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The Everest Challenge: Take it to the limit!

September 20, 2010

On the final push to Westgard pass. This hill is at 15 percent. Yipes!


It doesn’t take a physics professor to tell you that the two-day Everest Challenge bike race attracts an odd set of cyclists.

“There’s something about the human spirit that makes us wonder exactly what we can do,” said race director Steven Barnes, who happens to be an adjunct professor of physics at Cal State-San Bernardino. “This race is out there, pretty close to the limits.”

The Everest Challenge, a Bishop event, this year is Sept. 25-26. It is now 10 years old. Without bravura, describes itself on its website as “the undisputed, hardest, two-day USA Cycling race and ride.” Over the course of the two days, cyclists climb 29,035 feet (six feet higher than the height of Mt. Everest) over 208 miles.

On the first day, cyclists start at Millpond Park, then climb to Mosquito Flats, descend, and then climb to Pine Creek, descend, and climb to South Lake. On the second day, the cyclists begin in the Owens Valley and test their skills against the White Mountains, climbing up to Glacier Lodge, Waucoba Canyon and, finally, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

“There’s nothing like it anywhere in the world,” Barnes said. There are more famous races, and there are better-attended races, but there’s nothing like the Everest Challenge.

“Other rides and other races have elements of this race, but none of them have so much in the same place.”

The ride was the brainchild of Bishop’s Tom Reid, the cycling ophthalmologist who handed over the race director’s duties to Barnes a couple of years ago. Barnes said he couldn’t be happier about that.

“What makes this race so great is, first, the climbing,” Barnes said. “Cyclists love to brag about the climbs they’ve done. There are famous climbs, like the ones in the Tour de France, Colorado, New Hampshire and Hawaii, but the concentration of great climbs in California is unmatched. “

A ride over two days with such interesting climbs isn’t really possible anywhere else.” Barnes said there’s another element that makes the Everest Challenge such a terrific experience – something everyone in the Eastern Sierra already knows.

“It’s the scenery,” he said. “It’s not only just breathtaking, but each climb is very different, and they’re not through roads, with the exception of the Death Valley Road up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. All the other climbs end where the pavement ends, and that’s just fantastic.”

The race is not a pleasure ride in any sense. USA Cycling has designated the Everest Challenge as the California-Nevada Climbing Championship, so there is more than just pride at stake. And just who the heck are these crazies, anyway?

“People who have done a few centuries (100-miles rides) think, ‘Wow I could do something harder than that,’” Barnes said, “so they end up doing double-centuries, and other extreme rides. “But there’s nothing like this.”

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