Centurion Colorado kicks off with a bang

Gran fondo style riding and racing in Colorado

After nearly two years of planning by organizers — and countless hours of training by participants — Centurion Colorado presented by Cervélo propelled nearly 900 riders away from the startline in Lyons, and onto the scenic and sometimes grueling roads of Boulder County, Colorado on Sunday.

Unlike other gran fondo style events run in the U.S. the Centurion awarded ride winners.

Top results of the day in Colorado came from Boulder residents Jonathan Baker and Julie Emmerman, who won the men’s and women’s overall titles in the 100-mile affair that included two grueling climbs from the base of the Colorado’s Front Range foothills up to the aptly named Peak-to-Peak Highway. That meant nearly 9,100ft of climbing, a brutal test made tougher by temperatures that climbed into the mid-90s.

Emmerman and Baker

The Centurion Colorado served as the inaugural event of Centurion Cycling’s three-race gran fondo-style series. The event included routes of 100, 50 and 25 miles, allowing racers, serious riders, casual enthusiasts and beginners to all take on this computer-chip timed challenge.

Baker stopped the clock in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 36 seconds. Emmerman was 55th overall, but first female, stopping the clock in 5:17:18. For their troubles each won a Centurion Cycling Pactimo winner’s jersey, a framed Centurion poster, and a pair of Mavic Wheels. It was well earned booty.

“Riding 100 miles in the heat on those climbs is tough,” said the 36-year-old Baker who works as a futures trader when he’s not on his bike. “But these are roads I’ve ridden countless times. It’s my backyard, so I know them like the back of my hand and I knew what to expect.”

Early on, Baker was caught slightly off guard early on when pro triathlete and Lyons resident Chris Legh took off alone. At one point Legh had a full six-minute lead, but Legh couldn’t make the move stick and was reeled in during the second half of the race.

“I went away with a few other guys, but then all a sudden I was alone,” said Legh. “I ended up doing about three hours by myself before I got caught. Then I exploded a little. I knew it was going to happen, but I still had an awesome time. It was a great event.”

Legh ended up sixth overall, but did secure the Centurion Colorado King of the Mountains Jersey by posting the fastest time during the climb up Lefthand Canyon through Ward. Baker and fellow Boulder resident Nico Toutenhoofd caught Legh late in the second lap, then barreled to the finish where Baker easily won the sprint.

The Lefthand Canyon climb

The top three in the women’s field were Emmerman, Jane Finsterwald and Gwen Inglis.

“I was just sitting in with a big group going up to Ward, then I just rolled off the front a little when it got steep,” said Emmerman, who works as a sport psychologist. “I ended up riding by myself a lot, but it worked out okay. I rode within self and had a great time. It was really cool to see the community of Lyons come out for this. It was just a great event.”

Event Notes

Among the notable celebrity guests toeing the Centurion Colorado startline were Tour de France stage winner Davis Phinney and Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter in the 25-miler, and Garmin-Transitions pro Peter Stetina, who ride the 100 in support of his uncle Wayne Stetina. “It was great day,” said Stetina, who’s on Garmin’s long team for September’s Vuelta a España and made an elite podium appearance the previous day at the U.S. mountain bike national championships in Granby, Colorado. “Totally awesome event with the potential to get really big in the future.”

Pro triathlete Michael Lavato was second in the 50-mile event, one spot behind promising under-23 cyclist Robin Eckmann in the three-up sprint. Lavato’s consolation was the KoM prize, awarded to the cyclist who ascended Lefthand Canyon through Ward to the Peak-to-Peak the fastest.

Centurion Colorado is the first of this new-for-2010 amateur cycling series that continues with Centurion Wisconsin August 8 in Middleton, before concluding with Centurion Canada September 19 in The Town of the Blue Mountains in Ontario. Organizers say up to six events are on the 2011 slate, including a return to Lyons.

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