There is nothing easy about the Climb to Kaiser.
The distance: 155 miles.
The climb: 15,000-plus feet from Clovis to Kaiser Pass and then back.
The weather: Triple digit temperatures and high humidity.
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But the challenge in completing what is arguably one of the toughest endurance rides in the nation is as much mental as it is physical when it comes to riders surviving aches, pains and the occasional flat tire to make it to the finish.
Just ask Amy Cameron, the first woman to finish Saturday after 9 hours, 38 minutes, 9 seconds in the saddle.
In her fourth Climb to Kaiser, the 35-year-old marketing manager at Wine.com finally crossed the line in front.
“I told myself I’d do it until I won it. Then never again,” said Cameron, who is from Fresno but now works in Oakland.
After a runner-up finish in 2012, Cameron fell ill. She was diagnosed with celiac disease and also became “super anemic,” she said.
As the health problems grew, her sponsors vanished.
Still, Cameron didn’t give up. She trained for two years, returned to health, picked up Bay Area sponsor Mike’s Bikes and finally can check her top finish off her bucket list.
“I’ve had some really good luck,” she said. “It’s a blessing to be back to health.”
Cameron’s teammate and friend Jennie Phillips (10:29:14) was the second woman to finish the full ride.
288Number of riders who started the Climb to Kaiser, with more than 60% from out of the area.
Joey Galloway, 36, of Exeter was the men’s top finisher for the second year in a row, crossing in 8:55, nearly 20 minutes slower than last year’s time because of a pinched flat on his way down Tamarack Ridge. It was the third top finish in eight rides for Galloway, who is sponsored by Dayka-Hackett.
The one downfall that all parties agreed on was the heat.
“It was stupid hot,” as Cameron put it.
“The humidity was awful,” Galloway said. “It saps all your energy and you can’t push hard.”
Temperatures were in the mid-90s near Shaver Lake and eclipsed the century mark as riders descended into Prather.
To ensure all riders stayed hydrated, there were nine rest stops, each equipped with cold water, Gatorade, fruit and other snacks and towels soaked in buckets of ice. Numerous support vehicles also covered the route.
Some riders took their time to cool down, stretch and reapply sunblock at rest stops, while others plowed through before the heat got worse.
“It’s a hot ride this year,” race volunteer Dennis Hall said. “This ride takes a lot of endurance and if you’re not ready, it can easily take its toll on you.”
This year, 288 riders started, with more than 60% from out of the area.
Madera’s Benjamin Madrigal (3:57:21) was the top men’s finisher in the 71-mile Millerton Metric. Leading the women’s field were Laura Wright of Modesto (4:37:01) and Clovis’ Jaime Schaffer (4:46:30).
Top finishers for the 95-mile Tollhouse Century were Christopher Buock (6:09:06), Mike Brown (6:09:10) and Michelle Brown (6:11:27), all of Fresno.
No major injuries or accidents were reported, though two motorists were reported to California Highway Patrol for harassing cyclists and one was cited, race director Jennifer Collins said.
For full results, search Climb to Kaiser at runsignup.com.