We made it. Another fantastic ride to Las Vegas and the valley of sin ended yesterday afternoon with the group cycling the last few miles into interbike's dirt demo just before three in the afternoon. It was a day truly deserving of the term epic. The basic plan called for a small group of riders to attempt the entire 134 miles to Vegas by 2pm, while the rest enjoyed a slightly easier 75-mile day before jumping in the vans to avoid a lousy stretch of highway riding.
Everyone left Furnace Creek at seven am and began the long 4,000 foot climb out of Death Valley. The select group pinned it from the gun and within a couple of miles was well ahead on the road. At the one hour mark they were 6.5 miles ahead of the peloton. Santa Rosa's Glen Fant, owner of the Norcal Bike shop... friend and regular training partner of Levi Lepheimer was calling the plays for Shane Bresnyan from his shop, Ben Edwards (testrider.com) and Anthony Sinyard. Two or three more riders made contributions early to keep the speed up, but they fell away liked spent solid rocket boosters before the midpoint at Pahrump, Nevada.
Pahrump is an ugly place, at least from the road. After a quick stop to refuel in the Albertson's parking lot the hardmen saddled up and got back at it. All morning it had been very windy, and now with the grade working against them again we pulled the photo van onto the shoulder in front of them, hoped we wouldn't run afoul of the Highway Patrol, and paced them to the top of the hill that overlooks the valley of sin. That grind went on for ages, and finally it cost us Anthony who'd stayed at the tail end of the draft all day. He told us later when he turned back with the wind he was doing 40 mph almost immediately.
We were down to our last three bullets, but everyone was "all in now". They soldiered on and got a big lift when they went over the top. We followed them downhill, SAG'd and helped navigate a convoluted route that avoided the highway. Last year Glen, Specialized's Chris D'Alusio (sorely missed after he had to ride home after stage 2 for a family medical situation), and Rich Bartlett had actually ridden on the highway before being pulled over by a cop and banished to the side streets.
Just before three, the boys rode into the road house casino parking lot where the vans and the rest of the bunch has been shuttled and waited. Hugs and hand shakes were exchanged and then the big group, followed the bike path for three miles to dirt demo.
Later at dinner there would be lots of stories, laughter and good natured ribbing, but I told you we saved the best for last. Midway through the meal a woman at another table choked on her food and with cries for help or a doctor from her friends, our lead massage therapist and all round ride supporter Doug Thralls reacted immediately. Doug is a big man, and it took him 20 repetitions of the Heimlich maneuver along with a few more from a restaurant worker to clear the obstruction. It was scary, the woman was turning blue and literally dieing at the next table while we all looked on. Doug definitely save her life. He gets the winner's jersey in my books.
We lingered and took plenty of time saying our goodbyes. Next year interbike will be in Anaheim, we're already talking about a new route, new roads and the promise of another great trip.