About the Mt. Diablo Challenge - In Memory of Joe Shami
October 3, 2021 was the 38th year that Mt. Diablo State Park has closed the road for this epic bicycle climbing event to benefit Mt. Diablo. The 11.2 mile, individually-timed ride climbed 3,249 feet to the summit of Mt. Diablo starting up South Gate Road. Mt. Diablo is one of the highest peaks in the San Francisco Bay Area with views of the Farallon Islands and the Sierras. The road was closed for safety and more than 600 cyclists rode to the summit. The ride welcomed all ages - from 9-85 - and abilities, teams and bicycle types. The first 4 waves ascended without any descending bicycle traffic. It was a once-a-year opportunity to enjoy riding the mountain without cars. Everyone celebrated after the ride with free Kinder's BBQ, $10,000 in awards and live music. It was an epic ride that provided breathtaking scenery and tested rider's climbing ability.
At the top, there was food and drink that was much needed after that epic climb. Then cyclists descended and rode over to Monte Vista High School to pick up their goodies, and celebrate winners in 16 age categories, including King and Queen of the Mountain. There was great BBQ, beverages, vendors and music for a grand celebration!
The History of the Mt. Diablo Challenge
The Mt. Diablo Challenge started as a fundraising ride dedicated to Joan Wall, who passed away at a young 26 years old of myocarditis, which at the time was a rare heart decease. She had completed her annual physical just the week before with flying colors. Joan trained on Mt. Diablo two to three times a week. Her devastated mother asked if Valley Spokesmen could put on a ride up the mountain in Joan’s memory and the Mount Diablo Challenge was born. Any profit made was donated to the American Heart Association. A few years later the Children’s Hospital Auxiliary (in Oakland) took it over and the profit was contributed to the Heart Department and later other departments at the hospital. The Lung Association took on the job of sponsorship and most recently Save Mount Diablo but Valley Spokesmen has always stayed involved. This year it is again dedicated to another cyclist who loved the mountain and died too soon.
Preparing for The Challenge
The VSBC has recently restarted scheduled rides. Watch the VSBC ride calendar for rides up Mt. Diablo on weekdays and on weekends. We recommend riding up the mountain on weekdays if at all possible to avoid traffic. If you cannot ride on weekdays, an early morning ride on a weekend day can be nice, especially on an overcast day because many drivers visit the mountain for the view so there will be less traffic. Just remember to stay as far right as safely possible and use the pullouts and special bike turnouts when cars are behind you. When you descend, keep your speed down and stay close to the right because many cars coming uphill pass cyclists on blind curves and may stray across the double yellow line.
Here are some climbing tips to help you improve your technique:
Everyone arrives early to check in for the event at Monte Vista High School located at 3131 Stone Valley Road, Danville, CA. Then cyclists ride over to Athenian School on Mt. Diablo Scenic Blvd. to get ready for their wave. Cyclists are grouped in waves based on the time they think it will take to finish the climb.
The first wave starts at 8:30 am and continue every few minutes. The first waves get to ascend using the whole road. Later waves must stay to the right.
At the top, there is a mini-celebration with food and beverages to replenish after the climb. Then cyclists descend in waves and ride over to Monte Vista High School for a grand celebration with lots of delicious BBQ, drink, music, goodies and awards! Invite the family to join you there for the festivities!