A rapidly expanding wildfire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California forced state officials and organisers to cancel the 40th edition of the Death Ride and evacuate over 2000 cyclists from the town of Markleeville.
“We are very saddened to report that due to the fast-growing Tamarack Fire, tomorrow’s Death Ride has been canceled,” race organizers said on their website. “Please pray for the community of Markleeville, and the first responders from multiple agencies who are working to contain the fire.”
The Tamarack Fire, which was estimated at 500 acres on Friday, 6600 acres on Saturday and over 21000 acres Sunday, forced officials to close all roads in the area and order mandatory evacuations.
Kelly Pennington was camping nearby on Friday, so her husband could ride his ninth Death Ride, when emergency workers told her to leave immediately.
“It happened so fast,” Pennington told the Reno Gazette. “We left behind a tent, a hammock, and some food, but we got most of it and pushed our two kids into the car and left.”
On-the-scene KCRA reporter Melanie Wingo wrote, “Not difficult to see why Saturday’s #Deathride out of #Markleeville is canceled. Photos don’t do justice to what we saw at the #TamarackFire scene. Ferocious flames ripping across a wooded ridge just outside of town.”
Death Ride participant Wreck-It Rick on YouTube video documented the emergency evacuation:
The Death Ride, aka Tour of the California Alps, was scheduled to occur Saturday 17 July. The 103-mile amateur event began in 1978 when five cyclists rode a leg-breaking route with 14000+ vertical feet of climbing over six category rated climbs and three rugged Sierra Nevada passes. Since then riders from all across the world have journeyed to Markleeville to participated in the storied event.
This is the second year in a row the event has been cancelled, last year due to COVID-19 and this year due to the Tamarack Fire.
PHOTOS: SOPA, USFS, AP-Berger