10 Dirty Centuries to Test your Mettle

Sure, you can do a standard mountain bike race that typically consists of 20-30 miles and maybe 2000 feet of elevation gain. But if you don’t finish feeling as though you’ve been run over by a dump truck a dozen times, can you really claim that you gave it all you had? Dirty centuries–mountain bike races of 100 miles–test not only your physical limits, but your mental fortitude as well.

My only question to you is: Do you have what it takes?

1. Leadville 100

August 15, 2015 – Leadville, CO

Leadville 100 course profile. It's almost as if the mountains are giving you the middle finger. Photo by: Leadville 100
Leadville 100 course profile. It’s almost as if the mountains are giving you the middle finger. Photo by: Leadville 100

When I think of 100-mile mountain bike races, the first one that comes to mind is the Leadville 100. Touted as the most difficult 100-mile bike race on knobbies, it brings a large number of professional bike racers from many disciplines, including road racing. This race is not for weekend warriors: it requires true physical prowess, commitment, and mental fortitude as you cover 103.3 miles and climb 12,612 feet over the Rocky Mountains.

2. Breckenridge 100

July 18th, 2015 – Breckenridge, CO

Breckenridge 100 elevation profile.
Breckenridge 100 elevation profile. Photo by: Breckenridge 100

The Rocky Mountains are prime real estate for conjuring up some of the most brutal courses mother nature can throw at you. The Breckenridge 100 is no exception. Traversing the Continental Divide three times, you will gain 13,719 feet in elevation (though the GPS course map shows 12,459 feet) while summiting 12,000-foot passes.

3. True Grit Epic

March 14th, 2015 – Santa Clara, UT

Though the True Grit Epic already occured for 2015, this is one race that’s worth marking on your schedule for next year. It’s the first stop on the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE). Despite the fact that this course is only 88.6 miles long, it makes up for the shortage of mileage with additional climbing: 15,016 feet, to be exact. The first 20 miles covers technical singletrack, separating the roadies from the true mountain bikers.

4. Cohutta 100

April 25th, 2015 – Ducktown, TN

Greg racing the Cohutta 100. Photo: SaraKristen Photography.
Greg racing the Cohutta 100. Photo: SaraKristen Photography.

Another stop on the NUE race series, the Cohutta 100 race course partially runs along the Ocoee River, most famous for hosting the 1996 Olympic White Water events. This is not your standard east coast ride, though: a mix of singletrack and fireroads gives you the chance to bike in the Appalachian Mountains with over 12,000 feet in elevation gain.

5.  Rincon Challenge 100

December August 22, 2015 – Liberia, Costa Rica

Through the establishment of the Rincon Challenge 100, the NUE has its inaugural international chapter. As of this publishing, the Rincon Challenge 100 is the only 100-mile mountain bike race in Latin America. With a very unique race course, including a trip around a volcano, it begs the question: when are you booking your flight to Costa Rica?

6. Patapsco 100

July 5th, 2015 – Patapsco, MD

Patapsco Valley State Park is a bit of an oasis in an urban jungle. With thriving metropolises and urban sprawl surrounding the area, it’s truly a pleasure to be able to escape to a lush forest and breathe in a little bit of nature. The race organizers have utilized just about every inch of the park to put together a stellar race course covering 100 miles and 11,000 feet of elevation gain. No small feat considering the difference between the highest and lowest point in the area is only 300 feet.

7. Mohican Mountain Bike 100

May 30th, 2015 – Loundonville, OH

Crossing streams, rock gardens, four counties, and many hills in Ohio, this race boasts over 11,000 feet of climbing. On top of the standard swag of post-race meals and t-shirts, finishers get a custom Mohican 100 beer mug. If a beer mug doesn’t encourage you to suffer for a mountain bike race, nothing will.

8. Barn Burner 104

August 29th, 2015 – Flagstaff, AZ

Barn Burner 2012 from Utah Outside on Vimeo.

The Barn Burner 104 is 104 miles of sweet mountain bike racing in the high altitude town of Flagstaff that even takes you through a barn. With only 6,324 feet of elevation gain, this Leadville 100 qualifier race doesn’t seem quite as masochistic as other ultra endurance races in the Rockies. However, with elevations ranging from 7,600 feet to over 8,100 feet, those not accustomed to high altitude riding will still have a very challenging race ahead of them. In addition, if you finish in less than 9 hours, you receive a large belt buckle in true Southwestern style.

9. Butte 100

July 25th, 2015 – Butte, MT

Butte 100 race course. Photo by: Butte 100
Butte 100 race course. Photo by: Butte 100

The first half of the Butte 100 takes you over 52.2 miles and 6,156 feet of elevation gain, primarily on jeep roads. The second half, however, takes you along the Continental Divide for a leg-burning 8,544 feet of elevation gain on singletrack trails. Covering terrain from dense forests to high desert terrain, this race course is sure to be a crowd pleaser. At least, pleasing to those who consider a pleasurable ride one that consists of 100 miles and 16,600 feet of elevation gain.

10. Hampshire 100

August 16th, 2015 – Greenfield, NH

The Hampshire 100 is the 11th stop out of 14 for the NUE race series and takes you on singletrack and doubletrack in the woods of New Hampshire, climbing almost 12,000 feet of elevation over the 100-mile race course.

The List Continues

Didn’t find a race or location that suits your fancy or schedule? Perhaps one of the following will be more your style:

Pierre’s Hole 100 – Grand Targhee Resort, Alta, WY

Cascade Cream Puff – Eugene, OR

Fool’s Gold 100 – Dahlonega, GA

Shenandoah Mountain 100 – Stokesville, VA

Capitol Forest 100 – Olympia, WA

X100 – Traverse City, MI

High Cascades 100 – Bend, OR

Wilderness 101 – State College, PA

Rico 100 – Rico, CO

Oak Ass 100 – Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, AL

Lumberjack 100 – Wellston, MI

Bailey Hundo – Bailey, CO

Hammerhead 100 – Ocala, FL

Tatanka 100 – Sturgis, SD

Big Bear Grizzly 100 – Big Bear Lake, CA

Your Turn: Think you have what it takes to tackle a dirty century? Check out our Dirty Century Training Plan for Finishers.