado (separating the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean on the west side from those of the Atlantic on the east) and named for John Fremont, an explorer who discovered the pass while traversing present-day Colorado during the 1840s. The pass connects the upper valley of the Blue River with the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The pass summit is the site of the once-again operational Climax molybdenum mine.  Essentially 12 miles up and 12 more down, Fremont takes riders toward historic Leadville before heading west toward Camp Hale and the next of the three passes, Tennessee Pass.   At 10,424 feet (3,177 m), Tennessee Pass also traverses the Continental Divide between the Sawatch Range to the west and the Mosquito Range to the east, connecting the headwaters of the Arkansas River with the Eagle River. Offering riders a gentle approach and few steep gradients or hairpins, Tennessee offers stunning views of the long valley ahead and the peaks in the distance. The summit of the pass is virtually level and provides access to Ski Cooper, one of Colorado’s longest operating ski areas. As riders traverse the pass they cruise by a number of historic mining outposts and the legendary Camp Hale, World War II training ground for the Army’s l0th Mountain Division. For those that do not know, the men who lived and trained at Camp Hale returned from the war to help launch many of Colorado’s now world-renowned ski areas.

 

Next up, following a glorious and scenic pedal through the Eagle River Valley, is Battle Mountain, a bump in the road rising to 9,200’ and bringing riders into the small town of Minturn before heading east through the Vail Valley to the climb up and over the final pass, Vail Pass. Vail Pass, named for Charles Vail, a highway engineer, is 10,662 feet (3,250 m) high. Riders enjoy a paved bike path, which parallels I-70 from Vail to Copper Mountain, the only pass in Colorado with a paved bike path on both sides for the entire distance. The 8.7-mile climb up from East Vail offers incredible views as riders gain over 1800 feet, followed quickly by a short and speedy descent into Copper Mountain and an afternoon of relaxing and refreshments. All told, the i25 Kia Copper Triangle riders cover 78 gorgeous alpine miles and gain nearly 6000 feet, starting and ending at 9700’.

 

Untitled-5As incredible as the scenery is, event director Scot Harris says the i25 Kia Copper Triangle is more than just a beautiful mountain ride. Says Harris, “Colorado’s mountains in the summer offer spectacular scenery, and to enjoy them from the seat of your bicycle is nothing short of special. The course itself is tough but majestic, the 5 aid stations are well stocked and every one who rides contributes to the Davis Phinney Foundation. Over the last 10 years, our faithful i25 Kia Copper Triangle riders have contributed over $1M to the Davis Phinney Foundation. We are incredibly thankful for those contributions.”

 

The best part: a glorious ride is only the beginning to a very special day in Colorado’s high country. After the ride, participants enjoy healthy post-ride fun at the annual “i25 Kia Alpine Celebration,” the Copper Triangle’s post-ride party that offers live music, a first-class lunch, a cold beer and other beverages, prize drawings from the ride’s sponsors and a cycling expo. There really are not many better ways to spend a day. You should know though that the ride is open to just the first 3000 entrants, and it has reached capacity in all but one of its nine previous years.