Grueling Saturn Classic returns to Breck Aug. 10 |

Grueling Saturn Classic returns to Breck Aug. 10

Jason Starr

SUMMIT COUNTY – The “toughest one-day bike race on earth” will return to Breckenridge Aug. 10. The same can’t definitely be said for its defending champion.

Last year’s Saturn Cycling Classic winner, Denver’s Jon Vaughters, would like to defend his title, according to race director Len Pettyjohn. But whether he can be released from his responsibilities in France with team Credit Agricole will depend on his performance in the Tour de France in July.

“If he and the team have a good Tour, generally, the manager gives the riders some flexibility,” Pettyjohn said. “His plan now is to do well, get out and leave the team and come back and defend. But it all depends on how (they) do at the Tour.”

Vaughters won last year’s race – a ridiculously grueling 140-mile ride from Boulder to Breck over seven mountain passes – after dropping out of the Tour de France with a bee sting.

Even if Vaughters returns to the race, he’ll have trouble preventing Oregon’s Chris Horner from taking the title. Horner, last year’s runner-up, is having a stellar early season, and he’s more focused on the Saturn Classic than Vaughters, according to Pettyjohn.

Another contender is Boulder’s Chris Wherry, who has been third since this race began three years ago. The first Saturn Classic winner, Scott Moninger, who won the race when it was called the Celestial Seasonings Zinger in 2000, will also be a factor.

The field will consist of pros and the highest class of amateur. About 150 riders are expected. The route begins at the Boulder Theatre, heads up to Wondervu then over Golden Gate Road to Blackhawk. Next it’s up to Idaho Springs and Georgetown before heading over Guanella Pass into Park County. The ride then crests Kenosha, Red Hill and Hoosier passes before descending into Breckenridge.

“It’s very much in the tradition of big-time European racing, where it’s all done with teams and significant levels of support for the riders,” Pettyjohn said. “There’s no race in America that even comes close in terms of amount of time on the bike (it takes about seven hours to win). When you add the altitude and climbing in, it’s just extremely difficult.”

While the pros are making their way up to town from Boulder, Breckenridge will be busy with the second-annual Nicole Reinhart Criteriums. Reinhart won the criteriums in 2000, weeks before being killed in a bike accident. The races were renamed in her honor.

There will be divisions for United States Cycling Federation Category 3 and 4 racers and for women and juniors. The course will circle several blocks downtown with the start and finish by the Riverwalk Center on Main Street.

There will also be an expanded bike expo at the Riverwalk Center.

Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at

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