After a series of severe injuries forced him off his bike for nearly an entire year, Joey Galloway was determined to make a recovery that'd make him stronger, better and faster than he ever was.
In 2011, Galloway suffered severe injuries during a crash while riding in the Fresno Criterium. He shattered bones in his pelvis, back, sacrum, left shoulder and right hand. The crash kept him off the bike for six months and it took a full eight months before he could walk without the use of a walker.
"I couldn't wait to get back on the bike," Galloway said.
On Saturday, Galloway's conviction was rewarded: He finished the Climb to Kaiser for a seventh time. It was the second time the 35-year-old Exeter native was the first to finish the 155-mile ride from Clovis to Kaiser Pass and back. He clocked a time of 8 hours, 36 minutes and six seconds, nearly 20 minutes off his leading time in 2010.
It wasn't easy for the 6-foot-4 Galloway, who went from a lean 185 pounds to a lanky 150 after the crash.
He underwent several surgeries that fused his spine with titanium rods and screws before he started riding again.
He set a training schedule, riding nearly everyday since Jan. 1, to prepare himself for the Climb to Kaiser.
"I missed the last three years," he said. "This was my No. 1 goal."
Since then, he's accumulated 8,500 miles and 620,000 feet of climbing in training rides.
And the training paid off as Galloway admitted this year's ride was the easiest of the seven.
"I was much more relaxed and was able to keep things nice and consistent. I felt no pain at all," he said with an exhausted smile. "I'm back stronger and better than ever."
Reggie Bauer clocked in the fastest time on the 71-mile Millerton Metric at 4:17:03 and Thea de Boer was the first woman at 5:09:48. Jack Swertfager was the first Tollhouse Century finisher in 5:15:12 and Paloma Dominguez was the first woman to finish the century at 5:27:19.
A cooler ride
The 38th annual Climb to Kaiser was kind to riders thanks largely to favorable weather -- a high temperature of 95 degrees to go with a soft breeze.
"It was very nice weather," said Estella Salcido. "The breeze even helped cool you off."
Last year, riders endured triple-digit heat.
Salcido, 52, rode the 95-mile Tollhouse century with friends Debra Schmitt, Sherrie Flynn and Joann Miller. The four finished together in 8 hours and 30 minutes.
"It was just perfect and it was an awesome ride for all of us," Miller said. "We're ready to do it again," she joked.
Aside from two flat tires to Salcido's bike, the crew had no hiccups and that was just about the case for the entire field of 296 riders Saturday.
"The rest stops were great, the food was great, the volunteers were great and the SAG vehicles were a big help," Salcido said.
Ride organizer Jennifer Collins said the day went without a hitch, with nine rest stops and plenty of support vehicles to aid riders.