FURANCE CREEK, CA (BRAIN)?Specialized?s annual ride to Interbike climbs out of Death Valley today on its final leg to Las Vegas after four days of intense riding over California?s coastal range, the Sierra Nevada and a dazzling 17-mile descent into the valley.

On Tuesday, the riders, including five of the industry?s fittest retailers, leave from the Vegas Strip finishing the 604-mile ride with a 32-mile jaunt to Interbike?s Outdoor Demo near Boulder City.

After Sunday?s punishing eight-hour, 121-mile ride through desert heat (temperature at the ranger?s station at 2 p.m. was 104 degrees), the riders set their bikes aside at the entrance to Furnace Creek Resort and lounged in the shade while dousing themselves with water.

One of the riders, laughing as he relaxed in the shade, referred to the ride as a ?death march,? but if given the choice said he would do it again. Maybe. Another rider, Dave Guettler, owner of River City Bikes in Portland, Oregon, leaned against a rail fence wearing a wide grin. As he put it, this was a once-in-a-lifetime ride.

The tour began in Morgan Hill, California, Thursday at the Specialized offices. Riders wound their way through the outskirts of San Jose and then climbed over Mount Hamilton, home to the Lick Observatory, and finished at Lake McSwain ? a 141-mile day. Day two took them through California?s fabled Gold Country and up into Yosemite Valley. That was the easy part. Sort of. They then climbed up Tioga Pass ? elevation 9,996 feet ? and only four riders made it over the pass in time to avoid being pulled. They were Robert Choi, Don Langley and Chris D?Alusio of Specialized and Glen Fant of NorCal Bike Sport of Santa Rosa.

Mike Sinyard, Specialized?s founder and president, was pulled into a van just a few minutes from the Tioga Pass summit. Sinyard wanted to make the top but Nancy LaRocque, his assistant and van driver, ordered him into the van. ?This one time I?m going to be the boss,? she quipped. Day two covered 133 miles as the riders gained more than 15,000 feet in elevation from Lake McSwain.

Day three the crew left from Lee Vining riding to Independence, California, a distance of 125 miles. While there was ample climbing, it was nothing compared to the day before.

This is the second year Specialized has organized the ride. With October slated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Specialized staff wanted to increase awareness for the fight against the disease. For each person on the ride, Specialized donated $1,000?$17,000 total?to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a partnership between the foundation and Specialized?s Designs for Women, a line of bikes, apparel and accessories for women. About 40,000 women died of breast cancer last year.


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