Death Ride to test cyclists | SierraSun.com

Death Ride to test cyclists

Charles Whisnand
Sun News Service

It has become the Holy Grail for endurance cycling enthusiasts to go through their annual rite of passage.

The Death Ride presented by the Alpine Chamber of Commerce will again test the will of riders this Saturday. For those who are “lucky” enough to cover the entire course on Saturday, they will have covered 129 miles and 16,000 feet of climbing over five passes through the Sierra Nevada right here in our backyard.

The event will begin at the start-finish line at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville at 5:30 a.m. Although it’s not a race and no winners are declared, the first riders who have covered the entire course are expected back at Turtle Rock Park sometime around 2 p.m.

The course covers both sides of Monitor Pass (Highway 89), both sides of Ebbetts Pass (Highway 4) and the east side of Carson Pass (Highway 88).

Every year, 5,000 riders register for the 3,000 slots in the event between December and February. Three-thousand riders are then randomly chosen for the event.

If there are any no-shows, interested riders can still register for the event at 9 p.m. Friday for $100 at Turtle Rock Park.

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Riders who are randomly chosen can also sell or give away their spots to another rider.

Alpine Chamber of Commerce executive director Teresa Burkhauser said she’s still receiving calls each day from riders who still want to enter the event.

“It doesn’t stop,” she said. “I think the popularity (of the event) is still very strong. We are usually able to accommodate everybody who wants to ride.”

Burkhauser said she doesn’t know how the high gas prices will affect the turnout. The price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is in the $4.70 range in California, so many riders coming from the state will have to play a steep price.

There’s also been the smoke from all of the California wildfires and Burkhauser said she doesn’t know how that will affect the event. “It’s anybody’s guess,” she said.

At least it looks like the weather will cooperate. Saturday’s temperature is expected to be 85 degrees.

“We’re hoping for a perfect Chamber of Commerce day out here in Alpine County,” Burkhauser said. “Eighty-five would be comfortable.”

While the beauty of the Lake Tahoe area is a obvious draw, Burkhauser said another reason why the event is so popular is its support. More than 700 volunteers help put on the event.

“It’s probably one of the best supported races in the West Coast,” Burkhauser said. “It is just so well supported.”

Burkhauser noted that there are 13 water stations and one lunch station along the course. There are also more than 25 sponsors involved in the event.

Along with being a huge economic boost in Alpine County, Burkhauser said many nonprofit groups from Alpine and Douglas Counties and the Tahoe area benefit.

Burkhauser said 1,800 of the 3,000 riders are expected to complete all five passes.

“I think it’s basically the challenge to the riders themselves,” said Burkhauser on why riders endure the Death Ride. “They race against themselves to try to better their times from past years.”