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By Kate Agathon (Campus Cycles)

Created with community in mind, Colorado’s Ride is a bicycle tour experience unlike any other.

“The intended audience is really anyone who wants a cycling adventure that is challenging, but not overwhelming. Someone who loves Colorado history and hanging out with people who will later become your friends when it is all done,” said Colorado’s Ride director and 303 Endurance owner, Bill Plock.

Capped at 350 riders to maintain intimacy and a community focus, the newest cycling tour in Colorado offers a five-day cycling adventure that enables road cyclists to explore and experience the beauty of southwestern Colorado.

“Since Colorado’s Ride is small, you get a sense of community. Making new friends on this tour is easy,” maintained We Ride 4 (WR4) Executive Director, Sharon Madison.

WR4 and the Davis Phinney Foundation were two non-profit teams who joined the inaugural Colorado’s Ride for a fundraising and team-building opportunity last August. In fact, Colorado’s Ride was inspired by the intimate, multi-day adventure rides that WR4 had begun organizing annually for its members, beginning in May of 2020.

One year, WR4 rode in Crested Butte. Another year, they did South Fork and Lake City. Each time, the cycling club approached both Ostrander and Plock for their expertise and ride support.

Sharon Madison on Colorado’s Ride

“WR4 likes to go to places where the big tours can’t go. Bill (Plock) and Zach (Ostrander) know this state better than anyone I know, so we always collaborate with them,” praised Madison.

“We use Summit Cycle Solutions on these tours to support us, and Bill usually comes along and camps out in Snoopy, his teardrop trailer. They saw how successful our tours have been, which provided them with the idea to do the same concept but with a few more riders,” she continued.

Colorado’s Newest Bicycle Tour

Conceptualized one year ago by Plock and Ostrander, Colorado’s Ride sought to offer a similar experience to those offered by WR4 to its members.

Together, the duo decided to create a multi-day Colorado bike tour that was “logistically less challenging (than other rides) and created an atmosphere where riders could really enjoy the communities and not be stressed to pack up every morning.”

In essence, Colorado’s Ride embodies a true bicycle tour where unhurried riders have the opportunity to take the time to immerse themselves in experiencing local culture while taking in magnificent landscapes during their ride time. “People liked being able to wander around towns and take in local shops and restaurants and not feel rushed,” explained Plock.

According to him, the challenge was to find two towns and create a double-spoke and hub model that offered some great rides.  “In surveying people and drawing upon our own experience, we decided to focus on the southwest part of Colorado. Durango and Pagosa Springs were the perfect choices,” he said.

An experienced Ironhorse Classic rider, Plock was enamored with that area in particular; both for the fantastic riding opportunities and the nearby community culture.  Also, both men loved the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, so a train ride was an experience they felt necessary to incorporate into the bicycle tour package.

From the camping to entertainment, every detail was thoughtfully done- right down to the customized mini Colorado license plates with rider names on them for their bike ID.

“Everyone was happy the whole time and Bill and Zach honestly care about their people, which is critical. We are friends. We aren’t just a number,” Madison reflected.

A Refreshing Change

Introducing a new bicycle tour to an already packed schedule in a state known for its premiere cycling events presented its own set of challenges; particularly at a time when cyclists are becoming more selective in what organized rides they participate in. Other ride organizers would have been daunted. Not Plock.

To Plock and his team, what better time to introduce something fresh? Something personal in a sea of large, impersonal cycling events?

WR4 was immediately on board. “WR4’s members were tired of the big events and the same events. Our members wanted something new and different,” explained Madison.

Enter Colorado’s Ride- small enough to cultivate a sense of camaraderie and community among its riders, unique enough to showcase a part of Colorado that may be unfamiliar to many along the Front Range, and successful enough to return for another year and grow.

A lot of Colorado’s Ride success can be attributed to crucial relationships established by the years of experience that both Plock and Ostrander had in spades.  To their delight, getting participating towns and the cycling community on board for their dream bicycle tour experience was not difficult.

Both communities rallied, including a sponsored showing of The Engine Inside (2023) featuring The Cyclist-Lawyer and ride participant Megan Hottman and her partner Andrew Phillips at the Pagosa Springs Theater, and a partner party at SKA Brewing.

Invictus Foundation riders Mike Murphy and Pilot with Plock

Throughout the complex planning process, Plock and Ostrander kept the focus on keeping the experience enjoyable for the riders. “I think it’s about managing expectations and scaling the ride with minimal fixed costs and trying to provide a unique experience like the train,” said Plock. “We worked very hard on a budget and stayed true to it. We picked locations very selectively to minimize expenses while still providing a good experience,” he explained.

For example, $100 to camp for the entire week included free access to the recreation center in Durango and world-class hot springs at The Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs (a day pass at the latter alone runs $60).

“In reality we ‘lost’ money on camping. But what we gained was not having to rent shower trucks, and putting up more infrastructure, etc. so by being smart like that, we could really control expenses,” he pointed out.

As ride directors, Plock and Ostrander prioritized safety, communication, and impact on communities. “Safety was a top priority. The key really was in preparations so that when unexpected things happened, you had the bandwidth to deal with them because the basics were well taken care of,” Plock stated.

“It was also critical to assess what was happening and be able to make adjustments. For example, we watched the traffic and the angle of the sunrise and made a couple of adjustments on how we rolled out of town to make it safer and easier to control and lessen the impact on the community,” he continued.

Being a ride director can sometimes be strange, Plock admitted. “It’s a weird position. In reality you are responsible for everything, but truly if the team is doing their job, during the event my focus is really on interacting with the riders making sure it’s fun and safe for them,” he said.

Leading up to the event, he and Ostrander split some of the duties. Plock took over permitting, most of the route planning, assigning aid stations, and overseeing the after-ride programming and entertainment. Meanwhile, Ostrander and his team handled the logistics including hotels and venues.

The Core Value of Community

When conceptualizing Colorado’s Ride, Plock and Ostrander envisioned a multi-day Colorado bicycle tour that could be sustainable, scaled to grow, and give back to the community. The community piece, Plock explained, was vital. Colorado’s Ride also serves as a platform for access to local amenities, fundraising venues, and a mechanism to support the many amazing causes within the cycling community, he explained.

Plock with ELHI Community Center in Ignacio

The event organizers were adamant that 50 percent of the event’s profits were shared with charities and non-profits (i.e. local, fundraising, riding teams, and others who volunteered to help) and weighted on event participation. “We partnered with some non-profits in Ignacio who rolled out the red carpet and provided a great aid station at an old school in this town surrounded by the Southern Ute Nation,” said Plock.

“They made all kinds of homemade food and treats. Our ride spent over $1,200 that helped several small non-profits in a very rural lower income area,” he continued. Plock rattled off several names of non-profits and groups who benefited from Colorado’s Ride profits including Durango’s youth cycling Devo Program (where Sepp Kuss famously got his start), and Foundation 1023, a non-profit that provides mental health services for first responders.

“I think at the end of the day, once everyone is safe and sound, it’s really about folks wanting to come back and towns and agencies wanting us back,” Plock said. “Let’s be honest, a bike tour can be hard on a community, especially these days. The state patrol and EMS agencies both told us they would love to have us back. That meant a lot!” he exclaimed

Colorado’s Ride 2024

The second edition of Colorado’s Ride will take place August 19-23, 2024. Registration opens on January 5. For riders who rode last year and are planning on bringing a new rider with them this year, each of them will receive $100 off if they sign up by January 15. Also if you are part of an official team you are eligible for the same discount,.

For more information, click here.

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