Death Ride draws big crowd

Over the last 26 years, the Tour of the California Alps: Death Ride has developed its own mystique across the globe.

There is, of course, the more-than-5,000 riders who take part in the lottery that doles out the 3,000 available spots in the event. But there are also those that come just to be around for the massive one-weekend influx in Markleeville's population.

"I just like the atmosphere," said Leroy Rodriguez, of Santa Clara, Calif. "My wife and I come up here with our two dogs and we go camping."

Rodriguez participated in the Death Ride from 1995 to 1999 with his San Jose-based cycling club, completing all five passes each time. Even after he was done with the rigors of the tour, he couldn't resist the urge to come back and watch it.

"I fell in love with the area and we kept coming back," he said. "Without having to do the tour, I can still get all the benefits of the area."

And then there are those that come to participate even though the event is, for all intents and purposes, already full.

Tim Pfafman of Truckee planned on seeking out a spot early Saturday morning.

"I'm hoping for a spot to open up," he said. "They say that around 9 a.m., they have a better idea of any individuals who weren't able to show up and they are able to give those spots away.

"I've never been in this but I think can do it. I've ridden two of the passes before and did 100 miles last week."

Pfafman got seriously involved in cycling in the last year after he went to Europe on a cycling tour with his brother, a semi-pro cyclist himself.

"I've been mountain biking forever but I really fell in love with cycling after we toured Italy and Switzerland on bike last August," Pfafman said.

Even if he wasn't able to get into the Death Ride Saturday, Pfafman said he'd stay in the area.

"I'll just do Sonora Pass instead," he said.

Some riders said they average a 30- to 50-mile training ride during the week and bump it up to 80 or 90 miles on the weekends in preparation for the Death Ride.

"It's a challenging ride," Ted Winfield, Livermore, Calif., said. "I've done this five other times and made it the whole five passes just twice. It's always nice coming up here."

An estimated 1,700 attempted the five-pass, 129-mile course while the rest went for the one-, two-, three- or four-pass variety.

The ride is conducted annually as a joint effort between Carson Valley's Alta Alpina Cycling Club and the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

n Joey Crandall can be reached at or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.


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