Cycling: Death Ride celebrates 30th year this weekend

Covering 129 miles with more than 15,000 feet of climbing over five mountain passes in a single day on a bike is a feat that takes months, even years, of preparation.

The 30th annual Tour of the California Alps Death Ride will bring nearly 3,000 cyclists into Alpine County Saturday with the intentions of completing what some would call one of the most grueling one-day cycling events in the country.

It's certainly not something one can just pick up a month before and hope to complete.

Is it?

"That's pretty much what I'm looking at," said Carson Valley resident Peter Price, who owns Johnson Lane Fitness in Minden and is an avid cyclist and triathlete. "I just started the business a little while ago and that's been an all day deal, and then the weather this year hasn't allowed much regular training time. I've only been able to settle into a routine over the last month or so. We've been riding Kingsbury Grade three or four times a week. I'll just have to see how it goes on Saturday."

It would seem a lot of participants from around the region are in the same boat, due to the exceptionally wet winter season.

It's not like Price is going into this as a novice, however.

Price is an Iron Man triathlon veteran and completed all five passes of the Death Ride in 2004.

"It was kind of the culmination of a 10-year dream for me," Price said of his first Death Ride. "It's a unique ride, there's no doubt about it.

"There are two schools of thought on how to attack it - you can either go out and get it done fast and not enjoy yourself too much or you go out and socialize a bit and have fun with it. That first time I just tried to push through it. This year I think I'm taking it more on the other approach."

Price has been training a group of Death Ride hopefuls out of his Johnson Lane gym over the last few months, but the long winter with relatively frequent precipitation systems made it difficult to get out on the road.

"Training indoors is one thing, but you have no wind resistance, no cold, no heat, you aren't fighting what you'd see on a real mountain," Price said. "It's just tough to simulate what you'll be going through without actually being out there. It takes some planning."

The weather was such an obstacle this year that several potential Death Riders were pulling out of the event due not being able to properly train.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no less than 20 Death Ride tickets were available on eBay and Craigslist. Generally, due to the event filling to capacity months in advance is only open to late entries who show up the day of the race in the hopes of claiming a "no-show" ticket.

"It's just been that kind of year," Price aid. "People have been able to commute to work maybe, but with the lack of safe training conditions on the mountains, it just wasn't cutting it for preparation.

"There are a lot of serious cyclists out there that had to pack it in because they couldn't get the right amount of training in. There are a lot of other people who are just going to give it their best and see what happens."

Last year, 2,200 riders out of the 2,800 registered finished all five passes, setting the event's all-time record.

"It's quite a feeling when you finish," Price said. "A ride like this really takes its toll on your back and neck. It can really be a grind.

"Everyone comes out for different reasons. There are people that just want to complete one pass, some want to do all five. Some people just want to do better than they did the previous year. Everyone has a personal thing they want to accomplish.

"It's not about the competition. It's timed, but it's about doing what you personally set out to do."

Start time for the Death Ride is 5:30 a.m. Saturday. All riders will have to be off the course by 8 p.m.

The road from the Markleeville Courthouse o the Highway 89/4 junction will be closed from 5 to 8 a.m. Saturday. The Monitor and Ebbetts passes will be closed starting at 5 a.m. Monitor will reopen at noon and Ebbetts will reopen at 3 p.m.

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


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