Kurt Gensheimer
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Cycling legend debuts the #sagando on May 5 in Truckee

Words and photos by Kurt Gensheimer


Top of Badenaugh Canyon Road.

In the ranks of professional cycling, there’s no debate that the hottest and most respected name in the sport right now – and perhaps in the history of cycling – is Peter Sagan. In his short racing career that’s barely a decade old, Sagan has won almost every notable single-day cycling event, including three consecutive UCI World Road Race Championships, and most recently, the 2018 Paris-Roubaix. In addition to his astonishing speed and magician-like bike handling skills, Sagan is the only rider you’ll ever see in the Tour de France doing a no-handed wheelie up a mountain pass while taking a water bottle hand-up from fans. Sagan’s relaxed and fun-loving demeanor has elevated his celebrity with fans around the world.

But before his dominance of road racing, Sagan, a native of Slovakia, began his career on knobby tires, winning the UCI Junior Mountain Bike World Championship when he was 18. Early in his road career, Sagan discovered the Tour of California and all the state’s natural beauty. As a result, Sagan has come to love California, making it his second home.

In order to help showcase all the beauty the Golden State has to offer and to get back in touch with his mountain bike roots, Sagan has launched the inaugural Sagan Fondo, featuring a dirt event on May 5 in Truckee and a road event on November 3 in a yet-to-be-named location. Both events will be run by Bike Monkey, the same organization that puts on Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa. Proceeds from both events will go to benefit at risk youth through the King Ridge Foundation, Specialized Foundation and Adventure Risk Challenge.

The Dirt Course

The dirt #sagando on May 5 features a long 68-mile route and a medium 54-mile route, with both courses starting and finishing at the River View Sports Park in Truckee. There’s also a short, non-timed 23-mile “rollout” ride. Both longer routes head north past Boca and Stampede Reservoirs on pavement, transitioning to dirt near Sardine Valley and heading north on Smithneck Road towards Loyalton. The medium route will turn right and loop around to Jammer Chair Flat, before a short descent and another short climb to Merrill Valley, then descending again with a stream crossing to negotiate before returning to pavement and heading back to Truckee.

The long route will go all the way out to Loyalton, featuring a short section of singletrack on the historic Boca/Loyalton Railroad grade. After an aid station at the Smithneck Creek Park, the long route will climb nearly 1,500 vertical feet up the beautiful but bumpy Badenaugh Canyon Road, nicknamed “the boneyard” because of its rockiness. After passing a few waterfalls along the way, the dirt smooths out, reaching an aid station at the summit just shy of 7,000 feet elevation with sweeping views of Babbitt Peak and the Sierra Valley. After refueling, riders enjoy a fast descent back down to Smithneck Road, where the long route links back into the medium route and back to Truckee.

A wide range of off-road bikes are suitable for both lengths of the #sagando. Those fit and skilled riders looking ride as fast as possible will want to opt for a cyclocross or gravel bike with 700x40c tires or 27.5”x2.0” tires. Those looking for maximum fun and enjoyment who are less concerned about setting a course record will be best suited on a hardtail mountain bike. While there’s nothing on the course that would be considered exceptionally technical, there are a few rocky sections and water drainage ruts that must be negotiated.

As of April 25, the entire #sagando course is passable and mostly dry, with only a few isolated pockets of snow. Conditions are already quite good for pre-riding, but participants should expect to get a little muddy and wet, which is to be expected when spring riding in the Sierra Nevada.

The #sagando promises to be a proper spring adventure ride in the pristine backcountry of the Northern Sierra Nevada. And to answer the most often asked question; yes, Sagan himself will be taking part in the ride.

For more information and registration, visit saganfondo.com.

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Sardine Valley

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Water crossing at the bottom of Merrill Valley

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Sardine Valley

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Boca/Loyalton singletrack

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Badenaugh Canyon Road climb, aka The Boneyard

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Waterfall along Badenaugh

Dirt Fondo Course Preview

Fast gravel along Smithneck Road

Strava Map