Ultimate Challenge Start Time


By John Higgins

I enjoyed Mr Ward’s report on the Ultimate Challenge in the current (September) issue of Cycling Utah, and feel compelled to answer the question posed toward the end. Why aren’t more cyclists doing it?

I gave serious consideration to doing the Ultimate Challenge this year, but there was one main reason that it fell off my calendar, and the same goes for many other cycling events. The early start time.

Simply put, if a cycling event rolls of the start line before 8.00 am, I wont sign up. I’m physiologically and mentally non functional early in the mornings, and I’d be surprised if I’m the only one. Even an 8.00am start requires an early rise to wake up, breakfast, drive to a start, gear up and warmup. 2 hours minimum for something local. 

So you wont see me signing up for the Leadville 100, Lotoja, Tour de Park City or the Ultimate Challenge unless there is an option for a civilized “European” start time.

What’s the rush to start early? The day is committed to cycling, so there is no need to be finished by lunch time!   Sometimes after a bike event I’m done in and spend the rest of the afternoon with my feet on the couch. Other times I’m hyper energized and can put in hours of hard yard work. Anything I do after an event is a bonus. I don’t need the promoter to decide that I have a dozen other things to do on the same day, so I’d better start early to finish early.

I’m glad Burke Swindlehurst had the Crusher in the Tushar start at 8.00am, and not earlier. I signed up and had a great race. He got my registration fee. Other promoters miss out. 

You don’t see pro races rolling out at 6.00 or 7.00 am, so why should the amateurs. We may be slower, but not sluggish.  If there are safety concerns about riders completing a course in daylight, then the promoters should use time cut offs.  I’m no pro, but I’m a capable cyclist and wouldn’t be entering a challenging event I didn’t think I had a decent chance of finishing in a respectable time, and with a lot of daylight to spare. Anyway, I’d much rather see a sunset than a sunrise.

I did break “my rule” and go in the inaugural Park City Point to Point a few years ago. Never again. I was up at 5.30 am for a 7.00am start, but never actually woke up the entire day, and suffered miserably from lack of sleep and firing off the starting line as the sun came up. My body rebelled big time. I think if I’d started 2 hours later I would have been an hour or two faster! 

Today I rode 70 miles on my mountain bike, climbing over 8000 feet. Average speed: 10 mph. Took some stops to recover and take in the scenery along the way. Didn’t start until nearly 10.00 am. Finished with abundant daylight. Had enough energy left when I got home to wash a couple of bikes, put in an hour of creative writing work, poke around in my veggie garden and make dinner. Still firing after 10.00 pm! If I’d done the same ride with a 7.00 am start, I’d be a complete wreck. 

Maybe I’m the odd cyclist out who is not an early bird. Maybe this is because I’m from “down under” and have never fully adapted to the time zone change despite living in Utah for over 5 years. Or maybe there are a whole bunch of other cyclists who have taken a personal stand against getting up at 4.00 am on their day off in order to roll of a line at 6.00 or 7.00 am in the name of fun. 

That’s probably sufficient ranting.


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John is an elite level bike fitter who works with non-elite cyclists – although a few have won races! Many don’t race at all, but ride for fun, fitness, or to compete against themselves. John has worked with 18-80 year olds (and younger and older), novices, age groupers, masters racers and all levels of weekend warrior. These include road riders, mountain bikers, triathletes, tandem riders, tourers, commuters, bike packers and gravel riders and racers. All share a love of cycling and just wanted to ride more comfortably, and in many cases faster. John is the owner of Fit Kit Systems – a bike fit supply and education company, and provides bike fitting services in Salt Lake City at BikeFitr (bikefitr.com)



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