Classic Colorado Ride: Morgul-Bismark

25 Oct

Monday provided some great riding weather, and Denver set a new high for the date at 80 degrees.  From the forecast, I knew that would be fleeting (6 to 12 inches of snow on Wednesday), so I decided to take advantage of it and try my legs and lungs at one of the Front Range Greats, the Morgul-Bismark circuit.  Named after a cat and dog, this route served as a factory of punishment for many great riders in the 1980s during the Coors Classic, including former Tour de France winners Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault.  The loop, seen here, is a 13.3 mile “cruise” around the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, complete with three climbs: the Hump, the Wall, and the Feed Hill.  I thought the pleasant fall weather would be perfect for riding this loop, and would also serve as some race reconnaissance for next spring if I would chose to do so.  A little more about the course history:  this circuit  was part of the Coors Classic Stage Race until it ended in 1988.  From what I could find, the pro riders rode this loop seven times, which would make for about a 93-mile race.  While no official racing happened here after 1988, this course continued to attract many Front Range riders because of its challenges and its aforementioned history.  In 2010, the Town of Superior started holding a 3-day race event (including amateurs and professionals) , including the Morgul-Bismark loop as the featured road race on the final day.  This past spring saw the second edition, and from what I found, the event has a contract to continue until at least 2014.  With this in mind, I thought I could mull over the possibilities from the saddle.

As the ride started from a Whole Foods/Panera parking lot (not there for Greg LeMond to celebrate at, or much else of anything) I didn’t have too grand of visions about this endeavor.  However, the Hump came almost immediately, and was good to get the heart pumping and sweat pouring out.  Disclaimer: the pictures I took make all the climbs look pretty mild, however, they are anything but!

The Hump

After getting warmed up on the Hump, I had some nice descended to make me think the ride would be fast and easy.  After a few minutes headed down, it was time to head back up, and I was confronted with climb #2, the Wall (cue ominous music).

Looking up the Wall

The Wall is over a mile-long climb, averaging over a 5% grade all the way up, and topping out around 12% near the top.  And just for kicks, the Coors Classic riders and subsequent races get to finish at the top of this.  Ouch!  I was really struggling along at the top, but at least the view was decent, and I could not complain about the weather.  Again, doesn’t look too bad, does it?  It is.

Looking back down the Wall, and having serious second thoughts about racing here...

Again, pictures do not really show the true angle of the climb; from my final shot at the top, you would think that it was just a little rise up the hill.  My Road Biking Colorado’s Front Range book almost seems to pooh-pooh this hill, saying that there is much worse out there.  There may well be, but all the canyon climbs I’ve done were just long, but not nearly this steep.

From this point on though, the ease of the ride improved.  I made it up the Feed Hill, which was much more like the Hump, or at least compared to the Wall, felt like the Hump.  I also had a nice 40 mph descent on the back side of the course before I turned onto Marshall Road and back towards Superior.  The last seven miles of the loop rolled along, and before I knew it, I arrived back at my car.  Originally, I had intended to do at least two laps around, but my later start ended that idea.  I thought I would head on home, and try again another day.  I did check when I got home, and this past spring the Cat 4 Men (my racing category) did three laps around.  Almost 40 miles of racing up some crazy hills – yikes!  So I might have to do this a few times before I feel that confident.  Or assume that hopefully the whole thing is a suffer-fest, and everyone hates it,  and only rides 5 mph up the Wall!

Well done, good sir! I'll be joining the extensive list of great riders who have conquered this classic ride!

2 Responses to “Classic Colorado Ride: Morgul-Bismark”

  1. Wanda Yoder October 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    Thanks for sharing that climb. Interesting as you weave you climb with past rides. And then the snow came!


  1. Cognoscenti Day 4 | Old Roots, New Routes - September 7, 2015

    […] 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 […]

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