There have been many things over the years that I have defined as EPIC. 6 hour mtb rides out in the middle of nowhere, EPIC; riding in Downieville EPIC; pulling a 30 mph manual down single track EPIC. This weekend the term EPIC took on a new form. Not to put down its previous connotation for the aforementioned definition is still valid, however this weekend proved to need a new definition of the word that is “gnarlier” than just plain Epic.
The idea behind competing in the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo started a few years ago with my best friend Luke, who suggested it would be a really “Fun” early season race. This year, after much coercion, I gave in, and put the 24 not only on the calendar, but in my list of 3 goals for the season a top 10 would be ideal I thought. It’s a long boring story how things came to be; I’ll just
say that planning this event proved to be a flawless nightmare, involving partner changes, and our travel friend losing his partner twice, and finding a new one on craigslist.
We started our trip at 4 in the afternoon last wed, leaving a snowy Ashland for a “sunny” Arizona. We (Seth, Trevor, and I) arrived at 24 hour town 23 hours later, after driving through the night, taking turns sleeping in the fold down bed in the back of the van. After this EPIC drive and running on 2 hours of sleep, we set out to pre ride the course.
Each lap consisted of 16.1 miles of single/double track that was absolutely lined with cactus waiting to jump out and bite you upon blowing a corner. There were several types of cactus which we named, pancake, chode, purple, and white death. The last two were the scariest because they not only had thorns, but the smaller parts would break off the main part of the devilish plant and remain stuck in your leg, tire, hand, face, arm, or whatever it could get it’s
thorns lodged in. Not exactly something I would prefer to give a bear hug to, though I’m certain someone gave a cactus one this weekend.
After much anticipation, finally, it was race day. The weather looked good, just a little breezy. Everyone lined up at 11:40, and at 12 the gun went off. I was the first to go, and had a decent run for the lemans start. I grabbed my bike somewhere around 60th place, and started riding. The first lap went by fast, an hour and 11 minutes fast, not ground breaking, but sustainable. The wind had really picked up at this point. I’m guessing we had 50 mph sustained winds. I returned to camp to find our easy up about to blow over, and everything disheveled. I dropped the leading edge of the easy up to create downward pressure on the canopy, yelled I love fluid dynamics! and hopped in the van
Lap 2 came quicker than expected, and brought with it more wind, but was otherwise uneventful, until Luke called from Washington to say that we were in 9th place out of 87. (STOKED)
I hopped out of the van for lap 3 and noticed that the temperature, which had been moderate, had dropped significantly, and there were rain clouds rapidly approaching. Thinking to myself “this is Arizona, it doesn’t rain here” I grabbed a windbreaker, and headed for the transition area. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it does rain in Arizona, in fact, it not only rains, it storms, it storms EPICLY. I returned to the van an hour and twenty minutes later soaked, and freezing. My goals between laps consisted of eating as much as possible, lube my chain, fill a bottle, check tire pressure, and to move as little as possible. These simple tasks became harder to accomplish as night fell, temperatures
dropped, and the rain continued.
As the night wore on laps began to blur, sleep deprivation set in, and we kept moving up on the leader board. The crew running the 24 had a program going that was absolutely mind blowing. They had set up a live leader board online, that updated every few minutes. Racers could go back to their camp, eat a sandwich, and check race times, time gaps between teams, and detailed lap splits. This information proved to be very motivating as we kept passing teams, one by one.
10:00 the next morning we were sitting in 6 th place, with a three minute gap to 5th. I met my teammate in the transition area and told him I was taking a hot lap. The course had turned into a pump track hard surface through the night with black marks from racers tires running down the middle. My tires felt fast, as I rolled into the transition area for the last time. I passed the baton to Seth at 11:18 and told him to rail it. That “hot lap” had put us in fifth place by 3 minutes. I was sure we had 5th sealed. After an hour and twenty three minutes Seth rolled in, tired and weary, he told me team Easy, and Cheesy, (6th place team) had passed him, and we had finished in 6th.
Between the two of us, we had completed the 16.1 mile course a total of 18 times in 24 hours and 40 minutes. This sums to a total of 292 miles through the desert without a single flat, mechanical, or crash.
24 hours in the Old Pueblo is an event that every competitive cyclist should add to their bucket list of events, for every aspect of the event deserves the term EPIC. From the EPIC winds, and EPIC rain, to the EPIC volunteers, single track, and positive attitudes of nearly everyone racing; this event is the very definition of EPIC.