Auburn Century 140 miles 17,000 feet of climbing

| February 17, 2010 5:58 pm

by John Pugliese February 17, 2010.

“The Wildest ride in the West”

“Someone said it was tougher than the Death Ride”, said the SAG driver who stopped to give me some water – I agreed.  Although the Death Ride has similar elevation gain, it’s split up into fifths and only averages about 7.2% grade.  Mainly, though, most cyclists who attempt the Death Ride go extremely focused and properly trained.  I did Auburn as an opportunity to view some nice country, but completely had the wrong mindset.

The week before, I had gone down Highway 1 along the coast from Los Gatos to San Luis Obispo.  That trip had become an adventure after I broke a chain in the dark and we ended up sleeping in a field near the coast by Lucia, south of Big Sur.  After that escapade, the idea of needing to drive and get a hotel wasn’t appealing.  Instead, for Auburn, I took the Amtrak Capital Corridor to Sacramento and transferred to an Amtrak bus to go to Auburn.



I arrived early enough to go to Auburn’s Old Town area and get a good meal, then I went to set up my tent.  I then went to registration early to hang out with the promoters and was told of the ‘Iowa Hill Time Trial’.


Again, my mind wasn’t set right.  I was set to do the 140-mile ‘Lone Ranger’ course, with 17,000 ft of climbing at the official start of 6:30, ignoring the mention that many people would start earlier.  I also disregarded ‘Iowa Hill’ as just another climb like ‘The Wall’ or all the other noted climbs in events that often don’t compare to our noteworthy local climbs like Bohlman, Welch Creek or Ramona.  I figured I’d blow out the paltry 1.7 miles Time Trial as if it was Redwood Gulch.


The following profile is for the 110-mile “Outlaw” route with 11466 ft. of climbing and 13.5% average grade plus the 1.75 mile timed climb up Iowa Hill.  There was nothing ‘just another’ or ‘paltry’ about the day.  The following profile shows the deep V prior to Iowa Hill:


The time trial occurred during the second hour of the ride in the location shown at this ‘V’ in the chart.  The average grade of Iowa Hill is 13.5% and many short pitches in the 20%+ range.  I stopped on the bridge just before to snap a photo:


I got back on my bike and picked up the pace as if attacking a local hill and upon crossing the chalked start line, I monitored my odometer and applied power.  At 25% of the distance, I realized I needed throttle back, at 50% I realized that the distance was more important and I slowed into survival mode.  Bummed, I looked up to see riders, walking or stopped.  I stopped at the top and another cyclist pulled up in disbelief and said he practiced the hill and still couldn’t believe it.  Having blown out the cyclists on this hill, the promoters set us up early for a long subsequent climb.  Here I saw more stalled cyclists and one awaiting a SAG.

Upon getting refueled by a SAG myself, I continued on and eventually pulled into one of the rest stops:


I wasn’t able to take pictures for a while as it started raining between my last two rest stops.  As such, the last rest stop turned me around, preventing me from doing the entire 140-mile course.

A bunch of us hung out under the rest area and headed back into town along a fast, wet downhill.  Of course, the rain had stopped after a bit:

The Auburn Century (Wildest Ride in the West) was a challenging and beautiful ride that went through Auburn, Colfax, Meadow Vista, Foresthill and Bowman, past a reservoir and through the Sierras.  Although many rides have their favorite hill challenges, or noteworthy names, The Auburn Century was a nicer surprise and worthy of repeating.

Here’s another nice review, with stats:

This year’s event will be on June 12, 2010, sign up now at

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