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Old 06-13-11, 07:27 PM   #1
MetinUz
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Alta Alpina Double Century ride report

This Saturday, I rode the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge double century. The ride starts at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville and summits 8 passes. The route is similar to the Death Ride, but done in reverse order and with Kingsbury, Luther and Blue Lakes added in. There are many other options in addition to the full double century, and the much smaller field and staggered start times mean that it never feels crowded.





The total climbing is over 20,000 ft, and four of the summits are over 8,000 ft, so altitude also becomes a factor. Before I get into the long report, I must say I was truly impressed by the great support and plan to ride this again.

I arrived Friday shortly before sunset, and camped by the side of Airport Road, less than a mile from the start.



The morning felt very cold. I also discovered that I had left my arm warmers at home, and had knee and leg warmers instead. Fortunately, I had added a larger seatpost bag, so decided to carry two jackets with me, and planned on rigging leg warmers as arm warmers using safety pins, if necessary. I left a few minutes before my 4am start time. The first 8 miles are downhill, and my hands were so numb that I made a u-turn to get heavier gloves, re-considered, made another u-turn and headed towards Kingsbury.

The view halfway up Kingsbury grade:



Quick re-supply at the top, and a fun descent back to the valley, then a steady climb up to Luther Pass. All the reset stops were well placed, and volunteers were eager to help each rider. This is the rest stop at top of Luther Pass:



A short descent, then climb again to Carson Pass, which is never too steep, but seems to forever. I really disliked this climb at the end of Death Ride, but it was quite nice in the morning with fresher legs and much less traffic:



After another smooth descent, Blue Lakes is next. The road is still closed because of the heavy snow this year, so it's only 4 miles after the turn. To make up the difference, we are re-routed to Carson River Road, Diamond Valley Road, and finally a quick out and back to Airport Road, before stopping for lunch.

By now I was getting warm, some fatigue was setting in, and the mild headwind was beginning to annoy me. The lunch stop back at Turtle Rock Park came just in time, and I felt ready to tackle the second half.

After a short downhill, the road climbs gently following Carson River:



Then you are reminded of what is ahead:



After crossing the cattle guards, the grade really kicks up:



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Old 06-13-11, 07:29 PM   #2
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The summit felt like riding in a snow tunnel, and the rest stop was carved onto the snow wall.



The descent to Hermite Valley was fast and fun, but the pavement was wet in places with all the melting snow. At the bottom, I used the next few minutes to dry and get warm. At this point, I realized that it was almost 4pm, and I had 3 hours to climb back to Ebbets, descend the more than 20 miles to Monitor turn-off, and then climb Monitor. Doable, but not a lot of margin. This ride has many cut-off times, but there is really only one that matters for 8-pass riders: You need to be on top of Monitor, ready to descend to Topaz by 7pm. The rest stop on top of Kingsbury opens at 5:30am, and the final check-in closes at 11pm, so regardless of start time one has to be able to ride from top of Kingsbury to top of Monitor in 13.5 hours.

With a new found urgency, I made it back up to Ebbets, then had hammered all the way to the base of Monitor. I am normally a very cautious descender, and prefer to recover rather than pedal downhill. I must have averaged 30mph in the descent, which also meant that I was quite tired when I started the long climb to Monitor. I had done this as the first climb in the Death Ride and it felt quite easy, but definitely gets you attention at mile 160. I started the climb at 5:15, and was now fairly sure that I was going to finish. Climbing up Monitor:



When I arrived at the top at 6:30 with half an hour margin, I had not rested for 2.5 hours. So I sat down, ate some food, and changed into warm clothes for the descent to Topaz Valley. I was surprised that a number of riders quit at this point, electing to descend back to start having made the cut-off. At this point, I felt relaxed enough to get off and pose for a picture at the marker:



Now comes the slog back up Monitor as the sun was setting. The valley I had started from looked dark, and the snow covered mountains looked incredible at the distance. I am normally spent and hoping to be done with the ride at this point in a double century, but this climb was quite enjoyable, even if slow.



By this point, there were only 3 riders behind me, and the rest stop crew checked each rider up the climb after they packed up. Later another SAG car passed by to make sure everyone was OK. I learned later that yet another SAG car stayed back with the last climber to make sure everyone was safe. This was really personalized attention.

It was almost dark back on top, so I elected to skip the stop and started the descent. I had changed into my regular glasses, which don't offer a lot of wind protection. Once the darkness set, it also got very cold with all the snow. So I limited my speed to high 30's and still had fun with the descent, with the moon occasionally peeking from the clouds and providing a little peripheral vision. The last 5 miles are a gentle uphill, and I was elated to see that park turnoff.

As soon as I checked in, a volunteer asked if I would like a Recoverite drink, and mixed it for me. There was plenty to of food to choose from. If I haven't said it yet, the support was the best I have seen. I am so grateful that I feel obliged to volunteer at an upcoming double.
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Old 06-13-11, 07:46 PM   #3
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Great report, great achievement, and fantastic photos. I'm champing at the bit for DR now.
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Old 06-13-11, 09:40 PM   #4
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Awesome ride report! I couldn't swing a trip down to do this ride and your photos and descriptions remind me of what I missed. Next year, for sure. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for a bit of bear tag in the morning. (My regular training ride takes me into lands that have more bears than people. Around here, that is a good thing; the bears are friendlier.)
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Old 06-13-11, 09:44 PM   #5
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And some stats:

Distance: 201.2 miles
Total time: 18:04
Ride time: 16:10
Ascent: 20,240 ft
Norm. power: 147 W
Total work: 7,100 kJ

Now the plan is to take it easy until Terrible Two this Saturday. The weather forecast is looking favorable, too (fingers crossed).
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Old 06-14-11, 11:35 AM   #6
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Thanks for the awesome report and pics man. I'll be in Terrible Two this Saturday also.
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Old 06-14-11, 06:59 PM   #7
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What a high quality report and photos. Thanks! Man, that's a lot of climbing up there where the air is rare.
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Old 06-14-11, 11:19 PM   #8
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I have a lot of respect for you for completing all passes and still finding time to snap some amazing photos. Congrats on finishing and thanks for the ride report!
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Old 06-15-11, 12:51 AM   #9
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Congrats on hitting them all. We likely passed each other somewhere on Ebbetts (I was on a recumbent with a orange day-glo bag); I was back to the rest stop at the bottom of the intersection with Monitor at 5pm.

Absolute agreement on the volunteers and their helpfulness. The ones on the backside were ready to park my bike for me and refill bottles while I rested (and the hot potatoes were great).

I mistook my ability to do rolling double centuries and steeper sustained climbs (on a MTB) as being enough to do all eight passes though. I pre-rode the front faces of Ebbetts and Monitor a couple days before, and was so demoralized with the times (5mph avg up Ebbetts, spinning the whole way) that I gave up thinking all eight passes were achievable. Rather than potentially suffer for 19.5 hours and get time barred, I decided I'd drive up the morning of and ride what I could in daylight and get home in time before the kids' bedtime. I somewhat regret not trying, but will be back next year (and probably with the road bike and not the recumbent).
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Old 06-16-11, 11:39 AM   #10
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Nice! We were out there riding Ebbets on Saturday, prepping for the Death Ride. The Alta Alpina folks are always friendly and do seem to put on a good ride.

JB
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Old 06-16-11, 10:33 PM   #11
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Thanks for a great ride report and pics...it was a pretty sweet day...1 pass or 8. Congrats on 8!
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