A 2020 update and Q&A with SCMC race producer Skippy Givens about the history, course and the new eBike category

One of the most scenic road rides in California — the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge just announced their decision to postpone their event until 2021.  As a sponsor, we have watched this event grow. They are working through the bugs of registration extensions and reimbursements, so please be patient with them as they work through these logistics. This is event is a major fundraiser for Santa Cruz County Cycling Club, a 501(c)3 and is mostly produced through the hard work of volunteers.  Please consider supporting them during this difficult time.

We had a chance to talk to the event producer and SCCC board member Skippy Givens to learn more.

In a few words, please tell our readers what makes road riding in Santa Cruz County so special? 

Well, for one, it’s in Santa Cruz. No other location has this scope of beauty. We have soaring redwoods, stunning coastal vistas and challenging roads all within close proximity. It’s no wonder that so much of the cycling industry either started here or ended up here. 

Why should Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge be a bucket list ride? 

Again, for some of the reasons mentioned above. And while it’s not quite the dimensions of the Death Ride, it does come very close. So it is a robust challenge no matter the rider or the course.  

What tips can you give for those new to road riding and/or are participating in this event for the first time? 

  1. Find a group of people you can train with. This will help you stay focused and will help you develop your confidence and conditioning.
  2. Develop your stamina. Push yourself so you can remain relatively comfortable climbing, descending and staying in the saddle for a sustained period of time.
  3. Make sure you’re having fun. If you’re not having a gas doing it, you’re probably not doing it right. 

What is the most challenging part of producing this event?

Most likely the complexity. There are so many moving parts to staging this event. Everything from the permits, to sponsorship, the food, the routes and of course the ‘day-of’ when the event is live. But what makes it all work, and the magic that happens, is the Volunteer Captains. They are truly what makes the event run so well. 

A beautiful and challenging course. Photo: John Marshall


What is the most rewarding part of producing this event? 

That would be the satisfaction of the riders. Just seeing how much they enjoyed humping up that last hill then grinding hard on a well earned burrito at the finish. But equally true is the satisfaction the volunteers get from their efforts. On all accounts, last year’s ride set the bar at the highest it’s ever been before. We had the most riders, it was the most successful financially and all systems were working very well. So now the focus will be on sustaining that quality. 

I noticed you are allowing eBikes? Was this a difficult decision to allow this category to participate in your event?  What are the rules around the eBike category? 

Good question! I first noticed this trend while attending the Sea Otter Classic over the years. The emergence of eBikes into the industry was front and center. I also started to notice more eBikes on the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club group rides. People who rode eBikes were warmly accepted into the group. So it makes sense to identify eBikes as an emerging demographic. I also think that it could open things up a bit more. So I’m working on getting eBike rentals going. The vision is there are a lot of people who are hanging around the finish courtyard. With a little bit of training they could rent an eBike and do the short course. The more people riding bikes, the better. 

In addition to e-bikes, what other changes has the ride seen over the past 20 years? 

The first manifestation of the SCCCC event was the Pajaro Valley Century and was put on by legendary organizer Robert Liebold. Robert was the first club President and he would later go on to establish Velo Promo racing. Shortly after that it changed its name to the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge. The Mountains Challenge over time have migrated their routes from south county more towards mid and north county. This is my 5th year being involved with the ride and the third as Director of the event. Just prior to the COVID-19 situation we were trending towards the most sign-ups in our history. We’re very confident about being able to consistently present this as one of the premier road rides in Northern California. 

The ride is a fundraiser for the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club — a 501(c)3. Can you tell us a little about SCCCC? How long has it been around and what is its mission?

The Santa Cruz County Cycling Club has been around since 1971, and the mission of the club has been and continues to be a platform to support bicycles. We are so fortunate to live in Santa Cruz County. So much of the cycling industry is here and we have many resources available to us. The profits from the SCMC event go to fund the grants program. Those grants keep people on bikes and provides a foundational support for the local cycling community. And of course we ride bikes! The club is all about the weekly group rides. 

For those of our readers who are new to road riding, or are considering getting into the sport — why should they consider getting involved with Santa Cruz County Cycling Club?

Cycling lends itself to personal development in so many ways. The first is personal health. By cycling, you become stronger, fitter, more lean and fit. And this also makes people happier. And there is the social aspect of riding bikes. You find friends who are about your skill level and that helps keep you motivated. And as I mentioned before, we live in a cycling wonderland. There are so many great roads to ride here in Santa Cruz. For those who are just beginning or getting back into it,  SCCCC can help you find a group. The Santa Cruz County Cycling Club membership is only $25/year. There are weekly rides for every skill level. So grab your bike, get fit and have fun!

Adventure Sports Journal is a proud sponsor of the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge. Learn more about the event here and consider getting started with the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club.