Director's detailed version of Saturday's Ride
(You may want to go grab a cup of coffee.)
Angel Fire to Taos section
You will start off by rolling out of the valley for a few miles looking at the mountain scenery. If you are lucky you may see an eagle fly by or a deer and elk by the road. By the way, they have the right of way. Your first climb is Palo Flechado 'tree pierced with arrows' topping out at 9,101 ft , from the East.
A 2.21 mile climb with hairpin turns, and grades ranging from 4% - 7%, you do lose that thing called oxygen as you get higher. You will then be rewarded with a 17+ mile descent through the canyon to Taos. No slogging up the canyon, by heading down to Taos, you'll move quickly and while the road will have police coverage as you move down the canyon, please be careful and obey all traffic laws.
Taos to Sipapu section
After a rest stop in Taos, you have some false flat miles until you reach your second climb 4.33 miles up U.S. Hill 8,560 ft with grades ranging from 4 - 7 %. Don't let the small dip in the middle of the climb fool you. Near the top there is a pullout on the left that provides a view of the Carson Forest in all its grandeur.
The descent from U.S. Hill is fast with grades ranging from 5 - 10 %, please be careful.
Sipapu to Holman Hill section
The next 14.5 miles is cycling nirvana. You will experience a quiet mountain road with a stream trickling past and views of high alpine meadows as you reach the summit. Take time to take photos in this section or attack your riding mates, nothing like a little friendly competition. The summit at Holman Hill is 9,465 ft, and while the average grade is only 2 - 4%, the climbing goes on for the aforementioned 14.5 miles. There will be a a rest stop to break up the miles, so make sure you eat and drink well in this area.>
Holman Hill to Guadalupita
The rest stop at the top of Holman Hill has sweeping views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and the Mora Valley. You will see the road you will descend snake down the mountain into the valley below. We encourage you to top off your water bottles and food supplies, for the next section between rest stops will be challenging. The first 6 miles of the descent are fast with grades ranging from 5 - 7% - as always, be careful. The next 7 miles take you along the sleepy towns of Cleveland and Mora. If you are attentive, in Mora you may see the largest wood pile in the area. I kid you not, it is quite impressive - okay, it may be a mountain guy thing.
In Mora, you will take a left on Rt. 434 which will put you at 69 miles into the ride. The daunting realization is that there is 35+ miles to go! And most of it uphill. When you leave Mora, initially, you will be gazed upon by herds of llamas - luckily you should be out of spitting distance. If you do stop for pictures, be careful to pick a safe spot. For the next 15 miles you will be riding on essentially a false flat. Be careful to gauge your effort here, because the toughest part of the ride starts after the false flats with the dreaded Guadalupita Rollers!
We have all been on rides where you have been riding along and come up to this short steep roller and you seem to come to a standstill! You think... Am I not stronger than this? You reach for lower gears but there ain't no more! You look down at ants crawling faster than you! Well welcome to the Guadalupita Rollers. They suck! I hate them! (Well, it's more a a love/hate thing.) But this is the RoughRiders 200 - "No shortcuts, No excuses! I am tough enough!." You will make it. You will grind it out. You will tough it out. The reward will be a rest stop - and arguably the most scenic part of the ride up next - oh yeah, and the toughest and steepest part!
Guadalupita to Angel Fire
At this moment you are at mile 86-ish, your GPS/computer mileage may vary. No matter your fitness, the next 6 miles are going to be torturous and downright beautiful. You will ride up a narrow road with no yellow line, a stream caressing the road and squirrels watching you from rocky perches armed with nuts. It was as if the road was made just for you. Well, we locals think that way. There will be cattle guards to navigate, but we are working on something to make that easier. Oh yeah, if you come across a few horses in the middle or side of the street, please give them a wide berth. They think they own the road.
Your "splendor in the wilderness" will be interrupted by the CLIMB. It starts with a steep wall with up to 10% grades, (serpentine anyone). Now the stronger of you will ride this in a state of grace, the rest of us... well, this is where we will earn the moniker of a RoughRider. The road evens out some after a quarter mile, you get a brief rest. You may think you have this conquered, then the next wall hits you as you navigate a slender hair pin. The second wall hits with rumored grades up to 11%. It just keeps getting steeper and doesn't give you a chance to recover. You may want to glance at your H.R. you may set a new PR. The second wall lasts for roughly a quarter mile, then you get a paltry tenth of a mile to recover before the 3rd and final wall of this climb. This wall is rumored to have registered at 14%, but this may be the serpentine effect. When all seems dire, remember Teddy Roosevelt's quote (the original Rough Rider): "Believe you can and you're halfway there!". Because when you do make it - and you will - you will soon be be rewarded with The Lonesome Dove View. There will be an unsupported rest stop to get the heart rate in check and bring out the camera. Soak in this moment because life in the mountains rarely gets better than this.
Now you will have roughly another 10 miles to go, but it is a comparatively gentle 10 miles with the last few miles downhill. Try not to grin too much as you enjoy the mountain vistas. Look out for the tour signs and listen for the finish, we will be cheering you home.
Directors detailed version of Sunday's Ride
The route is ridden clockwise, going through the canyon to Taos in the first 25 miles. The route diverts into the sleepy hamlets of Arroyo Seco and Arroyo Hondo. You will also experience climbing Bobcat pass from Red River side. You may have noticed the profile below states 99.85 miles, we are actively researching each foot and GPS entry to squeeze out the necessary distance to make it a 100+ mile day. If you see us on the route wave.
Beginning as the first day, the route first takes North from Angel Fire and up Palo Flechado (2.5 mile climb, grades from 4 - 6 %). You may want to time yourself on both days to see what effect a 100 miles feels like on the legs this second day. (Great recovery check. Did you get your pint and massage after that first day?) The locals like to time themselves from this sign at the base, to the this sign at the top. This Race Director's PR is : 10:10 (OK, perhaps I have eaten too many tacos). We will have official (GPS) and unofficial times for Palo Flechado posted on our site and Facebook. Send yours in. Winner gets free entry in 2014!
As mentioned above, there will be a police escort/presence through the canyon between Angel Fire and Taos. Your first rest stop will be in Taos.
The route North of Taos will be the deviation from the classic Enchanted Circle loop. The route will take Rt. 150 towards the Taos Ski Area, taking you towards the mountains, through Arroyo Seco, and down into the canyon that leads to the Taos Ski Valley. But instead of heading up the canyon, you will take a left onto Rt. 230 and meander through the quaint houses and ranches called Valdez. If you look up and to your left, you will see the cyclists make their way down to your position. You will climb out of Valdez back to the mesa (4% grades) and have a fun ride down to Arroyo Hondo. This stretch of road has beautiful views of the mesa reaching out to the horizon.
On the descent down, there is a tricky hairpin turn! We will be sure this is well marked with signs and road markings, but please keep a lookout.
After you navigate through Arroyo Hondo, you will take a right onto Route 522 and the rollers into Questa. Now these rollers are more like mini climbs, MapMyRide classifies them as Cat 3 & 4 climbs ( 3 - 7% grades ). There will be a rest stop at mile marker 47-ish. Replenish yourself, because the road will tilt mostly up from here until the top of Bobcat Pass.
In Questa, you will take a right onto Rt. 38 towards Red River. This scenic area will entice you to pull over for pictures of canyon walls, the Red River itself (with amazing fly fishing in the area) and alleged Big Horn Sheep. Well, that's what the road sign says anyway. I personally, have yet to come across one yet. If you do, be sure to get a picture. If you can get a picture of one next to the sign there will be a prize for the first person to show it at the start finish line.
When you finally do get to Red River, enjoy your Rest Stop and prepare yourself for the climb up Bobcat Pass at 9820 ft, 3.75 miles with grades from 3 - 7%. The first part of the northern ascent up Bobcat Pass is the steepest. If you do need to stop and take "pictures", take your time and enjoy the view. At the moment of this writing, this Race Director's PR is abysmal. An updated time will come in the spring when I have resolved to lose those last 10 lbs. Same as before, official (GPS) and unofficial times will be taken and highlighted at RoughRiders 200.
On the descent, slow to enjoy the scenery and be careful of that left turn near the bottom. This is a fast descent with the highest grade being 10%. Please be safe. There will be photo opportunities at the bottom as the Moreno Valley opens up before you. This is the quiet area of the valley with afternoon winds playing havoc with your deep dish wheels. Don't be surprised if the winds are at your back one moment, then battering your side the next. There are some ups and downs on this stretch, but when you can see Eagle Nest Lake, it will be mostly down hill till your next rest stop in Eagle Nest.
Ask any local and they will probably say the best vistas are right around Eagle Nest. As you head south, on your left are the peaks Touch Me Not and Baldy. There are trails up in there to hike on. If you do hike in there keep an eye out for bears and mountain lions. (May Uncle Chuck Rest In Peace.) On your right you may just catch a glimpse of Wheeler Peak, which at 13,161 ft is the highest point in New Mexico. This is mountain cycling at it's best.
As you leave Eagle Nest, you will roll over new wide shouldered asphalt that was just laid down in 2012. It is a sight to behold. (Isn't it funny how these little things matter so much in a cyclist's life!) If you take time to look up from the new pavement you will see Angel Fire Resort Ski Mountain in the distance. If you are early, you may not get too much wind. Otherwise, you will be cursing the cross wind as you make your way past open fields, flying eagles and the Memorial to Vietnam Veterans. (After your ride we recommend you stop and visit the Memorial, it is powerful stuff.)
When you reach the only light in Angel Fire (and it is a blinking light), you will have less than 5 miles to go! If you are feeling good this will roll by easily. If not just think, you are a few miles away from completing back to back 100 mile days. You will definitely earn the moniker of a Rough Rider! Listen for the music and try not to smile too much as you reach the finish line.
Stop, take a picture, grab a beer, wolf down some food and reminisce with other riders about the ride, the view and the challenge.
Until next year...