Death Ride puts limits to the test |

Death Ride puts limits to the test

Mary Thompson

The Death Ride – a 129-mile course over five Sierra passes – takes bike riders on a muscle-burning tour through California’s loneliest county. After a total vertical climb of 16,000 feet, in the thin air of the high altitude, the event’s name says it all.

“There are some rides that have more miles but I’m not aware of any rides (in California) that have this much vertical climb,” said Bob Anderson, Death Ride coordinator.

But despite its ominous title, Anderson said Saturday’s ride brought 2,500 participants and about 2,500 spectators – a crowd almost three times the size of its host’s population.

“It is the single biggest event in Alpine County,” he said. “We fill hotel rooms in Carson City, South Lake Tahoe, Markleeville and Reno.”

Anderson said the ride brings out all types of biking enthusiasts.

“It’s not a race so we get some people who ride to the top (of the first pass), get something to eat and then turn around and call it a day,” he said. “There’s also the highly conditioned athletes who come out to test themselves and push their limits.”

South Lake Tahoe resident Peter Fink pushed his limits in this year’s Death Ride. This was the first time he was able to complete the ride in four different attempts.

“I trained hard and it all paid off,” he said. “People say the hardest climb is the front side of Ebbetts Pass, but for me it was the climb coming out of Woodfords toward Hope Valley,” he said.

Fink said his normal training routine included rides over Kingsbury Grade, down to Carson Valley and back to Tahoe. He said he also enjoys riding the Monitor Pass area to get in shape.

Monitor Pass is the first summit that riders tackle on the grueling 129-mile course. The riders, starting from Turtle Rock Park near Markleeville on State Route 89, grind up the pass and coast down the other side to U.S. Highway 395 only to turn around and ride back up the other side. At the junction of State Route 89 and State Route 4, the riders make the push up Ebbetts pass and down into Hermit Valley. From Hermit Valley, they turn around, head back up Ebbetts Pass and coast along the East Fork of the Carson River toward State Route 89, which leads to Carson Pass – the last summit on the roster.

Fink said it took a total of nine hours and 50 minutes for him to complete the ride.

“I slept 10 hours after it was all over, but I feel fine,” he said. “My butt is a little sore though.”

Others didn’t fare as well as Fink.

According to Anderson, three riders required transportation from the course. Two men, who crashed on Ebbetts Pass, had to be transported by Care Flight helicopter to Washoe Valley Medical Center. A women was taken by ambulance to Barton Memorial Hospital for dehydration sickness. Anderson said the two men were released from the hospital and the woman was kept overnight but was expected to be released Sunday morning.

Anderson said that it is not unusual to have a few minor injuries with a bicycle event as large as this one and that the weather played a part in keeping the event safe.

“It couldn’t have been better,” he said. “It was cool in the morning and gradually got warmer between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. but the clouds came in and saved us from getting too hot.

“It was the best ride we’ve done.”

Proceeds from the ride, which is hosted by the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and the Alta Alpina Cycling Club of the Carson Valley, help to fund the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce as well as other nonprofit organizations such as the county library, Alpine County Search and Rescue, Alpine County Children’s Center and the Markleeville Volunteer Fire Department.

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