Brutal Saturn Classic hopes to revive U.S. bike racing

The race is known for its Tour de France-caliber climbs from Boulder to Breckenridge, Colo.  Credit: Michael Aisner
Although enthusiasm for professional cycling in the United States is not what it was 15 years ago, Lance Armstrong's third straight Tour de France win could set the stage for a revival of the sport in America.

Organizers believe the Saturn Cycling Classic has the potential to be the race that brings cycling back in the public eye, as in the days of Colorado's Coors International and Red Zinger Cycling classics.

Despite the waning interest, there are those who remember the glory days of American road racing.

Mo Siegel, founder of Celestial Seasonings, remembers 30,000 people packed in North Boulder Park to watch the final stage of the Red Zinger/Coors Classic in the 1970s and '80s.

Len Pettyjohn, who coached many of the United States' best cyclists, remembers how races in the same era served as a proving ground for young cyclists like Greg Lemond, Ron Kiefel and Davis Phinney.

Former Coors Classic race director Michael Aisner recalls when CBS first covered cycling due to the success of races like the Red Zinger/Coors.

Fortunately for cycling enthusiasts these bastions of America's rich road bicycling history share two things in common a desire to see the sport flourish again and a willingness to do what it takes to make this happen.

The first step in reviving the renaissance days of cycling's past is to create a race so epic, parts of it might frighten the uninformed viewer.

This race would include all the elements that would pique the interest of spectators: 140 miles in length, nearly 14,000 feet of accumulated climbing, seven major mountain climbs, steep descents with no guardrails, dirt roads and brutal crosswinds.

In addition to the torturous course and environmental elements, the race would have to include the top names in American road cycling today.

This race is the Saturn Cycling Classic, and the peloton will depart from Boulder and arrive in Breckenridge on August 11.

Fashioned in the spirit of European bicycle racing, the Saturn Cycling Classic, in its second year, is unlike any other race in this country. Some in the cycling community have even expressed a belief that the race is so rough that it is more of a novelty than a race to be considered as one of the primary cycling events in the country.

The inaugural race in 2000 lived up to its billing as a brutal event with huge temperature fluctuations and driving rain as well as the grueling course, limiting the total number of finishers to just 20 out of a starting group of 120.

The race is so tough it lead Phinney, a former Olympian and the first American to win a road stage in the Tour de France, to speculate on how he would have reacted if he had to race such a course during his professional career.

"There would have been no joy in Phinneyville," the Boulder resident said.

"If this had been the race that had started instead of the Red Zinger and become really popular I would have done something else probably," said Phinney.

However, as last year's winner Mercury Viatel's Scott Moninger knows, to the victor go the spoils.

The prize list is at $75,000 and the winner of the Men's Race receives a 2002 Saturn VUE package.

Moninger shocked some observers last year when he switched from a road bike to a mountain bike at the top of Guanella Pass.

Moninger, who finished the race in seven hours, 17 minutes, 34 seconds, went on to say that the switch didn't make him any faster it just made the ride smoother.

Moninger's move and the reaction to it highlighted the dichotomy of the sport. Mountain bikers vs. road bikers has long been an issue in the sport.

Saturn race director Len Pettyjohn expressed displeasure at the fact that the sport has become so fragmented. Pettyjohn knows, however, as do others anticipating this year's race, that Moninger's move last year is certain to be emulated in 2001.

"This is the first race that's ever become a hybrid of both types of racers," Aisner said.

Aisner, who is now involved in the race through a consulting role with Saturn, said of the difficulty of the race: "You throw the party and those who want to attend do."

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2001 Men's Race Roster
Mercury
1 Moninger, Scott USA
2 Frischkorn, Thomas USA
3 Horner, Chris USA
4 Landis, Floyd USA
5 Wherry, Chris USA
6 Zajicek, Phil USA

Saturn Cycling Team
11 Barry, Michael CAN
12 DeCanio, Matt USA
13 Fisher, Christopher USA
14 Jansen, Harm NED
15 Johnson, Tim USA
16 Klasna, Trent USA
17 Peterson, Soren DEN
18 Wohlberg, Eric CAN

Tokyo Joe's/
Gatorade Energy Bar

21* Ferguson, Walker USA
22 Horgan-Kobelski, Jeremy USA
23 Janelle, Mike USA
24 Jones, Eric USA
25 Mapel, Frank USA
26 Schnell, Ross USA
27 Swenson, Carl USA
28 Swenson, Pete USA
29 Vordenberg, Pete USA

Handle Bar & Grill
31 Vaughters, Jonathon USA
32 Grewal, Rishi USA
33 Wojciechowski, Darek POL
34 Gangl, Richard USA
35 Rompollo, Gabriele

Navigators Cycling Team
41 Baldwin, Chris USA
42 Mitchell, Glen NZL
43 O'Bee, Kirk USA
44 Swindlehurst, Burke USA
45 Vesty, Brendon NZL

Prime Alliance
51 Beall, Rusty USA
52* Creed, Michael USA
53 Larsen, Steve USA
54 Larsen, Michael USA
55* Pate, Danny USA
56* Scherer, Michael USA
57 Waite, Cody USA
58 Willett, Kirk USA

7-UP/Colorado Cyclist
61 Corbett, Jeff USA
62 Guay, Ryan USA
63 Lieswyn, John USA
64 Sheehan, Clark USA
65 Ziewacz, Doug USA

Tecos Turbo
71 Alamillo, Joel MEX
72 Arquimides, Lam MEX
73 Castell, Jose Luis MEX
74 Ramos, Florencio MEX
75 Sanchez, Juan Gabriel MEX
76 Zarate, Jesus MEX

Zaxby's Cycling Team
81 Friel, Dirk USA
82 Ley, Mike USA
83 Candelario, Alex USA
84 Masterson, Billy USA
85 McGovern, Chris USA
86 Weiss, Scott USA

Landis/Trek/VW
91 Doornbos, Daniel USA
92 Koenig, John USA
93 Kuhlman, Erik USA
94 Loveday, Doug USA
95 Miller, Andrew USA
96 Price, Scott USA

Jamba Juice
101 Applegate, Andy USA
102 Ellis, Brian USA
103 Hludzinski, Brian USA
104 LeMaitre, Brand USA
105 McGee, Chris USA
106 Schwartz, Eric USA
107 Siciliano, Joby USA
108 Starr, Ryan USA
109 Tobin, Michael USA
110 Vestal, Zachery USA

Trek/VW, New Belgium Beer
111 Aschwandgen, Dave USA
112 Brown, Travis USA
113 Hall, Dwight USA
114 Hartmann, Jeff USA
115 McLaughlin, Tom USA
116 Ruzanski, Evan USA
117 Southard, Mark USA

Excel Sports Boulder
121 Bajadali, Andy USA
122 Gluck Jr., Fred USA
123 Hayes, Charlie USA
124 Schwab, Mark USA
125 Toutenhoofd, Nico USA

Rio Grande/Monsoon Racing
131 Busch, Nathan USA
132 Clark, Andrew USA
133 Hiedemann, Jonathon USA
134 Pink, Jeff USA
135 Rosenbarger, Jacob USA
136 Whicker, Randy USA

Vitamin Cottage/Morgal Bismark
141 Campbell, Nat USA
142 Crowley, Steve USA
143 Munro, Chris USA
144* Pinkerton, Joey USA
145 Taddeucci, Joe USA
146 Tarkington, Jon USA
147 Overton, Frank USA
148 Gullickson, Marc MTB

Recycled Cycles
151 Ecker, Brian USA
152 Ellis, Travis USA
153 Rickter, David USA
154 Rinkenberger, Brian USA
155 Wesley, Don USA

Celestial Seasonings
161 Nicol, Kevin USA
162 Smaic, Dejan USA
163 Stierwalt, Jon USA
164 Talley, John USA
165 Todeschini, Brian USA

GS Ciao
171 Colllins, Paul USA
172 Hamlen, Devens USA
173 Harrod, Josh USA
174 Mohan, Jim USA
175 Nussbaumer, Eric USA
176 Baugh, Travis USA

NutraFig
181 Butler, Alan USA
182 Cooke, Thomas USA
183 Mitchell, Shawn USA
184 Osguthorpe, John USA
185 Tibbitts, Steve USA
186 Travis, Jason USA

Team Steamboat
191 Cox, Roger USA
192 Prichard, Ian USA
193 Robinson, Barkley USA
194 Sternberg, Joe USA
195 Zambrana, Ben USA


* Indicates an athlete under 23 years of age; someone to watch as a rising star in the sport.

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