What an excellent venue for mountain bike racing. Let me be the very first to say that Palo Duro Canyon is one of the most spectacular destinations in all of Texas and easily as scenic as our best National Parks. So it goes without saying that the whole experience of doing a 24 hour mountain bike race in such a venue is impressively unique.
The weekend started off excellent, easy 5hr drive, beautiful weather, etc. etc.. We started setting up the pit area around 5pm on Friday and we were fortunate enough to be joined by Damon Williams from Cadence Cyclery (Highland Village) who had donated his time and skills to wrenching on peoples bikes for the race…. Not just Bearded Women or Cadence bikes, but everyone who needed mechanical support, Damon was there to help. This actually provided a lot of entertainment and comedic relief. It’s kinda funny to see some of the stuff that happens to peoples bikes before during and after a race. But it’s even funnier to hear them explain the problem or how to fix it to the mechanic. And we had a front row seat for the whole show.
The race went off without a hitch. We sent Brad out of the gate with one goal: Do the 1st lap as fast as possible, then we will start with the two lap rotations at a sustainable pace. The start line was two miles down the road in a separate campground from the pit area, so the rest of the team was just kinda hanging out waiting for Brad to come in and not really knowing what to expect from a timing standpoint. The initial lap had a lead out and lots of congestion so we were guessing lap times, 1hr, 55 minutes, 50 minutes… etc.. As you can imagine, we were pretty shocked when he rolled through with a 41:15 on the first lap! And then BAM! Eric goes out and puts down back-to-back 42 minute laps, almost identical. I think we knew right then and there 30 laps was going to be easily attainable. Jesse came in off his first set around 3pm and handed off to me and he was like “dude, it’s way hot”… and man was he right. I rode from about 3ish to 4:30ish and it was super hot and super dusty… I’m talking border line RCP backwards 2013 DORBA Fall Series hot and dusty. If you were there you know what I mean.
After the first full rotation we were locked in on auto pilot. We were watching the clock, making sure our teammates had water hand-ups when they came through, basically running like a well-oiled machine…. Unlike some of the bikes Damon was wrenching on in the meantime.
Nightfall came and once again we were in a position where we didn’t really know what to expect from a timing standpoint. Jesse came in with his lights on, but I started the first full dark lap so when I came through in 46 minutes on the 1st lap I was in disbelief. I thought for sure nightfall would have us well into the 50 minute range. But we were flying and we were more than halfway to our goal.
For me… this is where shit got real. 3am, I had been asleep for about an hour and half, Eric wakes me up and says “Jesse just did a 45 minute lap! You need to get up and get ready”. OK. So I put on some clean bibs and my sweaty jersey and I start trying to wake up and get excited to go ride in the desert all alone in the middle of the night for about 2 hours. Sounds awesome right? I hope you reading this realize that so far I have been screwed on this riding schedule. 1st set in the absolute hottest part of the day, 2nd set as soon as it gets dark, and now the 3rd set in the most lonely, most sleepy, most quiet, most eerie, most you name it part of the night. I think I fell asleep on the 1st lap of this set because I looked up and I was already ¾ finished… I thought, man this aint too bad… but then for some reason I woke up and the 2nd lap lasted an eternity. I was literally talking to myself, “once you finish you can go to sleep, keep pedaling and you can go to sleep, don’t walk this section, you can finish faster and go to sleep”. Then I started thinking to myself “shit, you were supposed to wake up Brad when you finished your first lap. You forgot to do that!…. What if he isn’t ready to go?. WHAT IF I HAVE TO DO A 3RD LAP!!!!????” Anyways, I roll up and that dude is awake and ready to go… High five, hell yeah, I’m going to sleep.
Well while I was asleep the good times kept rolling, except for Eric who flipped over the handlebars and for Damon who had to fix Eric’s bike in the dark at 5am (more on that in a minute). Lap times remained well under 50 minutes for the most part and by the time I woke up at 730 all we had to do was crank out three more laps and we were at 30. Jesse was on his final lap, I put in number 29 and Brad closed it out. We could have done 31, but we decided to save some for next year 😉
All in all we had 1 mechanical and no serious injuries. Eric’s rear brake pad separated from the metal backing and he had to finish GSL (the most technical section) with only a front brake… That’s how he ended up going over the bars.
This was a great experience and the team of guys couldn’t have been better. Nothing beats getting a 1st place trophy on your very first 24hr mountain bike race! Looking forward to next year!