L’Etape California – A Good Yet Hard Day on the Bike

A few of us California Alps Cycling members had signed up but we lost a couple, one to injury and one because he became a new daddy last year and so has not been able to put in the miles.

So, it was just Scott Keno and I representing C.A.C. a week ago Sunday (the ride/race took place on October 28th). I made the trek east from Markleeville and Scott made the trip north from Clovis. We met up Saturday at the Expo where we picked up our bib numbers, timing chips, t-shirts and schwag bag. John and Diana Velez, two hard-core local riders, and friends of Scott’s (and now friends of mine) also came by the Expo, along with their standard poodle, Studly (what a cool dog).

An image of Mark with a dog licking his ear.
Studly introducing himself to me, while his Mom, Diana, looks on approvingly.

We spent a bit of time checking out the gear at the Assos truck where John, and the Assos boyz, turned me on to some cool bibs (I bought the Equipe and wore them on the ride the next day – man were they commmmffffyyyy).  The five (5) of us then bailed from the festival, but not before checking out some TDF history at the Expo’s museum (mouse over the images and the captions will pop-up. Dig that wool jersey!),

and headed out for some pub grub and a few cervezas. Later that night, we met up with a couple more friends for some good eats at the Corner Tavern and Grill.

After dinner it was time to get the gear ready, put the chips and numbers on the bikes and our jerseys and get some rest.

The day of the ride started well. Nice weather – not too cold – and so we didn’t have to wear “the warmers.” I did, though, add a light base under my jersey and wore a neck thingy too. You’d think that since I live in the Sierra that I wouldn’t be such a cold-whimp, but alas, that’s not the case.

A couple pix from the start – That’s Scott doing “the Kilroy” and me chatting with another rider in that image on the right.

We took off with an escort (always cool) about 8:00 a.m. and after just a short bit of flat roads, the climbing started. For those of us doing the 90 mile ride, we had about 8000′ of climbing to look forward to and we did about 7000′ of that in the first 50 miles! As is the usual for L’Etape, the course was a difficult and challenging one but hey, as we’ve all heard, if it was easy, anyone could do it!

Three riders smiling for the camera.

This was my third L’Etape and I had a goal of placing in the top 200 riders, a ride time of 6 (six) hours and an elapsed time of under 8 (eight) hours. I felt pretty good about hitting those goals since I was peaking fitness-wise and I had a really strong rider to pull me (and push me, if you get my drift) around the course. And John met us early on and rode with us for part of the course too (that’s him in the middle of the above pic.).

Rider pointing to his location on the elevation profile of L'Etape California.
Yup, I was there.

For those of you who haven’t done a L’Etape before then you’re probably not aware that the TDF organization does a bit of timing on certain sections (KOMs) and on this particular ride there were three (3). Now this big boy is never in the top of those standings but it’s always fun to compare myself to others. Scott is a big boy too (not as big as I but not your “typical” rider) but we climb fairly well and always enjoy the looks we get when we pass smaller riders while climbing.

Anyway, as it turns out I was 221st out of 394th on the climbs (cumulatively), 27th (out of 38) in my age group (55-59) and for the “classic challenge” (.3 miles at 12% average but let me tell you there were some 18-20% pitches in there!) I came in 99th out of 207 riders! Overall, I finished 165th so really stoked about that! There were 295 participants on the 90 mile course so I’m pretty happy with that. Time on the bike = 6:14:20 (almost hit my 6 hour goal) and elapsed time was 7:08:01.  Click here to see my official results, and click here to see Scott’s. Note: he would have had some much better results if he wasn’t letting me suck his wheel all day long. Well, I did do one good pull towards the end of the ride. Thanks Scott for taking care of me. You are the man!

L'Etape Course Map and Profiles
The course map and my elevation, speed and HR profiles for the day.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with too many stats and such. I was just trying to give all of you, especially those of you who haven’t participated in such an event, a good sense of the day. I’ll leave you with one last picture…

Me and Scott after finishing the 2018 L'Etape.
All smiles now that we have our finisher’s medals, which (GOOD IDEA) also double as bottle openers.

And bid you all a happy Monday and remind you to challenge yourself and ride safe.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

Members of the Alpine Watershed Group and California Alps Cycling Do a Bit of Adoptin’

Last Saturday, Mike Barton and Rich Harvey, members of the Alpine Watershed Group, joined members of California Alps Cycling (yours truly, January Riddle and Patricia Schwartz) in an Adopt-a-Highway litter clean-up along Highway 89 in and around Markleeville. Brian Peters, Community Development Director of Alpine County, also gave up part of his Saturday to help out.

We collected eight (8) bags of garbage including the following items:

  1. A cell phone (smart-phone) – a brand of which we had never seen.
  2. A cooler lid along with two (2) other lids from totes of some sort. Nope we didn’t get the totes too.
  3. A rolled up dollar bill. Someone was doing something illicit but I appreciated the tip nonetheless.
  4. A couple dozen cigarette butts. Really, people still do that?!
  5. About fifteen (15) or so beer cans. All but two (2) were either Coors or Coors Light. The other two were a Bud Light and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Does this say something about Coors drinkers? You decide!
  6. Many, many mini-wine bottles. Mostly Sutter Home…again! Okay, what’s the the Sutter Home people?
  7. Quite a few plastice garbage bags (ironic, don ‘t you think?), a 10×20’ piece of black plastic, and
  8. A chunk of car bumper, a slice of roof rack and a headlight unit, sans bulb.

This was all collected along a three-mile stretch of the highway, from Camp Markleeville to Turtle Rock Park!

It was a good day of community service and a big ol’ C.A.C. THANK YOU goes out to all of our intrepid volunteers.

light sign typography lighting
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Fall Colors and Blue Lakes – A Great Birthday Present!

Last Saturday, my bud and fellow member Chris joined me for my “55 on my 55th” ride out to Blue Lakes. My wife and I had driven part of the road but when we were there the gate was closed so we couldn’t make it back to the actual lakes. So, when Chris suggested we do something different for my b-day, I thought “yeah, Blue Lakes would be good.

It was one of those rare days when the stars align and everything comes together. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part any day on the bike is a good day. This day, however, was particulary awesome. The sky was clear and oh so blue, the fall colors

Self-portait in Hope Valley - Blue Lakes Road.
Beauty fall day on Blue Lakes Road.

were a colorin’ (yeah, could have used some more reds, I agree), the wind wasn’t bad, and the temperature wasn’t too cold. We did wait until for dust-off until 10 a.m. to give things a chance to warm up. Low 20’s at HQ early in the morn’ but by the time we left we had a balmy 40 degrees or so.

We started the day climbing out of Markleeville — which is the usual for me since either direction I choose is “up” — north towards Woodfords. From there, it was up Carson Pass and into Hope Valley and then a left turn put us on Blue Lakes Road. Traffic was the usual up Carson but once we got to Blue Lakes Road it died out significantly. It was at that point that the day turned from good to amazing.

Yellow and orange aspens seem to glow in the sunlight.
The fall colors were rocking. The wind was just a bit of a breeze. The cars had taken a hiatus and it was just a picture perfect day.

We did intermission at Lower Blue Lake 1d8wt4c9QayssZaX1U5z4g(just about 28 miles from our starting point) and from there it was just a couple of minor bumps before the long downhill to Woodfords. We were so looking forward to lunch at Sorenson’s Resort (and beer…maybe a couple of beers) but they were packed so no dice there. Tried Hope Valley Cafe but it was cookies only (even with beer that didn’t quite do it for us). The third try was the charm, though and we landed at Mad Dog Cafe in Woodfords for some beers and paninis (The Pioneer for Chris and the Turkey Pesto for me). Lip-smackin’ good those paninis were. And the beer was cold and well…it was beer so happy we were. There is no try, there is only do…Sorry, I have a place in my mind where I go time to time (great Tom Petty song, that one).

Anyway, those six (6) miles from Woodfords to Markleeville were made just that much more pleasant because of our full stomachs (burp) and those IPAs (belch). Okay, I hear those of you who have ridden those bumps before groaning now but really, it WAS much more pleasant!

I’ll leave you with a few stats and a link to my Relive video.

Distance: 55.4 miles
Elevation gain: 4511 feet
Time on the bike: 4:00:35
Average speed: 13.8 mph
Eleven (11) Cat 4s and two (2) Cat 2s
Relive video: Click here.

Hamming it up in Hope Valley
Not sure what I was doing here. Just high from from those endorphins I guess.

For those of you on Strava, login and check out the full ride here.  Make the trek soon or you’ll miss what’s left of the colors and the not too chilly weather.

Remember, you can check out the weather and air quality here in the heart of the California Alps right on this site.

See you soon and feel free to contact me if you’d like any suggestions or need any help.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes Asses!™

 

 

 

Winter is Coming to the California Alps

This past weekend I finally had to ditch the shorts. I’ve been in denial for a few weeks and kept countering those cold morning legs with layering up top but last Friday I gave it up and put on the sweats. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t get a few more fall opportunities to bare those gams, perhaps even later this week, but for now, the word of the day is “chilly.” 26 degrees here in Markleeville this morning! Last week we had just under .10 inches of rain but this week is expected to be clear. So, if you’re thinking about a visit to the Sierra you’ve still got some time to get one in! The fall foliage is here and is outrageous in some areas; Mammoth and Hope Vally to name just a couple.

What do do, what to do?

The California Alps cover a lot of real estate so from Mammoth to Lake Tahoe you’ve got many choices. Hiking, hunting, fishing (rivers and streams are open until next month), mountain biking and of course, cycling.  There’s also major opportunties for picture taking or other artistic endeavors. The Los Angeles Times pubished an article last month about our little town of Markleeville, and it had some good suggestions as well. Click here to check it out.

Other info. that may whet your appetite:

Mammoth Fall Colors

Alpine Chamber of Commerce “2 people per square mile…and you!”

Tahoe.com

Speaking of Lake Tahoe, here’s a pic of member Chris Schull enjoying a beauty day at the lake a couple weeks ago.

A cycling enjoying the day at Lake Tahoe.

Last week I decided to get off the trainer and get outside even though we had some rain slicked roads. I was sticking with the trainer because I just didn’t want to wash the bike, but among other things I really needed that feeling of the wind rushing through my helmet vents (no hair, other than my beard, for it to rush through). I thought I may catch a break and get back before the rain came but alas, no such luck. That will teach me to not wear those rain boots! No worries, though. Quick rinse and re-lube of the bike (Roscoe is his name), some newspaper stuffed in the Sidis, a hot shower and we were good to go.

These pix were taken about 10 miles up Ebbett’s Pass (from Markleeville) and you can just see some of those fall colors staring to pop.

Real time weather and air quality available

Remember, you can always get real time weather conditions here in the heart of the California Alps. We’ve got a weather station right here at HQ and just recently we’ve added an AQI unit so you can get that information as well. Go to our “Weather Conditions” page and check it out!

Whatever you decide, we hope to see you soon and remind you to be safe out there and don’t do anything outside your capabilities. You still have time, though, to Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™ and then enjoy some of the myriad other things that these California Alps have to offer!

Climbing. It’s What We Do in the California Alps

My newphew Ryan, who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains, says something like: “I’m climbing as soon as I leave my house.” For those of us who live in the mountains, including the “real mountains” of the Sierra (sorry Ryan), climbing is indeed what we do, and I, like Ryan, start climbing pretty much right out my front door.

Now, if you’ve met me you know that I am not the typical climber. At 6’2″ and 225 pounds (1.88 meters and 102.06 kilograms for you euro-purists, and for my own edification) I guess I’m more a sprinter than a climber. But I’ve always been a big boy and I’ve prided myself in not conforming to that stereotype. So, I relish the climbing (most of the time) and I’m trying to get better at it. Sometimes I prefer the climbs to the descents (sometimes) because I could be a better descender too and up here in Markeeville, 50 mph (80.47 kph) descents are pretty common.

Looking up the road to blue skies and dappled sunlight on the road - Hwy. 4 Ebbett's Pass at Chalmer's Mansion
Looking up hill (southwest) on Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) at Chalmer’s Mansion

Our local pride & joy, the Deathride (July 13, 2019), climbs five (5) mountain passes (so 5 descents too) over about 125 miles, including both sides of Monitor Pass, Ebbett’s Pass (the entire northwest side and the other side to/from Hermit Valley) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. Add the many bumps and rollers in between and it presents a daunting challenge of approximaltey 15,000 feet of climbing. I’ll let you euro junkies do the km and meter conversions this time. 

“It’s not just Markleeville, though, right?” You ask. You’d be correct. The California Alps cover more area than that but Alpine County is really the heart of our Alps, hence the county name. Check out this recent article by the Sacramento Bee for more info. and here’s a link to an even more recent Los Angeles Times article. No shortage of things to do here in M’Ville and surrounds…

Okay, back to my point: climbing. While I may not have as many flat choices as others might, I do have some. Even those (Diamond Valley, for example) have some decent elevation gain, though.

So, how does one become a better climber? Okay, full disclosure, I’m no expert but after years of athletic endeavors (California’s Aids Ride back in 1998, Black Belt, Kenpo Karate in 1999, Deathride finisher in 2017 to name several) I’ve learned some basic tenets:

  1. Eat less
  2. Drink (beer) less
  3. Weigh less
  4. Climb more
  5. Work the core
  6. Lift weights.

Those last two bullets, while they may seem counterintuitive, have really made the difference for me, especially the core work. Fit balls and Bosu balls have become my friends. Try doing some dumbell work on the former (use the ball as a bench) and some squats on the latter (stand on the flat side). Takes practice but after awhile you’ll lose the wobble. My balance is better, I’m a better climber and I’ve increased my average power and my stamina. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Mark coming up the hill to the finish of the Medio version of the Mammoth Gran Fondo. Flashing the hang loose sign with tongue hanging.
Finishing the Medio (70 miles, 3500′ of climbing) on Sept. 8, 2018

After the Mammoth event I decided I needed to do more. I need to lose more weight so I can get my power to weight ratio up and I need to get even stronger. How do I do that? Well, I just started reading it but so far Bicycling’s “Climb!” is encouraging. Chapter 3, “Goats and Grinders” has some great information (you guessed it, I’m a grinder) and I especially love this quote from author Selene Yeager: “It’s not just the size of the rider but the power in the pedal stroke.” And, no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not getting any kind of stipend or the like from Bicycling. I’m just a knowledge junky and now that I live in the heart of the CA Alps I figured I better get REALLY serious about my climbing prowess. Not sure, have I earned the right to use “prowess” yet? What the heck, it’s my blog after all!

Got some advice you’d like to pass on? We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

 

 

 

 

My lawyer told me I need to tell you this too: Please check to make sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set. CAC is not responsible for any injuries whether you are riding, lifting weights or doing anything physical. Know yourself and what you are capable of.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.  

California Alps Cycling Members Hit the Slopes of Mammoth

Last Saturday, a few of us rode the Mammoth Gran Fondo out of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Members Mario Carmona and Chris Schull, along with yours truly (check out our Strava profiles on the CAC Membership page), rode from one of the southern points of the California Alps, still in the heart of the Sierra Nevada though, into the Owens Valley, and back.

An image of the route taken by a rider on the Mammoth Gran Fondo
Map of my “Medio route” at the Mammoth Gran Fondo.

Mario went for the Gran Fondo distance (i.e. the century) and Chris and I decided to do one of the shorter (the Medio, 70 miles) rides so we could drink more beer on Friday night. I had never been to Mammoth and so was pretty stoked to get a glimpse into what the place was all about. Unfortunately, due to my crazy schedule, we were only able to experience the vibe for a short time. Nonetheless, we made the best of it!

Chris and I arrived just in time for “beertails” and after meeting Mario at our hotel to give him his CA Alps Cycling jersey (yes, they’re in – if you pre-ordered one I’ll be in touch soon), we headed to Mammoth Brewing. Had some good beer and fine grub (those chicken tacos on naan were lip-smacking good) and then decided to make one more stop for a “beerpertif.” Yeah, I know, I’m taking some liberties with the english language here…Can’t help myself!

Okay, enough about the night life, which after all of our talk, really wasn’t much. We’re in our fifties (well Chris isn’t quite there yet but will be in a couple weeks) ya know and we did have a ride to do tomorrow. So, in the end, we were responsible adults and went back to the hotel fairly early so we could prep. our bikes for the next day.

We had brought plenty of cold-weather gear for the start, but as it turned out, the day was a bit balmier than normal. About 45-50 at the start with bright sun, as you can see from the pix below.

The blue in our jerseys works nicely with the sky, don’t you think?

After a short climb out of town we had a nice, long twenty (20) mile descent or so and then it was back the way we came, into the Owens Valley, back out to Hwy. 395 and then back into town. Here’s a few shots I took while on the bike:

And here’s a bunch more from the Owens Valley, including a couple rest stop pix.

As you can see, it was an amazing day. I still can’t get over the color of the sky in these images. Sometimes it looks almost purple. It’s that color that inspired us on the design of our kits.

I should mention that the organizers did a great job. The rest stops were well-staffed and stocked, and that made to order turkey and cheese sandwich really hit the spot. Thanks!

What else can I say? Another great day on the bike. Kudos to Mario (yup, he finished) and Chris (he had a rough day on the bike but perserved nonetheless) and hey, what the heck, I’ll give myself kudos too. Anyday on the bike…

Tour of the California Alps (a.k.a. the Deathride) Metrics

Happy Friday-eve to you! I hope you’re looking forward to some labor this weekend. I’ve got some work to do on the homestead and will certainly get in a ride or two. Fall is fast approaching here in the California Alps and then we’ll be dealing with that white stuff so if you can schedule a Sierra adventure now’s the time!

Anyway, as I wrote several posts ago, I’d provide some D.R. numbers as soon I could and here they are!

Drum roll please.

An image of the word analytics on a chalkboard with colored pencils underneath.
Photo by Timur Saglambilek on Pexels.com
2018 2017
Registrants 2443 2448
Riders 1698 1728
Five-pass finishers 1045 1050
First timers 876 1021
Hospital trips 1 4

 

As you can see, the numbers are pretty close to last year’s, with the particulary notable exception of first-time riders and that very welcome 75% decline in hospital transports.

I had a conversation with Teresa Burkhauser, Director of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, a couple weeks prior to the Deathride. She was concerned about the continual decline in numbers and we were brainstorming some ideas. Some of these are hers and some are mine. For your consideration, loyal reader:

  1. Promote the 1-pass, 2-pass, 3-pass, 4-pass and 5-pass approach. I.E. There is no shame in finishing just 1, 2 etc. passes. Are some riders were thinking it’s all or nothing?
  2. Since there are more events now overall, that is likely having an effect on the D.R. numbers. Riders can find comporable events closer to their homes and so don’t need to travel as far to get that Deathride “bang.” You think?
  3. Add timed sections or KOMs. Riders would need transponders of some sort but IMHO this would add some motivation and bragging rights. Perhaps give out medals or trophies, too?An image of the sleeveless men's jersey from the 2018 Deathride.
  4. Charge more and make it more of a Gran Fondo type of event with mass starts, timed sections or KOMs (see #3 above) and really good food?
  5. Host a camp for first timers or inexperienced riders (I mentioned this in that post awhile back)? I talked with quite a few riders on the Friday before the ride and many of them were not aware of things like: starting early (and with lights) if you’re doing all five passes; using a sack-back to carry your cold weather gear for the descents; and bringing your own food so you’re body isn’t  shocked by strange input.
  6. A gear drop.  Full disclosure…We’re (California Alps Cycling, that is) thinking of doing that next year since we have done it for our posse a couple times. What would be a fair price do you think?

Do you have any suggestions? Comment on this post or send me an email.

  • Want to check out the D.R. site? Click here.
  • Need some D.R. schwag? Click here.
  • Want some California Alps schwag? Stay tuned for our store grand opening! We’ll have tees (men’s & women’s), stickers, and soon, those jerseys, bibs and wind-vests.
  • Want to become a member of California Alps Cycling? Click here.

See you next year! Deathride on!