USAC 24 Hour National Championships - Gallup, New Mexico
I have alluded previously, my race schedule is becoming less and less a
relentless chase for results but rather a random "bucket list" of
events I've never attended or have unfinished business with. My history of 24
hour solo racing is concise but fairly successful. I won the overall at 24
Hours in the Old Pueblo in 2009 then failed to finish National Championships in
Moab that same year. In 2011, I won the single speed solo National title in
Colorado Springs so that rekindled my desire to take one more shot at the solo
title this year near Gallup, New Mexico.
venue was remote and beautiful, and the course was a polar opposite of the
technical venues in Colorado and Utah. Completely non-technical with the only
sustained climbing of the false-flat variety, the Enchanted Forest course was
fast... maybe too fast! It constantly begged us for more power and speed when
conventional wisdom required moderation and pacing.
race began on a gravel farm road and quickly funneled into a nearly endless
singletrack loop for its near entirety. After a dusty pre-ride on Friday I was
concerned to be in the top tier when we entered the trail but managed the
holeshot instead. I was quickly overtaken by local "All Star" David
Vaughn and Nate Miller both vying for the four-man championship title. Soon
Tinker Jaurez and multi-time national champ Josh Tostado moved ahead as I did
my best to settle in for the long haul.
had been "testing" a single ring set-up with clutch derailleur for
over a month with zero chain drops in the NW, but as lady luck would have it,
suffered a chain derailment near the end of the opening lap. It only cost 15-30
seconds, but it was a prelude to the remainder of the race for me--little
annoyances adding up to "throw-off" my run at the overall title.
Tostado and Jaurez came through about a minute faster on the first lap, I was
able to erase that deficit and overtake them despite an extra long bottle stop.
Josh immediately fell off the pace as had the rest of the solo field and only
Tinker could stay with me. He looked great on the climbs and seemed super fit
and ready for the race. As is usually the case, I was able to stretch him on
the technical/descending sections so I was excited for another epic battle.
measured my effort on the climbs and let the Ripley burn up the rest. As we
flew into the third lap, I felt stoked to be at the front and in good shape
despite my earlier time losses. Then the chain came off again and Tinker
passed. it was just before beginning the long "climb" and I was
content to give him some slack again. Then my right leg cramped. No cramps are
"typical" for me but this didn't feel like any cramps I've ever
experienced--I wasn't tired, I wasn't dehydrated or under-fueled and the cramping
radiated through my leg like a chain reaction.
let up and they went away, but so did Tinker. I continued smoothly but on the
descents I was fearful--not of the trail but of losing my chain again. I
couldn't pedal through any kind of roughness in the small cogs and had to
impatiently look down to make sure my chain was on before resuming. I had a
sickening feeling that the race was unraveling in an uncontrollable sort of
way. Death by a thousand seconds I suppose!
drank more fuel but the twinge in my right leg was now in my left and I backed
off the throttle even more. After the fourth lap I drank a quarter gallon of
water thinking maybe it was dehydration and my body needed dilution. Then it
started the cloud up and sprinkle. For once in recent memory, I asked for rain
and I got it! I though maybe that is what this Oregonian needed--a little rain
and while the chain stayed on, I was losing a minute or more per lap coasting
when I should have been pedaling. I was also not able to spin my legs as I rolled
which seemed to cause the cramps to lurk whenever I could continue.
grabbed a handful of electrolyte tabs and soldiered on as my lap times
continued to deteriorate. All the while, I was still just minutes behind and
feeling great but my muscles seemed to have a mind of their own and my drive
train had apparently been sabotaged by a chupacabre rendering it useless for
any sort charge back to the front.
rain lasted long enough to dampen the trails and it was apparent that any more
would have had a dire effect on locomotion as the mud was the sticky peanut
butter variety that built up on anything it touched.
looked forward to nightfall as I never had before. Maybe Tinker would slow and
maybe I would eventually overcome the cramps in the cooler temperatures. I only
had one bike so the light change took several minutes, but I rode fast that
lonely, singular lap in the dark. If anything I was faster than before, but as
I neared the start/finish the rain picked up and gradually intensified. I
paused for more electrolytes as it turned into a downpour.
I stopped. For the first time in my short, illustrious 24-solo career I took a
break. Why? Because I knew it would be futile to try to ride a lap in that mud.
I knew the extra resistance could only increase my cramping and I knew the
temperature would plunge with every falling rain drop. I rolled the dice on
staying warm and keeping my equipment at least as functional as it had been to
that juncture in the race.
took off my wet clothes and sat in the rental car listening to the rain hammer
down this time asking it to stop. After about 45 minutes I heard an odd voice
getting louder but not necessarily clearer. It took a few seconds to wrap my
tired mind around the source but then I realized it was a bull-horn coming
closer on a quad. The voice was saying the course was closed and that the race
would be postponed until further notice.
got out of the car and witnesses to all manner of bicycle and human carnage by
virtue of mud. Bikes were clogged beyond function and bodies were often just as
dirty and/or bloodied by unplanned dismounts in the slick conditions. I
chuckled--maybe I made the right call afterall.
later the quad came back by and I inquired about the restart. The rain was
already slowing to a sprinkle and I wanted to be ready to roll. They had no
idea of when or how the race would continue so I just sat there. The rain
stopped and time slowly wound on. There was some indication of a restart at
2AM, so I got out and walked around only to be told it would be 4AM at the
earliest. At four, there was still no verdict so we were told to wait until day
break. Sometime around 5AM I dozed off only to be "instantly"
awakened by the bull-horn just an hour later.
mind was totally fogged in and my body felt paralyzed from sitting in the car
most of the night. Somehow I knew it was over just then, but I tried to get on
my bike and my derriere felt like it had been ripped in two from "basting
in its own juices" all night. I went to the second pre-race meeting and
apparently those hard women and men still had the gumption to get out and race.
I was broken mentally and most likely physically and these folks seemed bright
eyed and bushy tailed!
reluctantly rolled back down to the startline with reality slowly sinking in
with each turn of the pedals. My race was over. I wouldn't be 24 Hour National
Champion this year let alone 14 or 15 hour asterix champ. They started racing
and I just tried to encourage them onward. With the trail to the left I went "right"
and rode aimlessly through the early morning sun. Suddenly the burden of the
race was lifted and my bike unfurled its wings again. I was free to roam at any
pace so I went and got my camera and headed out to the end of the course to try
to get a few pictures...
the dust—er, mud settled, it seemed to me like the right folks prevailed, Nina
Baum (NoTubes) won the women’s solo title and Tinker Jaurez (ShoAir) solidified
his fifth National Championship in the men’s division. The New Mexico All-Stars
transformed themselves to "All-American-Stars” by winning the four-person Open
race, and Get Out! took top honors in the Junior Open category.