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By Karen Kefauver
March 30, 2012
Link to Sentinel article

Cyclists glide down West Cliff Drive on their way to the finish at the Boardwalk during the Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday (Robinson Kuntz/Sentinel)Forget the title “Surf City” and let’s call Santa Cruz “Bicycling City” instead. Or, at least, let’s vie for the name “The Cycling Capital of California.”

While our talented surf community deservedly competes with Huntington Beach for the coveted “Surf City” moniker, cyclists of all stripes are putting Santa Cruz on the map internationally as a cycling destination — for races, recreation and as a means of alternative transportation.

Recently, there was a prominent reminder in the media of the biking paradise located in our own backyard. Velo Magazine [formerly VeloNews], the national go-to bike publication for racing news and information, named Santa Cruz one of its “Dream Destinations” in its annual “Ultimate Ride Guide,” published earlier this month.

(From left to right) Aisha Wolff, Lily Calvert, Tate Dominguez and Eva Calvert scream as riders come around Lighthouse Point during Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday (Robinson Kuntz/Sentinel)“This year’s article features our own wonderful riding mecca,” gushed transportation planner and avid cyclist Cory Caletti. “We’re right up there with Mallorca, Spain, Whistler, British Columbia and many other notables.”

This printed tribute to cycling in Santa Cruz, written by UC Santa Cruz graduate Neal Rogers, reminded me of how lucky we are to live in a city that strives to provide safe bike commuting and to promote bicycling as a healthy lifestyle choice.

Additionally, within our county limits, we have dozens of thriving bike industries, independent bike builders, superior bike shops and groups of people deeply committed to cycling — both as a competitive sport and as a way of life.

In fact, some of those folks right now are courting officials to host an Ironman triathlon in Santa Cruz County in 2012. Naturally, a key component of that grueling endurance race is the 112-mile bike ride, which is sandwiched between the 2.4-mile swim and 26.2-mile marathon run.

While I am amazed at the multitude of ways to get involved in bicycling, the next big local event coming up, the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival stands out because its intended to help you and your family start pedaling no matter what type of bike you ride and no matter your age and fitness level. In case you miss out on that fat tire festival, keep reading for more bicycling events, rides and races through the spring and summer.

Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival

The Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz rolls out its third annual celebration of bikes and dirt in Aptos on April 14 and 15, just one week prior to Sea Otter Classic in Monterey — one of the world’s largest cycling events.

Organized by the MBSC, a local mountain biking club, with a title sponsor of Fox, a major bike industry company based in Watsonville, the festival aims to entice family participation through a variety of events. The weekend lineup, headquartered near the entrance of Nisene Marks State Park, includes dirt jump and pump track contests, cross country short track races, and rides and skills clinics for children.

Spectators are welcome to watch events and visit the bike industry expo, bike demos, beer garden and food court. Don’t miss the Black Market/X-Fusion 831 Jump Contest, slated for Sunday, which was a huge draw for spectators in 2011.

This year introduces the Bell Super Enduro, the first sanctioned race in Soquel Demonstration State Forest. Talented riders including Mark Weir, Barry Wicks and Katie Holden will join the field of 50 athletes selected out of 177 applicants. Racers range in age from 18 to 57, including 8 women and 19 racers from Santa Cruz County.

The field is evenly divided between racers over 30 and racers under 30. Race participants were selected on their ability to finish the intensely rigorous race within an allotted time.

Special events include a shuttle ride for spectators of the Bell Super Enduro bike race and a Saturday after-party open to all participants, spectators, and volunteers featuring Oakland funk/reggae/rock band WhoGas at 5:30 p.m.

While the third annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival promises to be a great event, it also marks the start of a very full bicycling season.

Karen Kefauver www.karenkefauver.com is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel and is based in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival

April 14-15

Aptos Village, Aptos

Bike Week
May 4-12
The 25th Annual Bike Week takes place in various locations throughout Santa Cruz County. Bike to Work/School Day, which features free breakfasts for cyclists, takes place on May 10. Special events for the quarter-century celebration will be announced.


Sea Otter Classic

The biggest bike festival in North America attracts hundreds of racers and spectators from Santa Cruz County. Registration is open for both competitive and recreational bike races and rides for levels from beginner through pro in road and mountain bike events.

April 19-22

Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey


Amgen Tour of California

May 13-20

Stage 2 finish in Santa Cruz County: May 14

The prestigious road race returns to Santa Cruz after two previous visits (2009 and 2010) and then a break in 2011. For the third time, a race stage will finish in town, this time, however, most of the race course and the finish are in Santa Cruz County rather than within Santa Cruz city limits. The first day of racing of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California will start and finish in Santa Rosa. The second day, Stage 2, will start in San Francisco, hug the Highway 1 past Devil’s Slide, head inland to race up Bonny Doon Road, and finish in Aptos, at Soquel Drive and Cabrillo College Road.


Strawberry Fields Forever

May 20

Cabrillo College, Aptos

This ride (not race) of 100 miles or 65 miles provides rest stops along the way where food and water are provided. The rest stops feature international themes; lunch is provided and there’s a hot meal at the end of the ride. To top it off, there are fresh whipped cream and strawberries dipped in chocolate. The event benefits Cyclists for Cultural Exchange, a non-profit organization that promotes international bicycling exchange programs.

Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge

July 28

Scotts Valley High School, Scotts Valley

For those with strong hearts, lungs and legs, there are three tough rides to choose from at the 14th annual Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge, the primary fundraiser for the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club. The Double Metric Challenge is about 124 miles; The Century Challenge gains over 11,000 feet in elevation in 100 miles, including epic climbs up Mount Charley Road, Jamison Creek and Zayante Road. The Metric Century Challenge gains more than 6,500 feet in elevation during the 65-mile course.


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