The festival doubles as a finish line for the Colorado Classic pro cycling race. (Provided by the Colorado Classic)
The dizzying whirl of concerts, food and accompanying Velorama Colorado makes you wonder: Is there a pro-cycling race under there?
Indeed, the Aug. 11-13 festival’s raison d’être is the Colorado Classic, the latest attempt at making stage-based bicycle racing succeed in Colorado. Where races like the Coors Classic and USA Pro Challenge fell off, the three-day Velorama Colorado hopes it can keep people’s interest longer than the minute or so it takes a throng of cyclists to whizz past the gallery on a circuit. Even better, thanks to splashy musical acts — headliner Wilco is popular enough to have sprouted a music festival of its own in the band’s hometown of Chicago — the event promises to pull fans who think a peloton is some Darwinian term for a pelican skeleton.
If that’s you, don’t fret. Below, find our primer on what to know about Velorama Colorado when it rolls up to Denver’s RiNo neighborhood this weekend.
Velorama Colorado comes to RiNo Aug. 11-13. (Provided by the Colorado Classic)
The festival grounds extend from Walnut Street between 28th and 35th streets to the train tracks north of Rockies parking lot B, where the music stage is set up. There’s a public parking lot nearby the festival between Blake and Walnut streets west of Broadway, for both bikes and cars. (A second bike valet is stationed in section A of the Colorado Rockies lot A.) If you are driving, be wary of the traffic around the festival, which will be diverted around the bike race starting Friday at 4 p.m. (See our full rundown of road closures here.) But in the spirit of the festival, two wheels are better than four. Boulder-based biking collective PeopleForBikes is organizing daily cruiser rides to Velorama Colorado from north, east, south and west Denver all weekend. The rides depart from Berkeley Lake Park, Sloan’s Lake Park, Washington Park and City Park on Friday at 4 p.m.; Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Bonus: Those who sign up for the cruiser ride are automatically entered to win one of two Spot Brand bicycles. Don’t own a bike? Take one of Denver’s shared B-cycle bikes there. The three closest stations are 2490 N. Broadway St., 2751 Larimer St. and 3000 Lawrence St.
For more information on getting to the festival, check out Velorama Colorado’s website.
Like any music festival worth its salty, delicious french fries (we’re looking at you, Spud Nation), Velorama Colorado will be humming with food trucks — 26 of them, to be exact, serving up just about every kind of grub you can imagine. For example, local tube-meat favorite Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dogs, The Sweet Cow Moo Mobile (and an assortment of other ice cream parlors on wheels), and Super Heady Tacos — which lives up to the name — will all be on site. Watching your racing figure? All right, overachiever. This is Denver, so there’s not one but two juice trucks (Real Deal Juices and Pressed Juice Daily), an offering from the fruit-forward Sunshine Bowls and the healthy-headed Keenwah, Co., among others, to prime those pedal-happy calves.
Like baseball, bicycle racing is a spectator sport. That’s not necessarily a code word for “boring”; it just means it calls for some patience — and, ideally, the proper drink. No matter your potion, the festival has you covered. Velorama Colorado has teamed up with Drink RiNo, a local trade association for craft adult beverage producers in the neighborhood, to pour the neighborhood’s proudest quaffs. Even the hardiest snobs wouldn’t turn their waxed mustaches up at the beer selection, which features RiNo favorites like Our Mutual Friend Brewing, Ratio Beerworks and Blackshirt Brewing. For you gluten-hater, Stem Ciders and C Squared Ciders will be serving up boozy apple beverages all weekend. If grapes are your game, check out the brand new Bigsby’s Folly Craft Winery as well as old favorite Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery, where Lance Armstrong will be posted up from Thursday to Sunday to live-stream his cycle-centric podcast, “Stages.” Seriously.
Veteran alt-rock outfit Wilco, which founded a festival of its own in Chicago, headlines the festival’s music lineup. (Provided by High Road Touring)
Booking any one of the alt-rock groups The New Pornographers, Death Cab For Cutie or Wilco as a headliner would have been enough to tell you Velorama Colorado is serious about its live music. Instead, it booked all three. Factor that in with a handful of other sturdy rock acts from home (Tennis, Rob Drabkin) and far (Saint Motel, La Santa Cecilia), and you’ve got a roster that’s as ambitious (and Baby Boomer-slanted) as any of Denver’s current regional music festivals. The shows start Friday at 6 p.m. with La Santa Cecilia and wraps up on Sunday evening with Old 97’s. For the bonk-proof partiers among us, a handful of festival-sanctioned after-parties await at venues near the festival. Los Angeles rock quartet the Shelters play Globe Hall on Friday night and a buzzy set by Wilco side-project the Autumn Defense will echo through Erico Motorsports on Saturday. See the full list of after-party events here.
What’s a bicycle-race-turned-music-festival without a giant flea market? Velorama Colorado will host a super-sized version of the Denver Flea, the local artisans’ gussied-up take on the swap meet that has taken shoppers by storm since it kicked off three years ago. The one at the festival will be the largest version of the market yet, with more than 200 vendors, including local jeweler Storytelling Strands, printmaker Bungaloo, alpaca product purveyors (wrist warmers, finger puppets, chullos — you name it) Shabby Alpaca and many more.
Lest you forget, Velorama Colorado is the starting and finish line for the third and fourth stage of the Colorado Classic bicycle race. On Saturday, the men’s 18 six-man teams from around the world will take off from the festival grounds for the Peak-to-Peak highway circuit at 1:30 p.m., and should finish sometime around 4:40 p.m. On Sunday, they’ll push off at 12:20 p.m. for a lap around City Park and are expected to return around 3 p.m. (The women’s teams are not racing in Denver.)
Even after the winner of the Colorado Classic has been crowned, there’s still plenty to see. The festival has organized a handful of amateur races throughout the weekend, including three fixed-gear bike races (Friday, starting at 8:40 p.m.), a Battle of the Badge race that pits Denver’s police officers versus its firefighters (Saturday at 5:15 p.m.), and a pedal-hopper race, pitting several of those 16-tops on wheels you see pedaling at a crawl from bar to bar (Friday at 10:30 p.m.). For those looking to enter in a lower-stakes competition, the adult “High Rollers” tricycle race closes out Saturday night on a goofy note. Best of all, the only thing you need to bring is your shameless need to win: The festival will provide the trikes.
If you’re the team leader of a pack of little ones, there’s plenty of fun to be had from between the training wheels. On Saturday, your bike tykes can ride Denver’s Colorado Classic circuit in esteemed company when Mayor Hancock leads kids around the criterium starting at Walnut and 31st streets at 9 a.m. But if you have to pick one day, go Sunday. The festival’s family-focused final day kicks off at 9 a.m. with a teens-and-under race around the criterium. If that’s too intense, you can join the family ride around the criterium at 10:30 a.m. For the youngins who like competition but haven’t mastered the art of pedaling, the kids’ strider race hits the criterium at 11:20 a.m., no registration required.
IF YOU GO:
Velorama Colorado. Rockies parking lot B and surrounding streets, Aug. 11-13. Passes to the festival range from $45 for a general admission day pass to $750 for a three-day VIP pass and are available via axs.com. veloramacolorado.com.