Right here in our own back yard, so to speak, there is the holy grail of hill climbing: Mount Diablo. Tackling any single one of these climbs on a given day is a noteworthy event, showing off the rider's physical skill, fortitude and drive.
Doing all of them in one day? Well, that's just crazy, isn't it? To inflict such a ride on others, especially those trying to raise money for a charity, well, that's just cruel.
"That's why we call it the Cruella Challenge," laughed Kathleen McCormick, creator of the brand new charity ride set to roll out at the end of October. McCormick is a multi-sport coach and the founder of endurance multisport connection (emc), a women's athletic team that competes in a variety of events throughout the area.
Founded in 2008, emc started with 35 members, women McCormick coached for events like marathons and triathlons. After only one season, the group has grown to 50 and is set for a new season of competition.
McCormick said that it was getting the group off the ground and dealing with getting sponsors for the team that led her on the path to starting up a brand new endurance ride for this area.
She said that during talks with Pegasus Bicycle Works to get a sponsorship for the emc team she heard from the owner that he wanted to get a new ride going, one that would be challenging and would be local.
Originally, the group looked at the possibility of doing something similar to the Cinderella Ride, an annual endurance ride that goes through Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
"I wanted a ride kind of like Cinderella, but let's call it Cruella," McCormick recalled. "And it's going to be everything that Cinderella isn't."
With a grin she added, "If it's Cruella, let's throw all these hills in there to climb."
Initially, they were going to follow the Cinderella model of making it a women-only race, but after doing a test run of the route last year, they decided to open it up to either gender.
"Seeing the test run and the climbs we put in, we wanted to open it up to men so they could be challenged as well," McCormick stated.
McCormick said emc has had a long standing relationship with the Links for Life Foundation, one of the team's first sponsors, and the foundation is helping with the Cruella Challenge as well.
"Links for Life is a group that raises funds and funnels them out to children's charities," McCormick said. Money raised during the Cruella Challenge will go to Links for Life, which will in turn see that it gets to the group's designated charity.
"We picked Girls on the Run as our charity," McCormick stated. "We liked Girls on the Run because it is all women and it helps girls build self esteem through athletics and running."
Other sponsors of the event include Vaska Products, the Heffernan Group/Wellness at Work Programs, Pegasus Bikes, Hammer Nutrition and Yellow Wood Coffee and Tea.
"The support we've gotten from the community and from our sponsors is just really amazing," McCormick said.
The event itself, set for Oct. 24, is definitely not for the faint of heart, with either a 100-mile or a 65-mile (metric century) ride. The route takes the cyclists throughout the area with several very tough climbs and a total elevation gain of 7,000 feet.
"It's not a beginner ride," McCormick explained, "but definitely for those women who've tried other endurance rides and really want to challenge themselves. The route is beautiful and all the favorites are there."
The ride is fully supported with rest stops, first aid and vehicle support. The route opens at 7 a.m. for the 100-mile riders and at 8 a.m. for the metric century riders. McCormick said that signing up to do one of the routes does not mean a rider has to go over every inch of the course.
"We do have bailout options. And we have cutoff times on the route," she said. Riders will have to maintain a pace of around 10 miles per hour in order to cover the entire route by the cutoff times. Riders who have not reached a cutoff point by the allotted time will not be allowed to continue.
"We have to have those cutoff times," McCormick explained. "That way we know when the riders are on the route."
In addition to helping the community through the fundraising, the goal of the ride is also to help the cyclists, by pushing them beyond their limits. "That's what Cruella is all about. It's about breaking out of your comfort zone. Just pick a goal and go for it," McCormick urged.
Registration for the ride can be done at http://new.sportsbaseonline.com. Cost of the ride is $70, and it is limited to the first 250 riders. Registration will close Oct. 23.
Information on Links for Life can be found at www.linksforlifeca.com and on Girls on the Run at www.girlsontherun.org.