Climbing Emerald Bay
Back in 2009, I was just getting into cycling, and JoAnn and I decided to do “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride,” a 72 mile ride around Lake Tahoe, with some friends. It was a great experience, but really challenging (for me, anyway).
We’d been talking about doing it again, and decided to ride in the Fall edition of the ride, the “Tour de Tahoe.” We added more fun into the mix by talking daughter Justine into riding with us, along with her school friend, Maceo. Our condition for them doing the ride was, that they had to do several training rides along with us. These would include higher mileage rides, and rides with significant hills to prepare. They both made the commitment to it, and we had our Tour de Tahoe team!
We drove up to Tahoe on Saturday, September 6, the day before the ride. Brenna and her friend Bliss were also tagging along, so to carry six people and four bicycles required two vehicles. We arrived in Stateline and quickly checked in for the ride, getting our swag bags and bib numbers, and then headed up Kingsbury Grade to our rental condo in Heavenly. There’s major road construction happening on the road, and we had to wait a long time to get up there.
We rented a very nice three bedroom/two bath condo, which proved to be perfect for our purposes. The only challenge being the eighty something steps we had to climb between the cars and the condo. After making our way back down and up Kingsbury Grade again, we enjoyed a tasty dinner of pizza from the highly touted Base Camp Pizza Co. Then it was preparations for the ride, and early to bed, as it was going to be an early morning start for all of us.
The four of us were up early… at 5 am or thereabouts. I made myself an espresso, and we all ate something resembling breakfast to fuel the first part of our morning. After loading the bikes up we drove down the hill to the Montbleu Casino for the start of the ride.
Typical for this time of year, the morning started out pretty cold, with freezing fingers for the first forty minutes or so. But by the top of the first climb at Emerald Bay, the arm warmers came off, and it was a beautiful day. I have to say, having lost fifty pounds since I last climbed that hill, made a huge difference. The first rest stop at the Vikingsholm parking area gave an opportunity for a little snack and a pit-stop, and to connect with Justine and Maceo, who were of course, way ahead of us.
The team atop the hill.
The next section of the ride had a little bit a hill at the start, but then plunged into a long zippy downhill. I don’t know about you, but when I get going over 40 mph on a bike, it’s a little unnerving. This was followed by some actual flat riding, with a few rollers thrown in to keep it interesting, and before long we swung into the second rest stop at the Homewood ski resort. Here I ran into a group of NorCal AIDS Cycle riders, which I didn’t expect.
Another twenty’ish miles in the next stretch, including a little climb up “Dollar Hill.” This is a climb which doesn’t look like much, because it’s in a highly developed area… but it’s just enough to get your attention.
Lunch! Riding into King’s Beach for lunch, one starts to see just how many riders there are in the “Tour.” After wolfing down a mediocre sub sandwich, a really good brownie, and some fresh fruit, it was back on the road. There is a lot of road construction going on in this area, so for a while there was no shoulder at all, and it was a little scary. But the last big obstacle was looming… the climb up to Spooner Summit.
While the gradient is not as steep as Emerald Bay, it is a steady climb of eight miles with sections around 6-7%, so still a challenge. But we kept a good steady pace, passing up a lot of riders struggling up the hill, and finished out at the last rest stop at Spooner Junction (hwy 28 & 50 split). Freshening up the water bottles and having another snack for the last segment, and we were off, with a zippy downhill on highway 50 heading towards Zephyr Cove (or Zephyr Point for your Presbyterians out there).
One of the things that drives me nuts about this ride, is that just two miles from the finish, there is one more little hill. Not really that steep on its own, but when you’ve been in the saddle for five hours, and ridden seventy miles, it’s just a little irritating. Before long JoAnn and I sailed across the finish line at the Montbleu, ready to get off the bike seats, and enjoy the taco bar which awaited. Justine and Maceo of course, had already been there for awhile, and eaten their lunch. But all were in good spirits from a great ride!
Tour de Tahoe is a fun day on the bike, and a beautiful and challenging ride, at 72 miles with about 4100′ vertical feet of climbing. So if cycling is your thing, you should do it!