A top-10 finisher in his age group at the arduous Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon a year ago, Jacob Tanz is a man known for rising to a challenge. Last month the Los Altos resident literally took on an even taller task – and conquered it.
Tanz participated in the Ridge of the Rockies Tour, bicycling nearly 2,000 miles through the Rocky Mountains.
“It was my personal Tour de France,” the 66-year-old said. “It was a great trip and a wonderful adventure.”
Tanz noted that he rode 1,776 miles – with 82,706 feet of climbing – over 18 days. The tour took him through six states, starting in New Mexico July 7. Tanz then crossed into Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and back into Wyoming before finishing the ride in Montana July 25. There was only one rest day – July 20 at Yellowstone National Park.
“Every day was a different experience, which made things fun,” he said.
Tanz didn’t do it alone; 29 other participants and 10 staffers from organizer Pacific Atlantic Cycling (PAC) Tours of Minnesota were along for the ride as well.
Except for one man in his early 70s, the cyclists were all in their 50s and 60s, according to Tanz, and came from as far as Australia. Many of them had been on a PAC tour before.
First-timer Tanz called the ride “very well organized.” Staffers set up rest stops every 25-28 miles and provided a hearty lunch each day “that fueled us well,” he said.
The tour began in Albuquerque – at an elevation of just more than 5,000 feet – and that was the easy part; the elevation didn’t dip below that until the riders reached Missoula, Mont., (3,232 feet) the second-to-last day. The highest point came toward the end of the first week when they traveled over Coal Bank Pass (10,640 feet) in the Colorado Rockies.
The extreme elevation gain tested Tanz, whose closest experience to it was riding in the Lake Tahoe area.
“I got (to Albuquerque) the day before (the tour), and to really acclimate, you need to go for 30 days,” he said. “I definitely felt the elevation and lack of oxygen, but after a few days, it’s not a big issue.”
Some obstacles only got worse as the days went on, though.
“The big issue is sitting in the saddle for eight hours a day, day after day,” Tanz said. “It can cause problems.”
Pedaling between 54 and 135 miles per day not only made him sore, but also required ample anti-chafing cream, Tanz noted. And on those long rides, the end of the day proved especially challenging.
“Those last 35 miles you really want to get home,” said Tanz, who experienced temperatures as low as 34 degrees in the morning and more than 100 degrees some afternoons. “You want to get to the next hotel and take a shower.”
Yet Tanz always tried to savor the scenery. Unlike the many triathlons he has competed in over the years, the tour wasn’t about making good time but rather having a good time.
“I focused on enjoying the ride and take in the scenery and the sites,” he said. “Some of the passes and mesas in Colorado were gorgeous. I saw the pueblos outside of Santa Fe, the Rio Grande Gorge and the potato farms in Idaho.”
Along the way, Tanz said he spotted llamas, sheep, horses and even bison from the road.
At the final stop, Kalispell, Mont., the riders gathered for dinner and a banquet to say their goodbyes and celebrate what they accomplished. Each of them received a plaque as well.
For Tanz, this tour was just the start. He’s eager to do an even longer one.
“I’d love to do another tour, but something different,” he said. “Maybe a ride across the country.”