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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Death Ride 2010

I'm torn as to what to write about today.

The title leads into 2 topics that are forefront in my cognitive meanderings.

1. The death ride for Lance Armstrong's chances in the 2010 Tour de France (and additionally his cycling career) during Sunday's stage 8 in the mountains of France;


2. The 2010 Tour of the California Alps - Death Ride, with which several of my friends and I filled this past weekend.

I suspect I have nothing to add to the myriad of missives now swirling through cycling publications and web sites announcing (some with glee and others with mourning) that arguably the greatest cyclist ever has been dropped from the list of serious contenders in the Tour de France - forever.
Enough of that for now. But I will certainly come back to this in the days and weeks to come.

On to far weightier cycling matters...

The Tour of the California Alps - DEATH RIDE 2010

The 2010 Death Ride began under a crystal clear starry sky and temperatures in the low 50's. But as the sun and temperatures rose, a spectacular azure sky adorned with a handful of auspicious clouds was displayed as can only be fully appreciated against a snow patched sierra backdrop.

Looking down on Markleeville during my 8 mile Friday night "pre-ride"

Milt and Kevin - Sponsors, Mentors, Instigators...

As typical, Milt and Kevin reserved camp sites at the Grover Hot Springs campground and of those invited, Vince, Steve, Kipp and Mardi, and myself joined them on the Friday evening prior to the ride. Milt, Kevin, Vince, and Steve all shared a site, as their departure time was to be 4:30 am, and Kipp, Mardi, and I shared a site, desiring a slightly later start to the ride. The various groups arrived over the course of Friday afternoon. Meals were eaten and shared, while various last minute preparations were made to the bikes, and by 8:00 pm, nearly everyone was turning in for a short night.

Mardi and Kipp

The calm before the storm

First and only flat of the ride - happened to Kipp the night before. Good timing.

I awoke to a bear opening the bear vault that stored our food - or wait, that must have been Steve retrieving his cooler around 3:00 am. (The bear vault at their site was too small for the immense amount of food and drink that eventually accumulated) I rolled over, as best as is possible in a mummy bag, with the goal of another 35 minutes of sleep, but quickly recognized that as an unrealistic goal. Between my ambition for the day, a fear of oversleeping the alarm, and the cackle of grown men at 3 in the morning, I began rolling up the sleeping pad at 3:15 am. Less than an hour later I was washing up in the bathroom when I heard the rattle of a Ford diesel wrench the reverie and listened as my 4 neighbors pulled out of the campground.

4:15am, 15 minutes ahead of schedule, my truck also pulled out of the campground, leaving Kipp and Mardi heating water for coffee. For many hours I feared that a bleary eyed acknowledgment of existence would be my only encounter with them for the whole event. I never saw them on the course; one renowned for it's social aspects.

Kipp and Mardi would claim to be awake in this photo...

While the 4 opted for an early start, Kipp and Mardi chose an extra hour of sleep, and I was hoping to catch some of the early morning festivities at Turtle Rock State Park, the "official" starting place. The "official" starting time for those not sporting lights was 5:30am, but the light in the eastern sky and the vast numbers of riders already speeding away without lights was proving to be too much for me. At 5:10 am I left the band, breakfast, and portable bathrooms behind and joined the mob headed for Monitor Pass. I still don't know what happens at the 5:30am official start, but there couldn't have been too many there to see it, because thousands were already en route.

Following are some highlights, as a full account would be, well, exhausting and boring. For a full account - come along with us next time...

The beginning of a long day

The climb up Monitor pass was uneventful, though I did find company in a gentleman wearing a "California Triple Crown Stage Race" jersey. He had ridden the 3 designated double centuries in 3 consecutive weekends - earning the right to accept praise and admiration for this feat. We parted ways near the summit, and my descent of the back side was a private exercise in meditative awe.

I should have stopped another 1/2 mile down the road for a shot down into the valley. But as I stood there and took the picture, I could hear the exclamations of the riders going by, observing the same beauty I was arrested by.

These guys (a wrestling team I think) provide a moving water refill on the return climb.

I talked momentarily with Kevin as I finally caught up with him on the 2nd climb to Monitor Pass (#2 of 5 summits). He reinforced his concern regarding conditioning, describing some tightness in his back. I have no idea what happened to him after that. He aspired for 4 summits, but I fear I never saw him on either side of Ebbet's. I sincerely hope he made at least 3. Rumor has it that Milt climbed the front side of Monitor and Ebbet's passes without going down the back sides, and then retired to the campground. He is reported to have said, "I'm not sure why I don't always do it this way," probably with a classic Miltonian grin on his face.

Returning to the top of Monitor on the wheel of the 2 riders at left. They were faster than me, but I enjoyed the "pull" they provided in the last mile of the ascent.

Steve and Vince were more elusive quarry. It wasn't until half way up the first side of Ebbett's Pass that the Jolly Roger jersey of Steve came into view. A quick chat with Steve confirmed that I would have to press on to overtake Vince.

I found V. still sporting his hood ornament.

Having bagged both I was back on my way. But the Ebbett's climb was more than I remembered and it nearly bagged me near the top. I ran out of water - having skipped the last water stop and rode the last 3 or 4 miles on the verge of hitting the wall. Stupid.

Up Ebbett's

After collecting my 3rd sticker I stumbled (partly from fatigue, and partly from having to walk around in impossible cycling shoes) over to the food table and began greedily stuffing my face and washing it down with Cytomax. About the time I was feeling myself again, Vince came over the top and we descended together. OK, not really together, because I can't keep up with his descents right now. It seems he is getting faster, and while I'm not exactly slow, I still can't shake the memory of my last crash. Steve joined us at the bottom for a short break, and then we all headed back up.

I did ride with a helmet, though I seemed to always have it off for pictures...

The return to the top of Ebbet's and then down the other side to lunch was enjoyable, as my tanks were full again. I crested the top and followed a couple of riders around the first few corners. One of them was a gal who knew how to descend, and I followed her past numerous riders for several miles. About half way down I wanted to push the envelope a bit further, so I complemented her on a great ride and then pushed ahead in Vincent style. I survived and enjoyed lunch a little more because of it.

We three at lunch together, and then rolled off to the final climb up to Carson Pass.

I pulled a pace line of riders away from the lunch stop, and then dropped onto the back of the train that had formed and rode hard back to where my truck was parked near Turtle Rock Park. Psychologically, this is the start of the final leg toward Carson Pass. I deposited some extra gear at the truck, and having collected Vince and Steve again, headed down for our "shower" at the Woodfords rest stop. The garden hose shower worked wonders for the first few miles of the Carson climb, but alas, evaporated far too soon.

The top of Carson Pass is just over the left motorcyclist's helmet. Almost there...

The Carson climb is long and grueling if you let it be. It was less grueling for me this year, as I focused on taking it at my pace, and carefully selected the groups I wanted to draft with. I actually made good time, by sitting behind some strong riders, but backing away when I knew I had enough. That was really the way the whole day went. When I felt good, I would jump on the wheel of a fast group going by, and sit in till I felt I was going over the top. I was literally pulled over the top of Monitor by 2 guys going significantly faster than I was comfortable with. The added benefit of sitting in their slip stream allowed me to summit in style, and enjoy comments like "wow they're flying" as we zipped by. (This could be part of why I nearly blew up on the Ebbet's climb though.)

Sticker #5

The top was euphoric as the top so often is. No matter where "the top" is at, and no matter how you got there, the feeling of accomplishment is rarely outweighed by any previous discomfort. Vince made good time to the top of Carson, so we waited together for Steve, as I wanted to document this achievement.

5 pass finishers of the Death Ride
#8 for Vince - 8 years straight, going for 10, then says he's going to pull a "Milt"
#2 for me - 9 hours 45 minutes on the bike, next year under 9 hours
#1 for Steve - Decided he was going to finish the 2010 D.R. a year ago, and did!

In the end I finally met up with Kipp and Mardi. They showed up for the post ride meal just as I was wrapping my burrito in plastic for the long drive home. Seems that early morning preparations went a little longer than expected and they ended up riding behind us the entire day. Though I must have passed them at least twice - likely from opposite directions - we never managed to make the connection. 4 passes proved to be enough for them this year, though Kipp graciously noted that Mardi was good for #5.

I arrived home to my girls around 9:30pm. The fans were thrilled, and had all waited up to welcome me home.

Even the small noisy one.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! I am proud of your accomplishment.
    Makes me think, once again, of our other journery. What will I hear the Lord say to me at the end of my journey. How much effort am I willing to put into that?? Do I lose sight of the goal?? Am I reluctant to spend time with my Trainer? May I ever "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.: Phil 3:14
    Onward and upward