Well, the so-called Loop of Hell is done. Yes, it was tough, but it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. Of course, the fact that it was only 44 miles might have helped.
This ride goes by several names. Many people call it the Squaw Pass Loop, while our coach likes to call it the “‘Scuze me while I kiss the sky” ride. TNT alumni just call it the Loop of Hell. The reason for this is that the ride starts at 7,500 feet and climbs to about 11,250 feet. Not only is that a good bit of climbing, but altitude starts to become a factor. At 11,000 feet, you literally have only about 2/3rds of the oxygen you would have at sea level. Of course, being from Denver, the change isn’t quite as bad as coming from sea level, but it is still quite a bit of difference.
Another factor that made this ride a little different was the temperature. I think it was about 49 degrees when we started out. We all were wearing some extra gear in an effort to stay warm, and once we hit our first climb between Idaho Springs and Evergreen, we got warmn very quickly. The rest of the day our body temps cycled between warm and chilly as we went up and down hills and in and out of the shade.
After last weeks ride with varying terrain, roads and scenery, this one was pretty much all the same. We had a little bit of a downhill and one nice hill to get to the outskirts of Evergreen. We turned right on to Squaw Pass Road, and then it was climbing through mountainous forest for 15 miles. The incline wasn’t too steep, but it was just long.
I set out on what I felt was a pretty decent pass and I mentally kept note of how many miles left we had to climb. It is easy to think there is only 7 or 6 miles left to the top, but you have to block out of your mind that it is all climbing miles.
It all seemed relatively easy until we reached the Echo Mountain Ski Park. I knew this was near the top and I was ready for the climbing to be over. But the last mile or two seemed extra long. You could look up and see there wasn’t much left to climb, but you would go around a curve and be greeted with more incline. And then, you reach what you think is the summit and start your decent only to find another mile of climbing around the next curve.
Once we did reach the top, I couldn’t help but to yell out. It felt so good know it was all downhill after that. I made my only SAG stop of the day at Echo Lake. It was a long break as we waited for some teammates that missed a turn and did a few extra miles of biking. Luckily, the scenery was beautiful and we had a good time just chatting with each other.
When it was time to go down the mountain, we all bundled up again since we knew it would be breezy and all downhill. It was our longest steady decent so far of the season, and it was a blast. I was doing about 35-40 mph most of the way down, and still got passed by our coach and a fellow teammate that always excels at descending. Even in the shallower parts of the descent at the bottom, we were all still pedaling and reaching speeds around 25-27 mph.
In the end, it took about 3 hours to get to the top, and only about 30 minutes to get back down. That was our last big team climb before we go to Moab, but it was a good one. The team is feeling confident and I think we are anxious to get to Utah. This Saturday, we have a relatively flat ride up by Carter Lake, and then it is off to Moab!
Video of part of the descent back to Idaho Springs:
Map and climb data from our route: