2002 Saturn Cycling Classic
Over 140 miles
Over 14,000’ of climbing
I am not kidding anyone by saying that I am not a great climber. My climbing
has improved dramatically over the last year and I can be very helpful to the
team for at least a little while. I can even do races like the Tour of the Gila
or the Cascade Cycling Classic and actually come away thinking that they are
great races. The Saturn Cycling Classic on the other hand is a race that is
I have read some reports that have about 50 guys finishing and they actually
list me as officially getting 47th place. Don’t believe a word of
this nonsense, less than 20 guys actually made it across the finish line and I
was at tree line on the slopes of the HC Guanella Pass when I called it a day.
Regardless, what kind of race is it if only 17 out of 110 starters are actually
physically able to finish the darn thing?
I understand Len (the promoter) wanting to host what is quite arguably the
hardest one day race in the world but I think that this race is pushing the
envelope a bit too far. The Saturn Classic has great press, tons of spectators
and boasts a fantastic field but it is not like any other bike race that we do
all year; It is not "real" road racing. Rather, I think it more aptly falls
under the ‘endurance race’ umbrella and I believe that over the next couple of
years you are going to see more of that type racer.
This year I could already see the change with endurance racers like Rishi
Grewal and Tinker Juarez on the start line. There was also a lack of many of the
top US Pro teams present with only Mercury, Prime Alliance and Saturn having
full squads in attendance. I believe that as long as the race is held it will
still be won by a top Road Pro but the normal road racer will be replaced with
an endurance racer, the type that does the solo 24 hour mtb races, the Leadville
100 or Montezuma’s Revenge. Do not get me wrong; I am not sore about not
finishing. I just think that the race is not a true road race; it is an all day
adventure through the scenic mountains of Colorado.
Also, in order to even consider being competitive in this race it is
necessary to spend at least three weeks here training. You need to be completely
acclimated, have lots of big mountain days under your belt and know the course
well. This is without even getting into having great support, some good luck and
a mountain bike for descent off of Guanella Pass. If you do make this commitment
then you have to give up a lot of other big US NRC races. You would miss Time
Trial Nationals, the International (the Tour De Tuna) and you will probably be
no good for the US Crit Championships in Chicago the following weekend.
That is a lot of racing to give up for just one race. Granted, if you podium
at the Saturn Classic it is definitely worth it, but putting at least 4 weeks of
NRC races on the back burner for one big pay day is a huge gamble. Just look at
Jonathan Vaughters, his team car was late at getting him his road bike after the
gnarly descent and he was stuck trying to race his mountain bike on the road for
a little while. This mistake may have taken just enough out of him to cost him a
Phew, that’s better... I just felt like I needed to get that off of my chest.
I also have to mention Chris Wherry’s incredible ride. He is a great guy, a
true champion and deserved the victory on Sunday more than anyone else who was
on the start line (myself included). It was so sad to hear that his father had
passed away on Wednesday but with the support of his family (who are also some
of the nicest people you will every meet) and his teammates he decided to race.
My sister, who was at the finish, was in tears as Chris kissed his father's
wedding ring that he was wearing on a necklace and crossed the line. It is not
too often that one man can make an entire town cry but Chris managed to do just
that on Sunday.