FURNACE-CREEK

A week of extreme cycle races… now it’s FURNACE CREEK 508

We wrote about the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge yesterday which is underway in Australia, but on the opposite side of the world, in America, the FURNACE CREEK 508 preliminaries begin today.

This is the 26th Anniversary of the Furnace Creek 508 Bicycle Race. The race itself begins tomorrow, October 3-5, 2009. Held since 1983 and known as “The Toughest 48 hours in Sport,” it is the world’s premier ultramarathon bicycle race. This non-stop 508-mile bicycle race is revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, desolate roads, and its reputation as one of the toughest but most gratifying endurance challenges available, bar none.

The man who created this race is the godfather of ultra-cycling. Besides Furnace Creek 508, he also created the Great American Bike Race and Race Across America. His name is John Merino and at the age of 60 he is still cycling and rides the same weight as he did 30 years ago.

It is the company AdventureCORPS, run by Chris Kostman, which hosts Furnace Creek 508.

Chris Kostman himself has an impressive cycling history.  He set world ultra cycling records in high school in 1984 and 1985 and completed the 3127-mile, eleven-day Race Across America bicycle race at age 20 in 1987.

The Furnace Creek 508 race course is actually (to be pedantic) 509.58 miles long and has a total elevation gain of over 35,000′ (10,668 m). It crosses ten mountain passes, and stretches from Santa Clarita (just north of Los Angeles), across the Mojave Desert, through Death Valley, to Twenty Nine Palms.

Designed as an endurance challenge, no drafting or pack riding is allowed in any division at Furnace Creek 508. There is a 48 hour time limit for the solo division and a 46 hour time limit for the relay team division.

The start line is the Hilton Garden Inn of Santa Clarita. The halfway mark is at Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park. Racers then pass through the Mojave National Preserve en route to the finish line at the Best Western Gardens Inn in Twenty Nine Palms, CA.

Approximately 220 bicycle racers will be there from across the USA, Canada, Asia, and Europe.

It is known as the hardest and most popular weekend ultra-race. You can expect extreme heat, extreme cold, head winds, tail winds, flash floods, sandstorms and anything else that Mother Nature can think of will more than likely be thrown at you during the 48 hrs. of this race – here’s a brief excerpt from kjfitz2.

One competitor, on crossing the finish line, said: “This moment was forty five hours and twenty one minutes of heaven and hell.”

Why would anyone push themselves to the very edge of their limits, you might ask? The above competitor, Thrasher, summed it up brilliantly: “My obsession was to finish the Furnace Creek 508. But it became much more to me than just finishing. It has become a life lesson that has changed me forever. Many things are crystal clear to me now because of the 508; Things that had been shades of gray have become a stunning black and white.”

The Furnace Creek 508 becomes more than just a race. It almost becomes a spiritual event between yourself, the elements and endurance.

In response to the above comments, another competitor says: “I couldn’t agree with your comments more. That ride was a lifetime unto itself.”

Ultra-cycling is a world within a world. As Cat, Bumble Bee, Berge, says, on completing last years’ race: “For me ultra cycling has meant belonging to a family of unique friends, where love, concern, support and high regard for one another characterize our relationships.”

Good luck to all this year’s entrants…

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