THE “OTHER” PIKES PEAK HILL-CLIMB
Well, almost everyone has heard of the Pikes Peak Hill-Climb, which involves motorcycles and automobiles racing up the peak. But, they don’t realize that there is another race up Pikes Peak, and it is designed just for bicycles; it’s called the Broadmoor Pikes Peak Ascent. This year it was held on August 13, 2022.
The event, which is supported by USA Cycling, includes riders from all over the country. The race is in its 13th year and was opened to e-bikes four years ago when it only had four entrants. The website states there are divisions for Class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes. All 26 entrants this year started in one group designated as the Open e-bike class. Several bikes were highly modified e-bikes, resulting in a kind of loose control of defining which category they belong in. The racecourse begins where the car races begin, and requires riders to ascend 12.4 miles to a peak altitude elevation climb of 4,725 feet.
To minimize closure for tourists, the event activities began when the gate opens at 4:45 a.m. and the line of cars and bikes proceeded to the staging area. The limited parking areas at the start make for everyone scurrying to get a good spot to unload and get ready.
The nearly full moon was lighting up the area as dozens of car headlights bathed the area with an obnoxious, detracting glow feeling in what would have otherwise been a very tranquil morning in a beautiful mountain setting.
I unloaded my Sondors Rockstar e-bike and was quickly reminded that Pikes Peak weather is dramatically different than where I live in Colorado Springs, which is 3000 feet below. I put on another shirt and watched as others debated and discussed what to wear, knowing it can snow on top of the peak in the summer. But, on this day, the forecast was for sunny skies.
As I walked around the “pit” area, I noticed a respectable number of Class 1 e-bikes. I spoke to two riders who had “homemade” or highly modified bikes that I would have to categorize as Class 4. Although the website states the e-bike classes were for Classes 1, 2 and 3, I got the feeling that it was loosely enforced adherence. As the event grows along with e-bike use, I’m surmising that the rules regarding e-bike specs will be tightened up, but for now this
was a ride that was for the fun and exhilaration of riding your e-bike in an awesome setting.
At 6 a.m. the first wave was called to the starting area and advised to be ready for the 6:13 a.m. start time. I’ve attended many Pikes Peak Hill Climb events and found it striking to be at that starting line where loud engines are roaring, only to find on this day the loud engine noise was replaced by the calm conversation of riders.
When the race began, I expected a big surge to the front, but it wasn’t like that. One rider (the ultimate winner) shot out front and was never seen again until the top. But, everyone else just set a pace and pedaled on for a mile or two, then the pack started to spread out.
The air was crisp as I set a pace that would balance my limited lung capacity with preserving the battery. Numerous riders passed me as I wondered if I would see them again on the side of the road with a dead battery; that did not happen. Words cannot convey the feeling that overcomes you as you pass through the forested mountain terrain and then break into the rarefied oxygen above the timberline. The humidity-laden air created a fog-like cloud cover over the sleeping cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. The temp at the start was 55 degrees, and as I rode, I had to shed my jacket as I was getting too hot.
The deer or mountain goats you see along the way replace the garish bands that play along the route of some race courses. There is nobody lining the racecourse to cheer you on. It’s just you and the bike, and that makes for a unique feeling of self.
When I arrived at the top, where the air temperature was 57 degrees, eight riders were ahead of me. I believe five of them were on Biktrix, and two of them were on homemade/modified bikes. The first e-bike arrived at 38:28, and the last finisher was at 1:54:21.
Once you arrive—if you arrive—at the top, you may receive your Summit Society medal. The beautiful cast medal depicts a bicycle in the background of Pikes Peak and comes with a white ribbon lanyard imprinted with “Cycle to the Summit 2022” on it.
The ride/race is officially over at 9:30 am when the road returns to other guests on the mountain. Everyone returns to the award ceremony near the start, where there is a flurry of activity, as well as customary food and drink. I was fortunate enough to snag a Krispy Kreme donut, which my body was craving in lieu of a banana. Conversation with two other riders revealed a good deal of valuable tips for future races. I was able to learn a lot as to why some riders did so much better than others, which may be another letter at another time.
Five of the riders in the top 10 were members of the Murphy family. The patriarch of the family is 77-year-old John Murphy. Mr. Murphy told us that he has spent much of his life enjoying the outdoors; hence, he has been fighting skin cancer and other ailments for years. Because of limitations on his knees, he has credited e-bikes for giving him back his active life. He was inspirational, to say the least.
People like Murphy inspire us to say I will “race” it again next year, because it was too darn fun not to. Oh, forgot to mention one of the best parts—12 miles all downhill with plenty of turns and switchbacks that don’t care what you ride. But, it better have great brakes!