Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 Whitney Classic Ride Report

All smiles at the start

September 2015

If its the last weekend in September, its Whitney Classic time! At least its been that way for the last 34 years as Summit Adventure puts on it annual fund raiser! This year marked my 17th Whitney Classic. Each year is different (solo, team, SAG or no SAG), but each is also familiar and rewarding. This year with a busy work and travel schedule, it would be a solo effort without a support and gear (SAG) team. Here is this year's story:


Up early and on the road at 0800 so I could plug in the ear buds and connect to the first of 8 conference calls that would fill most of the drive time from Phoenix to Lone Pine California. With just two stops for fuel, relatively light traffic, and constant project updates; the drive went by quickly.

Arriving at the edge of Lone Pine at about 3:30 pm, the organizers were just starting to set up the check-in tables at the event headquarters. Perfect, plenty of time to head into town, secure a room at the Historic Dow Villa Hotel, and take the machine out for a shake-down ride.
Lobby at the Historic Dow Hotel
The Death Valley Park Service, for the second year in a row, refused to issue an event permit for this year's Whitney Classic, so the 2015 route is a variation of the 2014 route, with addition of Lubken Canyon Road and an out and back to Darwin along the original route. Lubken Canyon road was added to complete to loop back to town after the Cottonwood Canyon climb. Never having been down that road, it was a perfect candidate for a quick ride to check out the equipment and wake up the legs from a long drive!
Small pasture along Lubken Canyon Road
Rolling out of the Dow at about 4 pm, it was still quite warm at about 92 degrees! Settling into an easy pace, I rode through town to the Portal Road, up Tuttle Creek Road, and down Lubken Canyon Road. Down meaning that climb up Tuttle creek gains just over 1000 feet in the first 5 miles, so Lubken looked like a fun descent back into town. It was, and although the road narrowed and became quite rough running through private land and a small farm, it went by fast and soon I was on highway 395 headed back into town.
A huge wind was coming from the South, and combined with a slight downgrade into town, meant it was an easy soft pedal for 2.5 miles at 30 mph back into town. The rider check-in was ready so I stopped in, completed the requisite paperwork, and picked up 30+ event t-shirts for my donor team. With t-shirts bagged and balanced on the aero-bars, I completed the loop back to the Dow Hotel and cleaned up for dinner and the worship service.
Pre-event power dinner!
One of the highlights of the Whitney Classic is the Friday night worship service held in the City Park with staff, volunteers, riders, and SAG teams. Music, scripture, and fellowship in the open air at the base of the High Sierras, is the highlight of the weekend. Certainly not typical for an endurance event, but then Summit Adventure is not a typical ministry, and the Whitney Classic is not a normal endurance event!


The day starts at the Lone Pine VFW lodge for the rider breakfast and meeting. After a delicious breakfast, complete with bacon, eggs, potatoes, and hot cakes, the riders are briefed on the course, permit rules, and final updates. Your humble corespondent provided some tips for SAG drivers and the sage advice for riders handed down from former Summit Executive Director Dave Kelly: "Start slow, and back if off from there!"

Since I was riding unsupported this year, I positioned the truck prior to breakfast at the event HQ at the Alabama Hills Motel. The event would start there and serve as 3 checkpoints, effectively breaking the event into 3 stages.

Stage 1 - Cottonwood Canyon Climb
Final instructions and prayer at the start
After the pre-ride photos and final instructions, the event got underway a few minutes after 9 am. The riders rolled out as a large group, but quickly thinned as the road turned west and up the Portal Road.
Rolling through town with Janet Nye
Portal road
The climbing begins on Tuttle Creek Road, through an unlikely oasis in the desert of the Alabama Hills.  With many of the teams making their first rider exchanges, there was lots of activity, conversation, and encouragement! The climbing starts here and continues for 20+ miles gaining 6,200 feet!
Leaving Alabama Hills on the Cottonwood Climb
The first checkpoint is at the top of the switchbacks, about 16 miles into the ride. Two hours of climbing, most of that into a strong headwind, meant this was a two bottle refill, check in, and get back on the climb.
Nearing the top at Horseshoe Meadows
Entering Horseshoe Meadows

With eight more miles of climbing, the route continues through 10,000 feet and enters an active bear area at Horseshoe Meadows. After a quick bottle refill, it was welcome descent back to Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills Motel.

Stage 1 Summary: 46 miles, 6,600 feet climbing, 4.5 hours.

Stage 2 - Darwin

The 2015 route features an out and back to Darwin, a nearly abandoned mining settlement about halfway between Lone Pine and the Death Valley National Park Boundary. It covers 73 miles and includes about 3,600 feet of gentle climbing. It was pretty much a straight shot to the southeast with gentle climbing rollers, on paper, a nice relief from the HC climbs of the Cottonwood Canyon and Portal roads. In reality, this was the toughest part of this year's Whitney. Temperatures were above 90 degrees, and the wind (gusting to 25+ mph) was right on the nose. 

I rolled into Keeler checkpoint and Kathleen McCormick was there cooling off in the shade. I refilled bottles and we rolled out together. This was her first Whitney and we worked together into the hot wind. When the road tilted up I dropped off to a slower pace and she disappeared into the distance.

Heading up to Darwin
The next checkpoint at the Darwin turnoff was a welcome sight. Hot and out of water, it was the same routine; refill bottles and roll out. The route climbs for a mile or so, then descends into Darwin. While a few souls may still inhabit the town, most of the buildings are abandoned,
other that the "U turn here" event sign, there was not much here to see!

Darwin Station
The climb out of Darwin went quicker than  expected, the strong wind out of the southeast was now a friend and provided a gentle push up the hill. With the temperature finally starting to moderate, it was time to concentrate on eating and drinking to reload calories and fluids. Leaving the Darwin turnoff, it was generally downhill with a strong tailwind all the way back to Lone Pine.

Outbound it took nearly 4 hours to cover the 36 miles from Lone Pine to Darwin. Inbound it took less than 2 hours!

Stage 2 Summary: 73 miles, 3,600 feet climbing, 6 hours.

Stage 3 -Mt. Whitney Portal

The last stage is short, steep, and if it was featured in the Tour de France would be rated HC, or beyond category. Meaning steep, very steep. With 13 miles and 4,300 of climbing to go, perhaps the biggest challenge of the event is riding past the Dow Villa Hotel and all it stands for: Hot shower and a comfortable bed!

After a clothing and bike change (my old Trek with triple chainring and mountain derailleur) it was
up the Portal Road for the finale of the ride.

The temperatures were moderate, but the grade was not! The last 12 miles average an 8 percent grade with maximum grades over 14% on some of the switchbacks.  Along the way I could see the tail lights of other teams up the road, and enjoyed the encouragement from other riders that were finished and heading back into town!

The grade finally eases off after the final switchback below the Premier Buttress and it is a welcome relief to roll into the finish!

#17 is in the Books!
Stage 3 Summary: 13 miles, 4,300 feet climbing, 2.5 hours.


Rolling into the finish, I quickly layered up, enjoyed a hot chocolate, and posed for the finish photo.  132 miles, 14,500 feet of elevation gain, 13 hours 24 minutes, wind, heat, and 50+ mph descents made this a Whitney to remember!

Tom Gibson, Whitney veteran and Official Photographer, gave me a lift back to Alabama Hills. As we drove through town, the last two individual riders were passing through ready to make their last push to the finish. I loaded the bike into my truck, picked up some dinner at a convenience store, and drove the short distance to a hot shower and comfortable bed at the Dow Villa Hotel.

Sunday and Thank You!

Sunday morning I grabbed breakfast, cleaned up the truck, went to Mass at the local parish, and checked out of The Dow Villa Hotel. Normally I would linger for the pizza party and awards ceremony to mark the end of the event. This year, however, Debby was meeting me in Las Vegas for a work meeting, so I needed to push out early to arrive in time to pick her up at the airport!

This year's Whitney was a great success. Summit has raised $84,000 toward is goal of $90,000; and you, my faithful support team, have blessed Summit with over $13,000 in donations! Thank you very much for your faithful support!

The Whitney Classic has marked the end my cycling season with a huge exclamation point for many years, this year was no exception!

Thank you again for your support!

Steve Atkins

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Saturday, September 5, 2015

2015 Whitney Classic Fund Raising Appeal

The Start of the 2014 Whitney Classic
Yes, its that time of year again…The 34th Annual Whitney Classic Bike Ride, Summit Adventure’s main fundraising event, will take place on September 26th-27th. The Whitney Classic has traditionally started in Badwater, Death Valley. Due to an ongoing safety study by Death Valley National Park, athletic events will not be permitted in Death Valley this summer. For that reason, the Whitney Classic will again be held in the Lone Pine California area. With two HC climbs, an out and back to Darwin, 132 miles, and nearly 15,000 feet of climbing; the Whitney will indeed be classic in 2015! Click here for the route details.

Sound too good to miss? Go here to register and join the Fun!

This is my 16th Whitney and 17th fund raising ride for Summit Adventure! This year I will make my 10th solo effort.

What, are you nuts? Yes, nuts and addicted to this awesome ride. I love to ride, I love Summit Adventure, and I love this event. Nothing matches the awesome course, camaraderie of the participants, and incredible support from the Summit Staff and volunteers. Many of you have been loyal supporters of Summit all these years. I cannot thank you enough!
All smiles at the start!

In the past 16 years, through your generous support, we have contributed over $160,000 to Summit Adventure! Thank you! Here’s where you come in: I have set a goal to raise $10,000 for this year’s Whitney. Course income provides for only 45 percent of the Summit budget. The rest comes through fund raising events such as the Whitney Classic. I served as a member of the Summit Board of Directors and know how critical a successful Whitney is to the financial health of the ministry. Debby, Mark, Michael and I have all participated on Summit courses over the years and have been deeply impacted by this great ministry! We all love Summit. That’s why I ride!

At the finish in 2015
Please join my support team and make a donation today! (Donate online by clicking here)
Note: As a thank you for donations over $100, I will send you a Whitney Classic T-Shirt after the event! Please pray with me for a safe, successful event. If you have any questions, or would like to just catch up, please call me at 602-549-5331 or at home at 480-775-1682. I would love to hear from you. Thank you and God bless!

Check out Summit’s web page by clicking here        

Thank you for your support!    
Tuttle Creek Road

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Paris-Brest-Paris 2015

Ride Report
August 2015

The Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur is the Super Bowl of randonneuring; 1230 kilometers (750 miles) of riding from Paris to Brest (Atlantic coastal port) and back. This is a timed event and participants must finish in 80, 84 or 90 hours (depending on selected start time). The event is run every 4 years and I rode the event in 2007 and 2011.  As in 2007 and 2011, I started the 2015 event in the 84 hour group (0500 Monday morning).


This year we decided to stay in Versailles prior to the event. We arrived Thursday morning and were able to check into our room right away. We went directly to the Palace at Versailles and toured the grounds.
Hall of Mirrors
Friday we assembled the bikes for some riding and visited the Pearl Izumi factory outlet store.
Calfees in Paris
Saturday we wandered around Versailles and I took my drop bag to the Mercure hotel in SQY. We enjoyed the Saturday night fireworks and light show at the Versailles Gardens, and Sunday morning Debby headed off to London while I went to the Velodrome for the bike check and event registration.

Tom Altemus of Arizona was also staying at the Ibis Versailles and we agreed to ride to the start together. We pushed out at 0345 to be at the start by 415. Shortly after arriving we were sorted into start groups, we would be in the first wave of the 84 hour group. Tom Baker, Stephen Kinney, and Mike Sturgill found us and we all rolled out together.

Mike Sturgill, Stephen Kinney, Tom Altemus

 Stage 1 to Mortagne

The first stage is a chaotic scramble to get to the front of the group before the inevitable splits break the peloton into smaller and slower groups.  After covering several splits we found ourselves in the lead pack. I was able to hold onto the group through the first 100km (62 miles), almost to the food stop at Mortagne au Perche.

Stage 2 to Villaines

The next 80km to Villaines was fast and calm. We had a light tail wind and I was able to join a fast group about halfway through the the stage and work with them all the way to Villaines.

The town was again abuzz with PBP fans!

Stage 3 to Fougeres

This stage is 80km and a water stop or two are necessary between controls. Happily, the locals set up water, cake, and coffee stands in front of their homes and businesses. About halfway to the control I stopped at this one and refilled both bottles and enjoyed a coffee. The girls were very nice and were interested in where I was from and how many times I had ridden the PBP (3).

I reloaded my bottles, had one last slice of coffee cake and rolled on toward the control. Along the way a rain shower or two rolled though, however, arriving at the control it was coming down pretty hard. I refilled my bottles, grabbed a sandwich, and rolled out.

3/3 Rain in Fougeres!

Stage 4 to Tineniac

The rains faded and I was able to shed my raincoat. This was a relatively short stage at 54km and I was still holding most of the time cushion I had built up with the lead group on the way to Mortagne. The 84 hour field had split into small groups and we had caught many of the 90 hour riders, so the controls were becoming somewhat more crowded and hectic. I grabbed a jambon and frommage baguette and put in my pocket for dinner.

Stage 5 to Loudeac
This stage marks the transition from rolling to hilly countryside. Most of this this stage was ridden in the dark and I arrived at Loudeac at midnight. Still 2 hours ahead of my goal, I decided to eat a big meal, nap (2.5 hrs), reload my bike and head out by 0400.

Stage 6 to Carhaix

I rolled out of Loudeac on time but it was very cold and wet. I was fine on the climbs, but cold and clammy on the descents. A small town had set up a coffee stand for riders and officials and I dropped in and had two coffees loaded with sugar to try and wake and warm up! The temperatures continued to drop, and I was having trouble staying awake.
42 degrees at the coffee stop
When I rolled into the "secret" control at St. Nichols, I checked in, reloaded my bottles and booked a cot in the dorm. I planned to take a 1.5 hour nap. The coffee and sleep stops and slower early morning pace erased my time cushion and I rolled into Carhaix about a hour behind my plan.

Stage 7 to Brest

I linked up with a couple of US riders and we worked well together all the way to Brest. We stopped at the bridge for the obligatory selfie shot and rolled into town and the new control.

The control was much more well organized than last time. I was able to check in, get some food, reload and get out of there in about 10 minutes.

Stage 8 to Carhaix

My GPS unit issued its low battery warning and I connected my external power source about halfway to Carhaix. It wouldn't connect due to low batteries ( I must have left it on overnight). Luckily a pharmacy in Sizun had some fresh ones and I plugged those in.
Church in Sizon
It worked for a whole but it became clear the charging unit had some short of short. The GPS charged to 60% then the external source crapped out.

I rolled into Carhaix about an 1.5 hours past my goal time. I grabbed a sandwich, reloaded bottles and headed out.

Stage 9 to Loudeac

I left Carhaix a little before 8 pm and with a good amount of climbing back to Loudeac, my average speed slowed down and I rolled into Loudeac at 0100. Loudeac was very busy and there was a one hour wait to get a cot. I decided to reload, eat, and shove off and try to grab some zzz's at the next stop at Quedilliac.

Stage 10 to Tineniac

It wasn't long before the sleep monster made his return and I had trouble staying awake. I rolled into a town well short of Quedilliac, where a number of riders had stopped and deployed their Space Blanket sleeping bags. I rolled up to a church and found a spot under a tree. I crawled into my bag thinking I would never fall asleep with all the noise. I closed my eyes and 1.5 hrs later I woke up and the sun was up!

I woke refreshed and had great power. I was so fired up I missed a turn and went several kilometers before realizing there were no riders around. A helpful trucker blew his horn and made a hand signal that the course was behind me. I backtracked and rejoined the route and made great time to Tineniac

Stage 11 to Fougeres

Rolling out of the control at Teneniac, I bumped into Steve Kinney from Canada. He was happy to see a familiar face and invited me to grab his wheel as we made our way to Fougeres. Steve set a blistering pace, but some how I was able to hold on (I think he noted my suffering and dialed it back a bit) all the way to Fougeres. His wife was there at the control and found a sausage stand and ordered a meal for us while we checked in at the control.

Elaine and Stephen Kinney
After lunch, I told Steve that he should go on to Villaines on his own. While the French pavement tasted good, I decided that dragging my tongue all the way back to Paris trying to hang on his wheel was probably not a good idea. I stopped at the bike mechanic and checked the air in my my tires, both were low, and after topping them off I set off for Villaines.

Stage 12 to Villaines

My computer finally gave its last and for the balance of the way back and I was riding by feel. Unlike other brevets, there are so many riders that you don't need your computer for navigation, just follow the long line of riders! I did miss the data that is helpful to gauge progress and maintain a steady pace.

Frites stand
Just outside Villaines I stopped at a frites stand and reloaded my bottles, I figured Villaines would be crowded ( it was). In any case I felt strong and rolled into the Villaines party about 4:20, checked in, and rolled out in under 5 minutes.


Stage 13 to Mortagne

Riders started to thin out in the late afternoon as I made my way toward Mortagne. In the early evening I started to get a little dozy, so I stopped in a bar and ordered two espressos. The coffee did the trick and soon I was passing riders again as I made my way to Mortagne.

I arrived at the Mortagne control and grabbed a sandwich and reloaded my bottles. I was still two hours behind my goal time of 69 hours and even with the solid pace I seemed to be holding, it was clear that I would not be making up the lost time.

Danish Team Bus at Mortange

Stage 14 to Dreux

Leaving Mortagne I turned on the lights and put on the reflective gear for the run to Dreux and Paris. There is quite a bit of climbing on the way to Dreux, but I was feeling strong and made great time. Just 20km from Druex was a huge coffe stop, so I pulled in and and had a coffee and some cake. The locals were out in force and creating a party atmosphere as the riders rolled in and out.

Back on the road, I joined a rider from the UK for the final few kilometers into Dreux. A light rain was falling and with few riders on the course, in the wee hours it was more difficult to find the route. I pulled into Dreux 20 minutes after midnight and grabbed some coffee, bananas, and some potatoes to try and reload for the last 66km to Paris.

Stage 15 to Paris

The rain was starting to ease off, but the route finding was especially difficult in the city with many turns and few riders. While I was stopped trying to sort out a turn, a group of Italian and French riders rolled past and motioned me to join them. I think they were the same group that hopped on my wheel on the way to Dreux.

They were riding at a slower pace than I would have liked, but it was easier to stay awake and find the route with a larger group of riders. As we neared Paris we picked up a few additional riders and finished together at about 0430 Thursday morning. By the time we parked our bikes and made our way into the velodrome for the final control, it was nearly 0450!

We checked in, received our post-ride meal, and went to the beer stand only to find that they had run out! My new Italian friends were none too happy about that. We had been talking about the post-ride beer for about the last 35 kilometers!
TV dinner in the Velodrome

With not much happening at that hour at the finish, I rolled over to the Mercure Hotel to retrieve my drop bag and pedal the last 6 km in the rain to Versailles and my hotel room. I rolled up to the room, dumped my gear, showered and crashed for the next 9 hours!


I spent the rest of Thursday sorting and packing my gear. Friday morning I took the train to Den Haag (The Hague) where I met Debby for 3 days of recovery and easy riding.

Easy riding near Den Haag
Monday found us on the train to Koeln (Cologne Germany) to spend a few days with our friends; Hubert, Gerlinde, Fabian, Christian, and Andreas Fester. We had a great time seeing sights, riding, and enjoying outstanding German hospitality!

Red Carpet Welcome to Cologne!
After three great days with the Festers in Cologne, Hubert dropped us at the train station, and we took the Thalys train back to Paris and the end of this most excellent PBP 2015 adventure!

 Click here for more photos!

 Steve Atkins

Friday, June 26, 2015

Loop de Leupp 300km Brevet

Ride Report
June 2015

Tom Baker and RBA John Ingold at the start
Eight riders lined up for the Loop de Leupp 300km Brevet. This is the third brevet of the 2015 Northern Arizona SR series.  7 of the usual suspects (Tom Baker, Mike Sturgill, Roger Peskett, Bob Larson, Michael Mooney, Carlton van Leuven, Steve Atkins) and newcomer Andrew Frehs of Sedona lined up in the cool early morning light at the Flagstaff Mall.
Usual Suspects leaving Flagstaff
The Usual Suspects rolled out together for a series of twists and turns to the first informational control in the Doney Park area. John had driven ahead and waived us through the first control and we made our way back to Townsend-Winona and eventually Leupp Road. With a slight tailwind, and gentle downgrade, the group arrived at the first control a few minutes before it opened. Establishing a pattern of support we would appreciate all day, John was there in his brevet wagon to check us in and provide a wide array of supplies.
Leupp Control Outbound
With the extra time, we were able to strip off a layer or two, apply sunscreen, and generally just hang around until the control officially opened. Groupo Suspecto exited the control just as it officially opened!
Wildflowers on the road to Dilkon
7 leaving Leupp
On the road to Dilkon, we were greeted with wild flowers and wild horses as we continued to enjoy a tailwind heading east to Dilkon. The route gets a little choppy with some rollers. Tom decided to drop off along the way and ride at a more sensible pace. And then there were six.
Dilkon Control
With a little route confusion outside Dilkon (Turn left when you see the Bashas!); we found John in the shade of one of the few trees in the area at the Dilkon Giant C-Store. Again, we arrived before the control opened and were able to take a leisurely break, enjoy the ample supplies, and roll out just as the control officially opened!
6 leaving Dilkon
Rolling out of Dilkon we entered a beautiful valley with interesting clouds, green grass, wildflowers, and hoodoo formations. This was another great route with interesting scenery around every turn!
Hoodoos outside Dilkon
We rejoined the traffic when we turned onto AZ 87 for the run to Winslow. Even with the building headwind, the downgrade helped us maintain our fast pace. Winslow was an open control and we mentioned to John that we wanted to stop at the 'Standn' on the Corner Monument' in downtown Winslow. Pow! As we rolled in, John pulled up and viola, an official control!
Oh my Lord, its a flatbed Ford! Where's the girl?
Roger and Bob in Winslow
We hit Control #5 in Winslow before it opened but decided to take a longer break and left about 30 minutes later. The route winds through Winslow and joins the I-40 Interstate for 6 miles before heading north and back to Leupp for a second time.

The route tilts up and with a building head and cross wind, Carl was the first to drop off the group. Just as we turned off the Interstate, I decided to let the group go, and the fast movers were soon out of sight. I rolled into Leupp while the group was still there. They rolled out and I decided to take a longer break and enjoy some shade.

Carl rolled in a few minutes later with building case of hot foot. John applied some first aid materials and we headed out for the final run to Flagstaff.
Leupp #2 John Ingold with the med kit
It is a long run to Flagstaff, so John established a water control 2/3rds of the way up the hill, so we had that goin' for us, which was nice!

There were several thunderstorms in the area, and while none unleashed rain on us directly, they blocked the direct sun and provided an evaporative cooling effect that made climbing into the wind much more tolerable.
Another 300 in the books!
Carl dropped off and I finished solo arriving in Flagstaff exactly 12 hours after the start. Another great brevet, with outstanding support, thanks John!

Steve Atkins