Devil’s Thumb Ranch is full of pleas­ant sur­prises

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Rachel Walker

TABERNASH» I’m strad­dling my moun­tain bike on a dirt road along with 10 other women, all of our eyes pinned on Sarka Ruz­ick­ova, our com­pact and en­er­getic in­struc­tor. In her com­mand­ing Czech ac­cent, Ruz­ick­ova ex­horts us to “stack our el­bows” un­der­neath our shoul­ders, spread our legs, lean the bike and look ahead. Do these things, she prom­ises, and nim­ble speed on sin­gle­track is ours.

“Do not milk your bikes!” she com­mands. It makes sense, even though her metaphor is be­yond mixed. She’s telling us to avoid pinch­ing our knees to­gether and stiff­en­ing our arms. Loosen up, and we give our bikes room to move un­der­neath us.

My small group is part of a larger one, of some 50 women, at Devil’s Thumb Ranch for “Women, Wheels and Wine,” a day-long moun­tain bik­ing clinic, in early July. Also on the day’s agenda: gourmet lunch, pool time, yoga and op­tional spa treat­ments. The clinic has at­tracted rid­ers of all abil­i­ties, from self-pro­claimed ex­perts to new­bies who say they’ve al­ways been cu­ri­ous but in­tim­i­dated to try moun­tain bik­ing.

So far, no one here claims to as­pire to the podium, but we do want to im­prove, es­pe­cially me. A life­long moun­tain biker, I’ve missed a few sea­sons, and wanted to get some con­fi­dence back for zoom­ing down­hill. I’d been to Devil’s Thumb for sum­mer for wed­dings — spec­tac­u­lar events with jaw-drop­ping views of the In­dian Peaks and de­lec­ta­ble food, catered on-site, to match — and I’ve busted my lungs Nordic ski­ing here in the win­ter. But I’d never thought of Devil’s Thumb Ranch as a moun­tain bik­ing des­ti­na­tion, de­spite it’s prox­im­ity to the moun­tain bik­ing play­ground of Win­ter Park.

Af­ter a few hours ses­sion­ing switch­backs with Ruz­ick­ova and prac­tic­ing rid­ing up and over nar­row beams, I was be­gin­ning to change my mind. The ranch has a small pump track (a rolling, curv­ing track where the goal is to cre­ate enough mo­men­tum on your bike us­ing grav­ity and body po­si­tion­ing so you don’t need to pedal) and a skills park with bridges and pro­gres­sive chal­lenges. And then there are the miles and miles of trails. Most are shared with the horses — sum­mer trail rides are a hit among guests — but that doesn’t di­min­ish them for bik­ing.

Dur­ing our morn­ing ses­sion, we climb to the Marker Hill, one of the prop­erty’s high points. Then Ruz­ick­ova leads us down a flow­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally tech­ni­cal trail that de­liv­ers some of ev­ery­thing: swerv­ing through aspen groves, spoon­ing a creek, hop­ping logs and cross­ing bridges. Through­out the ride we’re re­warded with views of By­ers Peak

Pro­vided by Devil's Thumb Ranch

A moun­tain biker rolls down a trail at Devil's Thumb Ranch, near Tabernash. In ad­di­tion to miles of sin­gle­track, the ranch has a pump track and a skills park.

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