This weekend I was part of a 24 hour Mountain Biking relay team. The event was the Chico Racing's 24 Hours of Summer Solstice at Albion Hills.
This extremely popular event is a mecca for mountain bikers. It is a spectacle - the high end bikes and cycling gear and the riders ranging from corpulent to world class. The atmosphere is three-ringed circus and the riding is a true test of endurance. Each rider sets out on a 17 km lap (roughly one hour of riding) which ranges from gently rolling hills to bone-jarring thigh-ripping hairpin-cornered single track. It is grueling at times, but also exhilarating and a real thrill. As you complete the lap, you run through the timing tent and pass the baton on to the next rider. That is, unless, you are one of the solo riders who compete the length of the race on their own (how they do that is beyond me!)
Riders in the staging area at dusk, waiting for their team rider to exit the timing tent
It is also a social event. You spend the weekend on a tightly-packed campsite with your teammates talking, comparing notes and preparing for the next lap. I have been part of the same team for the past ten years. Over the years we have changed from gung-ho competitive wannabees to laid-back parents who are riding to survive.
Riders setting out at dusk
This year the weather was perfect, high skies and no humidity, comfortable and dry. The course got fairly dusty, but that was about the only drawback.
I wrote about riding at night recently. Racing at night is far more exciting. You have to anticipate the next corner, know where you can just let go and literally fly down a steep descent, because at that speed you probably won't be able to see a sharp corner clearly. I fell in behind a rider who was keeping a nice pace and watched his line. No mistakes, no mishaps, a nice clean ride. We passed a ton of riders. What a blast.
Our team rode without any major problems or injuries. We finished solidly in the middle of the pack, and most of us got three laps in. My aim was to pace myself properly so that I could get in good lap times and not feel like puking at the end. My first lap was excruciating because I got out of the gate too quickly and paid the price in the last half of the lap. The other two laps were well paced and FUN.
I have worked with Chico on a number of mountain biking events. A couple of years ago I did the artwork for his event guide. I think this drawing is a good depiction of the course and the transition area.