Truckee cyclist first to finish ’06 Death Ride |

Truckee cyclist first to finish ’06 Death Ride

Mike Houser

TURTLE ROCK PARK – With cars lined up on the side of the road for miles amid a bucolic countryside, the setting was vaguely reminiscent of Woodstock or Altamont.

But instead of naked flower children, Hell’s Angels or the Rolling Stones getting crazy at Turtle Rock Park on Saturday, it was an estimated 3,000 cyclists who were grinding their way through the Tour of the California Alps, also known as the 26th annual Death Ride.

Of those 3,000 participants, roughly 1,700 chose to take on the most difficult challenge – a five-pass, 129-mile course with a cumulative vertical gain of 16,000 feet.

Although some may treat it as such, the Death Ride is not a competition. Rather, the honor was in finishing the course, signing a skull-laden board and maybe besting personal records.

Jesse Bushey, of Squaw Valley, was the first cyclist to cross the finish line in the five-pass event, with a time of 7 hours, 9.49 seconds, which was a personal best.

The 23-year-old Bushey, an apprentice blacksmith for Mountain Forge in Truckee, said he rides about 200 miles a week and participated in his inaugural Death Ride last year, finishing “around fourth” in roughly 7:35.

“It was a killer ride (this year). Phenomenal,” said the 6-foot, 178-pound Bushey, who was sporting a mohawk. “The roads are killer, the climbs are really worthy. There was no wind today. The clouds kept it cool.”

Originally from Cabot, Vt., Bushey said he was already looking forward to next year’s Death Ride.

“I want to break my own record, my own personal time,” Bushey said. “It’s pretty motivating. It’s awesome the way all of these people turn out to do a big ride like this.”

When asked which part of the course was most difficult for him, Bushey smiled.

“Carson Pass, for sure,” he said. “You just lag, get tired. (The vertical gain) is pretty gradual, really. But you reach that part and you’re toast. I was, anyway.”

After his win, Bushey said he was ready for a little post-race celebration of pizza and watching the Tour de France.

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