Utilizing the same start and the same finish, these three rides provide different distance options ranging from the Col d’Coal’s 47 miles to the Strade Sporche’s 106 miles (all day long!). All of the rides leave and return to Steamboat Springs via 13th street/CR33/Twenty Mile road. When ridden in the recommended clockwise direction you will turn left at mile 6.3 on to Cow Creek/CR45 for your first taste of dirt, right on CR43 and back to Twenty Mile road to drop down the corkscrew decent and turn left (very briefly) on CR179 which makes a hard left in .5 miles and the straight ahead option marks the beginning of CR29 (one of our favorite county roads). When reaching the pavement of CR35 you have the option to turn left and continue on CR29 at the bottom of the hill to complete the Strada Sporche or Dunckley Park rides, or turn right to complete the Col d’Coal ride.
The three hills in between Oak Creek and the Twenty Mile coal mine are often referred to as “The 3 Bitches” but in order to give them their due we have nicknamed each one starting with The Col d’Coal (mine), then the Col d’Trout (creek) and the Col d’Oak (creek). From CR 29 the Col d’Coal ride includes a long stretch of pavement over the Col d’Trout and Col d’Coal climbs down to the Twenty Mile coal mine where it reconnects with the Strada Sporche and Dunckley Park rides and turns toward home.
Continuing on CR29 you will climb gradually up towards the Flat Top mountains bearing right at the T intersection and past the end of winter maintenance where the road becomes noticeably rougher. After a few short hills you will reach “The Wall” a short section of 20%+ gradient that will test your legs for sure. There is no shame in having to hike up The Wall. The top of the wall is the highest point of both rides. After a long fast descent and a short uphill you will reach the beginning of Dunckley Park. To complete the Dunckley Park ride take CR37C down until you connect with CR37 and turn right back towards Steamboat Springs.
The Strada Sporche ride will continue on CR29 for some distance bearing right when you reach the Williams Fork and turning right up out of the valley when you reach Hayden Gulch (CR ). Hayden Gulch is a long gradual gravel climb that switchbacks off the other side before turning to pavement and leading you all the way to the town of Hayden. Hayden is great place to re-supply for the long ride back. Riding out of town on HWY40 you take the first right and begin the long gradual climb up Sage Creek Canyon (CR37) which eventually plunges down into Dunckley Park and re-connects with the Dunckley Park ride. At the end of CR37 you will reach the pavement of CR35 turn right, ride past the coal mine and re-connect with the Col d’Coal ride as you turn left onto CR33 (Twenty Mile Road). A few fast miles of pavement will take you to your last taste of dirt for the day turning left on CR179 and then taking the first right up CR33B back to CR33 (Twenty Mile Road) where you turn left, climb one last hill and finish with the same rolling paved road that you started on.
The Strade Sporche is one of The Dirty Roads first published rides. Strade Sporche is Italian for “dirty road” and is a ride we first did for JR’s birthday in 2011. That first time we rode the Strada Sporche I was riding with a broken water bottle cage that I had zip back together rather than throwing it away and getting another cage. Somewhere on CR 29 the other side of “The Wall” the zip ties gave away and I was down to one water bottle for the rest of the ride. We topped off our water in Hayden and JR offered to share what water he had which was very nice since I was not looking forward to riding home on one bottle. We stopped for a snack break about half way up Sage Creek Canyon and as a pickup truck approached us they began slowing down, as they almost reached us the driver held my missing water bottle out the window. It was covered in dirt but still full of water. We both were grinning from ear to ear. I don’t think he had any idea how many miles and how hours ago I had lost that bottle but I’m sure my smile told him how much it meant to me.