By Karen Kefauver
July 17, 2015
Link to Sentinel Article
David Giannini of Santa Cruz plans to ride the 75-mile course at the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge on July 25. He’s been training for the ride, logging 130 miles a week during the past five weeks.Contributed
For cyclists looking for a leg-busting, lung-burning adventure, there’s no need to travel to the famous mountain passes in the Pyrenees.
At the 17th annual Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge next Saturday, there’s a route of 135 miles with 13,215 feet of climbing designed to test the endurance of even diehard cyclists. To put that in perspective, Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the state of Washington, scales in at 14,409 feet.
“That’s what they asked for,” ride director Maura Noel said of past cyclists who wanted a course even longer and harder than the original century ride. Organized by the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club and serving as the club’s annual fundraiser, the event is expected to attract about 500 riders.
“We have people come from all over California and some from Oregon and Nevada,” Noel said. “Sixty percent of them sign up for the 135-mile ride. That surprises me.”
Fortunately, there are still ample bragging rights for those who choose one of the three other routes at the event, which is not a race. Also requiring considerable pedal power are the 101 miles with 10,130 feet of climbing, the 75 miles with 6,794 feet of climbing and the 45 miles with 2,959 feet of climbing.
All four rides begin at UC Santa Cruz, a new starting point for the SCMC after years of being hosted at Scotts Valley High School.
“They have been super open with an attitude of let’s make it work,” Noel said. “The university is very pro-cycling.”
Another benefit of the new start-and-end location is the ocean views from campus and the proximity to the redwoods. The ride routes are varied a little this year, including the addition of the notoriously brutal climb up Alba Road, which, at points, features hairpin turns with an 18- to 20-percent grade.
“Many cyclists have to walk it,” Noel said.
Some SCMC riders, like David Giannini of Santa Cruz, train especially for the ride.
“Signing up for the 75-mile ride has been an incentive to do some training,” he said. “I’ve been averaging 130 miles a week for the last five weeks. Mostly I ride with the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club three times a week.”
For Giannini, having time to train for the SCMC — much less ride it — is a refreshing change. That’s because he served as the SCMC ride director for three years and, at times, it was “almost like a full-time job.”
Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge ride director Maura Noel won’t be in the saddle this year at the July 25 event since she’s the organizer. She’s pictured here at the SCMC in 2012. Karen Nevis — Contributed
His service as ride director was a labor of love for cycling in general and the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club in particular.
“Everyone involved is passionate about cycling. We all hold volunteer positions to make this happen,” said Giannini, who also serves as team director for the Santa Cruz Junior Development Team, a youth cycling organization focused on mountain biking. SCCCC members even organize weeks in advance to make homemade specialty breads served at the first rest stop on the ride; burning calories in order to eat more is yet another incentive to ride.
Next Saturday, Giannini plans to begin his 75-mile ride solo at a slightly later start time than his fellow cyclists, because he’s volunteering with safety patrol starting at 6 a.m. But he’s undaunted starting the long ride by himself.
“The thing that’s so cool about century rides is that everyone’s a friend. You end up riding with a bunch of people doing something they absolutely love. If they’re not passionate about it, they wouldn’t be out there so early in the morning. I’m absolutely the happiest person in the world when I’m on two wheels.”