Siclista Riders Take On The Death Ride 2008
July 12th, the day of the “Death Ride” was a memorable experience for the Siclistas. The 1st timers were anxious, excited, but determined. Veteran Siclistas shared words of encouragement and advice on how to survive the Death Ride.
Days before leading up to the ride, everyone was testing, tuning and double checking their bikes and equipment, making sure everything was in working order for the big day. A short ride into Markleeville from the campsite and then a short climb to Turtle Rock Park was needed to calm the newbies and to give them a taste of what lies ahead. Smoke from the nearby fires were a concern to most of us but when the big day came, the skies were clear.
The game plan was a simple one, wake up at 3:45AM, get ready and leave by 4:30AM. As we left our campsite, we could see other campsites lit up as other riders were also preparing to head out for the same adventure.
The 1st pass, Monitor Pass was a long 9 mile climb with a few breaks. About half way up, Bong (Orbea) caught up with me and apologized for being late at the rendezvous. He would end up being my ride partner for the remainder of the ride. We all made it to the top of Monitor Pass getting our 1st pass sticker and proceeded down the back side of Monitor Pass. The descent greeted us with breath taking views and the wide smooth road afforded us to accelerate to speeds exceeding 50 mph! What a rush!
Down at the bottom, we got our 2nd pass sticker and regrouped. Before the charge back up, many of us dumped our heavier gear, that is no longer needed, to the support team for pickup after the ride. A few pics here and there, and we were back in the saddle for the long climb back up. Though it was fun going down, thoughts of going back up it were not as happy.
As we proceeded up Monitor Pass, I could see Bong (Chicharon) and Benjie dance on the pedals as they quickly vanished from my sight. Part way up the climb, we were greeted by some young men stretched out along side the road, offering to refill our bottle(s) with Cytomax or water. Give them your bottle without stopping, and a relay began as the 1st young man would run ahead with your water bottle calling out your bib number and drink request prior to handing it over to the next young man who would do like wise. This concerted effort involved at least 5 to 6 of them. As you grind your way up toward the hydration station, your bottle is handed back to you with more words of encouragement and well wishes. These guys were awesome!
Back at the top of Monitor Pass! Two down, three to go. I stopped for water and a Cliff bar and regrouped with Bong (Orbea), Benjie, Bong (Chicharon), Dennis & John V. At this point, it was obvious that we could no longer ride as a group. During the second long climb, the thin air had started affecting some of the riders. With fatigue and the onset of cramps or soreness, doubts of finishing had entered the minds of the riders. We had only completed 35 miles!
We left Monitor Pass to continue on to Ebbetts Pass. The weather was warm but not too hot; it was bearable. The long climb to Ebbetts was done and got sticker number 3. I didn’t stop for a break there but continued down the back side of Ebbetts and I saw Benjie coming up! Man, this dude is flying! I’m all alone now and when I got down to the bottom of Ebbetts, I got sticker number 4. I ran into Bong (Orbea) and Dennis. We rested a bit and continued on. I saw John V coming down as we were climbing Ebbetts, but I didn’t see Bong (Chicharon). He was ahead of John V, and I must have missed him while going up. Up and over Ebbetts we go and went down to the lunch area. Bong (Orbea) and I had lunch; shortly thereafter, John V shows up. John V tells me he left Bong (Chicharon) at the bottom of the 4th pass. Dennis is nowhere in sight. Turns out he bypassed lunch and headed towards Markleeville to have lunch there, where his family was there waiting for him to cheer him on.
On the descent down Ebbetts toward Markleeville, there is loud thunder and a few drops of rain. We reach Markleeville and are greeted by crowds cheering. One of the loudest bunch in the crowd are my wife, Mary Ann, and family, all with cow bells ringing loudly as we approach. We had just completed 85 miles! They tell me that Benjie, Bong (Chitcharon) and Dennis were ahead of me. I dumped my warmers and other items no longer needed; it was warm in Markleeville.
Went past Turtle Rock Park and descended down to Woodfords Junction. I am hot; so I ride under the water shower provided by the support crew at Woodfords. It was a cold spray, but felt good. No sooner after the spray, I am greeted by a sudden downpour! The thunder storm caught up with us and doused us completely. Water pooled in my shoes, I was miserable and cold. I ran into Dennis, Bong (Chitcharon), Bong (Orbea) along side the road; they are resting while I continued on. A bit later, white little pebbles started pelting us. It was hailing! I had to get out of my saddle to generate more body heat. The effort is making me hungry and I realized I had no energy bars or gels since I dumped them all at Markleeville. I figured I can get some at the last stop before taking on the last pass. But it’s just pouring now, I reach the last rest stop and see riders crammed in under the awnings and its so thick with people that I had no idea if there was any food or not. I thought I was done for at that point. I started to dig deep into my back pockets and voila! I found a packet of fig bars that did not get tossed while in Markleeville. I ate it and went to get more Cytomax from the table when the rest of the Siclistas rode up and said they were not stopping and continued on. I told them I will catch up with them after I fill up my bottles.
Back on the road past Picketts Junction, 1 hour ahead of the cut off time. All the Siclistas are home free! More rain and more rain as I continued. I see Benjie coming down. Benjie is the first of the Siclistas to make 5 passes! I ran into both Bongs, John V and Dennis resting on the side of the road and continued on.
All the Siclistas that attempted the Death Ride finished 5 passes! We had a 100% completion of our riders. Good job guys!
I found out later that at Woodfords the temperature had dropped from 92 to 50 degrees in a matter of minutes. The hail started out the size of small ball bearing increasing in size up a quarter. The local sheriff course closed the course at Picketts Junction.
During the descent down Carson, my headset bolt was working its way out I caught sight of it when i was looking down at my computer. JohnV's rear tire had a big bulge on it. Possibly it heated up during the descents and got deformed.
View Additional Death Ride Pics here.