Death Ride through the California Alps |

Death Ride through the California Alps

by Caryn Haller

Cyclists enter the Woodfords rest stop Saturday before riding up Carson Pass.
Caryn Haller / | The RECORDCOURIER

Cowbells and applause rang out from spectators and volunteers Saturday morning with each cyclist arriving at the Woodfords aid station.

Approximately 3,000 riders tested themselves in the 33rd annual Death Ride against 16,000 feet of climbing over five passes.

John Culligan of Salinas, Calif., accepted the challenge for the first time this year, stopping for a short break in Woodfords before starting the 15-mile climb up Carson Pass and back.

“It’s going good. I’m a nut who likes to ride his bike all day,” he said. “This is absolutely the best supported ride I’ve ever been on. I’ve just got to make my way up the mountain here, and I’ll be home free.”

The course covers both sides of Monitor Pass, both sides of Ebbetts Pass, and the east side of Carson Pass.

The Woodfords stop was one of 13 set up along the 129-mile route.

Al Moss and 30 other volunteers helped the riders make repairs, refill sports bottles or hold their bikes while they grabbed a bite to eat.

“We’ve been doing this aid station for six years,” the Woodfords resident said. “We like it because we’re a bunch of old folks who can’t ride it, but like to be involved in it.”

Alamo, Calif., resident Becky Barron was a few miles ahead of her 71-year-old father who has finished the Death Ride five times.

“The hardest part was Monitor and Ebbetts Pass. People were flying down the hills pretty fast on Monitor,” Barron said. “It’s going good and the weather has been nice. It’s beautiful country, and the support is great.”

Tyler Toulouse of Reno said his first Death Ride wasn’t as hard as he thought he would be.

“It’s not too bad. It’s hard, but not outrageously hard,” he added. “I feel I’m doing pretty well, ahead of most of the group at least.”

Jeff Spronk of Sacramento enjoyed the weather more this year than last year. The temperature in Markleeville was in the mid-80s by noon.

“It’s great, nice and cool compared to last year,” he said. “They paved the back side of Ebbetts which made it a smooth ride.”

Jeannine Kechely of Carson City waited with her family in Woodfords for her husband, Mike, and 16-year-old nephew Michael, to come through.

“My husband and nephew trained together to do this ride. It’s my husband’s fifth year, and Michael’s first,” she said. “They started at 3 a.m., and are doing all five passes. They’re going for it.”

Michael’s mother, Diana Dittemore, said her son got into cycling two years ago.

“He hasn’t ridden a lot, but he did track this year so that was good training,” she said. “He was a little nervous, but psyched.”

Michael and his uncle arrived at Woodfords just before noon to the smiles and cheers of their family and friends.

“It’s been fun, tiring, but fun,” Michael said of his first Death Ride. “So far the back side of Ebbetts was the hardest.”

Uncle Mike was proud of how well his nephew was doing.

“He’s doing great,” Mike said. “He actually was ahead of me over both sides of Monitor, so I had to smoke him pulling into here.”

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