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Sierra Endurance Rides – Part 1

by david on June 4, 2013

This is a new article series for ActiveReno that describes some long road rides in the Reno/Tahoe area (generally 50-100 miles). These routes are good if you are planning on getting into shape for a target century or other non-competitive event, or if you are looking to have some fun and prepare for longer competitive events.  In this series of articles Scot Ferguson will talk about the ride, the challenges, and some other tips about long distance cycling.

Ride 1: Reno to Markleeville California, 72 miles (80 with extra trip to Indian Creek Reservoir).  I did this ride on May 17th, 2013 and was planning on doing about 18-19 mph in order to complete the ride in under 4 hours, but it took a bit longer due to wind. The first part of the ride leaves Reno via South Virginia through Pleasant Valley to Washoe Valley. In years past this route was a bit scary due to the high traffic through Pleasant Valley. Last year a new Route, Highway 580, was completed linking Reno to Washoe Valley and now the Pleasant valley route has very little traffic and is much safer. Pleasant valley is very picturesque and has a few nice little ranches, old barns, and an impressive view of the new bridge! This part of the ride was very windy though, and I was pushing pretty hard on the pedals to maintain 13 mph.

There is a smallish hill going into Washoe Valley and the combination of the headwind and the hill made the going hard. I was happy to get to Washoe valley and turn a bit more toward the south instead of Southwest into the headwind. It is usually better to stay on the West side of the highway going south for 2 reasons: 1) the wind is much less on the west side of the valley, and you can tuck into the foot of the hills along Franktown road if you really want to get out of the breeze, and 2) you don’t have to cross the highway to get to Eastlake blvd. During my ride I did the West side of the Valley along old 395.

washoe valley

Getting into Carson Valley is via a fast descent on the bike route 395. There are little green signs for the route, and after some trails and bike lanes it ends up putting you on Curry Street on the west side neighborhoods of Carson City. The area has a quaint little old town feel, and if I was able to pedal after having a sip I might have stopped at the High Sierra Brewery on Carson Street. I followed Curry street until the South end of Carson City, then went on 395 again through Carson Valley to Minden, then Hwy 88 toward Markleeville at the Junction. Carson Valley had a little less wind, but in favor of doing a direct route to Markleeville I chose staying on 395 instead of Jacks Valley road, which hugs the foothills of the west side of the valley and can have less wind. It also travels through the historic town of Genoa which is a nice piece of old town Nevada.

carson valley

South of Minden I was about to take a picture of the California border, when Mel Maloof stopped and chatted for a bit. Mel is a UNR alumni and a nice guy that has been racing and riding in the region for a long time. He was able to snap a few photographs and give me some pointers about the wind, which he said is sometimes worse on 88, and sometimes on foothill road….so who knows!

State lineToward the end of the Carson Valley the route starts to climb up to Woodfords. I was worried about time, but an optional route is to climb up Diamond Valley road to highway 89, bypassing Woodfords and heading straight to Markleeville. On the way home from Markleeville on Sunday the 19th I took the route and included a photo. This is a great place to ride, nice active ranches and a lot of water heading down from the sierras making the grass green. This is also where Alta Alpina cycling club holds some twilight road races and Master’s district championship road races were held for many years. Great place to ride with 2 short climbs up to the valley.

Diamond valleyAfter Diamond Valley or the climb up highway 88 to Woodfords, the route takes a right to head on highway 89 to Markleeville. This section is part of the Death Ride, the grueling part back to the start after the participants climbed all 5 passes and are heading back from Carson pass. It is gently rolling on this day, but would be pretty painful after 120 miles and 14,000 Feet of climbing! I did a quick out and back to Indian creek reservoir to ride the last bit of sunshine, and that was a nice little addition too. After Marleeville I headed up to Grover Hot Springs State park to meet my girlfriend and camp for a couple of days. On  the 19th I met David Evans for some climbing on Monitor and Ebbetts passes, and on the 20th I rode home on the same route I came out on, except I took the Diamond Valley road instead of going through Woodfords, and I took the East side of Washoe lake due to the crosswind.

This ride is a great way to gain mileage and prepare for centuries, as well as to get yourself out to the Passes of the high Sierras to practice your climbing. The Death ride includes both sides of Monitor, both sides of Ebbetts, and Carson pass, all of which are accessible from Markleeville. So take a little trip out south of the Carson Valley and check out some great riding!

Going South to Markleeville I was able to maintain a bit over 17mph, but going back I was a couple mph faster due to the wind direction. Remember on this ride to prepare for the possibility of strong wind, especially going south. Riding in the wind makes you strong though, just be sure to eat enough food and plan for slower pace!

Scot Ferguson is a USAC level 2 coach and certified in Power Based Training (CPBT). Scot is a long time collegiate cyclist and raced for many years with the UNR cycling team and Team Clif Bar Cycling. He now coaches the UNR cycling team as well as his own personal clients and strives to help them succeed. Additional information about his coaching programs can be found at www.winningmovecoaching.com.

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