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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Death Ride 2011

Sitting at a mile above sea level, Markleeville, CA is about as unassuming a place as one could want to come across. Every time I drive through the .25 mile long business district, I wonder what glue adheres this alpine oasis to the map. Other than the pub and general store, I have no idea what form of commerce would support the 200 residents.

South Lake Tahoe, 30 miles to the north west is no doubt the daily destination for most of Markleeville's commuters, but it's not the azure waters of Lake Tahoe that lure me into this quiet mountain village.

I would likely never have noted the existence of Markleeville if it weren't for the Tour of the California Alps - Death Ride. For 1 weekend in July Markleeville's population blossoms by 1800% as 3,500 cyclists are hosted out of Turtle Rock Park for a Saturday of intense cycling.

This was my 3rd year to summit the 5 passes for a cumulative +15,000' of climbing over 129 miles. There was no question this year whether or not I would finish as there was the first year, and I lacked the drive to finish fast as I did the second year. This year my singular goal was to enjoy the ride.

Starting with a short spin on the bike and then chilling at camp in Turtle Rock Park Friday night, sleeping in a little later than the norm (4:00am rather than 3:15am), and finally riding at whatever pace suited me at the moment, I managed to pull off a spectacularly pleasant weekend. All of that was topped off with the girls coming up to cheer me and an unending procession of cyclists as we passed through Markleeville on our way to Carson Pass (#5) just after lunch.

I carpooled with Vince and Dianne Friday morning and made amazingly good time getting to the mountains. The oversized tires on V's Tacoma supposedly throw his speedometer off. I don't think the speedometer was off quite that much though.
Later in the afternoon Kevin arrived, and before evening Kipp and Mardi had rounded out our 2 camp sites.

Kipp and Mardi, who were disappointed with last year's performance finished all 5 passes this year. Kevin, who can ride 200 miles in the Davis Double, threw in the towel at 3 passes, and kicked back for a long lunch, and a relaxing afternoon with Milt and Jackie who showed up around midday Saturday with no bicycles.

Vince and I spent the majority of the morning together, but shortly before the 3rd pass he dropped back to discuss irrigation methods with a tree and we only saw each other in passing after that. I learned later that a developing wardrobe issue was becoming a pain in the butt - literally. I left with the girls promptly after finishing the ride and breaking camp, but he emailed me later to say "Hey the gel pad in my cycling shorts disintegrated causing them to bunch up which in turn caused great bottom pain, I almost didn't make it!" That's dedication to a goal.
This was #8 or #9, I don't recall, but he claims he's finished when he finishes 10 DR's with 5 summits.

Finally, Dianne pulled off a great first DR. She left at 4:25am with Kevin to start the ride in the dark. About an hour later Vince and I rode onto the course. It wasn't until nearly the top of the back of Monitor Pass (#2) that I finally caught up with her. She was toast, but still in good spirits. I expected her to bail on #3 - because if you crest Ebbets and head down the other side, there's no way out but back up. But nearly to the top of #4 - returning up the back side of Ebbets, I saw her descending from #3 toward the valley. That descent is out and back with no bus at the bottom. She had plucked up some courage and committed to the back side of Ebbets and completed 4 passes.

Next year will be DR #4 for me, though I haven't committed to 10 like Vince has. I'm not sure that my attention span is quite that long. I've determined now, however, that next year I'll be riding against the clock. My objective is to finish in under 9 hours on the bike, and 10 hours total.
This year my average speed was 12.1 - which is respectable enough.

Next year the number is 14.3.

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