Adventure Corps 400 km Brevet

May 4th, 2001

By Peter Pop    Photo's by Chris Kostman

I had forgotten all about Chris Kostman's 400 Km Brevet, until a few days ago, when an Email from Charlie Griffice piqued my interest. A ride with the difficulty factor of three Los Angeles Crest centuries in a row? Now that's a challenge. The old Ridge Route on a road bike? Who ever had heard of such a thing. My partner and fellow cyclist Russ Dickerson told me flat out, you have to be crazy to do that. He should know, having ridden this Route many times on a mountain bike. " Who does that Chris Kostman think he is, the cyclists version of the Grim Reaper ?"  This and some other choice observations were offered by my wife on hearing about my sudden determination to do this ride.  Cumulative elevation gain of over 19000 feet in 250 miles? Sounds like a choice RAAM training ride to me. Have to get my suspension bike ready and slap on some really strong tires, though. I chose Continental Ultra GatorSkins.

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Got to the start at Magic Mountain at 5:15am ready for a 6am start. " Peter, you are just in time to start with us." Chris, Paul Biron and Mike Miller, all fast guys, are ready to put the hurt on me. Groan. We are off at 5:49. After some flat miles, we begin the climb along the Ridge Route, the original old road to Bakersfield. Presently non maintained. Absolutely fabulous road, with views of the Interstate 5 in the distance. Absolute tranquility, no traffic. Being a graduate of Panamint Valley Road, many times over, this road isn't half bad. Sure there are potholes, stretches of tire sucking loose dirt, rocks, deep grooves. Sure we all aim for that same patch of smooth asphalt only wide enough for one tire. But somehow it does not register. This ride deserves to be ridden by roadies. Chris is even thinking about a road race here. That might be taking things too far. We catch up to some of the other riders: the "Twin Team": Angelica and Barbara ( ultra women to the core ), Charlie Griffice, tandem with Dan Crain and Annie Beck and others. Gradually Paul, Mike and I  pull away on the climbs towards and around Lake Castaic and then it's back to the start. Ready for the second loop. According to Chris, this one is easier than the first, I beg to differ. This will turn out to be quite a challenge for everyone, in fact in the end less than 9 riders have not DNFed. First one to go is our fearless leader himself, his stomach succumbs to the pressure. The second loop climbs to Los Angeles Crest Hwy, has a control stop at the turnoff to Mt Wilson and continues along Upper Big Tujunga to the 5000 ft Summit. Climbing with a steady pace, Mike Miller beats the dust, he seems bothered by the heat. Chris sags him to the Summit. Several times I can see the road in the distance, way up high, a daunting sight indeed. 

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At the control I overdo it with Snapple, Soda, V8 and various bars, all this in less than 10 minutes. Stupid!! I am paying the price to the summit, being all bloated, etc. You all know the feeling. Over the top, Paul and I are ready for the famous downhill. Unfortunately we are plagued again by headwinds. There goes our 6 pm finish. On Soledad canyon I  can not stay with Paul, have to slow down. Time for the stomach to recover. Near the end I catch up and we finish 7:45 pm. My enthusiasm for the third loop, has tapered quite a bit. Maybe Charlie was right after all about the difficulty of this ride. Chris would like at least a few people to finish this epic ride. At this time no one has passed the control point at Mt Wilson turnoff, but for me and Paul. Chris is getting worried. To make matters worse Charlie crashed near the turnoff. He ran into a deer on the descent. The deer is fine but Charlie is not. He was med-evacuated by helicopter to Huntington Memorial in Pasadena. Rumors abound. Is he okay? I decide I better see how my cycling buddy and crew member of various races is doing and take off for Pasadena. Get there at the same time as his wife Linda and son Andrew. He's OK , but is he scraped up! Road rash galore. After awhile Charlie is discharged from the ER and he is talking  about The Central Coast Double! That's dedication to the California Triple Crown! His bike is a write off , the frame torn apart. He seems most upset however about his precious Furnace Creek 508 Jersey, torn apart and cut to pieces." Oh well just go again this year Charlie!"

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I drive back to Valencia. Have to get one more finish for the Adventure Corps brevet series. Back on the road around 11:30pm. By this time, there are obviously several riders in front of me. Just before I leave Perry Smith and Terry Hutt ride up, but they are not ready to leave yet. The conditions could not be better, nearly full moon, allowing the climb of Bouquet Canyon without lights. This is just as well since my AAA batteries are dying. Those Catlights are not up to the task. I usually use Turbocat lights, but the rechargeable batteries are quite heavy and bulky. I love climbing at night , but hate the flats and descents without a support vehicle lighting up the road. The cold air and the peculiar smell of the night, bring back vivid memories from RAAM 1996 and 1997. Bouquet Canyon is ideal for night riding. Wide road with only a few steep turns. No problems even with the Cinco the Mayo occasional drunk. Pass Dan Crain and Annie Beck, also climbing without lights. I would like to stay with them, but they are a little bit too slow. Finally the control in the small town of Leona Valley. At the control I nearly catch up with another rider, but I have to fix my light for the descent of San Francisquito Canyon. Fortunately I have ridden this canyon numerous times and know its descent well. Of course there is headwind. Especially this canyon is lit up with moonlight making it great for night riding. All good things come to an end however and before I know it I am back at the hotel at 3:30 am. One of the riders just came in before me. Paul Biron finished at 0:16 am. "Great ride Paul, strong to the very end." Paul Biron is getting ready for the 508.

Chris, this was truly an adventure. Your gamble on the Ridge Route paid off. This ride will offer a challenge to anyone, including of course to Mr. AdventureCorps himself. 19590 feet of climbing in 250 miles. 

Fortunately Charlie Griffice is already planning his next ride. Chris how about  a new 508 jersey for the old Gastropod? 

By Charlie Griffice

Yesterday I rode Chris Kostman's 400 kilometer (250 mile) southern California bicycle ride.  For the part of the ride that I was able to complete, it was spectacular.  It was held in the mountains north of LA with a carefully planned and pre-driven/pre-ridden three-loop course centered around Valencia.  I won't go into great details except to say that the Ridge Route loop (first one) has scenery comparable (but far more "remote") as many of the smaller mountains (in Double Century land) in California and the second loop went up to the pine trees in the San Gabriel National Forest with scenery comparable to any of the more difficult Doubles like Central Coast, Devil Mountain, Eastern Sierra and the Terrible Two.  Many ultra distance bicycle riders don't realize that Chris is the (very young) "father" of many of the best ultra-distance rides in the U. S. including the Race Across America, the Race Across America Team event and The Furnace Creek 508.  He's been very successfully competing, directing, and imagining ultras since high school.  He's trying to take this long-standing knowledge and start new bicycling events in the true sense of the meaning of the word ADVENTURE.  His website is  Go there if you haven't already.  If you're interested in adventure in other things like scuba, mountain biking, running, etc., go there as well or talk to Chris directly -- his website doesn't do justice to his knowledge and dedication -- and I'm not saying that lightly.

Well, yesterday I rode with some of the cyclists in southern California in what was an almost "Devil Mountain Difficult" 400 kilometer ride.  Lots of climbing, but great support as described above.  It was very doable by even mediocre riders like myself.  However, it was also a challenge for even those riders like Peter Pop of RAAM fame.  Peter is training for his third RAAM and he looked as good as ever yesterday.  He had stopped training for a year or so and lost ground, but his recent mega-mileage effort seems to somehow be working again.  One would think he's over-training and therefore loosing speed, but I didnít see much evidence of that yesterday.  His incredible steadiness no matter what the distance was again dominant.  I also rode with Dan Crain and Anny Beck who were riding the 400K on a tandem.  They have a chance of winning the California Triple Crown stage race and are a pair of super climbers.   There were other noted riders like the Twin team  as well.

Yesterday, in the San Gabriel Mountains on the second of Chris's three loops, at about the 5000 ft level on Upper Big Tujunga Highway, I hit a deer with my bicycle.  It was on one of the better downhills of the ride and I was disappointed that I couldn't continue as this was a "just-try-to-finish-and-see-great-sites" adventure for me.  When I hit the deer I was going approximately 40 mph on a fairly straight section (near the sights of many past mountain bike adventures  (Strawberry loop, Mt. Wilson Toll Rd, Gabralino trail, Rim trail, trans-San Gabriel traverse, etc.) and this deer jumped out to the left and I thought-- "what now".  Well I must have hit him pretty hard as it broke the front tube from my Klein frame.  I must have flipped over the front with first contact to the road being to my back and hips.  Two mountain bikers were driving by and they stopped and helped me.  I was a little dazed but had full memory of hitting the deer and was thinking that nobody was going to believe this.  Sure enough, these guys weren't so sure about the deer story.  One was a UCLA student and he didn't want me moving and sent his buddy after an EMT.  I'm a veteran crash test dummy with more than 5 broken helmets to my credit and thought this one was not so bad, so tried a bit of refusing treatment, but soon an EMT showed up while I was still laying in the road.  He checked me out and told me to just stay there until more EMT's got there and, like the mountain biker, politely ignored my comments about how I was all right and ready to finish the ride after hitting a deer.  A little difficult considering the broken bicycle frame.  I must have looked worse than I felt as knees, elbows and back were pretty much covered with road rash.  Goodbye Kucharik bike shorts and Kucharik Furnace Creek 508 shirt.  He cut the shirt off my back much to my dismay.  About 4 or 5 National Forest EMT's showed up and put me on a board with neck brace and strapped me down.  I then heard this helicopter landing somewhere (I think on the mountain road, but not sure) and these guys put me on it.  Even though I've had a crash from which I woke up in the hospital, this helicopter thing was new.  They flew me to Pasadena's Huntington hospital (where my granddaughter was born) and people were very nice, but none of them had heard of hitting a deer on a bicycle.  Finally a CHP (officer Kloss) showed up and wrote my story up and HE WILL GIVE ME HIS REPORT.  HE HAD VERIFIED THAT THERE WERE DEER TRACKS near my crash.  Peter Pop was in the hospital waiting room with my wife (he went back and did the third loop AFTER coming to see how I was !!)  Anyway, there you have it, one more adventure to add to the list of ultracyling events.











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