In memory of my dad--the toughest person I knew, because he had a hard life first getting to this country and being sent back to Europe right away to fight in WW II, and then working long hours to give us the basics...and he never complained, ever. I hope a little bit of him rubbed off on me. Thanks dad.
Since the Sierra Century 2003, the seminal event of 2003, lots of things changed. I did the DAVIS DOUBLE and the TOUR OF THE UNKNOWN COAST, in fact 6 century+ rides in a row, and wasn't worried about the SIERRA. But, Jerry had been hit by a car at the turn of the year and couldn't ride 100 miles, Jo-Jo had disappeared, most of the other DELTA PEDALERS weren't even on the easy century rides. So I'd probably be going solo. Then my dad was suddenly dying, went back east when he was in a coma, saw him die, buried him, and came back 2 weeks later emotionally spent. After being perfectly prepared for the 2003 SIERRA CENTURY I was going into this one in shambles.
Went up with my wife, Donna, who was going to do the 97 (100 miler with SLUG GULCH bypass) with some girlfriends. I was still going to do the 120 miler. Did the same day before spin ride on CLINTON ROAD, walked around JACKSON, great checkin at the PLYMOUTH FAIRGROUNDS and great food at BUSCAGLIA's. Whatever worked last year I tried to duplicate. But focus and camaraderie from last year was gone.
Sat on Big Mike's wheel as he powered thru the Bridgeport School Road-Cedar Creek Road Forest. He said he didn't know he was doing it, but if any rider tried to pass, or was ahead of us, he'd pick up the pace. Ouch. Then on the long rollers up Mt. Aukum, Bill would go off the front on the uphills, and then Mike would come screaming by on the downhills--I was usually 2nd wheel but paying for it. As usual very little auto traffic. At Perry Creek Water Stop--mile 70--was 20 minutes ahead of last year (27 minutes ahead of pace), 16.9 average. Nice and warm outside--which was fine as I love warm weather.
This was THE RIDE that I chickened out of doing in 2000, when the idea of doing the minimum on this ride (1 pass) in order to get a cool looking jersey was more important than training in order to do the ride. In 1999 I thought it would be cool to get the jersey—and all I’d have to do is one pass—as I could (barely) climb Diablo. But I never registered for the bicentennial edition, tore up my knee in 2001, rehabbed in 2002, did the self supported 4 pass one in 2003. Now, while physically at the top of my game but mentally depressed from the deaths, disappointments and deception of the past year, I was in for the 5 passes—no, make that 6 after the email announced a 6th bonus pass. I’m paying for it—I’m doing it.
So, on one hand I had done Mt. Tam 2x a few weeks ago and it was easy, and did Mt. Diablo 4x a couple of weeks ago with a new club I joined, the Diablo Cyclists, who actually go on long rides. Last weekend I had done the Bears at speed with them, then the next day Tunitas Creek, which used to be a hard ride-now easy, and then on the third day exorcised the Slug Gulch demons by doing the second half of the Sierra Century. Earlier in the year I had been racing, and while nothing to write home about I was beating 40% of the field of good riders, and had picked up some good cornering and downhill skills—and then rode 6 Century+ rides in a row, mostly solo, with my average speed up 2 mph from last year though I felt wasted at the end of almost all of them. But while physically I was ready mentally everything was crashing down--9 months of hell where I had a freak collarbone injury, Bert’s sudden death, abandon by so called friends, Dad’s death, finding out that I was basically a “cover” for my riding buddy’s screwing around in 2003, and now trying to get out of a half assed trip to Italy that I have no enthusiasm for (though Donna had worked hard to set up.) I finally had to talk to someone, and John is a saint—our talk reaffirmed my slant on things, but of course Donna doesn’t see it that way as she is desperate to keep the Italy trip/new friendship together. Anniversary blown. Came in +8 over my target weight, and constantly depressed when not riding hard. Part of me was ready to say “fuck the Death Ride.”
Had prepared a few preliminary time estimates to make sure that I was well in advance of the time cutoffs, but didn’t really work out the figures-plan the ride, as well as I should have. (My estimates are always worse case scenarios, Top of Ebbetts (pass #4) cutoff is 2pm, my first estimate was 1:25, my revised one was 12:28, in reality I did it in 11:38. Likewise, top of Carson (pass #5) was 5:15, my first estimate was 5:28, then 4:02, I did it in 3:11) I also had intended on canceling the overpriced, mediocre Travelodge and rebooking, never got around to doing it. Never got around losing those last 5 pounds either. Packing amidst anniversary crash just threw in back bike shorts and a jersey and just assorted other clothes laying around—had no idea what I took. Didn’t make a compilation CD, blew off a mid week training ride, forgot to buy film for camera.
After missing Wednesday’s practice run, on Friday I was going to take a spin in lieu of a quick workout on the trainer. Donna led—she is getting real fast on the flats, and I kept at her speed but off her wheel so I could max my heart rate. The only time I passed her was on the uphill rollers.. With her setting the speed we averaged 16 flat. Later I found out I was riding on a cracked rim. But still a cloud over my head from the months and months of crap—and I was on edge. While rushing to get ready my bike fell and the odometer sensor holder broke, when I drove away I forgot I had a pair of gloves drying on top of the car, the first drawbridge before Rio Vista was up for an abnormally long amount of time. I kept losing it, Donna drove, and I just kept to myself before I blew up. Finally indignation was getting to overpriced Travelodge and estimating that we had only about 6” of clearance between bike and roof awning over parking lot driveway. Hurried and scrambled to take bike off of car before seat hit the roof.
Met Aunt Patti up there but in a real pensive mood, and felt worn out. Patti was yammering about how busy S. Lake Tahoe/ 50 is, we should take the Pioneer Trail—she was right but I just really wanted quiet. We all drove to Death Ride check in and was still in a mini daze, but festive atmosphere brightened everything though still in a daze. About a dozen vendors—Cliff Bar booth giving away chap stick on the sly, to Death ride coffee mugs, to Specialized Dealer letting people test ride bikes (I missed this one) They had stacks of old Death Ride patches, I had a handful as I thought they were free. Was told they were $1 each, luckily Donna came over and said Bob was here, I put down patches and said hi to one of my favorite riders—I was in such a daze I didn’t see Leticia 5 feet from him. Picked up cool looking aerial map poster of Death Ride route. Noted that the parking at Turtle Rock Park was a mess—talked to one of the parking attendants who indicated he parks on the road, which is what I then planned to do. Also was trying to establish how cold it would be in the morning; the few people I talked to said it would warm up fast.
(On Monday there had been an afternoon thunderstorm. On Tues-Thurs, the 5am temperature in Markleeville was 47-53 degrees, by 7am 50-56, by 9am 64-70, by 11am 73-77 and by 1pm 77-80. Wind was light until the afternoon where the wind would blow SW at over 10mph. As it turns out, in the dry air-even below 70 degrees, you quickly warm up on the first climb up Monitor.)
The cheap Italian dive we found for dinner (the classic expensive one was a casualty when I only remembered to make reservations the day before) was OK, I just had a bowl of pasta. Donna went off to talk with Patti, I packed and made it to bed by 11:45, for a 3:15 wake up. Game plan included putting an extra pair of shorts and socks in the car, and to stop off an change when I passed the car half way through the ride.
Riding the 6 passes didn’t scare me, riding downhill in a crowd didn’t scare me. Just real disappointed that I couldn’t get enthused about this—but at least wasn’t pissed off like I was about everything else. Figured that this may keep me “under control” and not tax myself early, and actually got a good 4 hours sleep (I’d been waking up and restlessly sleeping lately.)
Clock rang, out the door in less than 45 minutes, Donna woke up briefly to say goodbye. Only trouble was no big morning constitutional, and pasta was laying in my stomach. Cut down breakfast, just a banana and soy cake, though had two cliff bars right before the ride.
Blasted “When the Music’s Over” which I had been listening to over and over for the past few weeks—real appropriate song to the whole Jo-Jo fiasco. “Music is Your Only Friend.” In the darkness got to Turtle Park at 4:45, following a line of cars, and parked about a ¼ mile north of the park. Cyclists were already getting ready to ride, with CHP pulling off anyone without a light, even if they were just riding back and forth. Walked to restroom holding a bike light. Patti had yammered about wearing something on my head to keep war, and I had on full fingered gloves and head buff, but after putting on the helmet pulled them off as wanted to be light and comfortable. I wasn’t going to carry the Camelback as I had done going 4x up Diablo—later would see cyclists with full backpacks and I was glad I didn’t bring anything. A little after 5:20 I had everything ready, had seen people leaving throughout the last ½ hour (so much for 5:30 starting time) and I took off.
Turtle Rock-Markleeville 2.47 miles)-First 3 miles is a quick descent and I was freezing, shivering on the bike, buff over my mouth. Month later rode with a guy who commented how cold it was at the ebginning of the ride. Starting a ride on a downhill—you gotta love it.
Markleeville-Base of Monitor-Monitor 1 (13.31 miles, 2,813’: 5501’ to 8314.’) This starts as uphill rollers and I was happier than hell so I could warm up, but hands were staying cold. Loads of people on the road, ahead and around me, and we were traveling at a good clip. At junction of .Highway 89/4 we slowed for the checkpoint where all riders are ID’d, and then we started the 8 mile climb to the top.
Last year I had felt great and scooted up Monitor 1; this time I was going to pace myself. My stomach felt bloated and I still had to go to then can, and my breathing was a bit labored in the cool air—though not as labored as the guy behind me who sounded like he was in an iron lung.. Funny, the sun started peaking over the top of Monitor and all of a sudden my vest came off. Tandem with skeleton on the back wearing a bra and saying “don’t look at my boobies” climbing on the right. The closed road was full of climbing cyclists, if anyone shot by either they were a great climber or they were taxing themselves out for just a few passes, so I didn’t chase, or stand much—maybe every mile for a count of 30. Even though I was going easy I was still passing load of people, and often had to ride on the left side of the yellow line—which was still OK as only a couple of cyclists were coming down on this while climb. (What time did they start? 4:30?)
I hadn’t planning on stopping until the other side of Monitor but I had drunk more than half of both water bottles and really needed a bathroom, so I stopped at the water station about 2/3’s of the way up (@12 miles ; #12.41 miles). Took care of “the runs”, refilled the bottles with water, ate a Cliff Bar (3rd of the day) and was on my way. Still weaving though traffic—the great thing riding surrounded by cyclists is that I was thinking about cycling/ the ride, and not contemplating the meaning of life like I do on a solo ride. Saw the famous backsides of the “How Ya Doing” boys, pulled up to them and mentioned that it was enjoyable riding with some of their team at the Tour of the Unknown Coast. Before I knew it I was at the top, where we had to stop to get a pass #1 sticker slapped on our number. Didn’t stop at very crowded top–of-the-hill rest stop. (@16 miles, 6:55, 86 minutes riding, 11.2 avg.)
Downhill to Topaz Lake/ 395 (9.35 miles, -3,212) This is the part we didn’t do in the Pumpkinbullshitcycle Death Ride last year, and Jo Jo had professed wanting to do this portion this year before she bailed out. All I can say is the view and the downhill were worth the wait.
Last year, while I was still finding my climbing rhythm, I would have been terrified about going down with so many cyclists. Though I’m still dropped by good cyclists on downhills, the race skills clinic and practice on Diablo paid off. The divided road was like the lower portion of Diablo, the wind was neutral, and I was flying—at least for me. Passed lots of slower riders on the right, and few speedsters safely passed me, but I was motoring. Broke my speed records of 45.7; my concentration leaning the bike for the Phinny turns was very very good. Twenty-two minutes of not a care in the world, at an average of 25 ½. Luckily I had slipped on the vest and the arm warmers-from warm pockets in the sun it got cold quickly.
The only distraction was the beautiful-endless valley to the left with Topaz Lake and the plains out into the distance. A great tan-brown oil painting with a big spot of blue. Handfuls of riders climbing on the other side, but all the way across the road so not bothered with.
The roller coaster ride suddenly came to a screeching halt as the cones funneled riders to getting the 2nd pass stickers. Smart Death Ride organizers, they give it out at the bottom as you have to reclimb to get back to home—if they gave it out at the top of Monitor some people who were only doing one pass might circle back and get the 2nd sticker and then return to their car. Unfortunately, still had the runs, grabbed a banana and Cliff Bar #4, took Enduralights and topped off with Gatorade. (7:18am, 108 riding minutes, 13.89 avg; 25.38 miles)
Climb Back to Monitor Summit-2 (9.35 miles, 3,212 feet) Though had sticker 2 still had to earn it, and the south side of Monitor seemed steeper than the north side. The sun was out and I quickly regretted still riding with 2 jerseys. I hooked up with two guys from Reno-Carson City who were setting a nice pace, and we carefully threaded our way around lots of climbers while talking about Century rides. Carefully, as riding on the left of the center line was no longer an option (nor near the center line on OUR side), as loads of cyclists were screaming downhill like a line of ants chasing after the crumb on the floor. But for the most part people were holding their line, and I was calling out as I passed—always a good sign as I always do this unless I’m winded.. Then a young guy from Alameda asked about my bandaged knee, and we talked about Mt. Diablo. Then saw a Diablo Cyclist jersey, it was Jack setting a steady pace. Talked with him for awhile and then moved on, I’d pass him a few time during the day but he got to Carson before me—I don’t think he takes many breaks. Saw a few Diablo Cyclists along the way, and though not sure of their names (or them of mine) it was always uplifting to be able to b.s. with a familiar face for awhile.
Half way up saw something that makes Death Ride unique. Came close to a water stop and one guy from Reno-Carson City said watch the boys at the stop. Pre-teen boys were line up on the uphill grade, would grab the water bottle from you, run to fill it, and then run to give it back to you. Unfortunately I had topped off at the bottom of the hill so I couldn’t take advantage of this service.
With all the bs’ing Monitor #2 summit came quickly, it levels out, slight headwind, but riding right behind Reno-Carson Boys, with Alameda guy at the side. No need to stop at mountaintop rest stop. (@33 miles, 8:48, 185 minutes, 10.7 avg)
Monitor #2 to Base (8.15 miles, -2,600) This is downhill on wide open crosswind where I my heart was thumping last year in the crosswind, while going down at 44mph. This year I hit 48 and started pedaling hard to go over 50, and hit 50.5. As road was divided people going up were far to the side, no falling rocks (like last year) on road, very little wind. Incredibly uncrowded, most of the time it was like I was in my little zone that no one else could encroach upon—don’t recall passing to many riders or getting passed by many myself. Again, lucky I put on my vest as pockets of cold air. 15 minutes for the 8.15 miles, 32.6 mph.
At the base we went through the checkpoint and there was a Team In Training group cheering riders on, and an uncrowded water stop not on the map. Finally got the rest of what was left out of my system, and started the climb up Ebbets 1, which I was hurting on—badly--last year. (9:04, 200 minutes, 12.6; 43.12 miles)
Climb to Ebbetts 1 (12.87 miles, 2946 feet) I dreaded this climb, as I remember my legs yelling last year when I could barely turn the 34. I only had a 39-32 this year, so far I had stayed out of the 32, and even the 28, riding the climbs in 39-24 unless I stood briefly in a 39-21..
While Monitor had the great views, Ebbetts puts you closer to nature—Highway 4 through Ebbets Pass is a 1 ½ lanes “bike trail”—surrounded by lakes, trees, campgrounds. Enough shade to keep the temperature cool; no center line to divide the riders going up and those coming down.
Started out as an easy uphill where road is still two lanes divided by a double yellow, when does the other shoe drop and the steep part begin?, and after 2 miles was across from the Centerville Flat lunch stop—which we’d partake in on the return trip. But some girls were running a water stop, as I already had bottles with mostly water I asked if they had any sports rink—the girl ran across the road with my bottles to get me some—and a Cliff Bar--#5 on the day. About this time (maybe before) the center line of the divided road disappeared and Highway 4 was just a wide bike lane stuck between a forest.
While the road was supposedly closed to cars, occassionally one would come by as folks were camping in the area—and it seemed that today a camping activity was to line the side of the road and cheer all the cyclists as they came by. A few houses along the way, porches filled with folks holding a “Death Ride” party and cheering like crazy. One guy was hammering and I stayed on his wheel, finally mentioned to him that he was setting a good pace, but he stopped at the water stop that we rapidly approached.
I caught up to Tom, of the Diablo Cyclists, who usually wears a Michigan jersey. We talked a little about racing (both of us retired for the year) and training. He often takes the lead on the Saturday racing pacelines, so I was surprised when he told me that he was only in for four passes—the light bulb went on that there is incredible difficulty between doing #4 and #5 (Carson.) When the forest disappeared and the grade of the road increased I slowly climbed away, not intentionally but on climbs have to find a comfortable pace. Saw Craig, another Diablo Cyclist who shows up early in his car for the Saturday rides resting on the side of the road, and then passed Jack and gave him a rundown of who I saw though I didn’t remember many names. Fondly passed Silver Creek campground where we had gotten water last year (and when we drove by two days later their pipe was busted and they had a bog sign proclaiming NO WATER.)
On this climb an occasional rider was already coming down, and everyone would yell out in unison, “rider up” or “bike up.” About one came down a minute, between seeing Diablo Cyclists and watching for the rider coming down all of a sudden saw the cattle grate where I had collapsed on last year-rolled over it, no problem. Again didn’t stop except to write down mileage and slip on vest. (10:33, 282 minutes of riding, 11.9 avg; 55.5 miles)
Ride Down To Hermit Valley (4.8 miles -1,519) Last year, on self supported Death Ride, I enjoyed this windy downhill among the trees as a reprieve from the terrible climb to the “cattle guard.” This year the downhill was OK, but with riders coming up the undivided road, and very aware of the assorted uneven road patches, had to take it easy on this one. While it was great having scores of riders on Monitor, and even the first climb on Ebbets, this portion would have best been enjoyed in solitude.
Got sticker (still have to reclimb Ebbets or sneak out via Pacific Grade) stretched and ate a banana and Cliff Bar (#6) and pack of Cliff Goo (banana flavor-very good.) Two little kids on bikes were playing around by Hermit Valley sign, told them that they had cool bikes and they’d be on this ride in 10 years. They looked stoked. Finally took off bottom layer jersey. (10 minutes 4.8 miles, 28.8 mph) (@62 miles, 10:44, 292 minutes of riding, 12.7 avg; &60.3 miles—here is where segments starts losing miles; depart 10:59, cutoff 2:00, 3:01 hours ahead)
Climb to Ebbetts-2 (4.8 miles 1,519 feet) This was our first climb last year and I remember it being easy and short, and it was again this year. Legs were getting a little sore, when guy who had paced me on the other side whipped past I took it easy and didn’t chase. In steep part went into 28 but NEVER used the 32. By now an army of ants were descending, no on was calling out rider up as it was self evident, and I tried to stay on the right or at most one across. Again—this portion of the road best made for a self supported ride when it is empty.
While spending a minute to write in the vital information at the summit another person wearing the Domo Farm Fretes jersey came riding up from the other direction, Gave a shout out at him, big grin.
In a relatively fast 39 minutes got to the peak (7.4 mph.) Now had done a tough metric, gone 67 miles and had done 4 climbs, and it was only 11:38. Forty three minutes of breaks, 5 hours 31 minutes of riding time-12.1 miles per hour. Of the remaining segments basically had 3 downhill’s and only 2 uphills. On the other hand everyone said the wind would now be against us, and only 44% of the ride was over. But four passes complete and relatively easy. (11:38, 331 minutes of riding, 12.3 average; 65.1 miles)
Ebbets to Centerville (@12 miles downhill) Long, long downhill on this side of Ebbets (10+miles) was a blast—though was more of a blast last year on self supported, uncrowded ride. Had to watch out for ants marching uphill, sometimes 4 across (which would prompt a yell from me.) Road was a little more open here, though severe hairpin turns would spring up like an unwanted guest. At first there was some heavy traffic going downhill, and I followed one guy cutting through everyone. He’d pull away on the dead straight portions but slowed up much to much on the turns, so I finally passed him.
The last few miles before the lunch stop at Centerville flattens out somewhat, and I don’t know how I got hooked into a race, but all of a sudden some guy whizzes by, I catch his back wheel, he pushes harder when he knows I’m drafting and we’re at it. Not much room to pass, and he is setting a good clip, so I stay on his wheel. Dropped me on a sudden downhill but I regrouped on those short uphill rollers I love., We flew into Centerville lunch stop and then thanked each other for having some fun on the only piece of road not going straight down or straight up. Hopefully my legs wouldn’t regret this later.
At lunch I downed 3 small V8’s-the sport drink “Revenge” wasn’t sitting to well with me. Nice clearing for a picnic, though only about 1/3 full—in a half hour they’d probably be overrun. Ham/ Roast beef sandwich, banana, and Cliff bar #7. Only took 20 minutes for lunch, which is about a fifth of the time we took at lunch last year on the self supported ride—and where everything tightened up when we stopped..
(12:05, 356 minutes of riding, 13.5 average; 77.52 miles). Time spent at rest areas
Halfway Up Monitor 1-Bathroom, Water Stop 5 minutes
Top of Monitor 1-Data Stop 1 minute (6)
Base of Monitor 2/Hwy 395-Bathrrom, Water, Food Stop 13 minutes (19)
Top of Monitor 2-Data Stop 1 minute (20)
Base of Monitor 1-Small Rest Area Bathroom Stop 6 minutes (26)
Across From Centerville Flat—Water Refill, Don’t Get Off Bike
1 minute (27)
Top of Ebbets 1-Data Stop 1 minute (28)
Base of Ebbets/Hermit Valley-Bathroom, Food, Water 15 minutes (43)
Top of Ebbets 2-Data Stop 2 minutes (45)
Centerville Lunch at Mile 80 20 minutes (65)
So for 80 miles 5 significant rest stops, with only 3 more than 10 minutes
Centerville to Turtle Park (@10 miles) Made a big sweeping left turn, past the entrance to Monitor. It was about 12:30 and they were opening Monitor to traffic—in fact from now on we’d be accompanied by loads of cars. We also would be accompanied by loads of headwind—the easy 16mph quickly started tumbling. One rider shot past--in other century rides I’d get on his wheel but here I just watched so I’;d conserve energy for pass #5 & #6.. I rode up to a tall guy pulling a women and went to the front. A few minutes later they came by, and then we took turns pulling into the headwind. Luckily most of this ride was slightly downhill, past a stream, rec area, where people were sitting off to the side and cheering as we went by. Then down to Markleeville, where a big crowd was sitting on the lawn cheering us on.
Unfortunately there was then a steep two mile section that we had to climb to Turtle Rock. Passed one woman and said something like this should count as a pass—she just grunted and off I went. Not to many riders on the road now, many more spectators cheering and banging pots and pans. A little past Turtle Rock was my car—stopped to change bike shorts, socks, dump the arm warmers, vest and extra jersey. Tried calling Donna on cell phone to tell her that was riding way ahead of preplanned pace—but no service. Replaced Hammer Gel and probably downed a Cliff Bar (#8—don’t remember if I did, I know I had prepared one. (1:06pm; 397 riding minutes, 13.6 average , 80.44.)
Turtle Rock to Woodfords (@4 miles) Fast and short descent that unfortunately meant a big climb back when ride finished. We were headed to where Routes 88 & 89 merge, and traffic picked up. Had not planned to stop again, but thought prudent to get some sports drink and take a whiz (as opposed to more serious business earlier in the day.) Thought that I should have taken the vest—what happens if it gets cold later?, or is it cold on top of Carson? After all, temperature dropped 10 degrees when Donna and I drove up Huighway 50 the other day, and we reached the peak with snow off to the sides.
Nice Hawaii theme at the rest stop at the junction. All day long I ignored the map and the distances—which is unlike what I usually do when I ride the rest stop miles on the wristband or placard on the bike so I can sprint to the next one. But as no sprinting today, I was not thinking about doing it, but asked how long we had to Carson. Was told 5 miles to Picketts (next rest stop) and then 6 miles to Carson. Someone was lying. Took in another banana, some wheat thins/ pretzels (salt tasted good despite down Endurligbts all day), a banana Cliff Hammergel, and though I was starting to hate them Cliff Bar #9. (1:28pm; 407 minutes, 13.9 miles per hour; departed 1:33, cutoff 4:00; 2:27 minutes ahead of cutoff)
Climb Up Carson (@14.5 miles, 2979’ climbing) As running over two hours ahead of cutoff, there was no urgency going up Carson, and even if there was I don’t think I’d go that fast. Head and side wind on this climb—weather conditions that killed me on the Davis Double. Carson doesn’t start out badly, but the wind and cars do make it the least appealing climb.
Hooked on with two young guys and we took turns riding in the front, flipping off the climbing paceline was a leap of faith, hopefully a well tuned car wasn’t quietly motoring up the lane we had to come out into. But you could hear approaching traffic, and we set a nice pace—passing scores of other riders. Only trouble we got into is when we passed a long line of riders and couldn’t get back in when a honking RV passed—but soon the shoulder disappeared and everyone had no choice but to ride on road. Heck, a little karma revenge, when in a car the rolling lunchbox in front of us is always going 10mph under the speed limit. At one point one of the guys fell off, his friend slowed. At another point after a long pull I almost fell off the back. But, with the wind it was better riding in the group so I stayed with it. Worst sign was “passing lane ahead” as we knew that the road would suddenly become steep.
Loads of people on the road cheering, mostly Oprah! Fan club women banging pots and pans or large groups of teenage girls. Guy spectators would tend to be solitary, drinking a beer off to the side. But everyone yelling encouragement—and I’d give the thumbs up sign in return..
We got close to Pickets Junction, about 40% up the climb (at the junction where the road leads to Tahoe and sometimes bonus pass Luther Grade), and I was again running out of water. I told the guys I was pulling in for a refill, they indicated that they were pushing on. (@Mile 99, 2:10, 444 minutes riding, 13.4) Didn’t even need to get off the bike—I motioned that I needed water/ sports drink and some young guy grabbed my bottles and filled them with a half and half solution. Older worker asked if he could get me anything—“yeah-a motorbike.” Cutoff was 5:15, it was now 2:12, I was now over 3 hours ahead of cutoff-though the cutoff stayted the same to start the 6th bonus pass, 17 miles away.
From Picketts Junction the headwind picked up. Black ribbon on my handlebars (OK, black cloth from the undershirt that was torn off of me when I flipped and broke collarbone) that has been on bike since dad’s death now streaming hard back and to the right. Look at the sleeves of my Domo Farm Fretes jersey, try to get into the Museeuw mindset and enjoy the wind like he would in Belgium. Off in the distance you could see the fairly straight road continuing to go up-up-up, with the top surrounded by snow in July? On a relatively flat section some rail thin girl was struggling, I went to the front and she got on my wheel for a mile or two. But then the grade went up and going at a comfortable pace I was all alone.
Soon a young guy came by who said “two more miles” and he stayed in back of me—which was OK. A stronger climber came by and I jumped on his wheel, and we traded off while losing the young guy. While left knee was tender (Vitamin Naperson helped on this) and vein in left leg had been sore, first real ailment of the day—my right toes started cramping. Let the climbing guy lead, figured only 2 more miles—but after two miles the top was still far far away. I pulled over where a lady was whooping it us waving the American flag, took off shoe, cracked my toes, and then it was right back on. Worst ailment of the day.
Riding solo—soon approaching a big rock wall dead ahead, where road curves around it, steeply, onto the left. Go around the sweeping hairpin curve and you see all of the snow, about at another 500 foot level. But then there it is---Carson Pass, observation station, with the checkpoint, the 5th pass sticker, kids pushing ice cream (damn I had one, cheap fudge bar.) Cliff Bar #10—some cyclist excitedly exclaimed “you finally have cookies and cream.” Jack and Paul form the Diablo Cyclists were already there, talked to them for awhile but still had to do pass #6 so only hung out for 15 minutes. Surprised that they weren’t going to do it—figure that the rough stuff was done but need to do the full monty. (Climb of &14.5 miles, 1hr 36 minutes riding time, 9.06 mph—faster than any of the Diablo passes—8.6n, 8.7s, 8.1n, 7.7s a few weeks earlier; @Mile 108, time 3:11, Riding Time 501 minutes, breaks 86 minutes, average 12.9 average. Paul, probably fastest Diablo Cyclist, later told me he left 15 minute after me and got to Carson only about 20 minutes ahead of me.—photos near top of Carson put us much closer, I was at 15:06, Paul at 14:58, Jack at 15:03) I'm stoked--just finished all the climbing of the "regular" Death Ride-supposedly the hardest one day cycling event. (OK--I'd soon learn that isn't true) but I'm feeling good and ready for the bonus pass after Carson.
CARSON to BLUE LAKES turnoff (@7 miles, 15 minutes @-1200, 28mph) I read that this is the downhill stretch that people really crank up, but don’t think I approached Monitor speed, as cars on the road and a changing crosswind affecting bike stability, so I kept the descending speed sain. But mostly wide shoulder.
Unlike the other passes, riders coming up seemed real far away. Not to crowded on the descent, I don’t recall passing anyone or getting passed by more than one rider—who I did a halfhearted job of chasing, and who went straight to avoid the bonus pass. It’s tempting not to do the bonus pass. In front of the Blue Lakes junction there was a volunteer motioning that I one had a choice of either making the right hand turn for more climbing into the headwind, or could continue on straight and fly downhill to the car. Not a hard choice, I felt good, had paid my $$$, it was off for the 6th pass. (Cutoff for starting this was also 5:15—same as leaving Pickeets Junction on the climb to Carson, my 3:41 beat the cutoff time for this by 1:34, mile 115? 518 minutes riding, 13.3 average))
Blue Lakes Road and Back, (@1200 feet of climbing, @11.5 miles out and 11.5 miles back) The nature of the whole ride changed—this was no big climb, we actually started going downhill but into a very stiff wind. No cars on his “new” road. No cyclists in front or in back of me—I saw one cyclist on the other side of the road in the first mile, and we both waived. Instead of the hordes cyclists on the “other side of the road” now being irritants (Monitor and Ebbetts) or detached (Carson), there was now some camaraderie as if doing a weekend ride along some quiet, out of the way road where you occasional see another cyclist and acknowledge each other when you pass..
In a lot of ways reminiscent of riding into the Los Vaqueros watershed—if the road rolled uphill to the top of the dam. Headwind, kind of desolate—except this had little streams and more trees than out LV.
Soon passed by someone and I decided to open it up, and repassed when the road became steep. Within a few minutes four guys pacelined past me including guy I had dropped—I felt good but not good enough to jump on a racing paceline into a headwind with an unknown climb ahead. Soon young guy in yellow jersey who I had ridden up Ebbets with also caught up to me—he preroad this a few days before and told me it was just all rollers with a short but “steep” end of about 9%. This built up my confidence--short 9%, no need to keep anything in gear and I started pushing the pace—young guy mostly drafting behind me, and we passed 2 riders who had dropped out of paceline that has zoomed by moments before.
We talked about century rides and training and the miles quickly melted away on this long but not harsh segment. We started the 9% climb and I zoomed ahead, but slacked off on the downhill—still no rest area in sight. Along came riding companion and a few other guys, now racing past. I jumped on the pedals, zoomed near the leader, and just when it looked like some fun was going to begin the rest stop appeared.
There we got a 6th sticker, a special 6th pass headband, and was signed up as one of the bonus pass finishers—they were toying with the idea of ordering a special jersey for us. Told that only 100 cyclists (out of 3000 on the ride) had come to the stop before us—it had been real quiet. Talked to the volunteers about what a great job they had done, and only negative was having Revenge Sports drink (the worst tasting.) Talked to one volunteer about the bonus passes, asked about Luther that looked like it was the toughest. He said that Luther is steep but short (only 3 miles), the toughest bonus pass was Pacific Grade—which we had done last year. Didn’t wait long, 10 minutes at the stop. Pushed off by myself and wasted a real nice effort going solo on downhill rollers with a tailwind (with occasional short uphill interruption, my favorite.)
Saw other cyclists coming in the other side and offered encouragement to them as I flew down the easy side—maybe 200 were coming in—and I got back to the junction right at 5:15, which was the cutoff time for anyone starting the 23 mile route. As it turned out—only 168 riders did the 6th pass.! (54 minutes in, 12.8 mph; 30 minutes return trip, 23 mph; 138 miles 600 riding minutes, 13.8 average)
Blue Lakes Road/ Hwy 88 to Home (10 miles, -1,700 then 422 for last 4 miles) Came out of Blue Lakes onto Hwy 88 at the 5:15 cutoff to start the 24 mile out-and back I just completed and volunteer was waiving in the last minute riders. First reaction was hey-it is after 5:15, they shouldn’t be let in to the “exclusive club.” Though about it for another second and thought cool—if I busted my ass and wanted to punish myself and was late by a minute or two, it is great that ride organizers aren’t that strict. Wonder if Sacto Wheelmen let riders on the 120 mile loop bonus at 2:02pm.
Started heading down the gradual downhill, thinking about the just completed bonus pass, the rest of the ride was essentially downhill, and the cutoff time, and I DID IT. All of a sudden a girl shot past me without saying anything—startled more by my daydreaming inturrupted than her great speed. I was incensed-hey, I just did the bonus pass (she didn’t have 6 stickers on her number) and COMPLETED THE DEATH RIDE, and quickly motored past her.
Toll of long riding was slowly catching up to me—luckily we were now on a downhill with a tailwind as starting to lose the oomph in my legs—but unlike the end of Davis, or Slug Gulch Sierra, I felt good, and wished that this epic ride would continue and not end so soon.
No hope for finishing the ride at 5:24 (12 hours from starting) so didn’t need to hammer, so rode at a brisk but not killer pace back to Woodfords. The road decscends more and more—yippie.. No one around to paceline with, no one passed and I didn’t pass anyone.
Made the sharp right turn at Woodford and OH SHIT, forgot that we had had an easy downhill going out. Now going in reverse the road was steep, and plenty of people were seemingly rolling backwards on the climb. Passed lots of people, when all of a sudden someone shot by me. Never mind he only had 5 stickers on his back, I tried to grab his wheel, tried to stand, but it was no dice. Didn’t bonk, break down like at the Sierra, but couldn’t push it up a notch. Half way up I just sat back on my seat and rode a steady pace up the incline, and quickly arrived at my car before Turtle Rock Park. Big grin on my face—not believing that I did 6 passes so easily, and sad that this great ride was over.
My odometer showed 146 miles but the route map had us at 152, and I had done every f’n inch. 747 minutes of total time, with 111 of breaks riding time was 636 minutes, so I covered 152 miles at 14.3 mph. A few years ago doing the flat Sunday loop in that time would have made me happy.
Breaks after Lunch Stop
Turtle Rock @ Car to Change Clothes (Mile 90) 12 minutes (77)
Woodfords; Water, Bathroom, Food (Mile 94) 5 minutes (82)
Pickets Junction (Mile 99) Water, stayed on bike 2 minutes (84)
Before left handed turn, Carson, toe cramp 2 minutes (86)
Carson Pass (Mile 108) Water, Bathroom, Food 15 minutes (101)
Blue Lakes Road (Mile 127) 10 Minutes (111)
Total for 153 miles, only 6 breaks of longer than 10 minutes
At car changed clothes and unfortunately had to stuff bike in trunk (as motel overhang threatened the seat.) Stood in a very very long line to collect the 5 pass pin (first long line of the whole event) and sign the poster for people who completed 5 passes—not much space left—I scribbled my name but drew in a little pumpkin. Walked around vendors again and picked up a coffee mug. Great bbq chicken and carrot salad, with another ice cream (at least this one Stone Cold Creamery)-sat next to a family from Nevada, and the guy and I were sharing ride stories. Band came on and I stood off to the side listing to them doing a James Brown piece. Was leaving and saw Jeanie of the Diablo Cyclists who I had ridden Palomaras with a few weeks back—where she noted that I was a good climber but weak on the downhills. I got excited and told her about my 50.5 downhill (which could have been 53 if my odometer was off.) Don’t know what excited me more, finishing the Death Ride so easily or breaking my speed record and not being the least bit nervous while doing it.
Back to long drive to overpriced motel where the hot tub was made to order, and I told Donna and Pat about the ride, the one that had been in the back of my mind for 5 years, but one that I never thought I’d do. In a year where everything was standing on its head, what started out as wanting to do 5 passes (Monitor2x, Ebbertts2x, and Pacific Grade) with so called friends wound up as a 6 pass ride with loads of friendly strangers.. Had to blaze a lonely trail—but things have a way of working out.
Published Death Ride Stats
Total Riders: 2850
Total 5 Pass Pin completions: 1751 - New Record!
Total 6 pass completions: 168 - Congratulations