Colorado floods impact Boulder-based professionals

While the floods in Boulder, Colorado, have destroyed training roads in the mountains, local professionals are happy to be safe

Photo: Joseph K. VonNida

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — Local residents in Boulder, Colorado, are referring to the flooding in Colorado earlier this month as “apocalyptic.” To the cycling community along Colorado’s Front Range, this description is not far off the mark.

Boulder and surrounding communities saw almost 20 inches of rain in just four days, an amount of precipitation roughly equivalent to the area’s annual average rainfall. Swelling creeks and rivers swept away roads and highways and hundreds of Boulder and Larimer County residents lost their homes.

In an area renowned for cycling, the road closures are disastrous, but local professional riders, including former U.S. champion Timmy Duggan (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) are thankful to have safely escaped the flood that claimed eight lives.

“The problem is there are now no canyons to run up, no more climbing,” said UnitedHealthcare’s Ben Day, whose own home was isolated by the flooding. “So many people live in Boulder for the amazing roads we have and the ability to access the mountains, but now there’s no access.”

Day awoke Thursday morning to find a lake in his backyard. By Friday morning, it had doubled in size. “At that point, we had a guy from the fire rescue come over because there were no roads left. We ended up evacuating with him up to Linden [Street], then took busses and 4x4s to get away from the mountain,” said Day.

Day was able to return home once the rain let up, but for several days, he stayed with friends in Boulder. “I had a lot of offers from friends, which is really great and humbling,” he said. “There’s a great support network here.”

Danielson was racing in Canada when the flooding began, but his wife Stephanie was shocked to find an inch of water on the first level of their home one morning. “Our house did so well considering the magnitude of this once-in-a-forever event, but even a little water means extensive repairs to walls and moving everything out,” Danielson told VeloNews.

Danielson has four generations living in one household, meaning that everyone has had to squeeze into two bedrooms and a living room while repairs are underway. “In the big picture, this is nothing,” he said. “I cannot imagine what many people are going through, seeing their homes filled with raw sewage, or simply washed away.”

Even those whose houses survived unscathed have been pitching in to help with the flood efforts. Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman) has been helping his neighbors, Hugh and Susie Walton, with their home. “Their basement was completely flooded, so for the past few days, I’ve been going over there every day and helping out. Hopefully we made some progress, but those guys were wrecked,” said Cooke.

Duggan, who lives above Boulder in Nederland, had minor property damage, but has spent the past few days helping family in Boulder. “I’ve been at a lot of my family’s properties around town, ripping out carpet and drywall. Pretty much everyone in Boulder had water in their basement to some extent, and even if it’s not catastrophic, it’s easily $10K in damage,” said Duggan. “One main thing that’s affecting us is my wife Loren’s job and commute. She normally has a 20-minute commute down the Boulder Canyon, but now it’s an hour to an hour and a half to get to Boulder on alternate routes. … We’ll be staying a few nights per week at the house of fellow pro Craig Lewis and his wife Courtney.”

Training roads destroyed

While roads for recreation and training are a secondary concern following what some believe will go down as the most devastating natural disaster in Colorado history, there is no doubt that the dozens of Boulder-based professionals will find their training grounds significantly altered for years to come. Colorado governor John Hickenlooper said this week that he hoped to have dirt roads in place for access to communities like Estes Park and Jamestown by Dec. 1. Permanent repairs will takes years.

“Tony DeBoom from the Endurance Conspiracy likened what happened to cycling to how surfers would feel if there was an oil spill on the North Shore: world-class riding gone,” Danielson told VeloNews. “Practically all of the top contenders for the Ironman World Championships have been using Boulder to prepare. What do they do now with the race only weeks away?”

For the cyclists who are entering their off-seasons, the break from competition appears anything but restful. “The last few days have been so busy with cleanup. Manual labor is a great workout, and I’ll get out on my mountain bike pretty soon here,” said Duggan.

“My off season is now shoveling,” said Day.

With the mountain roads closed, the best option for road training is the long, flat rides on the roads north and east of Boulder. “I’ll stay on flatter rides for a while and make the best of it,” Cooke, winner of the mountains classification at the USA Pro Challenge, told VeloNews. “I’ll also do more rides with other people because during the season you do individual things. There’s no rush to get out there.”

Off-season training is one small hurdle compared to the obstacle of tackling next year’s training.

“It’s amazing how quickly they’re working on these roads, but there’s so much damage, we might have to look at alternatives,” said Day.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there in November or December, but if three quarters of the routes through mountains are unridable, it might make things pretty difficult,” said Duggan.

Professional cyclists often seek warmer climes for winter training, and in the case of Danielson and his new cycling company, Tommy D’s Cycling Escape, the annual trek to Tucson, Arizona, will come much earlier this year. “We’ll be heading there soon to begin working our cycling camps that start in late October,” said Danielson. “We are brainstorming about making some Boulder-specific camps for people to get away and be able to ride some climbs.”

In the wake of Colorado’s flood damage, training takes a backseat to the larger issues at hand.

“It’s been cool watching the whole community of Boulder work so hard and help so many people, and it’s amazing how much emergency responders did to get people saved,” Day said. “At the end of the day, I just feel lucky because we got out safe.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.