For altruistic cyclists, September’s Pedal the Cause charity ride deserves a spot on the calendar. Every year, thousands of participants raising money for cancer research gather in St. Louis to travel one of six courses, the most challenging of which is the 98.6-mile century.
A breathtaking ride through upscale suburban and rural landscapes, the century route weaves cyclists through bright green acres and historic, farm-dotted countryside while challenging their stamina on some of eastern Missouri’s most notable climbs.
The century route gains nearly 5,000 feet in elevation and is best reserved for well-trained cyclists. If the weather is hot, plan to take advantage of all nine refueling stations provided during the Pedal the Cause ride.
The route starts at the Chesterfield Amphitheater with 30 miles of warm-up hills and levee straightaways. Equestrian farms, enclosed with endless yards of white, three-board fencing, flank the pavement from the Monarch Trail and Centaur Station to the less suburban parts of Wildhorse Creek Road.
At Mile 27, Ossenfort Road (694 feet of elevation) welcomes cyclists to the hills with a false summit and 7-percent average grade as they spin in the small gears. The reward: a descent through St. Albans Country Club, pointing riders toward St. Albans village for a soda or ice cream at The General Store, a landmark dating back to 1892 and long-time favorite of cyclists visiting the area. This concludes the fastest third of the course.
Little Tavern Road Climb
As cyclists exit St. Albans village, they follow Little Tavern Creek westward, clipping the easternmost edge of Engelmann Woods Natural Area and entering a hilly and densely tree-covered stretch of the course. As riders climb to the peak (825 feet), they experience a 5-percent average grade, slowing even more at the 8.5-percent grade on the steepest 1-mile segment.
On the back side of the climb, cyclists earn a 3-mile recovery down Old Manchester, descending 200 feet to Route 66/Highway 100. The highway shoulder quickly transports cyclists to the next climb.
Hencken Road Climb
Hencken Road serves as the approach into Greensfelder County Park in Eureka, Missouri. Two miles of shaded pavement rigorously pull unassuming riders uphill without much distance from the recently-completed Little Tavern Road climb. The close proximity of these slopes makes the Hencken Road climb (890 feet) all the more taxing, reaching grades higher than 8 percent.
The Dogwood Shelter rests, oasis-like, at the summit in Greensfelder Park. Featuring a picnic pavilion, restroom and trees, it’s a great place to dismount for a breather before casting down the fast, fun Allenton Road descent to the Meramec River flats.
Hunters Ford Road Climb
Allenton, Missouri is a Union Pacific Railroad ghost town along a segment of Old Route 66, now annexed by the City of Eureka. Cyclists cross over a bow-arched, single-lane bridge south of Business Loop 44 into the abandoned community. The intersection formerly hosted a well-known, depression-era bus stop shelter erected in 1939 to beautify the roadside. The shelter now resides in the nearby Shaw Nature Reserve.
Despite lying deceivingly close to the Meramec’s level shores, this portion of the route exposes riders to one of the course’s few double-digit grades at 11 percent. The Hunter’s Ford climb (770 feet) does eventually fall into a floodplain along the Meramec Bluffs Wetland Restoration project before reaching the gentler but more exposed Sheerin-Hornecker-Wengler Hill (582 feet). Pause for a moment to enjoy the view at the Sheerin and Hornecker intersection before gliding by the Allenton schoolhouse on the return to Greensfelder Park.
For the next 2 miles, riders retrace Allenton Road past Six Flags, tackling the most prolonged and grueling incline the ride has to offer. Before reaching the summit, riders veer east, continuing 8 miles on a fresh and flowy Greensfelder Park pitch to Rockwoods Reservation. Melrose and Glencoe roads complete a scenic route featuring equine panoramas at the county’s suburban fray.
Starting the final third of the course, cyclists pedal parts of Manchester and Babler Park Drive before launching into the Babler Park loop. Named for the one-time chief surgeon at Deaconess Hospital, Edmund A. Babler, who devoted his life to quiet acts of charity. It is hard not to appreciate the parallel between Babler’s work and the mission of Pedal the Cause.
Arriving at his namesake park, St. Louis riders know the steep, slow climb to Mile 79 as the Babler Beast (797 feet). The grade reaches nearly 10 percent in segments. Once riders complete this strenuous uphill, the Babler Park loop deposits them at the entrance of the park.
The Rieger Road climb (797 feet) at Mile 81 taunts tired athletes with one more 7.8-percent grade, and the course ends with downhill at Mile 84 and then a relatively facile, 17-mile spin to the finish. Lined with inspirational signage, the final miles provide riders a spirit of accomplishment as they prepare to enjoy Sugarfire Smoke House BBQ and Michelob Ultra back at the Chesterfield Amphitheater.
Allowing for a variety of skill levels, Pedal the Cause also offers five alternative routes, including a 66.7-mile metric century. One-hundred percent of rider-raised donations fund St. Louis area cancer research at Siteman Cancer Center and Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. To learn more about Pedal the Cause, please visit www.pedalthecause.org.
Author: Liz Maritz is an author and freelance writer (lizmaritz.com) based in St. Louis, Mo. She enjoys cycling and hiking Missouri’s State Parks.
Terrain Magazine has joined the fight against cancer and will be riding the century route at Pedal the Cause 2018. Please consider helping Team Terrain as we support those individuals and families who have been affected by cancer. One-hundred percent of your donations will fund pediatric and adult cancer research in St. Louis at Siteman Cancer Center and Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Thank you for your support! Together, we will create a world without cancer.