30 June 2007

Climb to Kaiser - June 30, 2007

Today was the Fresno Cycling Club's 31st annual Climb to Kaiser. 155 miles. Nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain, with a beginning altitude of 320 feet and final altitude of 9200 feet at the halfway point. There was a record 330 riders for the event this year. Cool temperatures in the mountains made for some fast course times. (It was in the mid-70s above 4000' for most of the day.) The first two finishers were only 15 minutes off the course record, and they said if they had known they were that close, they would have tried to beat it. As it was, they weren't trying at all; they were just out for a ride.

It was a good day for me. I helped organize the support vehicles - aka SAG vehicles - for the ride. This was my tenth year working the SAG crew. (After competing in the ride in 1996 & 1997, and earning my Finisher's Jersey, I started doing SAG for the Climb to Kaiser in 1998.) Paula Landis, 2006 Fresno Cycling Club President, and the current Fresno BMW Motorcycle Riders Club President stepped up to help with the SAG. She enlisted (for the second year now) the help of the BMW Club. Most of the aid needed by the bicycle riders is simply water and the occasional flat tire. Motorcycles can quickly move over the course and get alongside and around the bicycle riders much easier than a car or van. Cars, trucks and vans are used to move riders down the mountains if the bicycle riders have mechanical problems or if they get to sick or exhausted to continue. I first used a motorcycle in 2000 (I was the only one) and we've used more each year. We've had about 12-14 motorcycle to compliment the 10 other SAG vehicles for the past two years. This year I drove a van and really missed my motorcycle.

From a SAG perspective, the ride was fairly uneventful, which is a good thing. We've had, in years past, forest fires, rain, hail, and lightning strikes. We've had a few broken bones, a lot of road rash, and many, many broken spirits. We've even had a few concussions and, sadly, one fatality in 2003. This year, the worst I'd heard was a few unconfirmed reports of dog bites from a loose Doberman in Burroughs Valley, south of Tollhouse, and a wedding which was scheduled just across the parking lot from our main rest stop in Shaver Lake. There were relatively few riders that needed to be SAGged during the ride or at the end of the day. There were a few, but not as many as in past years. As a matter of fact, this is the first time in my ten years that there were no bicycle riders to be taken down the hill at 7:00 pm from the Shaver rest stop when it closed down. All of the large SAG vehicles headed down the hill unloaded, and all of the last riders made it to the end on their own.

Congrats to all of them.

See all the pics here.