Elephant Rock Cycling Festival Roars into Fourth Decade…continued from last month
This year Scot Harris is recognizing 30 years of putting on a Colorado cycling tradition, the Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival. The 2017 edition will roll out Sunday, June 4 in Castle Rock.
From last months article, you will recall Scot saying, “It always amazes me that I’ve made a living doing this for 30 years, doing something that I love,” Harris said during an exclusive interview for Xperience Sports. “I definitely feel lucky that we started when we did. I think so much of ERock’s success was timing, and having so much fun with it.” He chuckled as he added, “So I’m 100% unemployable at this point.”
His associate, Scotty Olmsted, just might fall into that category too; he’s been working with Harris for 12 years.
The interview continues…
XS: What did the early years look like compared to recent years of the event?
Harris: There are many, many huge differences. One is the level of sophistication of the organizers. The first year nobody really knew how to run a large recreational bike ride. We called Douglas County and told them we wanted to do a bike ride in the area, said it’s not a race and we don’t want to close roads. They said, “Fine, have a great time.” And then over 1,200 people showed up. Within a day or so after the event I got a call from the sheriff who insisted the ride would never happen again and told me to never even try to get a permit. Over the next couple of weeks we talked him off of that. We became very good friends and he became very supportive. So we all just learned.
And the level of sophistication of the rider is totally different. Look at the old photos—people would ride in OP (Ocean Pacific) corduroy shorts and tee shirts and no helmets. Today, everybody’s got super sophisticated apparel and much more expensive carbon bicycles instead of the old steel frames, and a much higher sophistication of how to prepare. It’s downright comical, looking back.
XS: Why has ERock grown and lasted as long as it has? 30 years is a pretty long tenure.
Harris: I think a lot of it is just timing. Look at all the cycling events that started at that time when cycling really started to gain mass popularity. We benefitted from that. I think the nature of cycling and how it fits into recreation in Colorado is probably going to go on forever. The cycling is so good here, as well as the roads. Cycling was popular to start with, but as the population started aging and running became less of an option and knees started to hurt, cycling’s popularity has continued to grow. And it’s been promoted by so many healthcare groups.
I think it’s also helped that we have a very sound understanding of what the sport is and what people look to these events for. And we worked hard to keep the Elephant Rock in particular a very consistent quality.
Olmsted: The consistency that Scot has brought to the event every year. Having a good, consistent person backing it has been a testament to the event.
Harris: And all those relationships we’ve built after so long, with all of the communities and law enforcement people and the bike shops, and in some cases the media.
XS: There’s a fundraising aspect to ERock? What does that look like?
Harris: It sort of just happened organically. A friend who helped start The Rise School of Denver, a school for kids with learning disabilities, said he’d like to use ERock as a fundraiser. So we worked together to come up with a program. It’s definitely growing every year. Last year probably 10 to 12 organizations used the Elephant Rock as a fundraising event. They raised about $200,000 between them.
XS: Can anybody do something like that?
Harris: Yes. We want to help these organizations. And we’re going to start doing a better job of making sure organizations understand it’s an option.
XS: Is anything different planned for 2017 to celebrate the 30 year anniversary?
Harris: That’s a hard question—you always try to do something new but don’t want to break something that’s working so well. We will probably come up with some nuances for the 30 year reunion, but nothing too crazy. We’re still working on it.
XS: Maybe somebody like Greg LeMond jumping out of a cake decorated with the number 30?
Harris: (Joking) An elephant coming out the cake.
More reasons to ride
XS: What kind of experience are you trying to create with Copper Triangle and Tour of the Moon?
Harris: Copper Triangle is in its twelfth year and Tour of the Moon is going into its sixth year. Participation is capped and both sell out every year. Both are a little more of a high-end cycling experience and probably better suited not to the entry-level rider but to the evolving rider from the Elephant Rock. They have more of a bicycle tourism feel to them—they get a lot more out-of-state participants.
Olmsted: i25Kia.com Copper Triangle is challenging with 78 miles of classic Colorado alpine scenery. It goes over three passes, including Vail Pass. ICON Eyecare Tour of the Moon is kind of a season wrap-up. Going to Grand Junction for Tour of the Moon is more of a destination experience.
XS: Does Tour of the Moon go through the Colorado National Monument, with its canyons and rock formations?
Harris: Yes. That was the whole idea, to utilize largely the old course from the Tour of the Moon race that was part of the Coors Classic. Our event does the exact same loop for a 42 mile ride. We felt that many of the people coming from far away would appreciate a little extra mileage, so we added an optional loop in the Fruita area that brings total miles up to 62.
Event dates and registration deadlines:
Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, all-day Party at the Rock and expo: June 4, 2017. Register by May 30th or on June 3 or early morning on June 4.
Subaru ERock Sunrise-Sunset Mountain Bike Race: June 3, 2017. Register by May 28 or early on race day morning.
i25Kia.com Copper Triangle: August 5, 2017. Register by August 1, but get in sooner as this one sells out.
ICON Eyecare Tour of the Moon: September 30, 2017. Register by September 26, but get in sooner as this one sells out too.
About the author:
Mary Topping is an insatiably curious writer, editor and content strategist specializing in sports and healthcare. She builds meaningful experience and engagement by probing the depths of people, ideas and products. Follow @butterflywriter on Twitter.