Death Ride to test cyclists on Saturday |

Death Ride to test cyclists on Saturday

Charles Whisnand

If this year’s Tour of the California Alps, also known as the Death Ride, had been held during the middle of this week, riders might have received a little bit of a break from the 100-degree heat.

But the midweek thunder showers that have rolled through the area, causing temperatures to cool off to a somewhat bearable lower 90s, aren’t supposed to be around on Saturday when the Death Ride takes place. Temperatures are supposed to be back up near 100 in this area by the weekend.

But this area’s weather is always unpredictable, and Saturday’s riders surely won’t mind an unexpected thundershower as they finish the event on Saturday afternoon.

The event, sponsored by the Alta Alpina Cycling Club and the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, will begin at about 5:30 a.m. at the start/finish line at Turtle Rock Park in Markleville. Riders who accept the challenge of covering all 129 miles of the event will climb 15,000 feet over five passes, including Monitor Pass (8,314-foot elevation), Ebbetts Pass (8,730) and Carson Pass (8,560).

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Alta Alpina president Jennie Hamiter said organizers are always ready for extremely hot conditions. “Every year we’re pretty prepared for it,” Hamiter said. “It could be really hot.”

It’s happened in the past where riders have ridden through extremely hot conditions during the day, then were greeted by thundershowers. But that’s not expected to happen this year. “The way things look it’s going to be hot everywhere all day long,” Hamiter said. “We’re always prepared to help people out.”

Whenever a rider is having problems and has to be taken off the course, there’s normally not much resistance, Hamiter said. “Usually people know they’re messed up,” she said. “They would ask for help.”

But Hamiter said there’s always obviously a concern about potentially hot conditions. “It’s a challenge course to start with and the heat certainly doesn’t help,” she said.

Hamiter said every precaution is taken, including 10 motorcyclists and two automobiles that are used to monitor riders in the race. Motorcycles are mostly used because they’re more “nimble,” Hamiter said, and during the event organizers try to keep the course as free of traffic as possible.

Most of the course is closed to traffic during the event. Hamiter is just one of 550 volunteers who help out with the event.

Annually about 4,000 people pay their entry fee to enter a lottery in which 3,000 riders are selected to participate in the event. Those who are selected are able to sell their entries and the Alpine Chamber of Commerce is swamped with calls helping with the process, Hamiter said.

Hamiter said there are many reasons for why so many riders are attracted to the event.

“Certainly the challenge is No. 1,” she said.

The name Death Ride is another drawing card, Hamiter said. “It gives it a certain mystique and a certain amount of fame,” she said.

Another factor that makes the event unique is how steep the climbs are. “The climbs are so relentless,” Hamiter said.

The Tahoe area is certainly another attraction.

“It’s a beautiful ride,” Hamiter said. “The scenery can’t be beat anywhere.”


Highway 89 over Monitor Pass from the junction of Highway 395 to the junction of State Route 89/4 will be closed to all traffic from 5 a.m. to noon Saturday. Highway 4 over Ebbett’s Pass will be closed to all traffic from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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