When riders from all over the world signed up for the 2017 Mavic Haute Route Rockies, Magnolia Drive and Berthoud Pass would undoubtedly have been two of the most exciting prospects for the week. Getting both on the same day during stage 2 made for a sensational day out on the road.
After leaving Boulder on Boulder Canyon Drive under clear blue skies, the peloton meandered its way through the towering trees and deep gorges. As they left the canyon they came face to face with Magnolia Drive, a paved 4.47 mile (7km) ascent averaging a 9.8% grade and culminating at 8,665 feet (2,641m) in the heart of the Roosevelt National Forest. The first quarter-mile (400m) averages 14.75% and was a true test of both physical and mental strength.
The first switchbacks surprised the majority of the peloton, as expressed by Paul Mead, an American native living and training in Switzerland: “I’ve probably never had something as tough and as steep as Magnolia, especially with the altitude. It’s hard to train for that, but it’s beautiful!”
Frenchman Alexandre Menneteau added: “The first ramps on Magnolia were really quite complicated, with some serious grades in the switchbacks. But once we got past them it really flattened out and was more of a rolling climb up to the summit. We stayed in a group all the way to avoid being isolated later on the flat and the descents.”
After summiting Magnolia Drive, riders took on rolling hills made up of a mix of gravel and paved roads in order to reach Central City Highway before a more relaxed drop down into Idaho Springs.
From here participants started to climb again once they reached the bike path that twists and turns alongside Interstate 70. This continued all the way to the summit of Berthoud Pass; rising approximately 4,000 feet (1,200m) over 27 miles (43km).
With the heat of the summer sun beginning to make an impression and altitude affecting their breathing as they neared the summit, the Mavic Haute Route Rockies riders each fought their own silent battle on their way up this giant.
Standing atop Berthoud Pass, 11,307 feet (3,446m) above sea level, Colorado local Scott Leonard said: “Altitude was definitely the tough part on this climb. The gradient is fine and the wind was quite helpful, but yeah the altitude was hard. And the heat too on the wide roads, but I’m thrilled to be up there.”
There was a fierce competition today at the front of the peloton. Finishing second yesterday, Matthew Davies from Great Britain took the stage win 4 seconds ahead of Matthew Busche, who holds on to his leader’s by a mere 17 seconds. Winning her second stage in row in the women’s rankings, Emma Pooley also finished in an impressive top 10 position on the stage, alongside the best male riders on the day.
Tomorrow’s 95 mile (153km) stage from Winter Park to Avon is longer than today, but should be less demanding for the riders as they stay below 3000m and encounter significantly less climbing.