Carson cyclist recalls Death Ride roots

Larry Roach rode with Death Ride founder Wayne Martin back when the ride was still a dream.

At age 66, Roach has been riding bicycles for 35 years, but the Death Ride has not been at the top of his list.

"I rode with Wayne when he was one of the Klamath Wheelmen," Roach said from his Carson City home. "He was more of a hill climber than I am, so we rode mostly down here in the valley."

According to his Web site, Martin lives in Washington. He organized the first Death Ride when he was living in Markleeville in the early 1980s with 15 others. This is the 24th Death Ride, according to the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

It has been 15 years since Roach's only attempt at the Death Ride, which features 129 miles of riding and 16,000 feet of climbing over five passes. A sixth optional pass at Blue Lakes Road has been added.

"Dr. (John) Coombs was doing it and he wanted someone to ride with," Roach said of the Carson City dentist. "We rode halfway up Ebbets Pass and that was the last I saw of him."

However, this year Roach has been in training for the Death Ride.

"My nephew has been after me for the last three or four years to ride the Death Ride with a group of his buddies."

Last weekend, he rode 107 miles and climbed four passes in preparation for the event.

"I rode until I got tired of fighting the wind," he said.

Roach has also ridden in 200 kilometer races and four 100-mile races, most recently the Comstock Century a few weeks ago.

He has advice for anyone who wants to ride.

"You just get out there and work hard if you want to go out and compete," he said.

"Bicycling is fun, it's popular. Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong have brought it to the U.S. that bicycling is excellent exercise and it allows you to stay in shape. It is great for your aerobic ability. I don't know how many guys down at the fitness center have told me they wish they had my endurance."

Bicycling is not limited to the Lance Armstrongs of the world either.

"Anybody can do it," he said. "You just have to put your mind to it."

Check-in for the Death Ride is 2-10 p.m. today at Turtle Rock Park in Alpine County. The park serves as both starting and finishing line for the ride.

Additional check-in will be taken 4 a.m., Saturday. The ride has been sold out for some time, but no-show spots will be given away at 4:30 a.m., Saturday before the 5:30 a.m. start time. Start times are staggered every half hour until the last group, single pass riders, leave between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

Kurt Hildebrand can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 215.


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