Colorado National Monument

Tour of the Moon: Grand Junction, Colorado

Illness or injury will keep most of from participating in our favourite sport at some point. It was after an injury that I rediscovered road riding. I’m glad I did since I never would’ve decided to take part in the Tour of the Moon in Grand Junction, Colorado otherwise.

The Tour of the Moon is held in September and takes riders around the Colorado National Monument. This route became famous in the movie American Flyers with Kevin Costner. (It’s a classic movie that is worth watching if you haven’t seen it!) This route was also part of the course for the Coors International Bicycle Classic, which ran from 1980 to 1988.

The Tour of the Moon usually sells out with 2,000 cyclists taking part. There are two route options: a 62-mile (100 km) route which also takes you through the town of Fruita; or a 41-mile (66 km) loop which skips Fruita and just takes you around the Colorado Monument. It’s not a race by any means, it’s a recreation ride with some of the most scenic views in Colorado.

In the two months leading up to the Tour of the Moon, I spent more time riding chairlifts in bike parks than I did riding my road bike. Not the best way to prepare for an event that has over 3,900 feet (1,188m) of climbing! (Although the bike park was fun…) I had my fingers crossed that I had been able to maintain my fitness from the training I did during the off-season.

Canyon Rim Trail

When I arrived in Grand Junction, I rented a car and took a drive around the Colorado National Monument. Not only did it give me a better feel for the route, it also gave me a chance to check out some of the hiking trails. I was hoping the hikes would get my lungs working at elevation. Grand Junction sits at 4,500 feet (1,397m,) which doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realize the peak of the Colorado National Monument is at 7,500 feet (2,142m). Those of us coming from sea-level will notice the effects of riding at elevation.

One of the hikes I did is called the Canyon Rim Trail. It’s a short 1 mile hike that starts from the visitor centre. It takes you to a viewpoint to see the rock formations that they called the Praying Hands. From some angles, they looked like a large sitting cats to me, but as I got closer the hands became more obvious.

The Praying Hands

It was a rainy day and the drive around the Colorado National Monument was still gorgeous! And nerve-wracking. Not the actual drive, but seeing the hills that I had to climb with little training. I started to have some serious doubts about my fitness.

The next day was event day and I awoke to a beautiful, sunny morning. I was looking forward to riding under clear blue skies! I loaded my bike into the car and set off towards the convention centre.

The Tour of the Moon gives you the option of starting your ride any time between 7:30 and 9am. I chose to start at 8am to give me lots of time to complete the course. It also gave me time to stop for photos and enjoy the scenery.

The bottom of the Colorado National Monument, before the start of the climb.

It was chilly when I first set out on the ride. Mountain weather meant that the overnight temperatures were close to freezing but it was due to warm up to 70F (20C) during the day. The initial hill looked much worse when I drove the course. It turned out to be an easy pedal and it was only a 3% incline. The views were even more stunning from a bicycle!

Scenes from the ride.

I was riding solo and after a while it became obvious that I had found my people. The thing about riding solo, you always meet people along the way. It wasn’t long before I became known as “The Canadian” in the group. The Tour of the Moon attracts most of its riders from the Denver area. It’s only just starting to attract people from places further away and almost everyone I met was a “local.”

The Praying Hands are behind me on the right.

It wasn’t until I got closer to the peak of the Colorado National Monument that I really started to feel the effects of elevation. The familiar sluggish feeling started to set in. The elevation sign at the top was a welcome sight. It meant that it was mostly downhill from here!

The highest point on the route.6,640 feet (2024m) above sea level.

Downhill riding of any sort is my strong suit. I love riding at speed so I was really looking forward to the descent! There were a few cars on course and, as luck would have it, my group got stuck behind a police car on the way down. We joked about it being our pace-car since it did keep some of us from gaining too much speed… When it pulled over to allow us to pass, it was game on as we had an impromptu race down the rest of the hill. This was what I had been waiting for the entire ride!

If you look closely you’ll see the road we followed below.

I finished the Tour of the Moon with a smile on my face. I enjoyed every minute of it and I was happy that my pre-season training had paid off. Although I hadn’t spent much time on my road bike leading up to the event, I still had the fitness to enjoy it.

If you have an endurance event you’re preparing for, contact us for a training plan!

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