Interest in Death Ride grows |

Interest in Death Ride grows

No it’s not Critical Mass.

What it is, is the 20th annual Death Ride, which is closing down some major highways in Alpine County this weekend.

The 124-mile ride which regularly features about 2,400 riders who climb over 1,600 feet over three passes – Monitor (8,314 feet), Ebbett’s (8,730) and Carson (8,580) – has garnered accolades as one of the premier road rides in the Western United States.

“We’re one of the nine or 10 largest cycling events in the west,” Ride coordinator Jackie Johnson said.

Although the event has earned its reputation throughout the years, it wasn’t until this year that the popularity of the ride caused the event to sell out in four days.

“There was sort of craze or a frenzy that went on this year,” Jackson said. “For the first time this year, we had registration on the Internet, which opened it up to a whole other group of riders.”

In fact, so many riders wanted to join the ride that the site crashed two or three times in the crush of applications.

“They overwhelmed the Web site so much that they had to shut it down to process all the applications,” said Dave Scarborough, Alta Alpina Bike Club road ride coordinator and Death Ride volunteer.

Scarborough is one of about 500 or 600 people helping out with the event. The volunteers’ duties span from setting up relief stations for the riders to handing out T-shirts and putting up posters.

“Some people take their vacations so they can work at the Death Ride,” Jackson said.

Every year the volunteers have fun with the event. They even have rest station competitions. There are stations with a bike valet, bagel hors d’oeuvres, ice cream and another where the clothing theme is Hawaiian.

“There were riders saying they waited 100 miles for that ice cream last year,” Jackson said.

Only about half of last year’s field completed the entire course of extreme up and downhills. Many celebrities have ridden the event in the past. Last year, Gary Fischer of Fischer mountain bikes, rode the event and loved it.

“I asked him why he came and he said for the scenery, because the highways are closed and the reputation of the event,” Jackson said.

This year, Olympic mountain bike coach and world record time trial holder Arnie Baker will ride in the event.

The one-day ride closes off the State Route 89; Moniter Pass, from 5:30 a.m. to noon; and State Route 4 will reopen at 3 p.m.

The Death Ride helps a number of nonprofit organizations raise money. Among them are Volunteer Fire Departments in Markleeville and Woodfords, the Friends of the Library, Alpine Children’s Center, Alpine County Emergency Medical Services, Alpine County Search & Rescue and the Markleeville Community Park Volunteers.

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