About the Ride

Road Biking ColoradoAs you may know, Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the US and southwestern Colorado is spectacular when it comes to a place to cycle. One day at my local bike shop – Campus Cycles in Denver, I picked up a book called "Road Biking Colorado The Statewide Guide" by Michael Seeberg. This is a great book and for anyone wanting the perfect guide for cycling in Colorado, I highly recommend it. In the book the rides are listed by level of difficulty – Easy –Moderate –Difficult – Very Difficult. Personally wanting to conquer the most difficult ride in Colorado, I found what is called the DEATH RIDE LOOP – page 232-233 – listed Very Difficult. This is a spectacular loop made up of several highways in southwestern Colorado called the San Juan Skyway including US Highway 550 known as the Million Dollar Highway.

Campus Cycles Logo

The book calls the DEATH RIDE Challenge loop one of the INSANE – one-day rides and is listed as one of the finest in the country – also the toughest! You’ll cover 225 miles, 16,500 feet over 5 mountain passes and when completed you’ll have met the CHALLENGE – lust the DEATH RIDE Challenge was named.

In 2017, we decided to make what has been strictly an underground ride by only a few a challenge charity event that would benefit the War On ALS and would attract more and more participants each year. To complete the challenge, you will certainly need determination, commitment and a willingness to push yourself past your limits.

DEATH RIDE CHALLENGE – DURANGO TO DURANGO LOOP – 225 Miles

Bicycle Bob Gregorio has become a legend as it pertains to the DEATH RIDE. Being very influential at the start of the event back in 1979, Bob has completed the DEATH RIDE Loop every time he has attempted it and that would be 17 times since 1979.

We are proud to have Bicycle Bob has a member of the DEATH RIDE Tour Inc., Charity Cycling Events Board. Here is Bob’s story:

The Story of the Death Ride

By Bicycle Bob Gregorio – Professional Cycling Mechanic – Ralley Racing

Bob GregarioHi Barry,

I read through the article, it's mostly accurate, although I did notice a few errors. It actually did begin as a 2 day ride, organized by the Ft. Lewis College Outdoor Pursuits department. 1979 was the year. An invitation was floated about the Durango cycling community, of which I was a part. I can't claim credit for organizing the first year, as the article seemed to indicate, as I had no direct relationship to Ft. Lewis. We rode counterclockwise, up Hesperus hill and all the way around to Ouray on day one, then over the passes to Durango on day 2.

The name "Death Ride" was attached to the 2-day version by Blake Knoll, who owned and managed one of the top bike shops back then. It was considered so hard as a 2-day that he figured that we must have ridden to the edge of death, made a deal with the devil, and returned to Durango as zombies…

In 1980, some of the handful of us who had done the 2-day version decided that it was possible to do it in one day. We chose the "full moon in June" as a good day for the challenge. It became a yearly endeavor, always around the moon in June. The riders who completed that 1st one day ride were Gerry Roach, Andy Schoembs, Forrest Yelverton, Peter Willing and myself. It took us 18 hours, started before dawn, ended after sunset. It truly earned the name "Death Ride" as a one day. We had never heard of the Markleyville Death Ride 'til years later.

Each year, I (we) would have dozens of riders claim that they were training for the Death Ride, and would be ready on the full moon in June. Of the dozens who made the claim, normally half would actually show up for the traditional 4AM start. Of the 6-10 who would actually start, about half would finish. The 3rd year, I was actually the only one who finished. Taking 19:20 to complete, I rode the part from Mancos to Durango on raisins and beer, as that was all our follow vehicle had left…

By the mid and later '80s, it devolved into a race of sorts, to set the fastest time. It was so hard then, and the attrition rate grew because of this mentality. In '86, the time to beat was set at 13:39, which seemed unbeatable. In '87, 4 of us set out to beat it. We had a support guy who handed us up mussettes of food; we peed off the bike, just like the pros. One guy dropped at Dallas Divide, another on the way down the Dolores valley near Stoner. The last 2 of us, Stewart Geer and myself, rode in the rest of the way and finished it in 12:53. As far as I know, it's never been done any faster, although, the clandestine nature of the ride means nothing is official…

Mark Witkes did the ride with us in the mid 2000's, when I returned to the ride and promoted it as a team effort. I recall him doing the ride twice, although it could have been more, as I didn't do all the rides myself. Mark was such a great runner, but really not a cyclist per se. He would normally ride a little in front, off to one side, or behind the group as he was uncomfortable drafting closely in formation. He was so strong and positive, that he inspired us all.

I'm proud to say that I started and finished the ride each time I attempted it, 17 times in all. Once, I actually decided to quit… at Society turn near Telluride. Had my bike loaded in the sag wagon, had taken off my shoes… But when I saw the riders pulling away to begin the ascent of Lizard Head, I put the shoes back on, called for my bike, and pushed on.

You see, the Death ride is more than a cycling challenge; it's a test of will. A conversation with one's own faith of spirit to endure. The confidence gained by persevering in the face of hardship and exhaustion serves one in all facets of life.

Ride On!
Bob G

You’ll start and finish the DEATH RIDE Challenge at the historic Strater Hotel leaving at 3:00 am and having 17 hours until 8:00 pm to finish. Each participant that has been affected by ALS someway will receive a special in honor or in memory flag to carry with them to the 5 mountain passes.

The tradition of the flags started in 2009 with the Heavenly Eleven planting memorial flags for Irvin & Rhoda Sopinsky in each cemetery on the route, Durango, Silverton, and Telluride. Since then the flags have become a way of remembering those who we have lost or those suffering from the horrible disease ALS.

Tombstones

Original flag design from 2009 inaugural tour

Flag in Cemetery

Hillside Cemetery Silverton

Cemetery Flag and Tree

Lone Tree Cemetery Telluride

Cemetery in Durango

Greenmount Cemetery Durango

Here is Carlos Arellanes at Red Mountain Pass carrying his flag in memory of Brian Muir

Ashes Ceremony for Jon the “Blazeman” Blais – August 30, 1971 – May 27, 2007. The Warrior Poet

Bikers with Train

Starting out of Durango – you’ll ride the same course as the Iron Horse Classic. A 50-mile race the train from Durango to Silverton that takes place every Memorial Day Weekend. Every year over 2,000 cyclists take on the challenge to beat the train into Silverton which takes 3 ½ hours. However, for the DEATH RIDE Challenge, you’ll be riding this first 50 miles in the dark. It is mandatory that all participants have lights – front & back and recommended reflective clothing.

The first two passes will be Coal Bank (elev. 10,640 feet) & Molas (elev. 10910 feet) which you’ll come across in the first 35 miles after leaving Durango. After descending Molas Pass into Silverton you’ll immediately start the 10-mile climb to the top of Red Mountain Pass ( elev. 11,019 feet), one of the most notorious mountain passes! Red Mountain Pass is one of Colorado’s classic mountain climbs.

After summiting Red Mountain Pass, you’ll descend into the historic mining community of Ouray. Leaving Ouray, you’ll have rolling hills for 10 miles until you get to Ridgway where you’ll turn left on Highway 62 to start the fourth climb up Dallas Divide. The climb over Dallas Divide is an unforgettable experience! At 8,970 feet, the pass is one of the most photographed locations in the state of Colorado! This is usually a section of the ride where a headwind makes the climb more difficult.

From the summit of the Divide, you’ll descend 12 miles turning left onto Highway CO 145 (Do Not Miss This Turn) into Placerville then riding 16 miles along the river on the way to Telluride. In Telluride keep on Highway CO 145 and do not turn in towards Telluride. Keep heading toward Rico. On the way to Rico, you will climb the last of five passes, Lizard Head Pass, (elev. 10,222 feet). After the summit, you’ll descend again for 12 miles into Rico. From Rico, you’ll have 36 miles of rollers descending 2,000 vertical feet through the beautiful Dolores River Valley.  After Dolores, you’ll be turning left at the top of the hill onto Highway CO 184 towards Mancos. Make sure you turn left at the top of the hill onto Highway CO 184 towards Mancos. If you miss this turn you’ll end up in Cortez.

From Mancos, you’ll turn left onto US Highway 160 and have 36 miles to Durango with one last 10 mile climb up Hesperus Hill (elev. 8,109 feet).

After Hesperus Hill, you’ll enjoy one last major blazing descent back into Durango and end at the Strater Hotel – all by 8:00 pm and be welcomed by all your friends for a job well done. You just completed the Toughest One Day Bike Ride In the US.

Now you have earned the convened DEATH RIDE Challenge, Angel of Life, Granite Tombstone Finisher Award.

DEATH RIDE Challenge Angel of Life Trophies awarded to DRTInc Board Members David Skudneski and “Bicycle Bob Gregorio along with multiple DEATH RIDE participant Rip Mobus, DEATH RIDE Challenge Logistics Director at the annual celebration barbecue sponsored by the Grand Imperial Hotel and the Golden Block Brewery in Silverton on the Monday following the Challenge.

WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE?

Complete Logistical, Mechanical and Medical Support is provided on the DEATH RIDE Challenge along with Aid Stations at Coal Bank Pass, Red Mountain Pass, Dallas Divide, Telluride. Lizard Head Pass, Dolores, and Hesperus Hill.

It is the responsibility of each participant to make sure your bicycle is in proper working condition. It is recommended that you take your bike to your local bike shop or contact Beeline Bikes Mobile Service and have them completely go through it.

You should be prepared for the Challenge to fix flats and perform minor adjustments to your bike. The DEATH RIDE Tour Inc. and its employees will do everything possible to keep you on the course to finish within the 17-hour time limit.

NUTRITION

Honey Stinger

History Of Honey Stinger
In 1954, beekeeper Ralph Gamber and his wife Luella created the EN-R-G Bar as a healthy snack. They also introduced "quick energy" packets of honey. Fifty years later, Honey Stinger was started in Colorado by a group including their son and grandson.

Who We Are
Located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Honey Stinger makes nutritious and great tasting honey-based foods including energy bars, protein bars, energy gels, organic waffles and organic chews.

Nature's Energy Source

  • Honey is rich in carbohydrates, making it ideal fuel for working muscles.
  • When eaten before activity, it is released into the system at a steady rate throughout the activity.
  • Helps muscles stay nourished longer, and delays muscle fatigue.