Aspen’s mountain culture and cycling history is almost as famous as its rides. Almost. We invite you to take a stroll through our historic streets and soak in the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences that call our beloved Aspen home. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Alexi S. Grewal was born in Aspen in 1960. At 18 he qualified for the junior world’s team and then at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Grewal became the first American man to win an Olympic gold medal in cycling. His winning bicycle is now at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. He then turned professional signing with the Panasonic team and later with the 7-Eleven Cycling Team. After retiring from professional cycling, Grewal moved back to Colorado with his family. He now makes hand-crafted furniture and architectural features out of native hardwoods. In 2004, Grewal was elected to the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.
Georgie Leighton was Aspen’s bicycle excursionist. Between 1959 and 1975 she logged over 86,000 miles on her 1959 French bicycle. Leighton rode to Quebec several times because she “liked to hear French again.” She toured all over the western United States during the summers. Being half French and half Swiss, Leighton said her French half takes over in the summer when she only rides, then she works hard all winter to appease her Swiss half.
Roaring Fork Early Bike Racing
Aspen has had a long history of bike racing, starting with the annual bike race from Basalt to Glenwood in 1898 that lasted until 1914. The Aspen Tribune headlines from July 25, 1899 read “Aspen boys; Captur[ed] Two of the Best Prizes in the Road Race From Basalt to Glenwood” and later states “over 1000 people witnessed the race, which was spirited and fast, considering the heavy condition of the road.” They raced over dirt roads and riders had to finish within 20 minutes of the leader to be recognized by the judges. To make it even more fun, the Colorado Midland Railroad offered $1.50 round trip tickets to watch the race in action via the train, which ran alongside the race.
Ted Cooper was Aspen’s original Bicycle excursionist. In 1902, the 19-year-old Ted Cooper and a friend rode to Yellowstone National Park. The following summer Cooper took a 600-mile bike tour through Colorado. In 1904, Cooper tried a new contraption, a $175 Marsh Motorcycle. Cooper raced in the annual Basalt to Glenwood Bicycle race with his motorcycle and finished only 15 minutes ahead of the field.
Aspen Alpine Cup
“A two-day torture on wheels” according to Sports Illustrated, this 200 mile bike race leaving from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and returning to Aspen via Independence Pass required endurance and much skill. The last 20 miles over the 12,095 ft pass was dirt and gravel base, a hazard that was alleviated the following year, 1967, when the pass was paved.
A three-day stage race starting as the Red Zinger Classic in 1975 that grew to a two week long tour, the fourth largest race in the world. It became the Coors Classic in 1980 when sponsorship changed. Stages were held in Aspen along with other Colorado towns and eventually spread to include other states. “One recurring stage near Snowmass, Colorado, was run up ‘Suicide Hill’, a road so steep that it was heated in the winter (aka Snowmelt Road). Races were run over mountains such as the Vail, Independence, and McClure Passes in Colorado.” Because this race had a women’s component, it is credited by the Tour de France for spurring their addition of a women’s division.