1976 Mt. Evans Hill Climb: Breaking the Elusive 2 Hour Barrier

1976 Mt. Evans Hill Climb: Breaking the Elusive 2 Hour Barrier

by Bob Shaver

During the early 1970’s, we racing cyclists equated breaking the two hour barrier up Mt Evans with Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile. Bob Cook, aka the “Cookie Monster,” was our Roger Bannister.

To say Mt Evans conjures up strong emotions is an understatement. Everyone who has ever raced Mt Evans has their own story of struggle, accomplishment, disappointment and personal triumph. It doesn’t matter what your category is or what your age is, success over suffering feels the same to everyone and Mt Evans offers up an array suffer options.

At the start of the 1976 edition, there were probably 30 cat 1 riders. Not many by today’s standards. Most would ride it as a training ride, while others rode Mt. Evans simply because it was there or to hopefully score a personal best. Baring any mishap there was only one rider who had any chance of winning and that was Bob Cook.

With first place already wrapped up, a group of four of us from the Cool Gear Team decided to force the pace for as long as we could with Bob Cook sitting in our draft. Word got out of our mission and by the start there were a handful of others who joined in to sacrifice for the sub two hour cause.

For the first six miles we had a nice pace going. I have no idea what our speed was but it had to be 20+ MPH. At the first hairpin at Chicago Creek things dramatically split (no news there!). After that crunch, only five were in the breakaway: Bob Cook, Jack Janelle (2 x Mt Evans winner), Gray James (one of the top climbers in the state/region), Mike Bower and me. The lead group stayed together until a couple of miles before Echo Lake, when Cook, looking at his watch said, “We need to pick the pace up if we’re going to do it!” Pick up the pace he did and in relatively short order just Jack Janelle and I were left with Bob.

Jack and I pulled along the flats at Echo Lake and then as much as we could beyond the ranger hut. In survivor mode, Jack and I sat behind Bob’s wheel, barely matching his pedal stroke. A cold mist greeted us just above Echo Lake. At about a half mile before the descent into Summit Lake, I could tell my time with Bob & Jack was over and that, as my French Director Sportif would say I was: “Getting ready to attack off the back.” Just then Bob said, “I’m going to have to leave you guys now. Thanks for everything, see you at the summit!” He didn’t just ride away but attacked like his life depended on it.

Jack gallantly tried to bridge up to Bob. However, as I was descending into Summit Lake I could see through the mist Jack’s jersey but no sign of Bob. The attack was that fast, that decisive and that amazing.

At the Summit Bob greeted me with his signature grin, screaming, “We did it! We did it!” It was a very emotional moment to say the least. He did it in convincing fashion too: 1:57:50, Jack Janelle was 2:01:00 (I think) and I rolled in at 2:02:13. I kept thinking as I am sure Jack was too, “What could I have done in the past 28 miles to shave off 134 seconds?” That’s just five seconds per mile. While I do not lose sleep over it, it does haunt me from time to time. Still, any regrets not breaking two hours is certainly overshadowed by riding with Bob that day—which is really the most important thing.

 

Author Bob Shaver raced from 1971-1978. During that time he won 52 category one races including: Morgul Bismarck, Boulder Mountain Road Race, Black Hills Stage Race, Keystone Stage Race, Tesistan International Road Race, Jalisco, Mexico, Larimer Square Pro Am Criterium, Flagstaff Hill Climb. In 1976 he was one of the first Americans to race in Europe (France on ACBB Peugeot). In 1977 he was the Best All Around Rider Western US. He has organized and directed both competitive races and recreational rides. Most notably Mt Evans in 1980 & the first Copper Triangle in 1999. In 2009 Bob was one of 5 people appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to create the framework for a multiday professional bike race in Colorado. Two years later, in 2011, the USA Pro Challenge was born

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  1. […] Bob Cook, for which the race was renamed in 1981, won the Mount Evans hill climb five times before his tragic death from cancer at the age of 23. He’s also the man who broke the elusive 2 hour barrier in 1976, completing the race in 1 hour, 54 minutes, and 27 seconds, a record he still holds. This 1976 race makes a great story, and is well worth the read! […]