Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cycling Ebberts Pass - Death Ride Training

Scott had some free time early in the morning, when most people are asleep. I arrived at their place at 5.30, put my bike in Scott's truck, faffed around a lot, and then we got under way (with coffee).

It's already light at 5.30! The drive up towards Ebberts was awesome. Mountain roads, fast flowing rivers and spring greenery.

We parked up a few miles from the start of the big climb and got started. I felt the need to lose things and faff a lot before we got started - must have been the early hour.

We rode uphill for a few miles, wearing with lycra arms and legs, long fingered gloves and a windproof. It was still chilly though, and we looked forward to getting out of the early morning shadows of trees and mountains.

The first few miles uphill were really just to get the legs moving and don't really count. The 'official' start of the climb was at a cattle grid. I didn't see any cattle though so perhaps it is to keep bears out!

Past the grid, the road takes a sharp turn up hill but fortunately it's only short. The rest of the climb is much more reasonable with only short sections of road ahead visible at any time. An excellent place to ride a bike and the climbing warmed us up a bit, as did the early morning sun as it came out.

We came across one section of the road which was covered in rock fall gravel and stones. Ebberts Pass has only been open for a few days so this was probably new. I tried to remember this spot for the way down, which I knew would be considerably faster.

Near the top we hit the snowline and came upon banked up snow at the side of the road. My camera failed me but one shot was of me holding my bike overhead and still not touching the top of the snow wall! As well as being walled in, the road narrows towards the top of Ebberts and in a few places, small streams of water crossing the road had turned to thick ice. I tried to note that for the way down too!

From the top (8,700ft) we headed down the back side of Ebberts but I was much more careful than usual. An Ebberts descent could easily reach 40mph but with ice across the road it didn't seem like fun. What's more is that over the top of Ebberts the scenary in the distance turned into a winter wonderland with snow still everywhere in this high mountain valley. I'm pretty disappointed to have lost my photos of it. The most notable thing about the descent was the cold. I thought my chin and was going to completely freeze! (no need to send a scarf Mum, I won't wear it on the bike!).

You can see from the race profile on the Death Ride that you don't lose all your height gain when you get to the back of Ebberts, so the ride back to the top isn't so bad. However, you do see longer stretches of uphill than you did on the way up from the other side, so mentally you need a bit more focus.

Reaching the top we paused for a bit and tried to remember where those bad icy patches and rockfalls were to be found. Scott explained that the one rule was, "no falling off". Pretty soon I nearly broke this rule. With the shadows across the road the ice was hard to see. The first I knew of the first patch was when my back wheel kicked out sideways. Fortunately my relexes seem to have learned to let go of brakes, which I did, and things straightened up as I cleared the first band of ice, seconds before going over the second one, increasing speed on this steep downhill. Past the ice I scrubbed off some speed and remembered to continue breathing.

The descent was warmer than our first and the early morning light made for some excellent views of green trees and rushing water. Near the bottom we came upon some cyclists heading up the way we'd come. It's a quite smug feeling to know that we were finishing around 9am while they were getting started! One among them was Scott Door from bsgettis in Carson.

An excellent ride out. 35 miles in all and maybe 3,500ft of climbing. The spring is awesome around here.


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