Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Cycle to Saturn Recap: Houston...We Have Liftoff!

Scenery from the "Inner Ring of Saturn": Mt. Bierstadt as viewed from Guanella Pass (Photo: Mark Lowe)
On Saturday, June 25, 2016, 22 members of the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club trepidatiously accepted the challenge to Cycle to Saturn! The Cycle to Saturn Double Century, the second event of the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown Series, is one of the most intimidating single-day events on the RMCC calendar. Cycle to Saturn is a resurrection (of sorts) of the Saturn Cycling Classic (2000 - 2002), one of the most grueling road races ever contested on U.S. soil. The original Boulder-to-Breckenridge course, which featured 14,000 feet of climbing in 140 miles and an average altitude above 9,000 feet, attracted some the nation's top professional riders. Each year the race was contested, only 20 or so pro riders would actually finish the race! Well, much has changed since 2002. For sake of turning the event into a double century, the start location was moved to Golden when the RMCC resurrected the course as a timed double century in 2014. The event was not included on the 2015 Triple Crown calendar while the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) completed the paving of Guanella Pass from Georgetown to Grant. And as this year's participants discovered, Guanella Pass is now one of most spectacular cycling passes in the state of Colorado! Paving Guanella Pass, however, did not make the Cycle to Saturn Double Century that much easier. Cycle to Saturn remains one of the most formidable double centuries in the world: 201 miles, just a tad shy of 20,000 feet of climbing, 9 categorized climbs, including 2 HC climbs (i.e., beyond category climbs - Golden Gate Canyon and Guanella Pass), and 3 high mountain passes above 11,000 feet - Guanella Pass, Hoosier Pass, and Loveland Pass, the so-called "Inner Ring of Saturn"). The course also features the hair-raising, twisty 7-mile descent down the unpaved Virginia Canyon Road (a.k.a. Oh My God Road) from Central City to Idaho Springs, preserving a key element of the original race course. And to add to the challenge, participants only have 20 hours to complete the course to receive an official finishing time! Congratulations to this year's 22 ride starters who "threw their hat into the ring" to attempt this incredibly challenging and spectacular double century!

At warp speed, the lead pack blazes up Golden Gate Canyon before the break of dawn! (Photo: Mark Lowe)

2016 Cycle to Saturn Double Century Summary:

  • 201 miles, approximately 20,000 feet of climbing
  • 9 categorized climbs:
    • Golden Gate Canyon, 9,356 feet: HC category
    • Black Hawk to Virginia Canyon Summit: Category 2
    • Guanella Pass, 11,670 feet: HC category
    • Kenosha Pass, 9,997 feet, Category 2
    • Red Hill Pass, 9,993 feet, Category 4
    • Hoosier Pass, 11,542 feet, Category 2
    • Swan Mountain Road, Category 5
    • Loveland Pass, 11,991 feet, Category 1
    • Floyd Hill, Category 3

  • 22 pre-registered riders
  • 21 ride starters, 1 pre-ride. Of the 22 riders who started, 18 were men, 3 were women.
  • 19 riders successfully completed the course within the 20 hour time limit (86% finishing rate, 10.05 mph avg speed), 2 DNFs
  • Ryan Franz, Walter Zitz, and Mark Lowe rode hard but rode socially, completing the Cycle to Saturn course in 14 hours, 5 min. (14.2 mph).
  • Corinne Warren, who successfully completed the course during a pre-ride to provide event support for this year's riders, was our only woman to successfully complete the course this year.

Nestled just below 12,000 feet in elevation, Loveland Pass is one Colorado's most spectacular cycling pass! (Photo: Mark Lowe)

Dawn breaks over Central City as viewed from Virginia Canyon (Oh My God Rd). (Photo: Craig Howell)

Special thanks to this year's volunteers! We cannot continue these events in their current timed format without your sacrifices. Thank you!
  • Craig Howell: support vehicle driver
  • Corinne Warren: support vehicle driver and maker of fantastic cookies and muffins!
  • Heidi Hartman: roving support with support vehicles and maker of fantastic cinnamon rolls!
  • Ray Rupel: provided stationary support for riders in Georgetown.
Mission accomplished! Ryan Franz, Walter Zitz, and Mark Lowe are relieved to survived their adventure to Saturn! 
Steve Rudolph rode the last 120 miles on his own, but is relieved to have finished
another Colorado Triple Crown event! Great ride, Steve!
Chris Baker and Chris Miner at Parfet Park after Cycle to Saturn. Great ride, guys! 
Tom Miller picked a doozy to kick-off his 2016 Colorado Triple Crown campaign. Kudos to you! 
Jason Kaminski, Keith Jensen, and Stephen Strayer successfully complete their mission to Cycle to Saturn! (Stephen inadvertently stopped off at Venus before coming back to earth!) Great ride, guys!
Jon Sendor had perhaps his best Triple Crown ride to date! Great ride, Jon!
Caleb Carl is relieved to have survived his journey around the Inner Ring of Saturn! Great ride! 
Andy Lapkass is on a mission to become the only rider to have ever completed the Colorado Triple Crown on a single speed! Incredible ride, Andy! 
Josh Peter, Andy Stockman, and David Fullagar survive their most challenging Triple Crown adventure to date!
Great ride, guys! 
Graham Barnes completes Cycle to Saturn on his trusty new steed! Nice ride, Graham and nice bike!
Although I do like your orange bike too!
David Nelson and Corinne Warren at Parfet Park in Golden. Great ride, David!
Next mission: Cycle to Mars, errr...High Country!
Harvey Kramer successfully completes his first Colorado Triple Crown event (and a doozy!) in preparation for the Cents Cols Challenge in France next month. Great ride, Harvey!
The overlook of Interstate 70 to the north of Loveland Pass is as spectacular as the views to the south! (Photo: Mark Lowe)
Craig Howell and pup take a play break while providing event support for Cycle to Saturn! Thanks again, Craig! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
In a state of delirium, Chris Miner realizes all too late that what he is drinking is not Coke!  (Photo: Heidi Hartman
 Ryan Franz beats up on Walter Zitz as the two riders approach the summit of Guanella Pass! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)

Sure and steady, Chris Baker charges toward the summit of  Guanella Pass (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Oksana Kovalenko got stuck in pedestrian traffic from the Slacker Half Marathon, but still had a great ride (and nearly 10,000 feet total climbing) to the summit of Guanella Pass. (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
David Nelson gives the "thumbs up" sign from Breckenridge! All systems are go for the long return to Golden. (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Josh Peter and Andy Stockman speed toward the Inner Ring of Saturn! (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Jon Sendor looks cool, calm, and collected during his journey to Saturn. (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
Tom Miller is on a mission to activate his Strava Kudos machine!  (Photo: Heidi Hartman)
In spite of coming up a bit short in her mission, Diane Benoit still had a stellar day of riding! (Photo: Craig Howell)