Death Ride a sellout this year |

Death Ride a sellout this year

While Alpine County may like to portray itself as the undiscovered gem of the Sierra Nevada, the area is no secret among cyclists. Twenty-five hundred bicycling enthusiasts have already signed up for the annual Death Ride, resulting in a complete sellout for the Saturday, July 10 event which starts near Markleeville.

“Not even Bill Clinton could get in now,” joked Tim Rowe, the coordinator of the 129-mile cycling tour which derives its name from the fact it scales five mountain passes and includes 16,000 feet of climbing. “There are no exceptions. Friends of friends of mine are still trying to get in, and I have to tell them ‘I’m sorry.’

“I even had to turn down one cyclist who is biking across the country and wanted to stop and do the Death Ride. He was going to bike here from the Bay Area.”

This year’s Death Ride reached its capacity of riders on June 10. Last year’s ride didn’t reach capacity until the week before the event, but last year’s tour included 2,750 cyclists. Rowe said the number of total riders was reduced to make both California Department of Transportation and Death Ride participants happier.

“People were complaining about the lines at the rest stops last year,” Rowe said. “With fewer riders, it will be less crowded and safer. Caltrans, which issues the permits for the Death Ride, liked the idea of decreasing the number of riders.”

Rowe also said he believed the Death Ride sold out quickly because people remembered the perfect weather conditions for the ’98 ride, which resulted in a record number of five-pass finishers. He also noted it’s been great cycling weather this spring, allowing athletes ample time to train for the event.

“The weather’s been nice for cycling this spring – cool, yet still nice enough for riding,” Rowe said.

This year’s Death Ride follows the same course as the ’98 route. Starting from Turtle Rock Park between Markleeville and Woodfords, the ride goes over Monitor Pass to U.S. Highway 395, then turns around and goes back over Monitor Pass to State Route 4 and then heads up and over Ebbetts Pass to Hermit Valley. Riders turn around there and go back over Ebbetts Pass and down to Woodfords, where an ascent and descent of Carson Pass concludes the tortuous test of a cyclist’s climbing ability.

Motorists should be aware that State Route 89 from Turtle Rock Park to U.S. Highway 395 will be closed from 5:30 a.m. until noon and State Route 4 to Hermit Valley will be closed from 5:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. State Route 88 over Carson Pass will remain open through the day.

As if five passes and 16,000 feet of climbing weren’t enough, Rowe said it’s possible a sixth pass will be added for the 2000 Death Ride.

With its 2,500 riders and at least 2,500 additional spectators and rider supporters, the Death Ride is estimated to bring at least 5,000 people to Alpine County during the weekend, making it the largest annual event in the county. In addition to the infusion of people, the event is also a major fund-raiser for many organizations, including the Alpine County Search and Rescue, the Alpine Children’s Center, the Friends of the Library and both the Markleeville and Woodfords volunteer fire departments.

Cycling notes: Although the Death Ride is closed to cyclists, it is still in need of volunteers. Leave a message at 530-694-2475 if you can volunteer at least three hours. The Alta Alpina Cycling Club, a major sponsors of the Death Ride, is contesting Wednesday night races through the summer and also needs volunteers. For information, call 586-0094.

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