Based in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of Utah the Summit Challenge takes place at the National Abilities Center (NAC) in Park City, Utah. Cyclists from all over the country come to support the NAC uniting in a cause worth riding for. Through adaptive sports programs and outdoor recreation the NAC serves to empower individuals of every ability level by uplifting and helping them develop confidence and life skills.
The Summit Challenge is technically a ride not a race. (Though you could have fooled me. I am confident I was the only one there not in spandex and full cycling gear). The cost for entry to this ride is $75 though they encourage all participants to donate additional funds since all proceeds go to benefit the NAC. The Summit Challenge is broken into 4 categories that accommodate riders of all abilities.
- 16 mile ride
- 50 mile ride
- 80 mile ride
- 100 mile ride
The entry fee is the same regardless of which ride you sign up for.
A few weeks ago my wife asked if I wanted to ride a 50 mile cycling ride. I replied, “sure… I’ll need a bike though.” I promptly forgot that I said yes to this ride till the Friday before the race. When reminded, I hurriedly began calling all the bike shops in Salt Lake City asking if they rented road bikes. After 6 failed attempts and using my sales skills to ask for referrals “who do you know who does rent road bikes?” I finally had a lead. I called The Powder House located near the mouth of Big Cottonwood canyon. They confirmed they do rent road bicycles. I hurried over to make sure I had wheels for my ride on Saturday.
Saturday morning the air was crisp and clean. There were a few lingering heavy black clouds in the sky. They looked like big black sheep swiming in the blue ocean. Small scattered showers left the smell of petrichor in the air. I arrived at the NAC in my casual cycling attire. Rocking my Grivel mountain runner vest, a climbing helmet, and my basketball shorts. I felt a little out of place. I mounted my 58″ frame rental bike. Due to my 6’7″ stature I made that bike look small! By the time we started cycling at 9 am the 100 mile racers and the 80 mile racers were well on their way. The 100 mile race started at 7 am and the 80 mile at 8 am. The first 16 miles guide you through gorgeous bike paths around Park City, Utah. The course meanders back and forth through mountains, meadows, and wetlands occasionally sneaking through a quiet neighborhood.
After the first aid station you encounter the first real obstacle of the 50 mile route. You must bike over the ridge towards Jordanelle reservoir. This is a long pass with grades of 4-5%. despite the tough ride you are rewarded with amazing views along the route. Upon reaching the summit another aid station waits to make sure riders are fully hydrated and fueled up for the next leg of the ride. Descending into Kamas offers sights to remember. Farmland with cows and trees to your left and the upper Provo river snaking through the valley towards Jordanelle to your right. This ride features some of the best scenery of northern Utah. The 50 mile ride takes a lunch break at aboutmile 30 ish at the aid station in Kamas.
The final push of the ride happens just after the fourth aid station. The climb up browns canyon is there to remind you that you are almost done if you can get over this mountain. Browns canyon climbs a little over a 2000 feet over 6 miles. Riding your bike up this canyon is a climb especially after you have already climbed several other canyons and ridden 40 miles. The heat of the sun reflects off the asphalt melting the riders as they search for the summit. A few more hills later you’ll arrive back at the NAC. If you are anything like me you can then treat yourself to some ice cream sandwiches or maybe 2 and some real food.
I spoke with a rider that did the century (the 100 mile ride). He said that this is the most well put together century that he has ever ridden. There is constant support on the roads with volunteers and police to help direct traffic. The aid stations are well stocked. The 100 mile ride takes a route through an area known as Wolf Creek Ranch. This canyon is notorious for its 18% grade. The century rider commented that the tough canyon and the entry fee itself are more than worth it to ride through the beautiful scenery of Wolf Creek Ranch. So whether you just want to support the NAC or weather you want to have an epic ride. You should check out the Park City Summit Challenge!