Everest Challenge, brief race report

The Everest Challenge is a beautiful ride and makes you feel a little bit closer to the essence of life.   I finished for the second year in a row.  Since we met I hope I can do the Everest Challenge every year.  The promoter has some preliminary results and other fun stuff on his facebook page here:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/AntiGravity-Cycling/337992672950024

There are so many good reasons to do this event.  The primary one for me is the setting in the Owens Valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County California.  It is one of the best places on earth for bicyclists that like to ride up mountain roads.  This year it was snowing in the mountains and sporadically raining in the valley.  The entire valley smelled like wet sagebrush, artemisia tridentata.  A 10,000′ elevation difference sets off the valley from the mountain tops.  The prominent wall of mountains one sees when approaching the Sierra from the eastern side appears to rise straight up.  The sheer rock walls and icy crags folded beneath the jagged peak lines signal to travelers like a hand beckoning up from the earth.  The valley is enormous and graced with sparse vegetation so the form of every mountainside fold leaps out in light and shadow.  One wonders what this different kind of landscape might be good for, so unlike anything else we’ve ever seen.  It is certainly good for bicycling.  It takes a while to adjust to this environment but it grows on you.

Those mountains are so unimaginably high and habitat so different the bike racers standing in the valley really couldn’t know what the weather was like looking up to the top of the climbs.  When we rode up there we found out it was bitterly cold, and sometimes raining and snowing.  I ended up riding solo from the start and got caught on the final climb to the finish about ten miles out.  My leg muscles were battered from the cold descents.  I finished but had failed to send a bag to the top with warm clothing in the race director’s van, so suffered worse than I had all day on the descent back down to the camp at Millpond.  With the storm blowing through the valley all day and all night long it was cold camping the whole night.  I must admit I liked it.

On day two clouds were enveloping the highest peaks still but it was dry enough on the valley floor to start the riding.  Race is on.  Kudos to the director and officials for letting the riders go at it unencumbered by thoughts of cancellations or lowered summit finishes.  I was more patient this day but felt enthusiastic on the second climb of the day on Death Valley Road and jumped away from the group.  I was caught on the descent though and probably squandered any chances of winning a stage by using that magical leg feeling too early in the race.  PT called me and clearly let me know this, that riders in a group have an energy savings advantage, especially on the flats between climbs and on the descents.  I love having knowledgeable genuine friends that will let you know exactly what you need to understand.  Even though I may have went hard too early, on the finish of day two I still had legs left for the final thrashing of 12% above 10,000′ near the groves of ancient bristlecones and put some time into the rider sitting in second place on general classification, but not enough to advance any placing.  But I was pleased to have some legs left on the grades that I had to walk on at times last year, literally limping to the finish.  This year I was riding so hard at the end my glasses fogged up from heat convection and sweating.  Racing in fall storms is strange.  I had to stop and put my wool gloves on but kept my jersey and vest unzipped and I was steaming profusely.  This time I was racing to the end.  That was fun.  Next year I may have to be brighter tactically if I want to succeed.

A big thanks to volunteers, staff and public agencies.  The aid stations and support are miles above the standard I’ve witnessed at any other event.  I got bottles every time I needed them, and always was handed what I wanted, water, or heed (an electrolyte endurance drink made by Hammer Nutrition, good stuff).  When I asked for two gels they handed me three and I always needed them!  During the Everest Challenge you have to eat and drink a lot.  Being fed builds strong admiration, and the EC volunteers I hold in the highest regard, along with the coordination it takes to get them in the right places exactly where the riders needed them at exactly the right time.  Thank you!  And to the promoter, you are the man with the divine races at hand.  Keep up the good work!  To the locals, thanks for sharing your beautiful town and roads.  We spent lots of money eating at your local establishments, filled up our gas and propane tanks, bought supplies, and we tell our friends about the lovely country you call home.  We really appreciate the stewardship you show caring for the mountains and valley for all to enjoy.  We tread as lightly as possible and sing songs of joy at experiencing the lovely mountain roads.  Arigato.

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