Santa Fe Century Preview – What’s New in 2017 for One of the Oldest Rides in the West?

Some of the beautiful scenery on the Santa Fe Century course. The ride is in its 32nd year, and is one of the oldest centuries in the west. Photo by Sergio Palacios Diaz
Some of the beautiful scenery on the Santa Fe Century course. The ride is in its 32nd year, and is one of the oldest centuries in the west. Photo by Sergio Palacios Diaz

Vintage Bike Expo New for 2017 at Santa Fe Century

3000 Riders Expected to Participate

The Santa Fe Century is one of the oldest continuously running century rides in the west. This year marks the 32nd Anniversary. The ride will take place May 21, 2017 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The ride typically sees 2500-3000 riders, and with an entry at $35, boasts one of the lower prices for a century ride in the region. We caught up with Michael McCalla, the new director of the Santa Fe Century, about the history and highlights of the ride.

Cycling West: Tell us about the history of the ride. The ride is in its 32nd year – that is quite an accomplishment. Who started it? What are some of the other details?

Santa Fe Century: The Century has used the same route for the last 32 years, and is the largest one-day cycling event in New Mexico. John Crenshaw, who was then the president of the Sangre de Cristo Cycling Club, developed the route in 1986. The ride had 178 riders the first year, 175 the second, and in the third year, Willard Chilcott took over the event and almost singlehandedly grew it to almost three thousand riders. The very first years the event was a timed mass-start event, as it grew, the ride became untimed and without a specific start time. Willard Chilcott ran the event until health problems led him to turn over the position of director to Charles Loesch, who ran the event from 2011 until his passing in 2016. Charles added more finish line amenities like a beer garden during his tenure. I started the Gran Fondo and Medio Fondo on the same route/day with the blessings of Willard and Charlie in 2013. These mass-start, timed events were officially added to the Century in 2015 with a police escort through town.

CW: The route travels through mining towns and the Ortiz Mountains. Tell us more about the route, the scenery, and the natural history of the region.

SFC: The Century passes through the old mining towns of Madrid and Golden on its route. Gold mines in the Ortiz Mountains were active from the 1830s through WW1, and coal mines in Madrid made it a lively town from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Madrid even had a semi-professional baseball team, a feeder team for the Dodgers, and the Dodgers themselves played a game there in 1934. Madrid became a ghost town, and the town was actually for sale in 1954 for $ 250,000. This ballfield is the location of our Madrid food-stop. It has had a renaissance as artists and craftspeople have moved back in, and it is a popular stop for travelers along the Turquoise trail. The route is very scenic and quintessentially New Mexican, a road through the pygmy forest of pinyon and juniper in the high desert mountains against a turquoise sky as the riders climb and descend through Ortiz pass at 7,200 feet. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “Heartbreak Hill”, the toughest 1/2 mile of the ride, which grades up to 17% for a few hundred yards as the riders climb over the San Pedro mountains to the south of the Ortiz mountains.

Riders on Heartbreak Hill in the 2016 Santa Fe Century. Photo by G Marks
Riders on Heartbreak Hill in the 2016 Santa Fe Century. Photo by G Marks

CW: The Gallisteo Basin has a rich cultural history. What are some of the historical and cultural highlights along the route?

SFC: The Galisteo Basin is an area of archeological significance, and was a center of trade for Pueblo peoples in the 1300-1400s. The Anasazi abandoned the area by 1680. The Century passes through the tiny village of Galisteo, which is along the Galisteo creek and has a nice grove of Cottonwood trees. The 50-mile version of the Century approaches from the west through highway 42, which is considered to be one of the best cycling roads in Santa Fe County through the rolling hills abutting the Basin.

CW: We understand that there will be 6 rest stops on the route. What sort of food and support will you have (including SAG, police escort, etc.)?

SFC: The Century does have 6 food stops, located at Madrid, Heartbreak Hill, Cedar Grove, Stanley, Galisteo, and Eldorado. There drinks, fruit, sandwiches and other snacks to help keep the riders fueled all of the way to the end. There are mechanics at most of the food stops to help riders with minor mechanical problems. There are mass-start police escorts for the first 9 miles to get outside of the city limits, and then the riders are out on their own. We do sweep the course at the end of the day to make sure nobody is abandoned in case of bike/body failure, but riders are expected to be self-supported in between the food stops. We do over a clothing valet for riders who want to start with some warmer clothes that they can drop off before the big climb to Ortiz at the Madrid. They can pick up these clothes at the finish area.

CW: Along with the ride, you are hosting a Vintage Bicycle Pageant for the first time. When will this take place? Note: See the sidebar for details.

SFC: The first annual Vintage Bicycle Pageant will take place at the Century venue at its opening on Saturday afternoon. This is for bikes as old or older as the Santa Fe Century, bikes from 1987 or before(or bikes designed to look like old bikes!). I am excited to see them, I got my first “real” bike for my 10th birthday in 1987, and I have been in love with cycling since then.

The 2017 Santa Fe Century will have a vintage bike show. Photo by Jeff Dell Penna
The 2017 Santa Fe Century will have a vintage bike show. Photo by Jeff Dell Penna

CW: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

SFC: The Outside Bike and Brew festival was started in Santa Fe in 2014, and along with Century, gives New Mexico its biggest bike weekend. Santa Fe is a world class destination for both the outdoors and the arts, and the weekend of May 20-21 is reliably a beautiful time to be here. There is world-class mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, art galleries, restaurants, bring the friends and families and check it out for yourself!

Ride Details:

May 21 — Santa Fe Century and Gran Fondo, Santa Fe, NM, 32nd Annual. Escorted group, outstanding food stops staffed by experienced volunteers who return year after year. In addition to the Century, Half-Century, and 20 mile rides, we are offering 2 timed events: Gran Fondo (100 mile timed ride), Medio Fondo (50 mile timed ride). Each fondo will have its own start time and a neutral start, police escort to the city limits., Michael McCalla, 406-381-2690, [email protected],


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