Alpine Challenge Ride Report
27 April 2013
by Rob Verfurth
The Alpine Challenge has been an annual Descenders group ride for many, many years. In the past we have ridden hard on the 62 mile loop, trying to finish in the top riders for the ride (not a race) event. The ride start changed a few years ago to its current location and due to the busy traffic there is no longer a group start. This has changed the complexion of the ride/race. This year we notched it down even farther to publicly label it as a training ride for upcoming events like the Tour of California and Monsters Climb.
We had a great turn out of riders and great weather for the ride; sunny and cool at the start but never too hot all day. Most of the riders were planning to do the new 100 mile route with a few guys thinking of bailing to the 60 mile loop. We all converged to Summers Past Farms for a 7 am start. There were lots of riders already out on the course that opened at 6 am. We rolled with 11 riders: Jeff S, Larry Murray. Voris, Geoff B, Eileen, Len (TE), Tony O, Jeff C, Guido, Jeff L and me. The first few miles looped us west and back east for some gratuitous ride time due to the last minute change of no Kitchen Creek climb. I forgot to start my Garmin so did not even get credit for these early miles; Strava never lies. We looped right back by the start in time for Rick and Ernst to join our ride party. They planned to only ride the 60 mile loop and felt it appropriate to come late.
The large group kept up a nice pace down Harbison Canyon to start the Dehesa Climb. As expected we got split a bit on the climb but planned to regroup at the SAG station just before the descent down into Pine Valley. Most of the group rode together at a nice comfortable pace with only Cresap and Guido saving their legs a bit father back. Jeff S and Eileen bagged the stop and continued on towards Sunrise Highway, the new climb added for the ride. The rest of the group refueled and waited for Guido and Cresap. Hodges-like impatience set in so we rolled out expecting them to show at the next checkpoint at the top of Mount Laguna. We all stayed together until Rick and Ernst took the turn back around Pine Valley while the rest of us climbed up to start the Sunrise Highway ascent. I quickly lost contact with Larry, Voris, Geoff. Len and Tony as they motored up the climb; Jeff L was just behind me.
I watched the 5-man group roll around the curves of Sunrise Highway and eventually out of sight. Jeff L stopped to stretch a few miles into the climb and I climbed on alone. This was great ToC and Monster Climb training as I expect to be in the back climbing solo for those events too! About mile 3 of the climb I got my Drew Peterson sighting as he flew back down Sunrise Highway. He was in the lead and it would be another 1.5 hours before I hit the same spot on my descent. Drew was riding to another Alpine Challenge victory, averaging more than 20 mph for the entire ride. I reached the top of Mt Laguna and passed a rider in a Swami’s kit. He rode by me along the rollers at the top and I hung onto his wheel as we sped toward the turnaround point and SAG stop. We arrived a few minutes after the 5 guys while Jeff S & Eileen were already there enjoying the food and drink from the old VW van. We relaxed at the checkpoint for 5 minutes and then rolled out again suffering a bit on the climb back up to start our fast descent down Sunrsie Highway. The 5-man group again blew me away so I wisely hung with Jeff S and Eileen until we started the fast descent. We should have seen Cresap and Guido by now so we guessed they turned back, along with Jeff L who was saving hig legs for Breathless Agony next weekend.
I flew down Sunrise Highway and looped through Pine Valley, then slowed dramatically up the climb through Guatay and back to our planned SAG stop about mile 75. It was starting to get wamer with the temperatures now in the 70’s. All the Descenders that climbed Laguna were there waiting for me, including Jeff S and Eileen. They went straight through Pine Valley to get in front of me as I looped around. We all were full of snacks and refreshed with new drinks as we rolled out to finish the last section of the ride. We rode around Descanco and back to Hwy 79, then under I-8 again. The descent started with Geoff and Voris pulling hard. I barely hung on and then Larry moved to the front. He road at or near the front all day, pulling the group forward. He would then back off some so everyone could regroup. Larry kept up a fast pace on the descent with Geoff and Voris trading pulls while Len, Tony and I hung on for dear life. Jeff S and Eileen were left to make their way back alone. We flew back down Dehesa to Tavern Road and then into Alpine.
The now group of six finished together with about 6:15 of ride time. We saw Guido who told us he rode up Sunrise Highway and turned back, he still rode 95 miles. Jeff L turned back as well and picked up Cresap on the route back. Jeff C must have decided to ride the 60+ mile loop and save his legs a bit. Jeff S and Eileen finished up just a few minutes behind us. We all enjoyed the post-ride meal and some enjoyed the beer too before climbing into our cars to head home. It was a great ride and greaet team effort with many Descenders riding together much of the ride. Attached is a photo from the start of the climb up Dehesa. I will post the rest to our Shutterfly account.