The Misery of the Hardcore 24
Photos and words by Dan Chabanov
It’s rare that I get a boring text from Dan Timmerman. When he asked me if I would be interested in a 24 hour mountain bike race I figured he was mostly joking and not really expecting me to be interested in that sort of thing. He later admitted this to be true. Although I have to admit that Dan’s assessment of my level of interest was probably correct normally. I guess he just caught me on a weird day and so we started working out the details…
Neither one of us wanted to race solo. So the decision was between a four man or duo team. Timmerman thought that a four man team was a bit too pedestrian for him and I stupidly agreed that a duo was more challenging and therefore more interesting. We then decided to split up as that would actually allow us time to hang during our off laps and also ride together. I convinced BrittLee last minute to join the trip and turn it into an impromptu Richard Sachs team camp.
We drove up to Timmermans cabin in the finger lakes on Friday. Loaded his bikes on the car and headed towards the trails to set up camp. On the way we stopped at Main St Bikes in Burdett and I got to meet my duo partner named John Compton who owns the shop and a sweet VW camper van. He also does 250 mile “road races” for fun. Interesting fellow for sure.
The race camp was on top of a two thousand foot ridge and gave us great views of both the sun rise and sun set. The race proper would start at noon on Saturday and end at noon Sunday. So we had plenty of time for all the normal pre race crap that we had to do. BrittLee meanwhile haggled the promoter down to half the normal entry fee and signed up for the solo women’s race last minute.
Dan and I decided to race the opening lap for our teams and have our partners take over on lap two. A great way to do poorly in a 24 hour mountain bike race is to go for the holeshot. Which is exactly what I declared I would be doing several times. Getting the holeshot was actually all good and fine, it was the crashing due to pedal strike that I should have probably avoided.
The race spread out pretty quickly as the solo guys settled into their rhythm and the four man teams tried to kill each other. For a while our two duo teams were leading everyone in the lap count. Mostly because Timmerman and I were racing our laps like it was a XC race. In hindsight all this was a terrible idea.
I was looking forward to the night shift because I had never mountain biked at night before. Turns out its not as crazy as it sounds with even a mediocre light system. But after my 5th night lap and about 60 miles into the race I was really started to feel it. I got to lay down for a few hours after doing a three hour stint between two and five am. Around eight am I headed out for another lap.
At this point my limiting factors had become my ability to hold the bars and sit on my saddle. I passed a solo rider with a pillow taped to his saddle. When I finished my lap there was still four hours of ride time left. I did some really simple math that took much longer because of the state my brain was in and realized that Timmerman was too far ahead for me to catch and third place was too far behind to catch us. Smart thing would have been to go take a shower and have breakfast. But if I did one more lap I would break the 100 mile mark. That seemed vaguely appealing to my sensibilities so I stupidly headed out for my 14th seven mile loop of single track.
Like pretty much every competitive cycling undertaking I found 24 hour racing to be pretty miserable but that was mostly my fault. In reality it was two nights of camping and 24 hours of riding single track with a bunch of friends which is actually a really great way to spend the weekend. I think next time though I’ll do the four man team thing.