‘The Death Ride’
Five cyclists from Nevada County have returned alive after competing in the Death Ride over the California Alps.
The Death Ride is a 129-mile endurance ride over five mountain passes, including a 15,000-foot vertical climb in the high altitudes and extreme temperatures of the Sierra.
The ride earlier this month attracted 3,000 cyclists and caused flat tires, broken bones and even some upset stomachs. One rider broke his collar bone and was life-flighted off a pass when he tried to make a descent. In past years, another rider died.
Dan Landon recently returned from the “Death Ride” ” and said he can’t wait to ride it again next year. Landon is a 54-year-old father of seven, grandfather of 10 and the head of the county’s Transportation Commission.
He started riding a bicycle for health reasons about a year ago and has developed what he calls a cycling addiction. He now averages 75 to 100 miles a week on his bike.
“I guess those endorphins are pretty powerful. I can’t stop … One day I had a wild idea and rode home from Roseville,” Landon said.
All levels riding
After he pedaled 58 miles on the “Death Ride” and climbed 5,800 feet, severe leg cramps stopped him from finishing.
“I got to Monitor, over and back, and then I was done,” Landon said. “Every time my heart hit, I could feel it through my whole body.”
Landon was joined by four Nevada County bicyclists: Nate Brott, Dave Lawell, Bill Purcell and Richard Looney, owner of TR2 Bicycle Center in Grass Valley.
Looney said he was surprised by the variety of levels competing in the ride. Riders ranged from 10-year-old girls to a rider with an artificial limb and a 54-year-old man on a scooter.
“I couldn’t believe how many people, you think, no way are they going to make it,” Looney said.
The riders departed at dawn from the small town of Markleeville on the California-Nevada border. They climbed twice up and over Monitor Pass and Ebbets Pass before battling the final leg, Carson Pass.
“I was hitting 45 mph, and people were passing me. The rush of the speed was pretty interesting,” Landon said of the descent down Monitor. When his legs gave out, he got off his bike and walked for several miles.
For his 55th birthday Landon plans on riding in the Tahoe Sierra Century, a 100-mile ride at Donner Summit.
“It’s just a really nice way to see the country. You get hooked on the healthy feeling,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@the union.com or call 477-4231.
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