Elephant Rock rides again

Cycling festival a major draw for Castle Rock


An event-filled weekend in Castle Rock ended with one of the town's most iconic summer events welcoming Coloradans to the cycling season.

The 31st annual Elephant Rock Cycling Festival finished off two days of bike races and celebrations June 2 and 3 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds with another booming turnout from cyclists across the Front Range.

More than 5,500 signed up for races in a slew of categories from 8- to 63- to 100-miles. After riding, racers unwound with live music, perusing the local vendor booths and catching BMX tricks while eating burgers and hot dogs.

The race's attraction is not necessarily about the challenge of the course, though it has its share. The rolling hills and lack of extended inclines of the 100-mile course would be enough to make any pro cyclist salivate.

“It's not going to make you real tired by the end of the day,” said Doug Neil, a 20-year participant of the race. “I ride with my buddies, and we have a good, fun day.”

The Elephant Rock ride has significantly grown in size and stature since its founding in 1987. Back then, about 1,200 racers participated. Sixteen years later, Subaru became the event's main sponsor and the race itself gained traction in cycling communities from Colorado Springs to the south metro suburbs.

The event has grown seemingly on-par with the growth of the town in which it's made its home. And it wouldn't be too far of a stretch to observe the 31st Elephant Rock race as somewhat of a mirror to the old and new of Castle Rock: Fitness fanatics, young families, craft beer, shiny new cross-over vehicles and, maybe, even the occasional blues-flute solo.

Neil, of Centennial, finished his 20th Elephant Rock race Sunday afternoon, a 63-mile ride. The 70-year-old outdoorsman laid off the typical 100-mile race he had done in the past. E-Rock, branded as “a way to start the Colorado cycling season,” is just the beginning of the races he'll compete in this summer.

Sporting his original, tan E-Rock jersey from 1999, Neil said he's lovingly watched both the town and the race grow side-by-side.

“Now, it's a big town. Pretty soon it'll be a suburb of Denver,” Neil said with a grin. “As long as they keep having things like this, it makes it acceptable.”

Though the event's namesake is mistakenly confused as a synonym for the actual Rock, which towered over the bikers and celebrators to the north, the Elephant Rock race has become synonymous with the town itself.

“We love Castle Rock. Castle Rock takes good care of us, and we help them,” said Scott Olmsted, one of the race's directors. “This has always been just a good location for the roads, and the types of roads.”

But the main draw for the event, as it always has been, are the couples on tandem bikes strolling along, carefree of their finish time, first-timers raving mostly about the beautiful ride, heaving and huffing as they come out of the final turn, and the kids finding their own love for the sport for the first time.

“They love the sport,” Olmsted said. “The people we see come out every year. They love to ride their bike.”


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