With the Death ride approaching on July 14th, last Thursday I was looking for some ride on the weekend that would be good training. There was not a long enough ride on Saturday and the one good ride list in the club on Sunday conflicted with a club meeting I had that afternoon. So I thought, what the heck, why not do the Climb to Kaiser ride instead.
I checked the website and they still had registration open until 11 pm that evening, so I signed up and swallowed the higher fee for late registration. I then contacted Paul (who will do the 508 with me) who was looking to share a ride and room. He told me he had already matched up with Gary (who will be camping with me for the Death Ride). So I contacted Gary and asked to sleep in the same room and I would bring my pad and sleeping bag and sleep on the floor.
My next decision was which bike to take. My new bike is lighter and I feel more secure descending on it, but it has only a double crankshaft so not nearly as low of a gear as my older Trek. The Climb to Kaiser has 13,500 feet of climbing (and 155 miles) so I was wondering if I could do it with a double. I decided that I could and ended up taking the new bike.
We all stayed at the Best Western motel in Clovis, which is the town that adjoins Fresno. We decided to get up at 4;15 am, but somehow everyone started to get up at 4. It was still dark as we drove the car over to the high school for the start of the ride but by the time the ride was ready to start at 5:30 am, it was light enough to not use lights.
The mass start was a lot of fun, maybe about 400 cyclists all riding together following a police escort through the city streets, with no need to stop at the stop lights or stop signs. The pace was fast, ranging from 22 to 27 mph. I was surprised that much of the group stayed together at that pace, but I think we had a tailwind and when you are in a big pack (peleton) you kind of get sucked alone. I had entered the mass start toward the back so I was working my way up toward the front. After 25 miles we started to reach some rollers so I knew I needed to move up closer to near the front since the good climbers would be there. As we started to do a little climbing it was easy to pass people and the group started to really spread out.
I felt good as we more or less climbed for the next 55 mile, with a few downhills and some flatter sections. It was not long before I found myself around the same people. Climbing really separates people out. It was a beautiful course and the weather was wonderful. I had heard bad things about this ride but found it to be a lot of fun. Some grades were up to 20% but I was able to do fine with my double. As we turned off to go up Kaiser Pass we were already at 7,000 feet so I was feeling the effect of less oxygen. The road narrowed down to a single lane and the air got thinner as we climbed up a rather steep section to the summit at 9,100 feet. My legs were fine but I was breathing hard to get enough air. When I arrived I was greeted by some cheering volunteers and some horn blasts signaling finally reaching the top. Since this part of the course was an out and back, I had seen about 6 riders coming down as I was still climbing and I saw about the same at the top, so I knew I was near the front. I asked and was told I was the 12th guy to reach the summit, which I felt good about.
We had not stopped very long at any of the rest stops, usually just long enough to fill the water bottles and stuff some food in the jersey pockets so eat while riding. But up at the top I did take a few extra minutes to drink a soft drink, which tasted mighty fine.
Gary reach the summit very shortly after I did and so we started down together. We reached back to the main road and were not sure which way to go, but Jeff, another club member, who was just coming up and told gave us the directions before I could get my route sheet out of my pocket to check. We met two other riders that we kind of grouped with. I could go a bit a head of them on the climb over the rollers, but would lose them on the downhills. After awhile it was all downhill and I lost the pack. I rode the rest of the ride solo, except for maybe about 8 miles where I had come upon a younger guy would was real tired, so I pulled him. He gave a few pulls but was clearly worn down. The last 20 miles were flat, hot and a headwind. It is not fun ridding solo like that, but I thought it was good 508 training.
I finished back at the start at 3:45, for a total time of 10 hours 15 minutes. When I checked the results the next day I was 24th overall. Gary had come in 19th. I was real happy with how I did considering it was my first Climb to Kaiser and I decided at the last minute to do the ride. It is clearly a ride I want to do again.