There are a lot of 24 hour mountain bike races on the US calendar, but the 24 Hours of Moab is something special. For one, it's Moab. Other than maybe Marin County, California, there is no other location on this planet that is more synonymous with mountain biking than Moab. The Slickrock Trail, and the slickrock in general, is known world-wide and attracts off-road cyclists from around the globe to ride its rough surface up almost impossible steeps and down improbable drops.
Another factor is the quality of riders who participate. As the organizers like to say, the best mountain bike race in Colorado is located in Utah which is the quick way of saying that a large proportion of teams come from the Colorado Front Range and also the Rocky Mountains. But, that isn't to say that other states aren't well represented as well. At the 2009 edition racers came from Utah, Arizona, Colorado, California, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvannia, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, etc, etc, Not to mention Denmark, Norway, Germany. Well, you get the idea.
With such an world renown location the race atttracts a quality field, just about every top North American professional rider has made an appearance in Moab. The 2009 edition was no exception with six time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Chris Eatough, four time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Rebecca Rush and three time 24 Hour Solo National Champion Pua Sawicki just a few of the stars in attendance.
In the men's solo event, Chris Eatough was the heavy pre-race favorite, but a bout of the flu caused him to pull out before the start. That left the door wide open for 2008 Moab winner Josh Tostado to repeat his victory from last year and also pull on the stars and stripes jersey for his first ever National Championship.
Pua Sawicki built a huge lead in the women's solo race, but a mysterious stomach problem forced her to retire in the wee hours of the morning. First-time 24 hour racer Ezster Horanyi, from Boulder, Colorado, took the win and the stars and stripes jersey as well.
While much of the focus of the race is on the solo competitors, over 380 teams in about 20 categories participated. Over 1200 total athletes tackled the slickrock and sand which define the Behind-the-Rocks course. It was a great event for all the participants and their support crews. Yes, the 24 Hours of Moab really is special.
In my last blog I talked about what it takes to do a 24 Hour mountain bike race.I received several great comments with lots of useful advice. Thanks! What makes a 24 Hour race so special are the stories of the experiences you have out there pushing your bike and body to limits you never thought you were possible. Here is a story from my first 24 Hour race.
I had never ridden my mountain bike at night so my first 'night lap' was going to be a completely new experience. When I rolled out of the start/finish area I knew nothing about battery conservation so I had both my 12W and 20W halogen bulbs burning. I looked like a super nova blazing down the trail. I am almost certain I could be seen from the space shuttle in earth orbit. It never occurred to me that my battery would not last the entire 55-minute lap. Hey these things are supposed to be high-tec. Right?
Well, half way through the lap, the laws of physics caught up with me and my lights died just as I exited the last technical section and started up the long fire road climb back to the start/finish. There was just enough ambient light for me to see the road and I limped into the exchange area feeling pretty stupid. That's not much of a story, but wait, there's more.
When I headed out on my second night lap, I was in full conservation mode and rode with only my 12W bulb. The problem was that my light seemed to keep moving up off the trail. I kept pounding on the mounting bracket trying to get the light to point down on the trail when I realized it was my handlebars that were rotating and not the light mounting bracket. Well, who wouldn't immediately realize that at 3am in the morning?
To make matters worse, even with only the 12W bulb, my battery ran out again, this time in the middle of the most technical section and not just after it. In the dark I struggled with the single track, got back on the fire road and thought I had it made when, just before the finish, a huge metal pole jumped right out in front of me. I narrowly avoided it and brought in another lap for the team. I was one happy camper when the sun came up.
Do you all have a favorite 24 Hour race story or two? Let's here them.