The Cedar City Fire Road 2017 Preview

IMG_6001 IMG_6007By Dave Iltis

The Cedar City Fire Road is a gravel grinder type event held in Cedar City. The event is back this year with new organizers Planet Ultra. The ride has two course options – 100 km and 60 km that travel along the fire roads near Cedar City. We asked event organizer Deb Bowling a few questions about the ride.

Cycling West: Tell us about the Fire Road courses. What should riders expect?

Planet Ultra: Both courses share a neutral start with a rolling closure through Cedar. Once riders turn towards the mountains, it’s game on! As soon as the dirt starts, the climbing begins. The first climb is a doozy! About half the total elevation gain is on that first climb; with several miles of double-digit pitches to really put the burn in right from the start! It’s important to note that the elevation in Cedar City is about 5800’. That first climb takes you to over 9400’. Those who are altitude sensitive are going to feel it.

The 60K and 100K diverge at the top. The 60K hangs a left and rolls along the plateau until the final descent back to Cedar. The 100K turns right, climbs a bit, then has a long and often steep descent along a mountain edge overlooking Zion in the distance. The route then climbs out of a valley to Kolob Reservoir when there’s the one and only truly flat section of the course. It’s all up or down.

The route has about 12 miles of pavement and the rest is dirt in various forms. Some is hard-packed brown smooth dirt. Some is gravelly. There are spots with powdery sand. Depending on the pre-race rain, there could be rutted sections. But nothing technical. Just diverse and spectacular.

Fire Road--0951CW: What type of bike is best for the race?

PU: The most important decision is gearing. This course has a lot of very steep (10-15%) climbing. If you don’t have the gears, you’re going to seriously suffer. Or walk.

I scouted the route on a gravel bike with 50-34 up front and 11-36 in back. I wish I’d had a 40 in back. Or more. I used 35mm tires. Totally doable (but I wish I’d had at least 38-40mm); but I had to slow A LOT on the descents. That said, there are some bumpy, washboard areas, as well as powdery and/or sandy spots. On this course there’s really no disadvantage to bringing a mountain bike; and honestly, that might be an advantage on the descents. At the end of the day, we’ll leave that decision to the rider. At some point during the day, everyone will likely wish they were riding something else.

CW: Planet Ultra took over the event in 2017. Tell us more about Planet Ultra? What’s new for the event for 2017?

PU: Since 2001, Planet Ultra has been hosting endurance road cycling events including centuries, double centuries, multi-day tours and the Hoodoo 500. We host some super hard-core events with lots of miles and quad-busting climbing.

2017 is our first foray into mixed-surface events. This came about after last year’s Fire Road 100 was cancelled pretty much on the eve of the race. A small group of us showed up in Cedar to ride the course as a “show and go.” I was blown away by the route: Epic in every way. Supremely challenging, with incredibly beautiful and diverse scenery. It was one of the best days I’d ever had on my gravel bike. I committed that day to making sure the event had a future.

Working with the prior Course Directors, Crystal and Roger Graves (who’ve been with the race since the beginning), for safety reasons we’ve changed the direction of the middle section so the loop around Kolob Reservoir will be clockwise. We’ve also changed the final descent back to Cedar City to avoid trails and stay on dirt roads. Same start/finish at Main Street Park.

CW: Is the event a ride or a race, or both?

PU: Both. While the majority of participants will come out for a super challenging and fun day on the bike, stopping to enjoy the scenery and take photos; a handful want to put the hammer down for a chance to stand atop a podium at the finish line. We welcome both types of riders. It’s a wonderful route for a race or a ride.

CW: What support is provided to the riders on course?

PU: There will be five fully stocked aid stations along the 100K route; and two on the 60K route. There will be roving ATV SAG support. All aid stations will have water and a variety of snacks and drinks including Hammer Heed. At least one or two stations will also have soda.

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

PU: Entry includes chip timing with searchable results posted online, a commemorative/collectable Fire Road 100 number plate; tech tee; fully stocked aid stations and roving SAG along the route; finisher award; post-race awards and lunch in the park.

Until midnight July 4th we’re offering a super special deal: Buy one get one 50% off. Riders must sign up together and use coupon code B1G1.

Event Details:

August 19 — Cedar City Fire Road 100, Cedar City, UT, The Fire Road 100 is back under new management! 100K or 60K options – 85% (or more) dirt! Chip timed. Prizes for top finishers. , Deborah Bowling, 818-889-2453, [email protected], gravelgrinder.com

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