Challenge the “Death Ride” in honor of his father – Monterey Herald



SEASIDE – Blake Stocker kept his shoulders relaxed and drooping, his body balanced and his grip light, but he was riding hard. Engaged in less thinking and more action, he felt no emotion, as much as his body strain as he pushed forward on his father’s Colnago road bike.

It was the first time Stocker, 24, had sat in the saddle of his father’s bike since senior Stocker, in training, suffered sudden fatal heart failure three days after Christmas 2020. He was 56 years old. Blake Stocker counted Eric Stocker not only as his father but also as his friend. This ride on her father’s bike wasn’t meant to pay homage or cure anything in particular, but it was preparing Stocker for the ride that will.

Eric Stocker was an avid cyclist and endurance athlete, known for his legendary tradition of completing the demanding ‘Tour of the California Alps’, a world-class cycling event, which spans 103 miles and includes six listed climbs over three mountain passes. the Sierra Nevada. Beginning and ending at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville, the event, established in 1978, was once known as the “Markleeville Death Ride” by those who attempted or performed the feat. It’s still casually called “The Death Ride”.

The event, which has always been aimed at elite mountain bikers, would offer a range of challenge levels, from completing a pass to conquering all six highly ranked climbs on Monitor Pass, Ebbetts Pass and Pacific Grade. . The category of a climb is calculated by multiplying the length of the climb in meters by the slope of the climb, in percentage. To be classified as a categorized ascent, the total must be a summit elevation of 8,000 feet or more.

“My dad and I had a great relationship,” said Blake Stocker, right. “He was first a parent, but we were friends. If he had always been there, daddy (pictured left) would have taken this walk with me. I think he was already registered. (Photo courtesy of Blake Stocker)

The summit altitude of the Tour of the California Alps varies between 8,330 and 8,750 feet.

“My dad did Markleeville 11 or maybe 13 times,” Stocker said, “and he always finished it. There was no other option for him; he always intended to finish, and he always has.

On July 17, the 40th anniversary of the legendary ride, Blake Stocker will ride the saddle of his father’s Colnago to climb the same mountains in memory of his father. He fully intends to complete the event in its entirety; like his father before him, there is no other option.

In the saddle

A brother of two younger sisters, Blake Stocker was born in Boulder but raised in San Mateo. An active, outdoor kid, he started surfing early in Half Moon Bay and off the Pacifica coast. He also played baseball in school until he got his driver’s license, which prompted him to leave the field and devote himself to other activities, but he never stopped. to surf.

Family trips and surf safaris have taken him all over the world, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Switzerland, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Vancouver, before heading to Vancouver. settle in his studies at CSU Monterey Bay. He graduated in business in 2018 but missed his graduation ceremonies in favor of a surf trip to Nicaragua.

After a few “hands-on” jobs, in 2019 Stocker got a job with home design-build company Lewis Builders in Carmel promising to work hard and learn the trade. After starting out as a worker, a year later, he was appointed production manager.

Three years ago, inspired by his father, Stocker decided to try cycling. He set a goal of running 1,000 miles in one year, with a plan to run 3 miles a day to make sure he hits his goal. He figured that if a day was missing, those 3 miles would be added to the next day’s total. With just under a month remaining, Stocker has achieved its goal. Neither he nor his father ever started or ended up small.

Stocker’s next goal was to cover 100 miles in one day. After a 20-mile training run, he recruited his father to join him, and the couple completed their “turn of the century” together.

“We started in San Mateo,” Stocker said, “and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and up to North Bay. Just 10 miles from home we realized we were 19 miles from our goal of 100 miles so we had to turn around to add more miles. By this time it was starting to get dark and cold and windy, but we made it.

As Stocker finished the race, he thought of the triathletes, who get off the saddle after a long run and start to run. So he ran a quick and painful mile before giving up the idea. Still, it inspired him to train for a Half Ironman triathlon, which requires a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run to the finish line. .

“It was the 2019 Santa Rosa Half Ironman,” he said, “that I finished in 5 hours and 26 minutes. Right before the event, I bought a triathlon bike on Craigslist. J I tested the bike just once before the race, I still have this bike.


Stocker’s next goal, once he completes the “Markleeville” hike, is to complete a full Ironman triathlon. There’s a definite addiction to that level of training and competition, he says, but he thinks it’s healthy.

In the name of his next race, Stocker increased his time in the saddle, covering around 200 miles per week, often through Fort Ord, around San Benancio to the back of Los Laureles Grade and up to Carmel Valley. Then he rides west to Carmel, to Pebble Beach, and returns to his Seaside home. Sometimes to gain altitude he goes to Hollister to cycle 11 miles straight up to Fremont Peak.

Although he generally maintains a healthy diet, Stocker also eats more. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete has always been lean, while his dad, a former bodybuilder, weighed in at a solid 210.

“My father was built,” he says. “He was a buff dude. I absolutely did not understand his genes.

Which could save him. Through an investigation of the family’s health history, Stocker learned that “sudden death syndrome” is rampant in his family, having cut the lives of a few other members of his lineage.

“If my father’s death were to happen,” he said, “I’m glad it was quick and not a long-term experience. He was so vital; he would have hated it. Still, I’m going to meet with a cardiologist to find out what I can do to stop the tradition.

While Stocker learned from his father’s death to pursue his own preventive health, he acknowledges his father instilled many other lessons in him along the way.

In the name of his next race, Blake Stocker has increased his time in the saddle, covering around 200 miles per week. (Photo by Mark Zahnlecker)

“My dad always enjoyed his life, had fun and did what he wanted. Ironically, perhaps, he worked in risk management, “Stocker said,” filling out two passports, between 30 and 40, with international business travel. He was also super charitable. I recently learned that he was paying a family friend’s school fees just because he heard he needed it.

Eric Stocker has been gone for six months, which seems like mere minutes and yet years for his son. However, when he looks back on his relationship with dad, Blake Stocker regrets nothing.

“My dad and I had a good relationship,” Stocker said. “He was first a parent, but we were friends. If he had always been there, dad would have taken this ride with me. I think he was already registered.


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