Cyclists surrounded Scot Harris on a warm morning at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock. The music was loud and the winds that regularly pound the area were light.
Harris, the director of the Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, claimed the June 1 event was one of the best yet in its 27-year history, despite fewer riders.
“This year it looks like (we had) about 6,500 riders which is kind of right in the range,” Harris said. “We've had as many as 7,800, and last year we were at 7,000. Although our numbers weren't as big as they have been, this was absolutely the best.
“We just wanted to do some things differently this year. Parking has always really been hard coming into the Events Center with just the one way in. We worked super hard to make that work better and it totally worked. We added an Italian lunch, we had live music this year and the weather was beautiful. There's no question this was a really a good one if not best ever. It just wasn't our biggest.”
Cyclists had the option to ride 100-, 62-, or 32-mile courses or take on the 27-mile fat tire track and there was also an eight-mile course for families and a ride for kids.
“It was not a race,” Harris said. “We try to create a course for cyclists of all ages and abilities. It has kind of become a little bit of an institution for the cycling community. Everybody kind of looks at it as the kickoff to the season. When we started the event that's what we wanted. We wanted to have an early season training ride.
One of the riders that trekked the 62-mile course was Janet Rost of Greenwood Village. Rost, 60, had a liver transplant in May 2012 but participated in her second Elephant Rock Ride this year. She finished the 32-miler in 2013 and moved up to the 62-mile course this year.
“Never in a million years did I think I would be doing this,” she said. “Two years ago I could hardly go to the grocery store. I could hardly walk to the mailbox to get my mail. I have always been pretty active as an adult but when my liver started failing, I couldn't do anything.
“A year after surgery I did the Elephant Rock. I was feeling so good and wanted to participate to raise money to help other transplant recipients and donors.”
Others, such as Kurt Lausman of Westminster, use the race to prepare for a busy summer of biking and running races.
“They call this the unofficial first start to the biking season,” said Lausman, who rode the 32-mile course. “It's always beautiful in Castle Rock and I do it every year. This is usually my first big ride of the year. This is always well organized and everything is really well done here and that's what makes it so nice.
“There's just an excitement about being here. There are tons of bikers all over, there's great energy and a good feel. That's what gets me ready for the season. I'm primed and ready to go mentally and physically for a good year.”
Jonah and LuAnne Sperando of Colorado Springs rode 62 miles on a tandem bike.
“It's something fun that we can do together,” related Jonah Sperando. “And the tandem bike, we think is more fun than a single bike. The hills are more challenging but that makes it more rewarding. Communication is key. We wear headsets, kind of like you see on motorcycles. We can sort of plan our steps along the way. In 14 years of riding a tandem we haven't had too many arguments. We have witnessed a fair amount of arguments on a tandem but we've been fortunate.
“We enjoyed the atmosphere with all the folks out. It's early in the summer and it's a way to get out and get motivated early in the season. It motivates you perhaps for the rest of the summer. We had a lot of fun.”
Reagan Benger literally got to ride the 32-mile course.
Reagan is 21-months old and rode in a trailer behind her Dad's bike.
Chris Benger of Highlands Ranch is an avid cyclist who plans to race in the Ride The Rockies and his wife Monica accompanies him but usually doesn't ride except for in events like the Elephant Rock Ride.
“I ride all the time,” said Chris. “This is my hobby. I do it all the time. I'll do the Ride the Rockies next week. It was a chance to get Reagan out and ride in the trailer. It was tough pulling it uphill and into a head wind.”
Monica claimed everybody had fun on the ride.
“Reagan slept for a while,” she said. “It was fun. It was a family day. I'm the one cheering at the end on the Ride the Rockies. I'm not riding that.”