California’s Fall Classic
The Everest Challenge/Furnace Creek 508 Double



When the Everest Challenge moved to a fall slot a couple of years ago, it stacked arguably to two toughest public (no qualifier) bike races in the world on top of each other, and thus opened another epic fitness challenge to the world.


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 The Everest Challenge is a two-day stage race with 30,000 feet of climbing (actually 29-whatever-the-height-of-Everest-is) and is considered to be the toughest race on the USCF calendar. The 508 is, well, 508 miles. This should speak for itself but, just in case it doesn’t, the organizers have mapped a course through some of the most blighted countryside in the USA along with 35,000’ of climbing. As my friend Josh, a one-time denizen of this territory put it, “almost every day of the year a wind blows from southwest to northeast, which will be in your face for hundreds of miles. The roads are terrible, and the people driving them are worse. Not many of the tweaked-out meth heads you’ll encounter out there would think twice about killing you.” This intrigued me enough to hatch a hair-brained scheme: attempting these two races back to back. 

Actually, I didn’t plan it that way. The idea for the 508 came in August, when my friend Russ McBride told me he was opting for it instead of Everest and tried to get me to do the same. “Maybe I’ll try both,” I said completely off the cuff, since up until then Furnace Creek has held little interest for me. “I’ll bow down to your greatness if you can pull that off,” was Russ’ reply.

 Everest Challenge          Furnace Creek 508 

This is the part where I should add that I’d never even ridden a double century. Of course, lack of preparation has never been one to put me off. In fact, I thrive on it. Still, I didn’t enter the 508, preferring instead to see how Everest went before making what I was pretty certain was a stupid commitment. 

Unfortunately, it filled-up the week before Everest, prompting me to contact Chris Kostman, the race direction, and plead for a spot. After a cancellation I was in. This meant I had to pony up my 300 clams, and was committed, prior to having any clue as to whether I could even finish part one of the challenge.

Part I: The Everest Challenge 

I’ve been curious about the Everest Challenge ever since Aaron Baker sent me a “let’s do this” email a few years back. At 180 pounds, I’m a lot more a crit guy than climber but, still, riding up hill on a bike is one of my favorite activities. So much so, in fact, that no uphill challenge with a stout reputation doesn’t linger in the subconscious to the point of obsession. Fargo St, Black Canyon, L’Alpe d’Huez, the 7 Samurai, Double Figueroa, etc. If it’s rumored to be hard, I want to have a look. And nothing is rumored to be as hard as Everest.

Aaron is a much better climber than I am and his DNF hung over me like the Sword of Damocles. As did a few other “race” reports I found scattered throughout the web. Pro riders “paper boying” in 27’s, “barely turning my cranks over”, and having “never felt so fat at 141 pounds in my life” had me scared to say the least. Local rider Dotsie Cowden won the women’s division last year and promptly ended her season. “Stick a fork in me, I’m done,” started her journal entry that included being derided by her (super strong) boyfriend for talking him into such an event. Russ tried hard to get me to join him last year. I declined, having nowhere near the requisite miles, but his DNF fueled the fire a bit more.

Not enough to train, however. Instead I went climbing. Rock climbing. Riding isn’t my primary sport. At times I ride a lot. At others, I ride to work and/or to bars. Winter 2005 was all about climbing: no racing, no training. But a late spring finger injury coupled with heavy snow pack in the Sierra (meaning the alpine climbing season would be short) forced a re-focus. Back on my bike and plodding up hills with my friend Jacinda’s breakfast club (basically long rides centered around eating) I started to find some form. Perhaps this would be the year to give her a shot. 

Training, of sorts 

But “the plan” (quotes because it wasn’t much of a plan) had a few hooks on it. First, it wasn’t going to be scientific. Second, it wasn’t going to interfere with my participation in other sports. I made exactly zero of our club’s rides, an auspicious start. I didn’t wear my heart rate monitor once. Training consisted of one long day on the weekend at first, then two. The workweek centered around recovery rides and maintenance climbing workouts. I know a ton about training but instead decided for the more Zen approach, basing everything entirely on feel. My weekend workouts got longer and longer, and then even longer. A couple of weeks before Everest I decided to try and race, so I did three crits in a day—more as a joke than anything else. Losing my fifth try for a prime, it was obvious I wasn’t very fast. However, I was able to keep trying for them, meaning I was fit. So at least I had that going for me.

Life: as it should be 

On the drive up to Bishop, I happened upon the Still Life Café, in Independence. This French bistro had opened in Olancha (middle of nowhere) and was instantly hailed as the best food between LA and Tahoe. But it had, not surprisingly, gone out of business a while back. Apparently, however, they’d only moved and I wasn’t in on it. Seeing their sign was like spotting land from a life raft. I hustled inside, where you’re greeted by a world not a bit like, well, Independence, California. Chatting with the owners over a Cote de Rhone, life was as it should be. Michele, the owner, lamented about the eastern Sierra culinary abyss. “They serve food like… well… like you would get in prison. And you pay just as much as here!” 

This just had to be a good omen. 

Or not… Hours later, after a prison dinner in Mammoth, I was awaked by something crashing into the house where I was staying. Somehow, Hurricane Rita had found her way west and had been pasting us all night long. Unable to get back to sleep, I turned on the weather channel. Snow down to 9,000. Winds up to 45mph, worsening throughout the weekend. On my way to the start my car’s thermometer told me it was 37 degrees at Tom’s Place. Calculating somewhere between the adiabatic and environmental lapse rates meant it was approximately 20 degrees at Mosquito Flat. Good thing I’d been training in the heat. 

pics: right: self portait prior to EC start. way too early, way too cold, way too tired.
above: the neutral start to everest. we pretty much climb everything in site.
top: team zissou, pre 508, a bit hungover, perhaps?

Day 1

The race starts with a long neutral zone. It was chilly, but not freezing. More importantly, it wasn’t windy at all. I rode with a stack of clothing expecting the worst and most of it was off by the time we truly started climbing. 

The true race begins and the Paradise Café. I, however, was way too worried about finishing to race and immediately lost the pace of the leaders and somehow found myself alone for the majority of the first climb. This seemed like a good idea as I’d heard many a tale of someone over extending to stay in the draft only to explode later on.

Mosquito Flat 

While this climb is over 20 miles long, it’s broken up a bit with one significant downhill and fairly continues sections that are quite easy. My pace was strictly pedestrian. At the top I stopped, ate, and stretched. People were asking if I was okay. “Fine,” I’d answer. “Just riding scared.” And it wasn’t cold. The weather was pretty much perfect.  Was last night just a dream? 

I cruised down the descent until I was caught by a group of pros (who’d started an hour behind). Then I used my extra weight to tag along for a while until they began to hammer on the flats. There would be none of that for me. At the aid station I stopped again whereas most people were racing, I guess, as they’d do a standard feed zone exchange as if it was a three-hour affair. Shoot, we’d already been out over three hours and were just getting started! 

Pine Creek 

An “easy” 10 from the feed zone according to race organizer Tom Reid, the top of Pine Creek sure did approached slowly. This time, however, I’d found some company with a very-fit-looking women who was riding “as a tourist”. We chatted with riders passing us, who all seemed quite jovial, but our non-competitive nature seemed to bug some of those we’d pass. 

At the top, the carnage was beginning. One rider who’d passed me on the first climb looked like he was about to pass out. “I can’t believe how hard this is,” he gasped to everyone. All of us tried to assure him we were suffering as well. 

I took another planned pit stop at my car. I wasn’t sure that I needed it but was playing it safe. Aaron had told me that, in reality, the start of the final climb was half way. So I stopped, took off my shoes, stretched, ate, and talked to a couple of folks running support for family members. 

South Lake 

20 miles of grimness, everyone talks about how horrible this climb is at this stage in the day. It wasn’t about to disappoint. I felt okay, so far, and thought maybe I was in for a bit of luck.

Then I felt a twinge in my knee. I slowed to a crawl, got to the next aid station, and stopped again. The knee didn’t hurt too badly, but I was worried. If it became inflamed I’d be screwed. Better to go slow and steady. Soon I was back with Pam, my partner from the last climb. Her knee was bothering her as well and we took turns “pulling” each other at what felt like 3 mph. Funny thing is, we were passing people.

The last 10k eases off and, knowing I’d make it, I picked it up ever so slightly. I lost Pam and caught a couple of others before the final 2k that features three ramps up the 17%. My goal was not to walk and I made it, just barely. At one point I told someone on the side of the road that I was just working on my track stand. I’m pretty sure you can’t go any slower on a bike. 

The first thing that crossed my mind at the top was something Pam had said. “You finish the first day and you think there’s just no possible way that you can do it again. But somehow you do.” I wondered if she was sandbagging. How would I possibly do this again tomorrow?

celebration at the end of day one

While icing my knee, I found out that Pam had actually won the race, so she’d done a lot more than just finish day two. This gave me confidence to look at the standings. In my division, I was in 3rd, 13 minutes down. In a race like this, 13 minutes is like 13 seconds.

Day 2 

I felt good at the start, at least until my knee started to hurt while still in the neutral zone! I immediately slowed, lost the pack, and all thoughts of racing ceased. It didn’t matter much anyway. Overnight, two new people had somehow showed up in our division and both were close to an hour in front. But the point was to finish, which was—for the moment—in jeopardy. 

Glacier Lodge 

This climb may have the profile of Alpe d’Huez but it certainly doesn’t have the panache. L’Alpe is stunning with its 21 famed hairpin turns. Glacier Lodge is a straight 10% slog up arid terrain. Near the top the scenery improves and the angle decreases. My knee had survived and I picked up the pace a bit. Because the next climb was easy, I was going to make the final climb, at which point I’d walk if I had to. This meant I could race a bit. Caught up with buddy Pete—the guy 13 minutes ahead—near the summit and we descended together. 


I stopped at my car to re-fuel, letting Pete ride ahead. His girlfriend, Julie, was giving him on the road support, which was pretty common. Most of the racers had team cars and treated this like a normal race. As insane as this seemed to me earlier, it was starting to make sense. My stops were costing me a lot of time and I’d regularly pass the same people over and over. 

I caught Pete a bit later. We had a tailwind on Wacova and I was feeling pretty good, except for my knee. Julie gave me some ibuprofen, which seemed to help. I eventually rode away from Pete, feeling a little guilty since he’d provided the means for me to do so. On the way down, made another pit stop at my car, and started the final climb feeling strangely good. 

Oh, yeah, also saw a guy descending pulling his kid. Was someone really doing the Everest Challenge with a kid? Oh my God! If so, heroes are to be found in the strangest places. 

Schulman Grove 

Weather conditions had been perfect until this climb so, in a way, it was nice to be tested. Still, the headwind that hammered us ride up Westguard pass was rugged. But I felt fine. There was no question about finishing anymore. 

The fun part of this section was watching the pro race as they started to catch me. At one point, on about an 8% grade, a pack of four riders came by—and they were taking pulls! It was so ridiculous that it almost made me want to puke. A guy I was about to catch, Tom, jumped on their wheel for about a second, which made me laugh out loud since I’d considered the same thing until I realized that if I spent even a minute attached to that group it would seriously diminish my chance of finishing.

This climb levels off in the middle for a fairly long stretch. I caught some more riders and then kept my streak alive of stopping at every aid station. This time it was pure procrastination, although I knew the toughest section of the race was ahead and wanted to stretch my knee. It hurt, but I didn’t care. I was going to finish the Everest Challenge even if I had to walk. 

The last 10k are seriously hard. Averaging over 10%, and that’s with a downhill, it features sustained 15% climbing and finishes at over 10,000’. A couple of guys passed me in triples. I commented to a guy I was passing that I wished I’d had one. “I wish I had a quadruple,” he muttered. It’s really hard to deem this sort of thing ‘racing’. 

no spotted jersey for me. some other (probably fast) guy at the last bit of the race. 

I was happy to see the summit, finish, eat burritos and enjoy the view. I’d taken enough time from Pete to win my division from the day before—except for the two new guys. But none of this mattered. Next year, maybe I’d race it. For now, this was mission accomplished. No matter how you do it, if you finish it’s a stunning couple of days of bike riding. 

The only bummer was the lack of an awards ceremony. There was supposed to be something back at the start but things didn’t seem to be going smoothly at all and folks were just packing up and leaving. Pete and I agreed that we doubted anyone would have any trouble pitching in 10 bucks for, at least, some beer. After spending a couple of days suffering together, we’d really earned a little celebration. 

women's "podium", place holder whilst waiting for pete to send me our photos

After a beer (I was stocked, of course) Pete and Julie had to get back to Colorado right away, so they headed east and I heading south, to the Still Life, ‘cause I was living life as it should be.

Part II: The Furnace Creek 508

With my knee the way it was, I wouldn’t have entered the 508 at this point. On my drive home, I called Josh to see if he wanted to do it as a team instead. He said sure.

But the next day my knee didn’t really hurt. At least sitting at my desk. I figured that this meant in two weeks I’d be fine, or at least fine enough. So I dusted off my time trial bike and gave it its first spin of the year. Since I’d spend much of the 508 on this machine, I knew this wasn’t the prep the event deserved. So not only was I doing it in off-the-couch style, I was attempting it in injured, off-the-couch style—okay, this looks a lot stupider now that it’s written down. Surely, I thought, soft pedaling 500 miles couldn’t be that hard….

Team Jaguar Shark 

No matter what, part two of this cliffhanger was going to be fun, and an adventure. First, I had to choose a totem to race under, which had to be an animal. Jaguar shark was the first thing that popped into my head. Wasn’t sure it existed, but some had eaten Esteban. With scriptgirl Ann-Marie bowing out—she didn’t like our course as it traveled through unprotected lands—our team was now three strong. No problem with that. 

Intern # 1. Josh Fairchild. Expert rider. Ex-desert dweller. Mechanic. Drunk. He would be the brains behind Team Jaguar shark. 

Intern #2. Bob Banks. Expert birthday challenger. Navigator. Frogman. Knows nothing about bikes but a lot about beer. Partner on many an epic adventure. Born on the Puget Sound.

The Zissou. Me. Right on the edge. I could go either way. “Intern, get me a Campari.”

This was our desert team. Back on my island, we assembled a top-notch crew to ready our team van, Klaus. Always the B team leader, with over 330,000 miles on the original engine, nothing could be more faithful. 

Reed Bartlett. Our groundman for this adventure. Mechanic. Imbiber. Boy are we gonna drink a lot of beer. 

Angela Sandoval. Josh’s wife. Artist. The real brains behind the team, what would we do without her in the wastelands? Commented Josh, “who’s going to tell us about all the bike parts and everything? You know I can’t remember all that shit.” 

The decoration of Klaus went like clockwork. By the end, Klausy was a thing of beauty. Sure, the bearing casings shouldn’t look like that, but we couldn’t afford to fix them this year. We painted the insignia’s of everyone who’s driven the team van for a long time period on each of the four corners: Esteban, Bob, Josh, Reed. We were ready.

Pre-race Meeting 

The list of rules for the 508 is absurdly long. We all tried to read them but couldn’t and were worried about getting DQ’d before we even started. Thankfully, things weren’t as strict in reality as on paper but we might have pushed our luck when we bribed the waiter to score some wine at the pasta feed. We, of course, were the only ones drinking. “How do they expect us to eat without wine?” said the exasperated Josh. 

Even though the meeting was fairly tedious, the event was looking pretty cool. Riders were there from around the world, most treating it similar to us, or so it seemed. My friends Russ and Jen Long were there. Russ “hadn’t been riding much." Jen had been hit by a car the week before and her knee was swollen to twice its normal size. Talking to a guy from Team Tahiti about how they could train for such an event, he commented, “we expect to be strong in the swim.” Guess I wasn’t the only one going into this thing half-cocked. 

Later, Russ called to remind me to bring him an extra saddle. When he heard we were drinking he sounded incredulous. “Really?” he said, which must have been overheard by Bob and Josh who yelled out “he knows who your crew is. Ferchrissakes, what else do you expect us to be doing?”

Unprotected Lands


“I wonder if we can switch to a relay team mid race,” crossed my mind around mile 8, or as soon as the course began to head up hill. The knee hadn’t really improved, or so it seemed, and I still had 500 miles to go. The race began with a 20-mile climb with one, short, 10% section. I could tell I was in trouble but had no choice but to try and soft pedal and push on.


pics: josh begins working on klausy
ang: artist and brains of the outfit
reed: groundman, imbiber
at the start line
bob, as always, ready for action
the start of the race is very conversational


This meant my pace would be talkative, and everyone around me seemed enjoying it. We weren’t supposed to ride together but given it was just the beginning, traffic wasn’t light, and we were going up hill no one seemed to mind. I was riding with Russ and our birthday challenge kit got some comments. All was well until, fortunately, I took a pit stop just before Russ and the rest of our group got directed the wrong way. This led to a 40-minute detour for them, a lot of it uphill. I’m sure Russ was bitter, especially since one rider in the group called his team car and got a lift back to the course. Huh? Mabye we should have read all those rules! I hit this fork alone and ended up pulling out my map. It seemed like a very easy mistake to make.

In the desert I switch to my time trial bike. When I mentioned the knee, Josh said “don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine.” Well, okay then. And on I rode. 

The windmill climb was straight into the wind and I crept up it at a snails pace. I had employed a in and out of the saddle trick to distribute pressure to different muscle groups, which helped my knee a lot. On this climb it was so windy it didn’t work as well. Either that or it was getting worse. 

After the descent, I switched bikes again and headed towards “beautiful oasis of California City,” which I knew from hearing Eric Estrada pitch real estate on late-night TV. I guess I missed it, since I passed the “California City” checkpoint in some forgotten wind-blasted town of sand, mesquite, and a couple of strip malls.

eric estrada: "you too can own beautiful california real estate!"

Into the depths of the Mojave: boy, there sure was a lot of traffic. Along with the cross winds, it made this section down right scary. I don’t know what these people are all doing since there’s nothing out here, but they were in a rush to do it. Find more meth, maybe? And, in spite of what was obviously be an event they didn't seem to want to slow down or heed the signs “pass with care.” My deep rims caught the wind like a sail.  This can be a good thing for speed but, when hit at the right angle, it would try and rip the bike from under me. The passing trucks (quite sure they don’t sell anything other than trucks out here) made this effect worse, so I opted to hammer through this section as fast as I could. I passed a bunch of people but was paying a price. Each time a gust of wind would hit me from the side, the force I needed to exert felt like someone was sticking a knife into my knee. I wasn’t about to worry about it. Laying the bike down out here meant I was in the crosshairs of these idiots as potential road-kill. I felt like a character in The Road Warrior.

 low on fuel?  run someone off the road. wez, load the crossbow. we need some gas.

At the turn towards Randsburg, things finally quieted down. The wind was at my back. The knee felt better, and it wasn’t hot at all. I decided to ignore the knee totally--just keep fueling, riding, and enjoying the views. Mighty pretty country in these parts. Landlocked.

During one long and fast descent, somewhere between Red Mountain and Trona, I had a big scare. My bike started to shudder and, thinking it was a puncture, I tried to ease onto the brakes. This caused the shuddering to get worse and worse and I was worried I’d lose control before I was able to stop. It got so bad I was eyeing the dirt next to the road for a good place to ditch. I finally stopped and didn’t have a flat. I checked the bike. Nothing. Cautiously starting to descend, everything seemed fine. I weaved back and forth, bunny-hopped, tested the brakes, nothing. Was I losing it mentally already? 

A bit later I got my answer. I was now on a flat section. I had a slight tailwind. It was calm and quiet. All of a sudden I saw some rocks and sand fly across the road in front of me. Before I could think of much I was sandblasted in the back and the bike shuddered wildly. Again, I thought I was going down. A dust devil had hit me, for a second time. From now on, I’d be careful about letting go of my bike with both hands.


Thing began to unravel in Trona. I felt good when I got there but getting off my bike it was hard to walk. Hmm. I took a break and iced my knee. 


pics: way above, the long lonely climb into randsburg. pretty country. landlocked.

josh having an alien encounter. common in these parts.

randsburg jail/torture chamber. probably a good place to shed some of this weight.

outside of trona. if not for this knee, things would be peachy.

descending into the panamint valley.


Other than that, things were going great. Though in cruise mode, I was only an hour and twenty minutes behind the leaders. Also, I was speeding up since I was an hour down at the first checkpoint.


Steve Born, of Hammer Nutrition, had sent me his nutrition plan from his double 508 (yes, that’s right, he did it in both directions) and it was working perfectly. No cramping. No stomach issues. I had no saddle problems yet, felt strong, and hadn’t felt the need to change clothes or clean up. All good signs. 


Team Jaguar Shark had been exemplary as well. I had no idea how much work they would have to do but feeding me, keeping the bikes ready, etc, was a big job. It seemed like I was seeing them constantly even though we were playing leap frog. At night, they’d have to follow me the entire time, which seemed pretty grim. But they weren’t complaining. In fact, they seemed to be enjoying it.


So I rolled out towards Towne’s Pass, while the team fueled up for the night. We’d see no more services for almost 200 miles. All was good until the next hill, which wasn’t steep, but was killing the knee. A shame, really, since the weather was perfect, the scenery was nice, and the roads empty.


The team caught me and we tried some tape and ibuprofen. I’d been using naproxin sodium and it wasn’t working. At this point, a switch couldn’t hurt. Down into the Panamint Valley I was making good time, however, Towne’s Pass was looming and I knew I was going to have to make a decision.




right: a rough stretch of pavement in the panamint valley.

below: looking up towards towne's pass 


I made Towne’s just as the sun was setting. Perfect. Just over 200 miles in about 12 hours. That had been my goal. What wasn’t so perfect was that I’d been kicking around the plusses and minus’ of continuing and it wasn’t looking good. Could I finish? Maybe. Would it be worth it? The thought of being out for six month of rehab wasn’t pleasant. I really dislike being injured. I think people dislike me when I’m injured too.


Team Jaguar Shark always makes the best of a bad situation. Bob handed me a beer. “You can start now, but you might as well give it a shot.” Looking up we could see a parade of red lights creeping their way up the mountain. A very cool site. Sure. Of course I’d try to go on.

Halfway up the climb I called it quits. It was a tough decision. For one, the wind was blowing out of the northeast. It was bad now, but it meant the likelihood of a tailwind throughout the night. I also knew that if I crested Towne’s, it was downhill for a long way and I’d be committed to Salisbury Pass at which point I might be close enough to the end I might start getting summit fever—a condition where you start to make less logical decisions. If I was going to make a rational decision to stop, it had to be now. After the summit, it was possible that only serious injury would stop me and the knee was definitely worsening all the time.


The Interns were game for me to continue on until I proposed the “what if I can’t ride all winter” scenario. This particularly alarmed Josh, one of my main riding partners. “Yeah, you should quit. I’ll bet we can find a bar still open.”


According to the official, I was making the right decision. A buddy of his rode through knee pain to win the race-across-something or other and wound up ruining his knee to the point where "he still can't ride well". (Later, Steve Born told me more or less the same thing, that dropping out was the right move. His brother had done the same thing this year.) It was just what I needed, since the longer I sat there the more I wanted to get back on the bike. It's amazing how hard it is to be rational in these kind of events.


A short time later we were in Stovepipe Wells Saloon. We were in luck, they had Campari in stock. And thus, we began to ponder the question, “what’s next for Team Zissou?”

Post script: Russ and Jen both made it to nearly mile 400. Russ’ lesson would be to take in more electrolytes as he seriously bonked during the night. Jen’s was “don’t get his by a car the week before the race.” Mine, I guess, would be either train more or don’t do the Everest Challenge first.

Tips and stuff 

-         We agreed that this race would be more fun as a team. This way, the driving and riding is all done by the same people. It’s not the same challenge, but you can go fast and you don’t have to feel guilty about how bored your support crew is.

-         More training than I did would be helpful if you planned to really race, but I did some things right. The best thing was nutrition. I only consumed around 300 calories and hour on average with some additional “meals” like sandwiches. Most of the cals were an assortment of bars, gels, bananas. On my bike I’d always have a bottle of water and a bottle of sports drink, either HEED, Accelerade (some protein is important), or Cytomax. Mainly I like to switch for flavor. The same of anything gets old. Each hour, I would take a pack of between 3-6 (depending on heat) endurolytes, 1 race cap, 1 anti fatigue cap, 1 mito-r cap. Every three hours I’d take: 1 race cap, 1 anti fatigue, 1 mito r, and 1 AO cap. It’s possible I’ve never felt better in a long event.

-          Bikes. A time trial and climbing bike combo is the best. I’m certain Tinker would have won the race if he had a TT set-up. It’s a huge advantage over this course. The combination will save a good rider an hour, an average rider even more time.

-          A triple, while hardly necessary, would help on the climbing bike (maybe not for relays). Like in Everest, the ability to spin and save your muscles is huge. On Towne’s Pass, not many people were spinning well.

-   An automatic is better for the vehicle. Klaus is a stick. Not only that, he’s old. We were joking going up Towne’s as to whether my knee or the van would die first. Driving 3mph up hill is not easy with a clutch, especially with a 20-year-old car.

-   I didn’t really get to test this but I think having different seating positions would help over the long haul. My TT and climbing bike are very different and each time I switched I was very comfortable for a little while, at least.

-   Also, my feet hurt, so next time I think I’ll bring some toe straps so I’ve got the option of riding in trainers for a break. 

-    It’s important to realize that riding slow is much better than not riding at all, so any tricks that might keep you on your bike should be considered. Tinker’s team brought a full suspension mtn bike. They didn’t use it, but if you’ve got the room, always opt for anything extra that you might use.

-   I could have used a cortisone shot, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that.