Our group met up early Wednesday to caravan down. Jonathan Davis (solo race winner!) was driving down his RV, which was great to have so we could ride down in style, cook warm meals, and have a solid roof over our heads while at the race. Jonathan's family, Jeremy, Adam, and I were in the RV on the way down. Curt Wilhelm, Brian Sells (also solo racers) and their support rolled down in Brian's Sprinter van.
Inside the RV on the way down
Thursday morning we set up camp, which was right on the course-both sides of the trail to be exact. This is really helpful for solo racers so that they don't have to go off course to resupply as they lap through. For the rest of us, it gave us a great location to see the race unfold. Thursday afternoon the group went out for a quick lap. It was fun to ride with the group to see their lines and get a feel for the course. I felt pretty good throughout the ride, which included a few solid efforts. The course is very fast and flowy. From someone from Colorado's perspective, there aren't any sustained climbs. The most challenging aspect of the course is carving in and out of the various cacti, which are relentless in sourthern Arizona, and the constant pedaling (no rest on long dowhills). Course data here.
24hr camp, Brian's Sprinter left, Jonathan's RV right
Friday it was much of the same. Wake up, hang out, get some good breakfast in, and slowly get ready to do another lap. The group took off fairly fast. I had in mind what kind of effort I wanted to put in the day before the race, and quickly was dropped. This allowed me to see the course on my own and get a better feel for it though. I got to choose my line as opposed to following someone's wheel. By the end of the lap, i was glad I had the opportunity to follow the group and ride by myself in consecutive days.
Gameday came and the weather was nice, sunny and 60s, but there was a bit of wind. Jeremy volunteered to take the first lap, which included a La Mans style start (hundreds of cyclists running in cycling shoes-not fun). I handed him his bike as he approached to save him some time. He was probably in the top 20 overall. On the first lap Jeremy had a great time of 1:00:21. Ben was up next, and followed suit with a 1:00:25. Adam was out on the course (turned a 1:05 on his first lap), so I started to warm up. I was a bit nervous and hoped I could turn out a solid lap. Most of all, I wanted to be consistent from start to finish. I went out hard, but held back a little bit on the first lap to keep from blowing up. I rode smooth and put in a lap time of 1:06 per my GPS (1:07 with the time it took to get to my bike). I was very excited about this, especially since I knew I had a lot left in the tank.
Laps two, three, and four were all night laps. Over the last few years, I've done a ton of night riding in the front range. I've always felt that darkness is not a reason to stop riding my bike. I actually feel it brings a new sense of excitement and fun to the trails I ride all the time. I pulled off all three night laps and was only a couple minutes slower than my day lap.
As the race was unfolding, we were aware of our placing, which was pretty much 2nd in the 4 person mens open the whole day. Sho-Air/Cannondale had us by 10-15 minutes, and third place was 20 or so minutes behind us. We had to keep racing hard to maintain our place. One mistake by the leaders and we could have been first or we could have fallen out of contention if we made a mistake.
Lap 5 was at about 9AM. It felt great to make it through the night without any hiccups and to still feel strong and get one final lap in the sun. I knew this would be my last, so I wanted to leave it all on the course. I cooked one turn a bit to much and went off course about 9 or so miles in. Miles 12-14 seemed to hurt the most everytime through. This time, I looked down, and even though I was working as hard as I could, I struggled to get my heart rate into the 150s. I rolled through to the transition tent and the result was a 1:09!
I was so excited upon getting back to the transition area. I put down 5 laps with my fastest time being 1:07 and my slowest lap 1:11. Consistent. I knew that would be the case, but to have so little variance in time was amazing. I also knew I had done my part, and with only two more laps for the team, things were looking good. Jeremy and Ben cranked out a lap each, and we secured 2nd place. Lap times here. Category results here.
It was amazing how the team came together. We didn't really talk much stategy, but it all played out well. Everyone did what they needed to do. We didn't have any missed transitions, burnt out lights, or mechanicals. We had great support and an unreal camp/setup.
The rest of our group had great results as well. Jonathan Davis battled the field and finished 1st solo male! Curt rode to 2nd, and Brian Sells finished 4th in his first ever 24 solo. Tanner, Jonathan's son, cranked out 8 laps in his solo effort for a new distance record.
Podium shot, Adam Haid, Ben Jones, me, Jeremy Young
Video produced by Adam Haid here.