Category: 1/2 centuries or centuries

Six Days Until the Deathride! Here are 5 Things for Your Knowledge Base

IT’S going to be epic! Six categorized climbs in the heart of the Sierra. Just over 100 miles, with 14000 feet of climbing. Add the elevation, hot temps and some wind; and throw in a stray thunderstorm or two (fingers crossed that won’t happen but it often does) and that’s why this ride, formally known as “The Tour of the California Alps,” is nicknamed “The Deathride.”

I’VE done the ride three (3) times and finished it once. I’ve not ridden Pacific Grade, however, and didn’t get a chance to do so last weekend, so for those of you who are going to take that bite out of the burrito I wish you well!

Some Intel on the Other Four Climbs

MONITOR PASS west will be your first climb of the day. While fairly short (9 miles), the first 3.5 miles will test your mettle. The steepest part of the climb does have a couple flat spots where you can catch your breath and once you’re up to Heenan Lake it gets easier. That’s not to say it’s easy, though so pace yourself on that first pitch, and on the entire first climb.

MONITOR PASS east is typically a cooker. The sun rises from the east and so for those of you leaving Turtle Rock Park around 5:30ish, depending on your fitness and such, you’ll be heading up the east side around 8:00 a.m. or so. Not too hot but certainly not cool, either. There’s really no shade on this climb (except for Boy Scout Corner) so combine that with the rising sun and well, you get the idea. It’s important to stay hydrated!

EBBETT’S PASS north is my favorite local climb. It’s longer than either side of Monitor (13 miles as compared to 9) but not nearly as exposed, and up until you get to just below Raymond Meadow Creek, it’s not too hilly. The real climbing starts just below RMC (which is at the 7000′ mark), about five (5) miles in, with a 12% pitch, and from there you get lots of up, with some good rollers added for good measure.

That’s Kinney reservoir behind me. Took this selfie in August of 2016 – T’was my first trip to Ebbetts Pass and I was amazed that I had made it. Plus the view is pretty cool.

ONCE you get to Kinney Reservoir, it’s only a mile to the summit. Don’t get cocky, though, as there are a couple last minute rollers to challenge you.

A five (5) mile descent into Hermit Valley will give you a bit of a respite from the climbing, and the heat (it will definitely be getting toasty by then – high 80’s expected in Markleeville), but from there it’s up and over Pacific Grade – the first time.

THEN you get to turn around and come up the west side of PG. I’ve heard it’s a grinder so be prepared. Keep up your caloric intake throughout the morning so you’ve still got the poop left to pedal up that west side of Hwy. 4 and don’t forget to down that H2O when needed (or before, right?).

AS for that last five (5) miles from Hermit Valley to Ebbett’s Pass, that’s a section I know well, having ridden it quite a few times, including once for a FulGaz video. It’s short, yet sweet; rock candy kinda sweet. 😉 Once you’re topped out though, it’s a rollicking 13 mile descent to Monitor Junction; and from there, only about eight (8) miles to the finish.

REMEMBER, while the “passes” are closed to vehicles, there will be riders coming down while you come up and vice-versa so please keep it in your lane and pass slower riders with caution. For you fast descenders, stay in control of your steed and please BOLO for those riders who are on their way up.

Closed Roads – Ahhh

YUP, no cars on the climbs! BUT, let’s not forget that our four-tired friends will be in the lanes between Monitor Junction (MJ) and Turtle Rock Park (TRP).

I found that much easier to keep in mind on the leg from TRP to MJ whereas on the return leg I have caught myself spacing out and venturing into the lanes, forgetting after so many hours without cars, that there are indeed vehicles on the road after Monitor Junction, all the way into town and up to Turtle Rock. Do stay focused on that last stretch.

Road Conditions

RoadsideS around Turtle Rock Park are weed-whacked and ready for those of you who wish stake your claim on Hwy. 89.

I’VE been riding quite a bit lately on Hwy. 4, and some on Hwy. 89, and there are some small rockfalls and there were a few slides. Caltrans though, as usual, has things cleaned up nicely. There are always rocks of some sort on the roads aound here, however, so it pays to be vigilant, especially on the descents.

BRIDGEWORK is a popular thing right now in Alpine County, including two (2) projects in progress on the route. The Markleeville Bridge being the first, and the second bridge over Silver Creek on Hwy. 4 (about 10-miles from Markleeville) being the second.

WHILE we locals are excited about the work being done, especially the replacement of the Markleeville bridge, we’ll definitley wait until after the Deathride. And so will the crews. They’ll be back a week or two afterwards so no worries for the riders.

Air Quality and Weather Conditions

THE East Fork Fire is at 1136 acres and 95% contained. This one wasn’t too far from Markleeville so it was a bit disconcerting. CalFire was all over it though and so it’s no longer producing any smoke. The crews were stationed at Turtle Rock Park (another slight worry since that’s where the Expo and ride start/finish is) but they have recently departed.

THERE is a small fire in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, due east, and quite a ways from Lake Alpine. It’s the “Henry Fire” and is only 300 acres at this point, but only 13% contained. I didn’t notice any smoke on my ride this a.m., though.

THE Beckwourth Complex fire is sending quite a bit of smoke into Washoe Valley (Reno) but as of this morning it had not mades it’s way into Carson Valley or parts south.

IT’S been hot! I’ve been whining. But, based on the latest weather report it should be significantly cooler come next weekend. Thankfully. Be sure to bring lots of “hydrate-ables!”

Remember, you can get the current weather and air quality conditions right here!

Grinds, Swag and Tunes at the Expo

“Enjoy live music,  games, massage, and more! Friday meal options will be BBQ from Out West Café. Saturday after-ride meal will be traditional and local Indian Tacos. Complimentary after-ride ice cream for all participants.”

BEER of course will be quaffable, courtesy of the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Sierra Nevada.

THERE will be activities for the kittens, too! Click here and take a gander at the Deathride Expo Page.

Also note that “…packet pickup is Friday from 11AM-7PM, and on Saturday from 11AM-6:30PM.”

California Alps Cycling will have a booth, staffed by yours truly, and a couple other C.A.C. members who like me, have lots of local riding, fishing and bullshitting experience. I’ll have some vintage C.A.C. gear on sale. Cheap…Since new kits are on order.

Last but certainly not least…

A huge community effort goes into making the ride a success. From the crew captains to the members of the rest stops, many, many locals volunteer their time to make this ride what it is. Please do thank them when you seen them around and a big ol’ shout out to you too, dear rider. We couldn’t do it without YOU!

SAFE travels!

Deathride Doodling? The Devil is in the Details!

BEEN doodling on the Deathride data that matta? Figuring out what you’ll need in order to tackle the Tour of the California Alps?

HERE are a few facts that may help in that regard.

FIRST of all (read aloud using deep lawyerly voice here) in the interest of full disclosure, for those who are not aware, California Alps Cycling LLC is not affiliated in any way with the Tour of the California Alps, more commonly known as the Deathride.

SECONDLY, I am a member of the board of directors of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, owner of the Deathride, so when I use we in this post, I mean the Chamber, or the Deathride, not California Alps Cycling, LLC.

GET it? Got it? Good! 😉

OKAY, appreciate you letting me clarify that; you can go back to your normal voice now. Let’s move on!

I had a little back & forth recently with my friend and CAC member, Charlie, the other day, where he asked on behalf of his cycling group, The Pain Gang, what the start and cut-off times were for the big event on July 17th. ‘Twas that convo. that gave me the idea for this post. Thanks Chuckles!

Mountain Iris’ in bloom at Scossa Ranch on Hwy. 4 about 10 miles south of Markleeville. Just took this photo today.

No More Carson

YUP, in case you weren’t aware, Carson is no longer the last big climb of the day. That honor instead falls to Hwy. 4 from just east of Lake Alpine, up and over that side of Pacific Grade (‘cuz you’ve already done the other side), into Hermit Valley and then up and over Ebbett’s Pass (for the 2nd time).

Yes, the Roads are Closed

“THE course will be closed to traffic from Markleeville through all sections of climbing, with a turnaround point at Lake Alpine where participants will head back to the finish at Turtle Rock Park.”

Staggered Start

“THE event officially starts at 5:30 am. Riders will be in a staggered start from that point forward. Any riders on the road before that time are riding at their own risk, and aid stations may not be open when you arrive.”

Rules of the Ride & the Road

THEY include more such nuggets, including: “How long do I have to complete the course to qualify for the all-pass finisher’s jersey? Riders have 13 hours, from 5:30 am – 6:30 pm to complete the course and apply for the finisher’s pin and jersey, aka “Tombstone Club.'”

THERE’S a link to all of the rules, including those having to do with Covid-19 protocols, on the Deathride site.

DO read up.

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Riders (and their families)

IT’S going to be bike-archy! We’ll likely have 2000 riders or so and that means things will be packed to the gills with cycling energy (and lots of bodies). Hotels and camping are already filling up. The Creekside Lodge is long sold-out of rooms for that weekend but Woodford’s Inn still had rooms when I checked Saturday. Not sure about the Carson River Resort, or Wylder (formerly Sorenson’s), but it’s probably worth checking in with them just in case.

Stonefly, Out West Cafe, J. Marklee Toll Station, and Cutthroat Brewing Company will all be hopping so make your reservations early where you can, otherwise, put those patience helmets on.

Bear Valley

SINCE the course now takes riders into the western side of Alpine County, staying or eating there (or both) may be an option. Keep in mind there is no shuttle service provided so you’ll need to work out those logistics yourself.

HERE’S a link to Cabins & Lodges in Bear Valley. Bear Valley Adventure Company, run by friend and fellow Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce Board Member Aaron Johnson, is a great source of information too, especially if you’re going to work in some gravel or MTB riding while you’re in town.

AND, you can check out dining options by clicking on this link.

We’re Looking Forward to Seeing You!

WE’VE missed you and are so excited to welcome you back for the 40th anniversary of this iconic ride. You’ve got a few more weeks to get those cycling legs ready and then it will be time to kick some passes’ asses!

SEE you soon! And please…travel safely.

It’s a Deathride Resurgence – Really!

LIKE just about every other bike event, race, fondo, you name it, the DR didn’t happen last year.

THIS year, though? That’s a different story.

The Ride is a Go!

AND we’re so excited! Not only is it going to happen, it’s going to happen on a NEW COURSE!

This new course will take you to new heights, including Pacific Grade (x2)!

FOR those of us who may be “metrically-challenged” that’s 103.17 miles, so yeah it’s a bit shorter than previous years, but it will be no less challenging. Oh, and the climbing…over 14,000 feet!

Some More West Slope

Okay, technically, you’re right, we’ve gone there before as Hermit Valley is on the western side of the Sierra Crest. This time, though, we’re going a bit farther – almost to Lake Alpine, and the course will be closed to vehicles all the way down (and up). And no, that’s not just for the “Ebbett’s climbs” in case you’re wondering. Highway 89 will be closed to vehicles on both sides of Monitor pass, too (as usual).

No more Carson but no less challenging…

Some Changes to the Timing

RIDERS will not be able to start before 5:30 a.m., and there will be cut-off times.

Starting and finishing at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville, Calif., the 103 mile course begins at 5:30 am…”

FOR several reasons, most related to safety, some due to logistics, riders who in the past (including yours truly) started a bit earlier (3:30 a.m. had been my start time) won’t be able to do so this year.

“Road closures will be in effect from 5am – 4pm. The 13-hour time limit ends at 6:30 pm, and all riders must be off the course by 7:00 pm. All cut-off times are strictly enforced. Segment cut-off times indicate the latest time that a rider will be allowed to begin each segment. Riders attempting to begin a segment after the cut-off time will not be allowed to proceed.”

WE’VE got a renewed emphasis on safety, one reason Carson Pass is no longer part of the course, and so as you’ve just read there will be segment cut-off times. Course marshals will be uber-sensitive to prudent pedaling and will let you know if you’re pushing the perimeter of that proverbial pouch. What can I say? I love alliteration. 😉

The participant’s jersey…
You can get the coveted finisher’s jersey (red on the collar and sleeves and “finisher” instead of “resurgence”) if you complete the entire ride!

Some Additional Data

  • OUR permit does allow for up to 3500 riders but right now we’ve got registrations capped at 2500 so we can keep things more manageable.
  • WE’VE got almost 1600 riders registered so far. If you haven’t registered yet, better do it now!
  • WE’RE working with several groups and are planning on putting on a MTB related event for folks (e.g. spouses, partners, kids) who are not riding on Saturday.
  • THE finish-line festival will include that sought-after ice cream, a vendors and sponsors expo., a Deathride store, some music (DJ provided), a finish-line arch/photo opp., and the finisher poster that finishers can sign.
  • AS for food, that’s still in the planning stages but we do have some local restaurants in mind for catering.
  • BEER? It’s all about the beer, right? That’s why I ride, anyway. Sierra Nevada and the Alpine Co. Fire Safe Council will be on hand to serve those suds!
  • NOT yet solidified but in the works nonetheless: a massage therapist and a face-painter for the kids (both large and small).

HERE’S a link to the Deathride page where you can get more information, and register, if you haven’t already.

BE sure to make hotel or camping reservations FAST as things are already filling up.

HEADS up! It’s likely that Indian Creek Campground WILL NOT be available this year as the BLM is doing a lot of work out there that will likely go through the entire summer.

WE’RE so looking forward to welcoming you to Alpine County!

TRAIN well and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! this summer.

SEE you in July!

Cycling Events in 2021? Here’s What on Our List

2020 was not a very event-full year, at least in terms of “real” bike events. Sure, many of us, yours truly included, did some virtual events/tours, and even some racing, but it wasn’t nearly the same as being there with a bunch of riders that were suffering (or not) right along with me.

And the after parties…I really miss those!

SPEAKING OF EVENTS

AT the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce we’ve continued to work on the 2021 Deathride and are optimistic that we can pull it off. I’m on the periphery if you will — the actual work is being done by our Executive Director, Becky DeForest-Hanson, and our Ride Director, Curtis Fong — so I won’t go into much detail but suffice it to say there’s a good chance IMHO that we’ll be riding those iconic California Alps climbs in July.

WE’VE also been talking with the folks at FulGaz about doing some sort of virtual Deathride in the first quarter of 2021! Something along the lines of the Bay Area Virtual Fondo, perhaps. It would give you veteran Deathriders a chance to do some training in the pain cave prior to the big day. And for any of you who haven’t done the ride you’d get a chance to wet your wheels, so to speak. Remember, we’ve filmed all of the climbs (and some other local rides too) so you’ll be able to experience the real thing…virtually ;-).

BIKE the West’s America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Tour de Tahoe are on my list. Well, at least one of them is…And I’m looking forward (admittedly with a bit of trepidation) to my first gravel grinder: Stetina’s Paydirt, in September of 2021.

ON a somewhat tangential note

RECENTLY I participated in a virtual meeting involving several bike coalitions and representatives of Caltrans District 10. Rob Williams, outreach manager at the California Bicycle Coalition (aka CALBIKE) set up and facilitated the meeting, which was primarily focused on us all getting to know each other a bit and devising a plan to work together moving forward.

IT was a great get-together and nice connections, and in several cases, reunions, were made. More on that in a future post.

FOR now though I’d like to direct you to an article that was recently published (Rob was the author, by the way) on Bike Valley to Sierra, entitled “40 Years of Cycling the California Alps.” It’s a nice little missive and besides other data that matta, has links to some other events in District 10, which includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

WHAT’S on your list? Feel free to share by commenting on this post, or on our Facebook page.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Please stay safe and healthy and keep training so we can all kick some passes’ asses next year.

Together.

In person.

Thinking of Riding Around Lake Tahoe? Here’s What You Should Know

Lake Tahoe is the largest Alpine Lake in North America, and is the second deepest lake in the United States. The lake is 22 miles long, 12 miles wide and about 72 miles around, with an average depth of 1000 feet! It’s one big ‘ol lake and last Friday one of my riding buddies and I tackled it by bike in the counter-clockwise direction.

The first person, by the way, to name the deepest lake in the U.S. by commenting on our Facebook page, will receive a CA Alps Cycling t-shirt.

Never having ridden around the lake before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes I had driven it by car but I never really thought about what it would be like by bike, other than amazingly beautiful and scenic.

Well, as Gomer Pyle would have said: “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Image courtesy of imgflip.com

While it was a beautiful day and the lake seemed a deeper blue than normal, as did the sky (perhaps due to the lack of smoke we had become used to over the last several weeks) it was quite the eye-opener to actually ride it.

Here’s What I Learned

  • There ain’t a whole lot of room on the shoulder(s). In fact in some sections of road there ain’t any!
  • Many sections of road are in a state of disrepair with some nasty bits of asphalt (or lack thereof) ready to surprise you. Yeah, our roads in CA could use some work, I know that. Still…
  • There’s more traffic than I expected. I was thinking it wouldn’t be too bad on a Friday, during the late morning into the afternoon, but I was wrong.
  • Can you say tourists? This was somewhat of a “doh!” moment certainly and I mention it in order to point out that tourists are doing their job – gawking. They are not looking out for cyclists and in some instances I noticed they weren’t even looking out for themselves.
  • Okay, you’re right…it’s not just tourists that don’t pay attention.
  • There are a huge amount of hiking trails to be found in and around and that generates more traffic and more pedestrians.
  • Many people park on the side of the road either for convenience or due to necessity and that means cyclists need to BOLO for doors!

Take a look at this ~8 minute video to get a sense of what I’m “talking” about. This clip starts just after D.L. Bliss State Park and ends just past Emerald Bay. You can catch a glimpse of Fannette Island and I should also mention that there is some “blue language” (hey, that’s appropriate!) about 2/3 of the way through the clip. Color commentary…

A little glimpse into what you’ll experience when you do the Lake.

Some Other Tidbits

  • We road it counter-clockwise as I mentioned early on in this post. Why? We thought it safer; you’re on the mountain side not on the lake side (there are some steep drop-offs) so if something goes amiss you won’t have to try and rappel (or get help rappelling) back up.
  • Plan on somewhere around four (4) hours to complete the loop. Sure, some will be faster and some will be slower. We took the slow-boat approach and so it took us about 4.5 hours.
  • There is about 4000′ of climbing over the course of the approximately 72 miles of riding. Mostly rollers but there are a couple decent climbs – one from D.L. Bliss State Park towards Emerald Bay (some of this section can be seen on the above video clip) and another from Cave Rock up to the Highway 50/28 intersection.
  • There are hosted event options (next year) such as America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Tour de Tahoe. Check out Bike the West for those.
  • There are a lot of good grinds around the lake. We stopped at Sonney’s BBQ Shack near Emerald Bay and had the most AMAZING turkey clubs we’ve EVER HAD. I kid you not.

So as I told my family and some friends post-ride, you have to be on your game to do this ride. Unless you stop for the sights I suggest you keep your eye on the ball as there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for boo-boos.

My lawyer would want me to tell you that California Alps Cycling IS NOT responsible for anything that might occur if you decide to ride it yourself. You assume all risk and should realize that cycling, especially in high-traffic areas, is inherently dangerous.

So, with that said, if you do decide to partake in one of the most scenic, and high-on-most-cyclist’s-bucket-lists, rides in the world, be wary, have fun, stop for some grub and take some time to look around (off the bike).

I’ll BOLO for your report!

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Forum

Well, not a forum per se, but work with me here…I’m referring to California Alps Cycling headquarters, which could loosely be defined as a forum.

Webster’s “1b definition” of forum is “a public meeting place for open discussion.” While we haven’t had any public meetings (aka grub and beerfests) recently, we have in the past and we certainly plan to have more in the future. This virus too shall pass…

Image credit: Pittsburgh Current

For you youngsters — admittedly I was only 6 years-old when the movie premiered but I thought it would be good to provide some context — here’s a link to a clip of the movie, and if you’d like to go the extra mile and read the Pittsburgh Current review, click here.

So now that I’ve set the tone, as it were, let’s get to my story of woe. “Whoa” also works in this case, as you’ll see. Read on!

Last Friday, again thanks to Alta Alpina’s Social Distancing Racing Series, I participated in my 7th TT in the last 7 weeks. This was the first climb we did in the series and being a clydesdale (6’2″, 220#) I knew I wasn’t going to be in the top 10, so my goal was to get it done in under an hour; my previous best was 1:10. I rode from HQ so I got in a nice warm up of about 20 miles or so before I hit the grade, a Cat. 1 climb.

All smiles post-ascent. Came in at 59:20…Woo, hoo!

As you can see, I was a happy camper post-climb and was stoked to hit my goal. And as it turns out I placed 17th out of 34. Not bad for a fat-boy!

BTW if you haven’t done Kingsbury before you should definitely add it to your list. It’s not as brutal as Monitor or as long as Ebbetts and the views into Carson Valley are amazing! The shoulder is fairly wide as well and the road is pretty clean. Did I mention the descent? It’s a screamer!

After the glide down the grade I was pretty much toast but I figured a little rest, some water and a bit of food would do me, so when I talked to my soigneur (aka wife) from the base of the climb I told her I’d go ahead and ride back.

Here’s where the funny part starts

About 5 miles in on my return trip I wasn’t feeling it. Or maybe I was but in the wrong way. It’s been so long since I bonked I didn’t remember what it felt like and while I don’t think I completely hit the wall I realized I didn’t have another 20 miles in me, especially if I had to do those frickin’ rollers on Hwy. 89!

So, I texted my trusty assistant and asked her to come and get me. I told her where we should meet (Mad Dog Cafe & Market in Woodfords) and that I would keep riding. I also asked her to bring some cold water. About another mile in I realized I wasn’t going to make Mad Dog so I texted her again with another location and wrote that if I wasn’t there that she should just keep driving down Foothill until she saw me. Well, as you can imagine our cell service isn’t the best here in the heart of the Sierra so she didn’t get the complete message.

When I finally made it to our rendezvous-point I went a bit further up the little road then I should have (nature-break needed) and as I came back around THERE SHE WAS! YAY! RESCUED!

BUT She drove right on by!

I whistled (and I have a LOUD whistle), I yelled, I waved. But to no avail. No brake lights, no wave, nothing. So I texted her and told her she passed me and to turn around. I then began riding back towards Kingsbury, albeit much slower than my first leg in the a.m. Still…nada.

Then I called and thankfully she answered. By this time I was truly gassed but at least I had ridden far enough to try and catch her that I got in my half-century.

She turned around and we agreed to meet at another designated point, this time a landmark – Fredricksburg Cemetery. Appropriate, huh?

After a few minutes of waiting and no sag-wagon appearing I checked her out on “Find my iPhone.” What!? She was going the other way! Shit! Wait…No she’s turning around. Here she comes. There she is! With my cold water, too. I was already tasting it.

We laughed as I hung onto the truck and then I asked for the water. No dice! She left so fast she didn’t get that part of the message. “Oy vey” as my dearly departed Grams would say! Thankfully she did have some water though (emergency supplies that we always carry) and that was guzzled down very quickly as you can imagine.

What’s MY moral to the story?

First of all, pick a landmark, Mark, and stay there! Second of all, drink more water you fool. Third…If you’re going to give it full, or close to full gas, on the way up an almost 8 mile ascent with ~2500 feet of climbing, eat more.

I know these things but for some reason in my TT induced haze I forgot them. Don’t be like Mark!

A Deathride Resurgence in the California Alps

Well, in case you don’t already know…It’s official! Registration is open for the 40th anniversary of the Tour of the California Alps (aka The Deathride)!

The Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, located here in Markleeville, CA, hosts and owns the ride, and this year, as I alluded to back in September, we’ve (full disclosure – I’m on the Board of Directors) decided to up our game, hence the tagline: “Deathride Resurgence.”

First and foremost, we’ve hired the Bike the West team! These are the same professionals that put on “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” and “Tour de Tahoe” so we are stoked! (I’ll be riding the former in June, by the way).

We’ve also inked a deal with Alta Alpina Cycling Club to host a training series of approximately five (5) different rides in the Deathride area. This club (it is based in Carson Valley – Lake Tahoe but members, including yours truly, do a lot of riding in Alpine Co.) does a lot of good works in the area (among other things they are one of our “Adopt-a-Highway” neighbors) and also has great experience putting on races and rides of their own, including the Alta Alpina Challenge.

As the only hard-core cyclist on the board, I’ve also been making it my mission to help my colleagues better understand why we cyclists do what we do and why we like what we like; I’ve been able to bring some of what I’ve learned doing organized rides over the years as well as share some insights about the Deathride course and the mountains that we climb.

15000 Feet of Elevation and 5 Categorized Climbs

Like I mentioned above, a change in terminology…We’ll still be climbing both sides of Monitor Pass, both sides of Ebbett’s Pass (albeit not all the way into Bear Valley – keep reading) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. In the past we referred each of these as passes but this year we’ve begun using the UCI lexicon – climbs. Technically, we only climb to three passes, right? We do, however, do five categorized climbs, four of which are hors catégorie (the other is a Cat. 1).

A Renewed Emphasis on Safety

With a strong(er) emphasis on safety this year, including more outreach to neophyte deathriders, we will make the ride even safer. We’re talking hay bales at risky corners (think Cadillac Curve), better signage, more robust outreach to non-riders, course marshals, safety talks and training, SAG and sweep support, HAM radio communications and staggered starts. For you early birds, including this guy, that means no more getting on the course at 3:30 a.m. The ride begins no earlier than 5:00 a.m.; we’ll have groups of riders departing every 15 minutes (you can pick your start time when you register). While we’ve got an excellent safety record, thanks to Curtis and Team, we’ll be even safer this year.

Other Route Options Being Explored

We had hoped to change the route this year to include Pacific Grade, and to remove Carson Pass. Unfortunately due to various concerns from CalTrans, local and state law enforcement, business owners, and others, we were not able to make it happen. Many riders have expressed support for this change and we appreciate that but currently there are so many logistical concerns we decided we needed to move on, at least this year. We’ll continue to work on it with the hopes that we can bring our neighbors to the southwest into the Deathride fold. Wouldn’t it be awesome to ride into Bear Valley or Lake Alpine next year? And, while Carson Pass is beautiful, I personally would much rather do a longer stretch of Highway 4 instead. Have some thoughts on this? Comment on this post or our Facebook page or better yet, bring your fine self and your voice to the ride this year and let us, and others, know how you feel. We’d love to hear from you!

You coming?

It’s a grueling and painful, yet amazing experience to do the Deathride. I’ve ridden it three (3) times yet only completed all the climbs one time (in 2017). In 2018 I was only able to complete three (3) climbs and last year, while I was the strongest I had ever been, I caught a nasty cough the day before the ride. Still, I was able to complete four (4) climbs: 7.5 hours on the bike, 10,433 feet of elevation and about 83 miles of distance. This year, I’m hoping to PR this bad boy and it would be great if you could join us too. Whether you’re all in and planning on doing all the climbs or doing fewer, I promise you’ll have fun and most importantly, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. And remember, there will be no cars on Monitor or Ebbett’s for most of the day – and that makes for an even more remarkable (dare I say mind-blowing?) experience.

I should also mention that we’re looking to up our game when it comes to food, fun and other amenities. Those things are still a work in progress so stay tuned for further updates but suffice it to say we’ve heard you, and our community, so it’s all on the table and our goal is to impress.

So, if you’ve joined us before, we’d love to have you back and if you haven’t and you’re looking for a world-class ride in a world-class setting, come and check it out. Alpine Co. would love to see you!

Some photos from past Deathrides

I’ll leave you all with some images that I’ve taken from past rides. Enjoy!

Oh and by the way, there’s been some confusion over the years about the relationship between California Alps Cycling and the Deathride. While the ride is near and dear to our (and mine) hearts, and were are both in Markleeville, California Alps Cycling is not affiliated with the Deathride.

A Tale of Two Towns – One on the California Coast, One in the California Alps

It’s been over two (2) years since I’ve been able to ride near the ocean so when I had an opportunity to head to Petaluma for a company BBQ last Friday I brought my bike so I could go for a pedal the next day. I’m lucky enough to work from home but I do make the pilgrimage to our corporate offices several times a year. In this case, not for a board room style meeting, or meetings, but instead for some fresh (and BBQed) oysters, burgers, good beer and great conversation. What a deal!

The next morning it was off to the little town of Marshall, including a trip down memory lane and up the iconic Marshall Wall.

From Petaluma to Marshall, down to Pt. Reyes Station and back past Nicasio Reservoir.

Back in 1998 I did the “Aids Ride”, now called the Aids/LifeCycle, and rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of a week. I raised some ducats for the cause as well. While training for that event I was introduced to this area north of The City (that’s what natives call San Francisco – don’t call it Frisco, k?). I’ve done a few rides in the area since but it had been quite awhile so I was pretty excited to ride “the wall” (that’s it in the profile above – at the 20 mile mark), and sniff Tomales Bay. The kelp, the sea (er, bay), the oyster farms…All combine for a wonderfully briny sensory experience. Add some fog to the start of the ride and I was in heaven. What a great morning on the bike! Made it back to the hotel in time to pack up, take a quick shower and get out of dodge so I could get home for cocktail time! Below are some images of that first adventure of the weekend, and here’s a little video to check out (including a few more pix) .

Some good grub and conversation awaited me at the Chalet (as we call it – hey we’re in the Alps after all!) thanks to my Mom and wife, and after an evening of story telling it was off to bed so I could get some rest before the next day’s adventure.

This time (no offense coastal hills) I was off to do a “real mountain” and I was curious to see what kind of shape the road was in.

I decided to milk it a little and went for a late morning start so I could let it warm up a bit. We’d been getting some thunderstorms recently (and still are) so I didn’t want to get caught on the pass too late in the day, though. Based on the weather forecast I thought I could squeak in my ride after the temps rose but before any chippy weather showed up. It didn’t quite work out the way I had planned, though. Read on.

From Markleeville to the start of the pass is fairly passe’ (ooh, like that pun). The real climbing starts at about mile 11 (from Markleeville, not Monitor Junction), with a pitch of about 10-12% just before Raymond Meadow Creek and the 7000′ mark. I had a great view looking south and could see some fairly ominous clouds forming. I kept telling myself that I could just bail if things got too hairy but I really wanted to get up the pass; it had just opened and I felt it was my duty!

I was excited to see Kinney Reservoir (images 6, 7 and 9 above) but when I came up over the rise, expecting to see a blue alpine lake and the reflection of the surrounding mountains and sky, I was instead greeted by an ice-rink! WTF? The lake was still frozen?! Now the temp had dropped significantly since I started but it was still a very manageable 55 degrees, and so I was surprised yet again, this time by the amount of snow still on the pass. Notice the snowbanks? Many of them were still covering signage and trailheads. In fact, because of that snowy obscurement I arrived at the top faster than I thought I would – I didn’t have those visual cues that I was used to.

I quickly ate a snack at the pass because it appeared that the weather was indeed coming in. Had I blown it and left too late? Would I be caught in a deluge, or worse yet see some lightning? So after an expeditious message to the wife (thanks to my Garmin inReach Mini, a bad-ass piece of equipment, btw) I headed back down the mountain. There was still some gravel and other detritus on the road so I was cautious on the descent and for the first few miles I got lucky – no rain. That changed though as I got to about the 7500′ mark. Down it came. At those speeds, raindrops sting! Thankfully it did let up so I wasn’t too spongy when I got to the homestead.

What a fantastic way to cap off my week! Here’s a few stats from the weekend:

Miles ridden: 90.6
Feet climbed: 7169
Hours on the bike: ~6

I’m hoping you’ve had, or will have, similar weekends of wonder. If you have, or do, and would like to share them by posting up your own adventure on our blog, let me know!

Ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses! this summer!

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!™

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!™