Riders gain 5,350 feet on the strenuous Metric Century, a 100-kilometer / 65-mile ride on the La Sal Loop Road in the La Sal Mountains. The ride is one of three cyclists can choose from during the Century Tour held Saturday, Sept. 21. [Courtesy Photo / Moab Skinny Tire Events]

There are three ways to count to 100 with the Century Tour.

There’s the Moab Canyon Century, a 100-mile bike ride to Dead Horse Point State Park and back.

There’s the Metric Century, a 100-kilometer challenging ride over the La Sal Loop Road.

And then for those who truly want to be challenged, they can count past 100 by combining the Metric Century with the 40-mile Rolling Down the River Cruise for a total of 105 miles.

Or those who think counting to 100 is too strenuous, one can just take the Rolling Down the River Cruise for a leisurely ride on State Route 279 along the Colorado River.

The Moab Century Tour is a three-day road cycling event for a variety of skill levels. It is one of three Moab Skinny Tire Events that raises money for cancer survivorship and research organizations. Moab Skinny Tire Events also hosts the Moab Skinny Tire Festival in March and the Moonshadows in Moab ride in May.

Mark Griffith, the founder of Skinny Tire Events, lost his brother Duane to cancer in June 2000.

Cycling helped him grieve.

“That was something I needed to help me heal, to get the energy out,” Griffith said. “You lose a family member and that hurts. It’s all welled up inside. When you get physically active, it’s a good way to heal.”

He was inspired by cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour d’ France after fighting testicular cancer and started the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Griffith was impressed with how Armstrong’s foundation spent their funds, and assisted in small project.

“From that standpoint, cycling was inspiring,” Griffith said. “There is something empowering about taking physical action and making a difference, to use it as a medium to raise funds and awareness.”

The first Moab Skinny Tire Festival in March 2001 had 12 riders and raised $1200.

Now, 13 years later, Moab Skinny Tire Events has had more than 8000 participants and has raised over $5 million that has been donated to a variety of cancer charity organizations, as well as Kids on Bikes.

One beneficiary: Moab Regional Hospital’s cancer treatment center.

“It’s helped a lot of people get their treatment locally,” Griffith said. “And it takes away the burden and financial expense of travel. And you get to be with your family and friends here in town.”

But the Century Tour and the other Moab Skinny Tire Events do more than benefit Moab. Cyclists from out of town can raise funds for their own hometown programs.

“It fulfills the vision,” Griffith said. “We’re grateful to our center in our hospital. It is great to see other people use that same template for their facilities as well.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society now uses the Century Tour as one their fundraisers.

“They brought from 40 to 150 members to use our Moab Century Tour,” Griffith said.

Griffith added the Century Tour to the list of Skinny Tire Events in 2004.

He said part of the reason is for the opportunity to road cycle on the La Sal Loop Road, which may be closed from snow during the Skinny Tire Festival held in March. Plus, cyclists look for century rides to put on their riding resume.

“One of the things about road cycling is that you reach a rite of passage when you can ride 100 miles in a day,” Griffith said. “We felt like it was time for Moab to have a road cycling century tour.”

All of the Century Tour races begin and end at Aarchway Inn, north of Moab.

The Moab Canyon Century and the Metric Century both depart at 8 a.m., Saturday.

The Moab Canyon Century, the 100-mile ride, has a 3100-foot elevation gain.

It begins on the Moab Bike Path along Hwy 191 and extends north to State Route 313 that climbs to Dead Horse Point State Park for a spectacular view of Canyonlands National Park. On the return descent, cyclists take State Route 279 along the Colorado River.

The Metric Century, the 100-kilometer ride, may be shorter than the Moab Canyon Century at 65 miles, but it is far more strenuous.

The Metric Century takes the La Sal Loop Road and includes a 5,350 elevation gain. A section called the “big nasty” is a 3000-foot climb within seven miles. The route then quickly descends into Castle Valley and then a trek along the Colorado River on State Route 128.

“That’s why we advertise that this isn’t the average 65-mile route. There’s the change in the landscape from the desert valley into the mountains and back down into the canyons that is epic,” Griffith said. “Then add the challenge of the climb into the La Sals. You’ve got a route that is for your cycling resume. When you’ve been able to do that climb and this route, you’ve reached a higher level of fitness for sure.”

For those who want to ride a full 100 miles after completing the Metric Century, cyclists can continue onto the Rolling River Portal Cruise that includes an additional 40 miles of easy riding on State Route 279 along the Colorado River and back to Aarchway Inn for a total of 105 miles.