Santo Domingo: Over the Top, AHD’s Own Tour De France


This posting is obviously delayed, but it took us this long to recover from the ride up Mt. Evans. 🙂

We started the day early as usual, heading out at 6:00 a.m. We were joined by Dave Cutler and Rob Martin from Seattle. Spirits were good at the outset.  Alisa and Mike were quietly wondering if they were really going to make it to the top or would need to be picked up off the road by the Master Sherpa. Rob and Dave were calm and completely relaxed despite having  just arrived the night before from sea  level, already over 7500’ and facing  a climb that would  basically equal riding a bike to the top of Mount Rainier.   The day was cool with the temps in the 40s, requiring all to wear some thermal gear. The first half of the route was a steady, constant climb with a stop at Echo Lake just shy of 11,000’. As we climbed higher the road narrowed and the shoulder disappeared. We were rising above the tree line and wind/exposure became more apparent. A few more pit stops were needed to keep us fueled. (Remember, feed the Reindl).  The last 5 miles required major focus because we had 15 huge switchbacks with 1,000’ of vertical gain  remaining.  This would have been challenging at any altitude, but at 13,000’ it required as much mental as physical  effort.  We all rounded the last corner breathing deeply but glad we had made it! The view was incredible. Mountain goats strolling around and pockets of snow still on the ground.   We had caught a huge break with perfect weather the entire way up – blue sky, sunshine , light breeze the first 4000’. Then the  gusts started  near the final switchbacks… but didn’t stay on top  too long because at 14, 130 feet there is pretty much no air and the clouds had begun to move in, dropping the temperature.

Rob and Dave were amazing; you would think they lived in Colorado and seemed to have no problem with altitude. After the obligatory “team” photo they jumped on their bikes and headed down. Alisa and Mike….after five days…. were done. They  pulled the front wheels off of their bikes for the last time, loaded them into the silver bus, climbed in and  began to unwind as Kevin navigated the twists and turns back to Idaho Springs.

The ride really was great and although physically and mentally challenging we were excited to have achieved our goal….five climbs in five days. We really had made it “over the top” for Andean Health & Development!









The beginning of the end….








Echo Lake








Mike: Reindl are you eating again?!









I promised my Mom I wouldn’t fall off a cliff. But seriously…there is like NO shoulder. That is the whole road.










Dave Cutler, leading the pack.










Rob Martin, mastering the switchbacks.









Seriously, the summit has to be around here somewhere.









Alleluia,  the summit.









Am I smiling? I can’t feel my face.

Why am I standing in a pile of snow? Lack of oxygen must be affecting my judgement.









Mother and baby goat at the summit.










View of the switchbacks.










More switchbacks, there was a lot of them, really.









We never would have made it without our Master Sherpa.



July 26th: The Mother of all mountain climbs: Mt. Evans

We made it….alive….and in one piece! Today we were joined by Dave Cutler and Rob Martin from Seattle. It was a strenuous 24 miles, gaining 6,500 feet of elevation to end at 14,130 feet. The last 10 miles were a physical as well as mental challenge to keep going due to exposure and cold.  The view from the top was great! We only briefly stayed at the summit because Alisa’s lips were starting to turn purple and Mike was talking nonsense.  We absolutely wouldn’t have made it without Kevin’s extraordinary Sherpa skills. We are all now warm and safe but worn out. The tour has been a blast — on and off the mountains.

More to come later. Now we need to sleep. But wanted all to know we made it.























July 25th:  Grand Mesa

We managed to keep our goal of an early morning start. At 5:30 a.m. we headed west towards Grand Mesa. By 7:20 a.m. we were on our bikes, riding through the aspens, pines and meadows. The reality of how much vertical gain we needed to achieve soon set in. The road continued to rise before us, mile after mile, turn after turn, never seeming to flatten out. Our quads and hip flexes were soon screaming since this is our 4th ride. Eventually Mike ended up on his back….again 🙂 . But he was soon up after Alisa gave him a swift kick of encouragement (see attached photo). It was a moderate to challenging climb as we gained a total of 3,500 feet to reach the summit 10, 839’. Grand Mesa is the world’s largest flat top mountain and the view was spectacular. We were even able to see the part of the road we had started on and couldn’t believe how far away it looked.  We took a quick snack break at the top to refuel and then headed down. All our efforts at climbing up were repaid in full as we flew down, dodging the boulder field along the way.

We had a quick lunch in Mesa to feed Alisa after a valuable lesson was learned yesterday that you must “feed the Reindl” or bad things may happen. Kevin then made a few a grumbles as Mike and Alisa got back into The Silver Bus covered in sweat, dirt and bike grease. Man, Sherpas are a little overprotective about their buses. After we gave him a Diet Coke he agreed to take us on to Idaho Springs.

Tomorrow the real fun or torture – depending on how you look at it – begins. Mount Evans is our final and greatest challenge.  We will have to climb almost 7,000 feet to reach the summit at 14,265 feet. That’s right, over 14,000 feet.  So far, the highest we’ve been is 12,126’. Here’s a description from one of the guide books about what we’re up against.

As you ride the first few turns through the pine forest, you will slowly start to rise above the world – the feeling of enormity is incredible. After a few miles the trees become smaller and the view opens up. The road looms above, chiseled out of the mountainside. If you’re feeling poorly, you will now feel instantly worse. You’ll think, “That must be the summit.”  But you are wrong, so wrong. You are only at mile 16.5. The summit is at mile 28.

But we will continue to pedal along safely in hopes of going “over the top.”


A few words from the Master Sherpa:

So yesterday they begged me to write a little blurb for their silly blog.  “For flavor,” they said.  Today, all of a sudden I’m not ‘allowed’ to touch the computer.  I guess that’s what happens when you speak truth to power (Help! Help! I’m being repressed!).  It’s ok though, all Master Sherpas are trained in the secret arts of Himalayan ninjitsu so I was able to ‘borrow’ the computer long enough to bring you this important update.

OVERPROTECTIVE?!?!?  It’s like they just expect Bertha the big silver bus to take them wherever they want to go without even considering her feelings.  How would you like it if some stinky, sweaty ape started crawling all over you?  I offered to find a fire hose and spray them down, but it doesn’t seem like they appreciated my out of the box thinking.  It’s ok, though, at least I scored some Diet Coke out of the deal.  I’m looking forward to laughing at them tomorrow as the wheeze their way up Mt.Evans.










Break time is over Mike. Let’s GO!









You want me to ride up what?!?!









Just keep going, going, going….









Nature Break









She’ll be comin’ around the mountain……










We were where the black arrow is, crazy.









Nice view coming up the hill.









We made it!









Coming down around a tight corner.










Cruising through the meadows.










Stopping to take in the spectacular view.









Kevin guarding his silver bus named Bertha.
















Coasting into Mesa



July 24th:  The real update of the day

Started climbing up to Hoosier Pass at 7 am to take advantage of the cool morning temp. Nice steady climb the first half and  then  became a bit more demanding  the rest of the way.   A beautiful morning, the last two miles through  switchbacks which required  us to stand as we came around the curve and jumped up to the next stretch. Reindl as always just motored up. She says that she just started riding a year ago but after these first three days I went back and looked at some photos from the 2011 Tour de France  and found her buried in the middle of the peloton!

The view from the top was spectacular (see earlier photo) because we were up by 8:20 am and the mountains were still various shades of morning blue.

In response to the comments from our master Sherpa this morning: you will have to forgive him, the altitude is beginning to make him  hallucinate!

After finishing Hoosier, we headed over to Glenwood Springs to get into  position for Grand Mesa tomorrow, a big day with some serious elevation gain ending up at 10.626 (lower than today and Cottonwood but still up there). We will leave here at 5:30 am drive 70 miles over to the start point and then hopefully begin climbing by 7:30 am — the final prep for Mount Evans on Friday.

Weather for tomorrow is suppose to be beautiful, sunny, high of 65.  Weather for Friday is a bit more concerning with a 40% chance of rain and temps up on Mount Evans in the high 40s.  We figure we should be fine tomorrow and then Friday we will just take one step at a time. Nothing stupid, first priority is safety and hopefully some degree of fun although I am having a hard time convincing Reindl and Kevin about the “fun” part!

We have not been able to get an update from Laura (since she is with the other team in Ecuador) about how far along we are with meeting our fund raising goal.  Last we calculated we were at $125,000 in pledges leaving us $75,000 short of our  goal of $200,000.  But there is still time and maybe the interest in Mount Evans and in seeing whether we can do all five climbs in five days will spark some interest.

By the way, here is a link to an article that was in the local Sioux Falls newspaper, the Argus Leader, about this whole crazy adventure.

Thanks to everyone for your interest in  our climbs and far more importantly, in Andean Health & Development!









Master Sherpa hard at work!















The things they make me do!


July 24th:

These guys are killin’ me.  I mean, what’s a few mountains here or there?  You’d think they were climbing Everest or something.  So they climbed 1000 feet in two miles, big whoop!  That’s no excuse to be all sweaty in my silver bus!  At the top of the pass, they were huffing puffing like they were going to blow some poor little piggies house down.  I think they were just hamming it up to get sympathy, I mean I wasn’t breathing hard!   Oh well, I guess those are just the trials of being a poor Sherpa.

-Dr. Kevin, Doctor of Sherpology







Alisa and Mike pedaling up a hill








Alisa cruisin’ through the mountains









Alisa making it to the top about ready to die









Mike rounding the final bend









Mike at the top









What’s a Hoosier?










Even the Master Sherpa doesn’t know what a Hoosier is.











Mike flying down a tight curve



July 23rd: The Pain Begins

Today we rode Cottonwood Pass with a starting elevation of 8,026 ft. The first 11 miles started with smooth winding roads and some challenging hills. As the elevation rose to almost 10,000’ the effort needed to maintain a steady climb significantly increased.  So much to the point that Mike needed to take a break 🙂 ….flat on his back on the ground (see attached photo).  He recovered just in time because at 11.4 miles the game drastically changed as we hit the wall (10 % grade for 1 mile).  We were sucking air by the top. This was followed by about 8 miles of grueling tight switchbacks. Right when our legs were about time give out the trees thinned out enough to see the summit (thank God the end is in sight). Only one mile left to the top. Except that to get there we had to go up the two steepest switchbacks of the day. We finally ended with a great view from the top at 12, 126’. Kevin was definitely the Master Sherpa today and photographer par excellence.  The sight of his silver “bus” moving up and down the road kept us going! And then going down was  a legendary blast!   Everyone did fine at 12,000′ , a hopeful sign for Mount Evans on Friday.  Tomorrow is Hoosier Pass and then over to Grand Mesa tomorrow afternoon.

The final word from the Master Sherpa:

Climbing Mountains Hard

Descending Soaring Like Eagles

Michael Almost Cried










Master Sherpa Kevin at work










Mike early in the day









Alisa out in front, what a machine









Mike taking a break before “the wall”











Heading up “the wall” – the pain begins









They made it!








Flying down!


July 22nd:  The Tour Begins

Great first day.  Really a “training” ride  with only 1,044″ feet of climbing, but good to get to 9,000′. We both did well, no problem climbing with elevation.  Beautiful blue sky, Colorado 70 degree day with a light breeze.  Really good to finally be on the road.

Tomorrow though will be a different day.  We switched our plans to minimize the amount of time we have to spend driving and so will be doing Cottonwood Pass  tomorrow rather than Hoosier. We drove it this afternoon to check it out and here is what the book says: “At mile mark 11.0 you will be at 9,951′ and now the easy stuff ends.  The road shoots up like a wall past an assortment of warning signs…” We stood at the base of this stretch of the route and saw why they used the word “wall”!

Oh well,  if we make it we will be at 12,126′ – a good test for Mount Evans on Friday. And coming down will be a blast with big sweeping curves though alpine meadows full of wild flowers, and 14,000′ peaks across in the distance.

What do they say “No guts – no glory”!









Over the top at Poncha!











On the road to Poncha Pass


July 21st : The Journey Begins

Mike and Alisa set out on the journey from Custer, SD.  All the gear was packed and spirits were high. The feelings of camaraderie and excitement were in the air. Then next stop was Denver, CO to pick up the next member of this rag-tag group. Mike’s nephew Kevin has stepped in for a last minute change of plans to be the SWAG driver/Sherpa. Then on to Salida, CO to get in position for the first day’s ride. A few hours later the car ride was getting a little long. Kevin started making some old man jokes. Mike start slinging the trash talk about being a better rider than Alisa (which is obviously not true 🙂 ) and Alisa just tried to keep the spirit of teamwork alive.  It was a good trip with plenty of laughs but the sight of the hotel was definitely welcomed.  Tomorrow, the real adventure begins.











Mike and Alisa packing up their gear



Check back for updates from the climb!!

On July 22nd, the day after the actual Tour de France ends, Dr. Michael Heisler, Vice Chair of AHD’s Board, and Dr. Alisa Reindl, with support from their friend Joe Sackett, will begin their own “Tour de France in Colorado.”

They will bike five of the biggest climbs in Colorado including three of the four most difficult climbs in the state in five days. Heisler and Reindl will work their way from Poncha Pass to Mount Evans to raise funds and awareness for Andean Health and Development’s hospital project for the poor of Santo Domingo, Ecuador. Donate here to support the climb and help build Hesburgh Hospital in Santo Domingo or email your pledge to

Mount Evans, the AHD team’s “Alpe de’Huez” goes up over the highest paved road in the US, topping out at 14,264 feet.

Major differences between “Santo Domingo: Over the Top” and the Tour de France are: the Colorado climbs are at significantly higher elevations, will be ridden as back-to-back challenges rather than over a 21-day period, and will have no cheering spectators!

Funds raised go directly toward the construction of AHD’s new 50 bed hospital, training center, and global health research center in Santo Domingo, Ecuador. The goal is to secure $50,000 in donations for each climb, payable only if the team is successful in all five climbs – not a given with the following “preview”:

Mount Evans speaks volumes for itself. There is not a more classic and challenging ride in all of Colorado. As someone who has ridden it many times, I’ll give you a summary. There’s pavement at 14,000 feet – I’ll say it again – there’s pavement at 14,000’. This ride also involves 7,000 feet of vertical gain and 28 miles of uninterrupted climbing. Never have I suffered so much on a ride. If you crack on Mount Evans, it can get ugly… you will spend the rest of the climb fending off a barrage of nausea, shivers, and an overwhelming feeling of suffocation. Now that you’re excited, let’s get started!


– Road Biking Colorado, Michael Seeberg, 2005.

The team will start at Poncha Pass and bike up Mount Evans at over 14,000 feet.


Dr. Michael Heisler, Vice Chair of AHD’s Board

Dr. Alisa Reindl

Joe Sackett will give biking support on the mountains.

Donate here to support the climb and help build Hesburgh Hospital in Santo Domingo or email your pledge to Thank you!

_____ $25,000 Donation

All-Rounder A racing cyclist who excels in climbing and time trialing, and may also be a decent sprinter. Eddy Merckx, Ivan Basso, Samuel Sánchez, and Alberto Contador are notable all-rounders. All-rounders are Team Leaders in both stage races and classics cycle races.

______ $15,000 Donation

Fast Finisher A rider who has superior sprinting speed and skills over the last few hundred meters than others in the same group, which may include uphill finishes.

______ $10,000 Donation

Climber A rider who specializes in riding uphill quickly, usually due to having a high power-to-weight ratio.

______$5,000 Donation

Sprinter Rider with the ability to generate very high power over short periods allowing for great finishing speeds.

______$1,000 Donation

Descender A cyclist who excels at fast descents, often using them to break away from a group, or bridge a gap.

______$500 Donation

Domestique A rider whose job it is to support and work for other riders in their team. The term serves as an acknowledgement of the true nature of racing tactics.

______$250 Donation

Soigneur A non-riding member of a team whose role is to provide support for the riders, possibly including transportation, organization of supplies, preparation of the team’s food, and personal encouragement.

______ Other Amount $_________________________
*This is a true challenge. Pledges will only be collected if Mike and Alisa successfully ride up all 5 mountains!



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Posted by laura in AHD's Initiatives | 6 Comments  

6 Responses to “Santo Domingo: Over the Top, AHD’s Own Tour De France”

  1. Pat Sivesind says:

    Best wishes for tomorrow’s ride! Pat

  2. Ann Van Sickle says:

    Three down and two to go! You guys are amazing. If you are good at 11,500 I have no doubt you will rock at 14,000. Hang in there. Keep laughing, keep pedaling and don’t forget to breathe!!! And keep that crazy Sherpa in line. He’s a tricky one!

  3. Ann Van Sickle says:

    I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and sending you both serious vibes for powerful legs and lungs!!! What a team – I know you can so this – one pedal at a time. Mt. Evans – here they come – you’ll never be the same.

  4. Pat Sivesind says:

    You did it!!! Glad you’re both doing well! I thought about you while I was pulling my two grandsons in a wagon to the park that was a little bit uphill…. hahaha!! 🙂

    Way to go!


  5. Bill Byrne says:

    Mega CONGRATULATIONS on such an extraordinary accomplishment. What a test and what a gift you and Alisa have made. Lynne and I will be in the Rockies in August, and we will DRIVE up to visit your finish line o Mt. Evans. God’s Speed and BE PROUD. you are an elite cyclist.

  6. Anne Dubois says:

    CONGRATULATIONS! Nice work! Thought about your ride a LOT last week but was too buried to write. So glad it worked well and very proud of your achievement! Next year … 🙂

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