The Specialized Ride to Vegas – A Magnificent Journey

Del Puerto Canyon Road

Wednesday morning and it feels strange to be waking up in the opulent excess of my room at the Venetian. I'd gladly trade these digs for another day on the road with the Specialized/Western Spirit convoy that rode/traveled with grit, humor and style from Morgan Hill to Las Vegas over these last six days. It was a journey I won't forget for many reasons, but the camaraderie of our little band was tops.

The work is far from over... I'm well off the back of the group in that regard, still editing the tail wind assisted bullet train that was day four; a dash from Mammoth Lakes to Lone Pine which sits on the verge of Death Valley. The sheer volume of imagery is overwhelming and of course, there's video this time... whose bright idea was that.

Last miles Stage 1

I had no illusions that videography was easy, though my friend Dave Christenson makes it appear so. I just had no idea how tough it would be to juggle both disciplines or to deal with the frustration of shots spoiled by traffic. It is uncanny how you can set up on a deserted ribbon of road in the middle of nowhere waiting for your riders to appear. Five, ten minutes without a single vehicle and then as the peloton approaches, cars, campers and motorcycles malevolently appear to ruin things. More than once during the trip I exploded in a stream of profanity as we lost a bit of magic because of them.

Specialized's Kathryn Grassl and I probably logged a thousand miles chasing the bikes and the light. I can't say enough how grateful I am to her for her unflagging good humor, superb navigation and infinite patience. "Do you want to go back and try that again?" Yes please, I'd answer and back we'd go for another pass. Normally Kathryn has the weighty responsibility of Specialized's catalogs on her shoulders, the last of which she'd put to bed on the day before our departure, on this trip she kept me organized and even managed a few good shots of her own. Thank you Kathryn.

Encamped under the stars at Lake McSwain

As the group rode into the Specialized compound at interbike's Dirt Demo yesterday it felt slightly anti climatic. The significance of the pink jersey'd double paceline was lost on many of the attendees hopping about on silly (yes, I said it) mountain unicycles or threading their way on 29ers through all the foot traffic. The real heroics had occurred earlier on the wind swept flats of Nevada between Death Valley and Pahrump. They'd fought through and conquered an unrelenting crosswind, at times echeloning five wide to shelter lighter riders and share the work. Then the three hard men, Chris, Rich and Glen, the bit between their teeth, had raced on ahead chasing the 2pm arrival schedule. They almost made it.

We showered and cleaned up for a celebratory dinner... not quite ready to let it all end. Sitting across the table from a visibly elated Mike Sinyard (he's done all three "rides to Vegas") I couldn't help think we should have ended the evening in the manner of Ocean's Eleven. All of the riders silently silhouetted with their bikes in front of those Las Vegas fountains, Debussy's Clair de Lune playing softly in the background. One by one they'd turn and ride off in all directions into the night. Perhaps next year we'll film it that way ;-)

Over the next week or so I'll tell the complete story as the team in "Photo 1" experienced it. I hope these first photos whet your appetite for the episodes and galleries to follow. It was a magnificent journey.

Dirt Demo Arrival

14 Responses to The Specialized Ride to Vegas – A Magnificent Journey

  1. Jon Moss says:

    “Whet your appetite”?

    I’ll say! Loving the rolling road photo – one of my all time faves 8-)

    An Ocean’s Eleven finish does sound good – perhaps some of the footage can feature similar music – love those tunes.



  2. BR says:

    Enjoy the Venetian and the show. Hurry back for a full download. BR

  3. kurt says:

    The wind, le Mistral, always the pennance of the strong. The strong take the hit at the front while everyone else attempts to hide. Each rider trying to make themselves smaller than the one just in front. Holding on with every ounce of pride and fortitude. Any individual miscalculation comes at a cost to the entire group. Small fractures become huge gaps in seconds and must be bridged with extreme suffering. To fail the bridge means you suffer the fate of facing the wind alone.

    I love to see the echelon form and reform like some bizarre organism.

    Can’t wait to see the additional photos. The venetian is no match for a star filled sky and the peace that hangin’ out sharing time in nature bestows on ones soul.

    I just received my copy of v 4 embrocation. Your piece on Phil Wood is exceptional. I have longed for a set of PW hubs and now I am compelled to act. The photos look even better in print. Will you become a regular contributor to the rag?

    Nice work Michael!

  4. Kurt,

    The bikes and riders were swinging back and forth across the road for a solid hour on the worst stretch. We motopaced two riders who lost wheels and couldn’t get back themselves they tucked in behind us while the last woman in the group (strong) held on to our mirror for about a mile before we managed to get them all back on. They then hung together for another 30 miles, so it was critical we were there at that moment.

    Thanks for the props on the embrocation piece. Haven’t seen it myself yet. Hope to at lunch with publisher Jeremy Dunn and Slate Olson from Rapha today. Still trying to edit the Specialized shoot this morning and see if I got anything interesting from CrossVegas last night.


  5. Kathryn says:


    AMAZING photographic work on the journey! It was an honor to work with you- from the clamboring up rock faces to speeding down the wrong side of the road- I’d gladly go back and set-up every shot again!


  6. Erick says:

    Great Stuff Michael as always. Love the photos! thanks for your hard work on this journey. You too KG!!!

  7. Mike S. says:

    Michael – It was a pleasure meeting you on Thursday – thanks so much for stopping by the trunk show. I know K was especially tickled to finally meet and chat. I can’t wait to see the rest of these photos! And congrats on the PW Embrocation piece – stunning! Best, Mike

  8. Mario says:

    Awesome pics, I always enjoy reading your posts! Please keep it up ;)

  9. Wes says:

    Still catching up on Interbike-related blog posts! :) I agree with the arrival being lost on the attendees. I was one of them and I had no idea what all these pink-kitted people were doing clogged up the middle of the demo area. I actually assumed it was some sort of dealer group-ride that was just beginning. Everyone looked so happy that I assumed the ride hadn’t yet begun. ;)

    The photos look great. I’ve always been a nerd for wide-angle lenses, but when I see the lovely depth of field on a high-end telephoto I have to say I get a little jealous! :)

  10. John Ontiveros says:

    Iam MarkO’s dad and I enjoyed following the Specialized Bicycle Ride to Las Vegas which start 17 September2009 and completed on 23 September 09 in Las Vegas. The photos were great and I would like to use about 9 of the shots in a short story I have written for family and a few friends. Kind of pre Holiday Letter as I know his family would appreciate the news and wonderful achievement. The ones I would like to use are from velodramatic- A pedal turner: 1) The miles between Lake McSwain and Mariposa,2)the climb in the Sierra Nevada foothills,3)the two vans going up to Yosemite,4)Ride down from Yosemite,5)Telephoto across the ridge,6)the peloton as the ride turns left to Death Valley,7)Finish at Interbike tents. I would be grateful if you could e-mail me those 7 photos. Thanks a million. John Ontiveros

    • Hi John,

      Happy to help. Mark’s a great guy and a strong rider. He definitely enjoyed his days on the road away from the responsibilities of the store. Not sure how you are printing your story and what resolution you need. Also it would help if you referenced the images per the Velodramatic post title and/or the image number is you’re looking at the gallery that was shared with Specialized. You can get the image number by right clicking on a gallery images and opening it in a new window.