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)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016 Colorado High Country Double Century Recap

Views of the Medicine Bow Mountains from the North Park basin.
What's not visible in this picture was a little gift from Mother Nature: the wind! (Photo: Tim Schaefer) 
Saturday, June 11, 2016 marked the commencement of the 2016 Colorado Triple Crown as RMCCers embraced the Colorado High Country Double Century. The High Country Double Century, one of the newest Triple Crown events, is named after the longer and more formidable RMCC Colorado High Country 1200 km brevet (to be contested later this summer), but is definitely not a slouch of a ride! The 2016 Boulder-to-Steamboat course featured 209 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing, including the continuous 60-mile, 5,000 foot climb up the lush Poudre Canyon to the top of Cameron Pass. From Cameron Pass, the course plunges into the North Park basin. The North Park basin, with it's rolling plains and lots of wind (!), is a little piece of Kansas nestled in the north central Colorado Rockies.  The course concludes with the punchy climb over Rabbit Ears Pass, rolling along the Continental Divide before making the blazing descent into Steamboat Springs.  Mother Nature did not disappoint this year's participants as she blessed them with the full gamut of Colorado weather, including balmy temperatures and blue skies for the first 120 miles from Boulder to Cameron Pass, then miles of demoralizing headwinds through the North Park basin, concluding with bone-chilling thunderstorms as riders crested Rabbit Ears Pass. This year's event had 25 ride starters, including 7 riders who participated in their first Colorado Triple Crown excellent turn-out for a point-to-point ride! Congratulations to all of this year's participants and many thanks to this year's volunteers for making the event an enjoyable day for everyone!

Poudre Canyon was clad in a deep, verdant green from west of Fort Collins to the top of Cameron Pass
during the 2016 Colorado High Country Double Century (Photo: Tim Schaefer)

2016 Colorado High Country Double Century Summary:

  • 209 miles, approximately 12,000 feet of climbing
  • 3 categorized climbs:
    • Poudre Canyon to Cameron Pass (10,276 feet): HC
    • Muddy Creek Pass (8,772 feet): Category 5
    • Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 feet): Category 3 
  • 27 pre-registered riders
  • 25 ride starters, 2 early withdrawals. Of the riders who started, 22 were men, 3 were women.
  • 21 riders successfully completed the course within the 16.5 hour time limit (12.55 mph avg speed), 4 DNFs
  • Walter Zitz and Mark Lowe, both feeling a bit demoralized by the head winds in North Park, were the fastest finishers of the day, completing the Boulder-to-Steamboat course in 11 hours, 25 min. (18.6 mph).
  • Triple Crown veteran, Diane Benoit, was our only official female finisher with a time of 14 hours, 34 min. (14.3 mph). Congratulations, Diane! 

Special thanks to this year's volunteers! We cannot proceed with these events in their current timed format without your help!
  • Craig Howell: support vehicle driver
  • Corinne Warren: support vehicle driver and maker of fantastic muffins and cookies
  • Joanne Vitanza: official time recorder at the conclusion of the ride
Also thanks to the impressive support crew of rider, Avery Collins, who provided support for riders along the course!

Mark Lowe and Walter Zitz arrive at the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel, the final destination
of this year's Colorado High Country Double Century
Ultra runner, Avery Collins, made his foray into ultra cycling with the Colorado High Country Double Century and had a great ride! Geez...and he's only owned his bike 3 weeks!!
Stephen Strayer at the Rabbit Ears Motel after successfully completing his 2nd Colorado High Country Double Century!  Excellent ride and welcome to Colorado full-time! 
Chris Baker and Ryan Franz arrive safely at the Rabbit Ears Motel, barely escaping the rain. Great ride, guys!
Raise the roof! Kale Olson is in da Rabbit Ears house! Great ride, Kale!
Shaken, but not stirred, Triple Crown veteran survives the thunderstorm on Rabbit Ears Pass to successfully complete this year's event! Great ride, Steve! 
RMCC Colorado High Country 1200 km record holder, Jeffrey Hullet, uses this year's High Country Double Century as a tune-up for next month's big brevet. Great ride, Jeffrey!
Caleb Carl completes his first Colorado Triple Crown event to warm up for...Ride the Rockies!?!
Huh?? What?? Great ride, Caleb! 
Chris Miner contemplates how he could complete the Colorado High Country Double Century AND ride Pikes Peak in the same day! Excellent ride, Chris!!
Nederland, CO native, David Fullagar, who is perhaps the best-traveled cyclist in the world, completes his first Colorado Triple Crown event! Thanks for coming out, David! 
RMCC newbie, Josh Peter, is all smiles after surviving his first double century! Great ride, Josh!
Andy Stockman and Chris Ellefson, riding perhaps the most suave bikes of the day, arrive safely at the Rabbit Ears Motel. (Hey everyone...check this out! Full rain gear! Perhaps a less to be learned for all of us!) Thanks for coming out, guys! 
Jon Sendor is making these long rides look simple! Another great ride, Jon!
Flexing some muscle, Kieran Johnson successfully completes his first CO High Country Double Century in preparation for next month's big brevet. Great ride, Kieran! 
Andy Lapkass impresses again on his single speed road bike! Great ride, Andy! 

Triple Crown veteran, Diane Benoit, is happy to have successfully completed another Triple Crown event! Great ride, Diane!
Mike Turek is ecstatic that he is not this year's Lantern Rouge! Excellent ride, Mike! 
Chilled at the end of the ride, Ray Rupel arrives safely at the Rabbit Ears Motel in Steamboat Springs. 
After an early morning flat left her isolated from the main group, Oksana Kovalenko persevered and continued her ride to Steamboat Springs. Finishing a bit after the time limit, she is still able to muster a smile after a long, challenging day on the bike! Fantastic effort for your first Triple Crown ride! 
David Nelson decided that 209 miles wasn't hard enough. He decided to add 4 flat tires and some navigational errors in the first 50 miles of his ride to increase the degree of difficulty of the High Country Double Century. Sometimes being the "Lantern Rouge" is about persevering and David did just that! Glad you are safe!

Next up: Cycle to Saturn Double Century on June 25, 2016! Don't be afraid! It's just climbing...lots of climbing. And a little fun on dirt too!