Best recipe for a great day on the bike following a brutally tough century ride? Start with a little extra sleep, add a relatively easy route, and season with sunny skies, stunning scenery, and a ripping descent to the finish line. That was the marquee menu item Wednesday at the 2021 Ride the Rockies, which served up Day 4’s spin from Norwood to Ridgway.
With Lone Cone Mountain looming in the southern distance, the 40-mile route commenced with a leisurely cruise out of Norwood, heading west across the sprawling Uncompahgre Plateau on CO145. At mile 3, riders exacted a small measure of revenge, sailing down the steep slopes of Norwood Hill a day after suffering on the sweltering pitch of sun baked pavement.
Once down, the 2,000-strong RTR peloton crossed the San Miguel River, then traced its shoreline upriver for a dozen miles, affording ample time to soak in the sublime sights of this deep red rock walled canyon. And thanks to a light tailwind, you barely noticed you were going gradually uphill the entire time.
At mile 17, the route turned northward on CO62 and began the long grind to the summit of Dallas Divide, elevation 8,970 feet. Fortunately, just as on south side of Lizard Head Pass the previous day, CO62’s grade is shallow, rarely tipping above 4 percent and averaging just 2.4 percent for the entirely of the 1,500-foot ascent. Total climbing for the day was a manageable 3,000 feet, and while still warm, temperatures didn’t breach the blast furnace levels experienced during the previous three days.
Up top riders snapped photos in front of the Dallas Divide summit sign, then buckled up for the rapid descent to the finish at the Ouray County Fairgrounds in Ridgway. Most ride times ranged from 2-4 hours, leaving plenty of time to rest, relax and recuperate before the final two days of this year’s 6-day, 418-mile tour.
Next up is the Day 5 Ridgway Loop, which will also afford a little extra shut eye, as riders will be spending two nights in Ridgway, meaning they don’t have to pack their bags in the morning. On tap is an adventurous 58-mile balloon-and-string route with just under 5,000 feet of climbing. The day starts with an easy spin north out of Ridgway along the banks of the Uncompahgre Plateau, then continues northward to Ridgway State Park. From there riders will merges onto US550 northbound before turning left into the tiny town of Colona at mile 15.
Next the real work begins, as riders face a gradual 10-mile climb on County Road 1, which includes 6.5 miles of smooth and dustless dirt road. But the pain of climbing will be offset by the ever-improving views, first of the massive Uncompahgre Plateau, and then the looming wall of the distant San Juan Mountains.
A few miles after returning to pavement, there’s rollicking twisty descent followed by an easy country road roll across the valley to CO62. From there it’s back up to the summit of Dallas Divide (riders can now brag they’ve climbed both sides), and finally an easy descent back to Ridgway and the finish. And if anyone would rather not climb the Divide a second time, simply turn left onto CO62 at mile 30.5 and spin back down to Ridgway.