Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cycle to Saturn Double Century

Geez! That's a really long ways!!

The Saturn Cycling Classic, contested from 2000 to 2002, was one of the most epic (and brutal) road races ever ridden by the professional peloton in the U.S. The traditional Boulder-to-Breckenridge route boasted an average altitude of over 9,000 feet, climbing over 14,000 vertical feet in 140 miles! Covering a mixture of paved and (nasty) gravel roads, it was perhaps the most difficult single-day road race ever contested in the United States. Of the 190+ professional riders who started the race each year, perhaps only 20 riders would even finish. In spite of this fact, the race attracted some of the U.S.'s biggest cycling stars, including Scott Moninger, Jonathan Vaughters, Chris Wherry, and 2013 Vuelta winner, Chris Horner. It was Colorado's defining road race! In 2014, the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club resurrected major portions of this legendary cycling course, a route that only a few dozen professional riders have ever completed! In 2019, RMCC members will once again get to the opportunity to tackle this legendary route. Get ready to Cycle to Saturn!

Spectacular views of the Continental Divide along Loveland Pass.

Cycle to Saturn Double Century

Date: Back in the future! 

Start location: Golden, Coors Tek Parking lot, 10th and Jackson Street.

Sign-in/Start: Tortoises: Check-in: 1:45 AM, Start 2:00 AM. Hares: Check-in: 2:25 AM, Start: 3:00 AM.

Finish location: Golden, Coors Tek Parking lot, 10th and Jackson St.

Map/cue sheetCycle to Saturn Double Century. Official cue sheet with map and checkpoints will be distributed to pre-registered riders prior to the day of the event.

Distance/climbing: 201 miles/20,000 feet

Rider limit: 50

Registration fee: $30. Please bring your $30 registration fee to the start of the ride. Includes limited SAG support. RMCC membership ($25/year) also required. See below. 

Registration: Cycle to Saturn Registration

Registration closes on June 24, 2019. RMCC membership is required to participate! For more information regarding RMCC membership, click here: RMCC Membership.

Pre-Qualification is encouraged (but not required) to participate in the Cycle to Saturn Double Century. Please refer to the link, What's new for 2019? to learn more about pre-qualification suggestions.

Results: Please note that this is a timed tour, but not a race. Results will be posted in order of finishing time.

Time limits. 20 hours (10.3 mph). Participants must finish within the time limit to receive an official finishing time and Colorado Triple Crown credit.

Event Organizer: For specific questions about the event, contact Mark Lowe:

Additional Notes:
  1. Support. RMCC will provide limited SAG support. Personal support vehicles are allowed and encouraged at check points and support points (See Rules, Regulations, and Safety).
  2. Lights. Lights and reflective gear are required.
  3. Rules and Regulations. Please refer to the Colorado Triple Crown Overview for more information. 

The course elevation profile of the Cycle to Saturn Double Century course is a bit
daunting because of its monstrous alpine climbs! 


The original Boulder-to-Breckenridge route featured six major climbs, including two passes over 11,000 feet! The start of our event, however, deviates slightly from the original route. Our event will start in Golden, not Boulder. Starting in Golden allows double century riders to more easily start and finish in the same location.  However, the crux of the original Saturn Cycling Classic route--Coal Creek Canyon (now Golden Gate Canyon...for safety reasons), Virginia Canyon, Guanella Pass, Kenosha Pass, and Hoosier Pass--are preserved. Double century riders will have the added bonus of climbing three additional categorized climbs--Swan Mountain Road, Loveland Pass, and (the dreaded) Floyd Hill--before making the final descent down Lookout Mountain into Golden.

Here's a brief synopsis of the major climbs of the Cycle to Saturn Epic Century and Double Century:

Views of Tremont Mountain from Golden Gate State Park
Golden Gate Canyon (HC Category)
Starting in Golden, CO, participants will turn west into Golden Gate Canyon, the first major climb of an extremely challenging day! Golden Gate Canyon is actually a series of three shorter climbs that connects Golden to the Peak-to-Peak Highway, collectively gaining over 4,000 feet in 18 miles.  Upon reaching the Peak-to-Peak Highway (US-119), riders will turn south, making the short plunge into the gambling (and mining) communities of Black Hawk and Central City.

With epic views of the Mt. Evans Wilderness to the north, Oh, My God Road originally served as a stagecoach road for shuttling supplies between Idaho Springs, Russel Gulch (one of Colorado's best-preserved ghost towns), and
Central City. It is certain to challenge to the downhill cycling skills of each Cycle to Saturn participant!

Virginia Canyon Road (a.k.a. Oh, My God Road, elev 9,383 feet)
Nestled between Central City (elev. 8,510 feet) and Idaho Springs (elev. 7,581 feet) is Oh My God Road, an 8.5 mile stretch of mixed dirt, gravel, and pavement with steep drop-offs, plentiful switchbacks, and no guardrails! Once participants complete the steep 800+ foot Category 3 climb, riders must then navigate the tricky, technical descent (approximately six miles of dirt, gravel, and some pavement), descending 1,800 feet into Idaho Springs (elev. 7,526 feet).

Connecting Interstate 70 in the north to US-285 in the south, Guanella Pass Road provides convenient access to
Mt. Bierstadt, one of Colorado's most popular 14ers! 

Guanella Pass (elev. 11,669 feet, HC category)
Providing spectacular views of Mt. Bierstadt, Guanella Pass links Georgetown (elev. 8,530 feet) along I-70 to Grant (elev. 8,606 feet) along US-285 to the south. Guanella Pass is a daunting "hors catégorie" (i.e., HC) climb with several sections of sustained grades of 8%, ascending 3,200 feet in 11 miles from Georgetown. From 2000-2002, Guanella Pass was the "make or break" climb (and descent) of the Saturn Cycling Classic, as the outcome of the race was always determined by this technical road! At the top of the pass, which was a very rough dirt and gravel road, many racers would switch to mountain bikes to minimize the risk of flat tires or other mechanical problems before making the 3,000 foot plunge toward Grant. (However, only those riders who were in the main breakaway were allowed this luxury.)  From 2009 - 2011, a massive paving project spearheaded by the Federal Highway Administration, led to the paving of the northern side of the pass. And in October 2015, construction crews finished paving the southern half of the pass from Guanella Pass summit to Grant, making the southern aspects of Guanella Pass a road cyclist's dream with smooth, pristine blacktop! Guanella Pass is now 100% paved!

The descent down the western face of Kenosha Pass into the South Park Valley
is all too familiar to Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen veterans! Nasty headwinds can make the 20-mile venture from Kenosha Pass to Fairplay a less than ideal experience!

Kenosha Pass (elev. 10,000 feet, Category 2) 
Kenosha Pass, the eastern gateway into the South Park Valley, is a pass that is all too familiar to Joe Lookingbill Denver-to-Aspen veterans! The climb to the Kenosha Pass summit is a gradual seven mile climb from Grant, gaining 1,400 feet along the way. Although US-285 has quite a bit of traffic, this section of the highway from Grant to Fairplay, has a safe shoulder to ride on and is now rumble strip free. After cresting Kenosha Pass, riders will descend into the South Park Valley as they continue west toward Fairplay, CO.

Red Hill Pass is a short climb from the east, but can take its toll on weary legs.

Red Hill Pass (elev. 10,051 feet, Category 4)
Flanked by red hills on both sides of the summit, Red Hill Pass lies four miles to the northeast of Fairplay (elev. 9,953 feet). It is a short climb...less than two miles in length. It is really just a small "bump" on the course elevation profile. But this climb can feel extremely difficult to weary legs, especially after 110+ miles and five climbs…and even more so if the prevailing winds are out of the west!

Views into Summit County from near the summit of Hoosier Pass

Hoosier Pass (elev. 11,542 feet, Category 2)
Along CO-9 between Fairplay and Breckenridge, Hoosier Pass is the southern gateway into Summit County. It is the second major high alpine climb that Cycle to Saturn participants will encounter. And for epic century riders, the ascent over Hoosier pass will be their last major climb of the day. Hoosier pass is an 11-mile climb from Fairplay, gaining approximately 1,600 feet and reaching maximum grades of 8%.  After cresting the summit of the pass, riders will encounter a steep, twisty descent down the north face of the pass toward the ski community of Breckenridge. Breckenridge was the final stop for the Saturn Cycling Classic. For double century participants, however, their journey continues...

Swan Mtn Road, which skirts the southeast aspects of Dillon Reservoir, is a short (but steep) link between Breckenridge and Loveland Pass Road 

Swan Mountain Road (Category 4)
From Breckenridge, double century riders will begin their difficult journey home. Traveling north along CO-9, riders will turn east onto Swan Mountain Road, which connects CO-9 to Loveland Pass Road, skirting the southeast corner of Dillon Reservoir. The climb over Swan Mountain Road is only 4 miles long, but its steep pitches will surely wreck havoc on the legs of exhausted riders, who will have climbed 15,000 feet by the time they reach the top of this short climb!

With its majestic high alpine vistas, Loveland Pass is one of Colorado's finest cycling passes.

Loveland Pass. (elev. 11,990 feet, Category 1)
Loveland Pass is a complete gem! Adorned by spectacular views of the Continental Divide, it is truly one of Colorado's most majestic mountain passes! Loveland Pass Road gains 2,630 feet in 8.7 miles from the Keystone ski resort. Weary riders will definitely want to have their digital cameras handy for this climb! At an altitude just shy of 12,000 feet, the views will certainly leave double century riders breathless! After cresting this spectacular pass, riders will make the exhilarating 4-mile plunge down the eastern face of the pass to the Loveland Ski Resort. From the resort, riders will jump on the recently constructed Continental Divide Trail as they continue the long descent toward Silver Plume and Georgetown.

Running parallel to I-70, the short (but steep) climb up the western face of Floyd Hill
can be a daunting task to exhausted riders!

Floyd Hill (Category 3)
Floyd Hill is a climb that is well-known to riders who have completed the Tim Kalisch Memorial Grand Loop. The climb up the Floyd Hill frontage road (US-40) is a short, but challenging climb, gaining 710 feet in 1.8 miles with an average grade of 8%. After cresting Floyd Hill, riders will continue in the eastbound direction, tackling a final series of rollers through Bergen Park before making the final descent to Golden.

As double century riders return from Saturn, they will have completed 20,000 of climbing for the day.  Riders will  most certainly embrace the final 5-mile descent down Lookout Mountain into Golden. 
The descent down Lookout Mountain Road into downtown Golden marks the conclusion of a difficult double century!

Congratulations on cycling to Saturn!!