Racing the 508

Furnace Creek 508 ? A seriously difficult ride, in my opinion. A ride that goes through Death Valley, through the Mojave, through tons of hard climbs, for a total of 508 miles. This ride is a race, and a qualifier for the Race Across America, so the best and the craziest of the long-distance cyclists are there.

Christophe decided to give it a try, and asked Ofer and I to be his crew in the support vehicle. Why not ? Must be fun... well, not sure there is much fun in following a cyclist at 15mph on a 500 miles ride, barely getting any sleep during 40 hours, and filling water bottles all the time.

It turned out that the days were very hot, around 40C both on saturday and sunday, which made Christophe sick several times. Combined with jet lag from a recent trip from France, he was so exhausted that he dropped from the race at mile 430. From my point of view, it was an interesting experience. But it was certainly scary to go down Townes pass, going 45mph in the night just a few meters behind Christophe so that he could benefit from the van's lights, trying to be as close as possible but not kill him.

One roasted chicken for the racer, one for the crew.
saturday morning. Hard to wake up at 4am.
Ofer and Christophe are on time.
Christophe will be Ibex (a mountain goat)
The start is at the Hilton in Santa Clarita
The parking is packed with support vehicles...
Everybody displays the rider's totem
Racers are ready - I like the RAAM sweatshirt (left)
Ofer gives last minute recommendations
Chris Kostman, the race director.
The race will be awfully long, CK says
There will be insane climbs, he adds
But nobody cares about what he says
2002 champion Ostrich's 90t chainring
7am, off they go for 500 miles !
Getting out of Santa Clarita
We have to drive 26 miles...
before we're allowed to meet the riders.
Just had breakfast, I'm ready to help !
Ofer installs speakers to play music.
Huge windmills in the desert
Curt is here ! he's also crewing today.
Waiting for the train to pass in Mojave
Gas station in California city.
First time station, Ibex is 48 out of 55.
Here he comes, says Ofer.
Long... hot... hard...
Santa is here, crewing like always.
We have time to spare while waiting.
"downtown" Randsburg and its abandoned houses.
Another racer, Basenji (?)
In Panamint valley
Checking on Christophe in the mirror.
Ofer is the waterbottle chief
I'm enjoying the view here
Christophe is quite sick from the heat
We force him to eat some cake
Ofer keeps a record of everything we do
Next time station will be in Trona
A salt mine close to Trona
At the time station.
Trona's junkyard
At night we must follow the rider all the time
Resting a bit before the climb to Townes pass
Clear sky and full moon.
The British Bulldogs team passes us
Ofer refills quickly the water bottles.
Here comes Worm on his softride bike
The light of the previous rider up the mountain
The climb up Townes Pass averages 8-10%.
At 12:30am we're at the top
We reach Furnace Creek at 2am.
Sunrise is getting close.
Ofer rested a bit, but is still tired
Ashford Mills - Christophe made good progress
The climb up Salsberry pass to exit Death Valley
Now Ofer drives, so I'm in charge of water bottles.
Christophe went up pretty strong on Salsberry
We chat with the Leprechaun's crew.
Here comes Gecko, walking his bike up the hill.
The back of the van is just a big mess
We reach Ibex pass at noon on sunday.
I'm a bit tired after 24 hours of driving.
The Dumont dunes
I'm temporarily in charge of time station #5 in Baker.
Christophe is in 35th position now.
Can anybody buy fries for me, he asks
Going south in the Mojave
Second sunset on the ride.
Christophe is in bad shape, we let him sleep 10 minutes
Time station #6 after 430 miles.
We won't make it in time to the finish...
... so Christophe drops. Let's go home !