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.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gardnerville 100 mile cycle ride by Alta Alpina & Big Daddy

I arrived at Big Daddys Bike store in Minden just before 8am for the Gardnerville 100 mile ride (with around 8,000ft of climb). I was unsurprised but still impressed by the usual high standard of organization for Alta Alpina events. Sign ups were done quickly and food was on hand to carb up before the start and to fill your pockets for the day. During the whole ride, food, water and support were great. I wonder who paid for it all. The ride was free to Alta Alpina members and it was awesome, I would have happily paid to ride it with that level of support.

After a quick team photo we set off South down the 395 to climb towards lake Topaz at a relaxed pace. It was disappointing to see some much junk in the cycle lane on the 395 but I guess that's true of cycle lanes everywhere that car is king. It was nice to ride out with such a friendly bunch. My first camera stop was I guess at about 12 miles to snap Topaz. It was still a little cool at this time, especially descending towards the last stretch to Topaz so my extra Lyra sleeves were handy (they were fairly handy for descents all day in fact).
Lake Topaz

Just around the corner from Topaz we turned right to head up the long climb to the top of Monitor (8,000ft+). This "backside" of Monitor seems very dry and desert-like but it was pretty pleasant early in the morning, although the snow-line looked a long way up for a very long time.

Here's Big Daddy (Keith) himself getting stuck in to Monitor (note snow-line!).
Big Daddy Himself - climbing Monitor

Looking back down on the road we had climbed. It's not as scorched as it usually feels here but I think the photo shows the kind of dryness this side of the mountain is capable of. This is usually the second big climb on the Death Ride.
Looking back down Monitor

Approaching the snow-line at last...
Slow climb up monitor

Into the snow-line we even came upon a late season skier demonstrating some impressive skills given the conditions...
Late spring skiing!

A very welcome site at the top was the support vehicle run by Curtis, who organizes lots of the larger local bike events. There was loads of great food and I was pretty hungry by now so I'm sure I ate plenty and sat in Curtis' spare chair. Very gratifying to earn the opportunity to eat lots and remember the simple pleasure of drinking water when you really need it. Curtis played an excellent race and managed to be available to us on the top of Monitor, on the way up Woodfords, on the top of Luther and at the bottom of Kingsbury - not a bad trick when supporting a bunch of diversely skilled riders but always a very welcome sight.
Curtis doing ride support

Just over the hill was an amazing view. I should have plumetted down this descent ready for the hill the other side but I had to slow down to take some photos. Que bonitas las Sierras!
Top of Monitor Pass

The ride down Monitor was awesome. Very fast indeed, most of it done over 30mph with a top speed of 45mph. I wasn't very impressed when a huge RV overtook and sprayed me with water from somewhere near the back of the truck - I wondered what kind of 'water' and RV might be throwing from the rear and didn't like to dwell on it too long. In the end I braked a bit to let him get away.

Hitting the stop sign at the bottom of the descent was a bit disappointing after so much speed fun but the ride to Markleeville, Turtle Rock Park and the junction at Woodfords was much nicer than I remember it from the Death Ride. Turning left onto Woodfords Canyon was the decision point to go for 100 mile ride instead of a 70 mile ride. The 30 extra miles didn't sound much but involved 2 more significant climbs. My resolve was solid, I turned left and got on with the 100.

After a while my knee was starting to feel not 100% so I took it a bit easy and had a couple of breaks. One was for a photo opportunity by the Carson River. Cycling is a great way to notice things like this.
Carson River

I was pleased to finally see stores I recognized and Sorenson's Resort just in front of my right turn at Pickett's Junction before heading up Luther. By now I realized I was probably the last of the 100 mile riders, the pack behind presumably opting for 70 miles and an early barbeque at Big Daddys.

Luther itself was less of a problem than Woodfords. I guess mentally Luther seems like a significant climb and isn't, and Woodfords seems like an insignificant climb and isn't! Nearing the top of Luther I plotted my path around a stick in the road only to realize too late that it was a snake. Had i realized earlier I would have given it more room! It looked something like this... (not my photo)

I was pleased to see Curtis at the top of Luther. As he saw me he fixed me a bagel with peanut butter and jelly (jam) and made sure I had water and fruit and cookies. I realized he'd waited around for me and had to get going to meet the rest of the group at the bottom of Kingsbury so I let him get on his way as I downed some fizzy drink and the rest of my food (well, the food in my hands, my pocket's were full too!).

Descending Luther was pretty fun and it was nice to know that descending to Lake Tahoe would mean that I would not lose all of the altitude I had gained (Tahoe is about 6,300ft). Pioneer Trail has a horrible road surface but it's a great way to avoid the traffic at South Lake Tahoe, so on balance, much safer and more relaxing to ride on, though I passed some riders from the group with a puncture (one of several I'd seen that day). I finally made it to the bottom of Kingsbury and had some more food and water from Curtis at the Exxon station there, and sat and chewed the fat for a while too.

Finally I had to face the last 3 mile & 1,000ft climb up over Kingsbury before descending 3,000ft the other side. The climb was pretty tough but felt quite short really. At the top I rested a little to get my legs ready for the big descent, I didn't want to be too tired on that. Setting off I was quickly doing over 40mph and eventually got to 48mph. I think my cornering improved a bit throughout the day following some advice from Big Daddy. It's pretty fun to descend 8 miles and 3,000ft all in one go but I felt I needed a little more of the road than was available in the cycle lane so I had to stay very aware of what was behind me. Kingsbury is pretty twisty so most people don't drive down it too fast so I wasn't really in anyone's way. I was certainly very nice to be coming down from the last climb of the day.

At the bottom it flattened out, which meant more pedalling, but it seemed to stay on a gradual descent for a while longer so I seemed to trickle along the last 7 miles to Big Daddies store. Although I was last there were still quite a few tired cyclists sitting around and I was glad of a seat and a couple more bagels.

I averaged about 13.2mph whilst pedalling (not including stops) and my maxium speed was 47.8mph (cool).

Awesome rideout and great organization.

Here's an outline of the climb involved...


At 10:33 am, Anonymous Steve Field said...

Impressive stuff Litsl. How's things out there? You must be pretty fit just now. Are you planning on being over here at anytime? Steve


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