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Cognoscenti Day 4

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Day 4.  My legs were sore from the cumulative effects of climbing every day.  I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of 1,100m / 3,608ft of elevation over the course of the next 80km / 50mi.  On the bright side, I wasn’t shivering with cold like I had been at breakfast on Day 3.

We also had two Pro guests riding with us.  Timmy Duggan was the US National Road Race champion in 2012, the year he rode in the London Olympics.  He raced in three UCI Road World Championships, including the 2012 Limburg edition.  So I feel a slight affinity with Timmy, having ridden the amateur sportive event in Limburg the day before Timmy raced in the real thing.  Timmy retired in 2013 from Team Saxo-Tinkoff.  Among other things he devotes his time to the Just Go Harder Foundation.

Will Frischkorn you will recall from Day 3.  I am sure running the excellent Cured with his wife keeps Will busy enough, but he also takes time to comment on the world of professional cycling, as in this interview in VeloNews.  As well as come on rides with Cognoscenti guests.

We also had two other guests riding with us.  Karl Maier didn’t really count as a guest, being a co-founder of Cognoscenti.  But his father Peter certainly was.  It was a treat for me to ride with Peter, who counts among his achievements in life an unsupported bike ride across America, together with a friend.  At the spry young age of 62 I believe.  Now there’s a goal for me to work up to over the next four years!

Cognoscenti Day 4 Karl and Peter

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

This ride started benignly enough with a slightly downhill 15km / 9.3mi run to the east past Valmont Reservoir to North 95th Street.

Cognoscenti Day 4 Route

From there the road tipped upward ever so slightly.   By the time we got to Marshall Road 20 km / 12.4mi later, we had gained about 150m / 490ft.

We stopped to refill bottles and down some rice cakes or cookies.  Allen Lim had told us that pro riders can down an entire bottle in one gulp.  Russ went one better.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

I thought we would continue on up Marshall Road, but the Cognoscenti guides had a little surprise for us.  We dropped off to the left onto the Mayhoffer Singletree Trail.  9km / 5.6mi of dirt single track.  Sometimes so narrow that your shins were whipped by the undergrowth as you rode through.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

The Mayhoffer turned into the Meadowlark Trail as we rode past the Fusion-io Colorado Tech Center.  Fortunately the trail wasn’t as technical as Fusion-io is, and we all popped out safely at the Coalton Trailhead.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

We all regrouped at the Coalton Trailhead parking lot – more bottle refills and Skratch Labs munchies – before facing “The Wall.”  From its introduction in the Red Zinger Classic, which lead to the Coors Classic, The Wall has been a monument in Colorado Racing.  The Wall is over 1.6km / 1mi long, averaging over a 5% grade all the way up, and topping out around 12% near the top.  So I took my customary position at the back of the pack and spun my way up the hump.  With Russ on his bike, and photographer Kevin in the Cognoscenti car, courtesy of Audi Boulder, for company.

Cognoscenti Day 4 Boulder Audi

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

The others got to the National Wind Technology Center at the top of The Wall well before I did.

Cognoscenti Day 4 National Wind Technology Center

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

By the time I got to the intersection of Highways 128 and 93, the rest were long gone.  Rather than make everyone else wait for me to catch up,which was probably unlikely anyway, I accepted the offer of a bump in the Sprinter van with Jon.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Van with Jon

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

We rode in the van for 7km / 4.3mi before Russ and I got back on our bikes and chased the group down along the bike path on South Broadway Street.  We caught the group only briefly.  The road turned upward again, and the group disappeared ahead of me.  Before long Russ and I were at Chautauqua Park, and I had a decision to make.  Plonk myself down at a table near the Cognoscenti tent and dive into a Cured sandwich, or follow the rest of the group up Flagstaff Mountain.

I thought to myself “You came all this way.  You have to give it a go.”  So I headed up Flagstaff with Russ for company, and Jon following in the van, just in case . . .

370m / 1,213ft of elevation over 6.5km / 4.0mi.  I wondered if The Little Engine That Could felt like I did as I negotiated the switchbacks.  This is Matt showing how it is done.

Cognoscenti Day 4 Flagstaff Curve

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

The view at the Sunrise Amphitheater was well worth the climb.  “Yes” that is Boulder way down there.

Cognoscenti Day 4 Flagstaff Amphitheater

The rest of the group had finished posing for photographs and larking around by the time I wheezed into the amphitheater parking lot.  It wasn’t long before everyone was ready to point their front wheels downward and let gravity do its thing.

Cognoscenti Day 4 Start Descent

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Always the most enjoyable part of a ride for me.  Increasingly so as I regain my confidence to descend at speed post my Fraser’s Hill crash last year.

Cognoscenti Day 4 Flagstaff Curve 2

Photograph courtesy of Cognoscenti

Lunch was very yummy.  We had come to expect nothing less from Cognoscenti.  Cured once again did not disappoint.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

It is a good thing that Chautauqua Park is only 2km / 1.2mi from the St. Julien Hotel.  And all of it downhill.  I don’t think I could have managed any climbing after eating all that I did.  Poco Dolce Bittersweet Aztec Chile Tiles.  Need I say more?

We were free for dinner.  I took the opportunity to stay in and order room service.  Hard to believe, I know, but I was able to eat some more that evening.

The goal was to eat and get to bed early.  I had been struggling with jet-lag since I arrived in Colorado.  The plan was to get as much sleep as possible.  Day 5 was billed as “The Big Day.”  I was sure I would need all the rest I could get.

Cognoscenti Day 3

Cognoscenti Day 3 Lookout Mountain Road

Day 3 was a very special affair.  The highlights started with a very interesting breakfast conversation with Dr. Allen Lim.  “Yes” that Allen Lim.  The one-time Director of Sport Science for the Garmin and RadioShack cycling teams.  Perhaps better-known today as the founder of Skratch Labs.  Among a myriad of other things, Allen talked about adapting to high altitude.  I wish he had told me about taking an iron supplement to help maintain blood oxygen levels before I arrived in Boulder.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

After keeping Allen speaking for far longer than planned, we all piled into cars for the ride to Golden.  The home of the Colorado School of Mines, the Coors Brewing Company, and on this day, the starting point for a ride that would end atop Lookout Mountain.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Route

We started from the Starbucks parking lot on Washington Avenue in Golden.  A spot most convenient for its access to bathroom facilities.  We rolled south through Golden, but unfortunately not under the famous arch.  Which would have been the second highlight of the day.  That section of Washington Avenue was already closed for the final stage of the USA Pro Challenge from Golden to Denver.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

The next highlight came about 10km / 6mi later, on the climb up West Alameda Parkway in North Dinosaur Park.  We rode past sets of dinosaur footprints in the rock face to our right.  How cool is that?

Photograph courtesy of Len Sharp

Photograph courtesy of Len Sharp

The highlights kept coming. Around the corner was this sight in Red Rocks Park.  It reminded me of Radiator Springs from the Disney-Pixar film Cars.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

We rode within spitting distance of the Red Rocks Amphitheater, but didn’t actually see it.  Which is a shame, because the photographs are spectacular.

Photograph courtesy of Bob Ash and Visit Denver

Photograph courtesy of Bob Ash and Visit Denver

By that time we had climbed about 300m / 980ft, and I was falling behind as I moderated my effort to match my ability to take in oxygen.  My ride mates were all fitter than I was!  Fortunately we all took a break before the descent down Titans Road.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Titans Road

From here it was 40m / 130ft down in the space of 0.5km / 0.3mi.  I could descend faster than some of my riding buddies.  But I got left behind again on the 190m / 623ft climb to Idledale.  Population 78 or so.  The Cognoscenti crowd added at least 15% to that number while we hung out beside the Post Office, refilling bottles and eating Skratch Labs sushi bars and cookies.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Idledale

We then proceeded to climb another 310m / 1,000ft up South Grapevine Road to Interstate Highway 70.  Well, the others climbed.  I crawled.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Grapevine 3

Photograph courtesy of Cognoscenti

The group waited for me to get to the top of Grapevine so that we could shoot down together.  The 11km / 6.8mi run back to Golden took about 18 minutes at speeds up to 70kph / 43.5mph.  Wheeee!

Then it was back to heavy breathing and slow going while climbing the 450m / 1,475ft to the top of Lookout Mountain.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

The reward at the top was lunch, catered by Cured.  Cured is a specialty grocery store, liquor store and delicatessen owned by former Garmin-Slipstream rider Will Frischkorn and his wife.  Salads, handcrafted sandwiches, potato chips, nuts, olives, San Pellegrino soda, Poco Dolce chocolate tiles.  All under a Cognoscenti tent.  Class!

Cognoscenti Day 3 Lunch Stop on Lookout Mountain

Fed, watered and rested, we made our way on foot to find a good spot to watch the race come over the top of Lookout Mountain.  Five riders were in the breakaway.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Breakaway

About two minutes later the rest of the peloton arrived.

Cognoscenti Day 3 Peloton

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

After the last of the peloton disappeared over the top of the mountain, we all got on our bikes and shot down the mountain the way we had come up.  More wheeee!

We piled into the Cognoscenti vehicles at the Starbucks for the ride back to Boulder.  After a shower and a short rest I had a sports massage.  One of two massages that each of us could have during our time in Boulder.  All I can say is “OUCH!”  That guy had hard elbows.

Dinner was once again outstanding.  This time in OAK at Fourteenth.  We had meatball and ahi tuna spoons, shaved apple and kale salad, peach and tomato salad, grilled New York strip steak, curried halibut and calamari, and pasta.  Followed by salted caramel pudding.

Photographs courtesy of Oak at Fourteenth

Photographs courtesy of OAK at Fourteenth

The rides get bigger with each passing day.  And the good food just keeps on coming.  What will Day 4 bring?

Cognoscenti Day 1

Cognoscenti Boulder Downtown

Day 1 of my Cognoscenti adventure started with Karl Maier, one of the founders of Cognoscenti, picking me up from the Airbnb house where I was staying in Denver, and transporting my bike and I to the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder.  My home for the next six days.

Andrew Knowles, the other founder of Cognoscenti, met us in the lobby of the hotel, where I was given my rain bag, stuffed with goodies.  Bottles, Townie Syndicate tire levers and tools, Skratch Labs hydration and nutrition products, chamois cream, sun block, moisturizer, waterproof pouch, cap, and some bedtime reading.  Note the name tag.  A nice touch.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Goodies

Cognoscenti provided everything I needed to ride, apart from a bicycle, shoes and helmet.  We all received a pair of Panache Cyclewear bibshorts and a jersey.  Cognoscenti styled.

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Batchelor

I had a few minutes to check in to my room and change into riding gear before heading out to the back patio of the hotel to meet the other participants and the Cognoscenti support crew.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

We took over the grassy area along the back wall nearest the road.  That is where I was reunited with my bike, now sporting a name label on the top tube.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Bike Rack

Unsurprisingly, I had come from the furthest away.   Richard and his wife had flown in from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Matt and his wife had driven from Eu Claire, Wisconsin.  Brothers Scott and Steve had driven together from Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.  And Mindy and Pam had come from just up the road in Aspen, Colorado.

Our professional guest cyclist for the day was Sarah Lukas, who rides for the Amy D. Foundation team.  Having one or more current or ex-professional riders with us on every ride was both a highlight and a challenge.  A highlight because to a person they were always willing to chat, and to provide a pull.  A challenge because they made real the gulf in cycling ability between we mortals and the professional peloton.

We were also joined each day by at least one editor from VeloNews.  Names familiar to me from the VeloNews website appeared before me in the flesh:  Chris Case (Managing Editor), Spencer Powlison ( Editor), Brad Kaminski ( Photography Editor), Dan Cavallari (Technology Editor), and Neal Rodgers (Editor at Large).

While the cast of professional riders and VeloNews editors changed daily, the Cognoscenti guides were a constant.  The full support we received all week was thanks to Jon Robichaud, Russ Folger, Tristan Brown and Patrick Walker.  These guys meant it when they said they would provide full support.  Our bikes were washed and tuned after each ride.  When we took our bikes off the rack to start a ride, bottles full of Skratch Labs hydration were already in the cages.  A support van and at least one other vehicle were always nearby.  Fresh chilled bottles were always available.  As was an endless supply of those now famous Skratch Labs rice cakes and cookie bars.

Fully prepped, we headed out on what was described as an “acclimatization spin.”  A 57.5km / 36mi ride along the flats of Boulder County to St. Vrain Road and back.  There was about 475m / 1,560ft of climbing.  Which was a lot for me, but as I was to discover, was just a hint of what was to come.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Route

The ride was relatively fast for me.  Which signalled trouble, because I could already see that my new friends were all stronger riders than I was.  I was struggling with the lower air pressure and oxygen levels.  Boulder is 1,655m / 5,430ft above sea level.  Which translates to 17% less oxygen by volume than is available at sea level.

It was also hot at 32.8°C / 91.0°F.  With a 24kph / 15mph westerly wind.  Not the time to have only an apple and three coffees in the fuel tank.

Despite my panting in the hot and dry air, I did enjoy the ride.  Especially the gravel sections.  Riding unpaved roads like those was new to me.  It took a while to get comfortable riding on the loose surface.  Oddly enough I felt more comfortable on the rutted sections, which felt like the cobbles of South Holland and Belgium.

Cognoscenti Day 1 Dirt Road 1

The last 6km / 3.5mi were along the Boulder Creek bike path.  Where I was at last able to catch my breath.

Photograph courtesy of Dan Hugo

Photograph courtesy of Dan Hugo

We were greeted back at the St. Julien by slices of iced and salted watermelon, and iced towels to drape over the backs of our necks.  Our bikes were taken from us to be washed.  We were given mesh bags for our used kit, which would be laundered overnight.  See what I mean about first-class support?

We had an hour or so to shower and freshen up before meeting in the St. Julien lobby for a drink with our pro rider and VeloNews guests.  Then we walked the short distance to PMG for dinner.

Cognoscenti believes that Boulder is one of the best intersections of cycling and food and wine in the world.  We had just had some fabulous cycling, and PMG did not disappoint on the food front.  Shared plates of fried eggplant, crostini with English peas and ricotta, Tuscan kale salad, Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and bagna cauda, tortellini with butter and sage, swordfish, and roast chicken came one after the other out of the kitchen.  Luckily I still had room for the chocolate pot de crème and fresh peaches for dessert.

Cognoscenti Day 1 PMG Food

Bring on Day 2.