Farm stands, general stores, great coffee shops, famous stops along the way: Wayside explores the best stops in cycling.
Each of the past five years, I've spent this same week of early August in Colorado. Iconic in the endurance sports world and home to dozens of professional cyclists, Boulder and the surrounding towns of Lyons, Golden, and Gunbarrel are a magnet for world class athletes. Off the beaten path, however, and into the mountains west of Boulder sits sleepy Nederland, CO and that's the target of my escape.
Pedaling in and through Nederland from Boulder is a standard training loop, but it wasn't until my 2012 teammate, Timmy Duggan brought me to his hometown that I was truly introduced to it. Between the Tours of Utah and Colorado, there's no better place to either acclimatize or decompress between races than by breathing the crisp, high Rocky Mountain air of Ned. In early August when Colorado's front range roasts in oppressive dry heat, three thousand vertical feet above Boulder, the temperature is a welcome ten degrees cooler.
For the first time in a decade I look at a calendar and don't see it dotted with intervals, instead it's highlighted by sponsor events, camps, group rides, and so much of what I forwent while solely pursuing racing. Now entering my eighth month of retirement, still a great deal of my time is spent riding a bike -- but now it's for fun, not purely performance.
Nederland draws a different magnetism than the traditional Boulder denizen. There's a hearty commitment required to pull it off. A thirty minute drive up or down the canyon separates Ned from a second gas station, any box store, or hospital. The roads are pitted and in a constant state of (dis)repair, and any first time visitor, perhaps while cruising the Peak to Peak Highway, could easily dismiss it as a hippy Colorado mountain town. But keeping people at arm's distance is part of Ned's unpolished charm.
The recent opening of the Tin Shed bike and ski shop plus its neighboring sister cafe, Salto, are the heart and soul of the outdoor community that calls Ned home. A rotating series of round the patio fire bluegrass concerts, summer kids mountain bike camps, evening group rides, special guest chef appearances, and other creative events create the continual draw from a variety of demographics. Everyone participating in these events shares the common thread of community.
Between sponsor events in Utah and my first stab at Leadville the middle of this month, the magnetism of Nederland has drawn me back. While just two days, lo and behold it's this same week in early August, the same as throughout my racing days. I met up with Timmy and soaked in just one ride before setting off to the wilderness of southwest Colorado and a five day mountain bike hut trip with a half dozen friends.
The iconic view is observed the moment you crest Boulder Canyon. After a snaking twenty minute climb, the road immediately flattens out with the reservoir in the foreground, the quiet town of Nederland just beyond, then Eldora, the petite ski mountain in the near background, and the enormous Rockies beyond that. That view hasn't changed from the first time I came to town just passing through a dozen years ago, nor five years ago when visiting Timmy and first discovering Ned, nor today's ride. But the insider secret spot is earned when you pass through town and climb Eldora. At that point turn around and see it in reverse. The fringe of Colorado wilderness abuts Nederland, then the reservoir, with Boulder far in the distance. It's from that view there's a quiet contentment knowing the town creeps along at glacial speed with Boulder and the rest of the world speeding along at arm's distance. Despite small changes here and there, it'll be the same as when I see it again.
Want more Ted King? Catch up on the origins of our partnership with the former Pro Tour rider here.