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2020 Virtual RAGBRAI Day 1

Broomfield, Colorado , United States
July 19, 2020
63 mi




ft elev +


The 2020 RAGBRAI is virtual this year. That means instead of riding across Iowa, we can elect to ride wherever we'd like, with the goal of matching the miles we would have ridden each day on the original route. Compared to a regular RAGBRAI, this makes some things easier: I don't have to travel far from home, I don't have to pack a bunch of stuff, and I don't have to take down and put up a tent each day. But some things are harder: There aren't people lining the roadside desparate to sell me food and drinks, if my bike or body breaks down I'm on my own to get home, and it's up to me to plan the routes and not get lost. That last part, the route planning, deserves some special attention because although my home is my overnight town every day this week, I don't want to ride the same roads over and over again. So as a personal challenge, on top of riding the miles, is to add some new roads and trails to each day's riding.
It's most difficult to find new roads and trails closest to home. Day 1 started on the Highway 36 Bikeway heading towards Boulder, a path I've biked many times. It's very popular with cyclists and if you look real closely, you can see a cyclist on the horizon in this photo. Some of the bikeway stays close to Highway 36, which is usually 3 lanes in each direction, but sometimes it veers away from the road and through the rolling grasslands found between Denver and Boulder.
I've ridden every RAGBRAI since 2015. My clearest memory of my first day of my first RAGBRAI, from Sioux City to Storm Lake, is that I was in go-go-go mode the whole way. I'm not by nature a very anxious or excitable person, but even though my head says, "It's just the first day, take it easy, save something for the rest of the week," my legs just want to push the pace. This year's RAGBRAI is a lot different because the roads are familiar and there aren't thousands of people in front of me that I feel like I should be passing.
Instead of taking the 36 Bikeway all the way into Boulder where it ends at Table Mesa Station, on Boulder's south side, I turn north on Cherryvale to skirt Boulder's eastern edge. Eventually I go a bit further west through town to Foothills before exiting the north side of Boulder on 47th then Jay Road before rejoining Highway 36.
Just as with the real RAGBRAI, part of Day 1 of virtual RAGBRAI is to recognize a mile of silence for cyclists who have died. I ride alone, so I ride almost everything in silence, but I thought of that mile as I left Boulder going north. That road passes by the location of a fatal crash between a car and a triathlete. It should have never have happened, as the race course was clearly marked and cones were supposed to keep the cars and bikes separate. But something happened to bring a car and a bike together, and the cyclist lost her life. The mile of silence also makes me think about how unhelpful it is to call these "bike accidents" and to use something like the mile of silence to raise awareness amongst cyclists. This is backwards -- it's not the bike that causes the accident, it's almost always the driver of the car, and so it's the drivers of cars that need their awareness raised with things like the mile of silence, not cyclists.
Highway 36 north of Boulder can be a busy road but generous shoulders *usually* make it bike-friendly. There are a few twisty and rolling miles south of Lyons that are especially nice.
It's a corn field! There aren't many in Boulder County, but they do exist. If you ignore the mountains on the horizon (not hard on a hazy day like today), you might be fooled into thinking this was Iowa.
I've grown to like riding with a buff/maska for the sun protection, so the virus spread prevention is a bonus. I did today's ride with a CamelBak so I could avoid having to stop to fill water bottles.
The Valmont curves east of Boulder is another great stretch of cycling, both for great pavement and great views.
I didn't realize that my planned route would take me past the local velodrome. I briefly wondered what it would take to ride all the RAGBRAI miles on a track, but quickly decided that the open road was where I'd rather be.
Day 1 of the 2020 virtual RAGBRAI also included a gravel loop, if riders wished to include it. You were supposed to ride 22 miles on gravel to qualify for the patch. I only have one gravel loop patch, which I got on my first RAGBRAI in 2015. I wasn't out to get the patch this year, but I was open to riding gravel simply because it would open up trails and routes that I hadn't ridden before. On this day, I opted to ride probably 6-8 miles on the Coal Creek Trail.
The Coal Creek Trail brought me almost all the way home from Erie. The trail is nearly perfect crushed gravel and was easily managed with 28mm road tires.




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