Breckenridge Bike Guide: The Fall Classic race route
Distance: 30 miles (long course), 21 miles (short course)
Time: 3-6 hours
Elevation: 10,264-10,810 feet (546 vertical feet)
Type: Singletrack loop
Season: June to September
Trail: Singletrack, dirt road
Parking: Carter Park in Breckenridge
No one quite knows when The Fall Classic started going by the term “classic,” but by now it hardly matters. This really is the original Breckenridge MTB race.
If you believe the old timers — and by that I mean whoever wrote copy for the Maverick Sports website — the vaunted Classic was founded by “mountain goat stoners rolling to a previously agreed upon start line and scratching out a course in the dirt. … Ceremonies were observed and the race was on!”
Back in 1984, hardly any of those mountain goat stoners wore a helmet, bikes were rigid and, again from Mav Sports, “denim cutoffs were the preferred choice of ‘chamois.’”
If the web description is any indication, the Classic is still the same rowdy, laid-back, by-locals, for-locals race it was more than 30 years ago. It’s ebbed and flowed over the years — at one point several thousand riders showed up when it was the final race of the Colorado Off-Road points series — but by now it’s reached a manageable size of about 1,000 riders, give or take a few.
So what exactly makes the Classic, well, classic, other than old age? Simple: the trails. The route has changed little over the years, taking riders on a tour of Breckenridge staples (Gold Run Road, Boreas and Baldy roads, good ol’ Heinous Hill) and a few newish connectors (Turks, sidedoor, a few more in French Gulch). The Classic rides are familiar to anyone who competes in the Summit Mountain Challenge series, but they’re connected in unusual ways, like grinding up Gold Run Road instead of riding down, and weaving down the Flume Trails instead of up. The long course is 30 miles with no loops or doublebacks, which shows just how versatile Breck’s backyard can be even after all these years. Here’s to another three decades of the Classic.
There are almost too many Classic highlights to count, but the one that keeps people coming back year after year, whether they love it or hate it, like it or loathe it, is Sawmill Road — aka Heinous Hill. It’s exactly what the name implies: a steep and brutal climb up tight singletrack. The hill comes fewer than 5 miles into the race, so at least it’s done and over early, but it’s a nasty way to begin a 30-mile race with 4,800 feet of ascent.
Next is Nightmare on Baldy, another steep climb with a name that’s completely accurate. In the early years, this one was straight uphill over loose rock for nearly 1 mile, but a relatively new reroute now leads to singletrack switchbacks. It’s a welcome addition.
Heinous and Nightmare are bookend climbs for the Classic. One comes early, one comes late, and from the top of Nightmare, it’s almost all downhill.
For a complete guide to the latest long and short courses, see MavSports.com and feel free to try the race loops in reverse for even more exciting descents.
What makes the Fall Classic cool is that it is a throwback to the old days of mountain biking when you just rode whatever was in your backyard and pieced stuff together. It’s really representative of the origins of mountain biking in Breckenridge with a lot of new-school pieces of trail thrown in. Be ready for a big day in the saddle.
— Jeff Westcott
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