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Ride the Rockies arrives in Cortez

Cyclists and support crews will camp in Parque de Vida, shop in host towns
Nearly 2,000 cyclists participating in Ride the Rockies rode into Cortez Monday. On Tuesday, they will ride 101 miles to Norwood over Lizard Head Pass. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Get ready for nearly 2,000 cyclists to roll through Mancos and Cortez today as part of the Ride of the Rockies event.

Tomorrow, the riders will ride 101 miles from Cortez to Norwood, passing through Dolores and Rico.

Areas of Parque de Vida in Cortez will be closed until noon Tuesday to accommodate camping and accommodations for riders.

A tent city was set up at Parque de Vida in Cortez Monday to accomodate cyclists participating in Ride the Rockies. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The six-day bike tour covers 418 miles with 28,484 feet of climbing. The scenic loop route includes the challenging climbs up Lizard Head Pass, Dallas Divide, Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass and Coal Bank Pass.

This is the 35th annual Ride the Rockies event. It starts and ends in the host city of Durango and passes through host communities of Cortez, Norwood, Ridgway and Ouray.

Cyclist Josh King traveled from Georgia for the event.

“It’s a lot of fun, different than riding in Georgia. I’m adjusting to the altitude,” he said. “For tomorrow, I’m looking forward to see how I do at 10,000 feet at Lizard Head Pass.

Host communities provide alternative lodging, inexpensive community meals and entertainment.

The event provides an economic boost and publicity to the area, with riders and support crews eating at local restaurants and staying in hotels.

According to Ride the Rockies, cyclists in 2018 spent an average of $250,000 in a 24-hour period in each town and many planned to return at a later date as tourists.

Shannon Down, of Castle Rock, enjoyed the scenery on the ride from Durango, especially Mesa Verde.

“It’s gorgeous here, and everyone has been so nice,” she said.

Shannon Down, of Castle Rock, finishes the second leg of Ride the Rockies from Durango to Cortez. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

She heard about the event a couple of years ago and never thought she could do it, then took the challenge.

“It was always at the back of my mind,” Down said.

Ride The Rockies is a non-competitive event open to cyclists of all ages and participants are encouraged to ride at their own pace.

Proceeds from Ride The Rockies benefit The Denver Post Community Foundation. All funds raised are returned directly to Colorado nonprofits.

Ride the Rockies was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.