The 24 hours of Great Glen is pretty much the highlight of my summer mountain bike season. It's not so much a race as an experience... as most normal races don't involve days off work, night rides, light warrantees, loss of sleep before the race, loss of sleep during the race, loss of wakefulness after the race, and a total inability to get of your own way for the next 3 days.
Yeah, it's Thursday and I'm just getting around to the blog. Hey. At least I'm doing it at all.
So this year I finally got on a proper bikin' team, and lo and behold I have 3 teammates who ride mountain bikes fast, sometimes faster than me. A 24 hour pro team was a given, the only question was how much ass we were going to kick. Right?
Well, I like uncontested victories as much as the next guy, but Adam St G must not, since he had the audacity to register a 2nd pro team. Didn't he get the memo, only one pro team allowed?
We scouted their roster and it seemed like we had a chance. They had three guys our speed, and Justin Lindine. Ok, so Justin Lindine is lapping-me-in-a-cross-race fast, that's a problem, but let's say he beats our fastest guy by two minutes per lap -- we still only need 40 seconds per leg on the other three stay even. Pete Ostroski was taking 2 minutes a lap from us last year, and he's the fastest guy in New Hampshire. We can totally do this.
Yeah, well, then the race started, and we lost six minutes to Justin on lap one.
He did a faster lap including the run than anyone else did all day. As in, I could start from the tent and ride as hard as possible. Justin could start from the tent, run for three minutes around a pond, sit down, spend another minute practicing dance moves for when he gets the "fastest lap" prize, and then go ride as hard as possible. We would finish the lap at the same time.
Oh man, we are screwed.
But never say die! Kevin took back 50 seconds on lap two. I was amped up and rode lap three "Wilichoski-style," which is to say full gas, no finesse. 40 more seconds! Mike effectively tied Rob Stine on the final lap of the rotation and we were only down four minutes after four laps.
Then Justin took six more minutes from us. It's not that Greg was riding slowly, it's just that he was riding local-Cat-1-fast instead of pro fast. Justin was 13th at MTB Nationals in 2008. Why are we even in the pro race? Oh yeah, thanks, Kevin.
Fine. Time to quit worrying about Justin and start riding hard. Only 21 hours to go!
Kevin left it all out there to post the fastest team lap of the race, 36:59, and make up two minutes.
I rode a minute slower, but Greg and Mike both sped up, so rotation #2 was "better," in that we only dropped another 3 minutes on that go-round.
Justin took six minutes yet again on lap 9, but hey, shut up and ride your bike. We knocked out three more sub-39 laps (the highlight, of course, being me finally beating Kevin) and checked the leaderboard. Holy crap, the gap was down to two minutes?!
Adam had flatted, and Shawn had ridden a double, and just like that we'd made up ten minutes in three laps. Greg took another minute from Rob Stine, and suddenly it's 9pm and we are 30 seconds down.
We were close enough that Kevin actually got to see Justin run out of the tent starting lap 13. Of course he lost five minutes on that lap, but it's night now, lets see how it shakes out, huh?
Justin rode a double. It turns out that lap two of a double from Justin is still way, way faster than what any of us can ride, especially when my light turns off six times during the lap. By the four mile mark of the lap, I was holding my headlamp in my hand on the bars, just so I wouldn't die if my light turned off on a fast downhill.
In the technical section before mile five it turned off, and while I was trying to get my headlamp pointed down the trail I hit the dreaded roots-spaced-apart-at-exactly-wheelbase-distance. Wheee, I'm flying! Thud.
By the end of the lap I'd decided that having a light turning off was more distracting than not having one at all, so I was running handheld-headlamp only. Thanks to some lucky lapped-rider placement I was able to survive the plunge in this condition and finish up the lap in 41:17.
I took my tale of woe to the NiteRider truck, where it was swiftly diagnosed as a failing ballast (my light is a submarine?!) and replaced with a demo light. Score! Too bad we're back down 11 minutes.
At this point it was clear that they could pretty much bring Justin out for as many laps as necessary to secure the win, so we were riding for pride and pride alone. But HEY, don't accuse B2C2 of not having any pride, alright? I spend an entire cross season pining for the lead lap, might as well start practicing early.
And we held up pretty damn well! We were 14 minutes down after 19 laps. We were 14 minutes down after 35 laps, with two flats in that time span. We learned that Mike is the most ridiculously consistent 24 hour racer ever, with less than 2 minutes between best lap and worst lap. Kevin had his typical back-from-the-dead lap and dropped a 38:07 when the sun came up. I finished with four straight sub-40 laps (including one in the dark). And Greg... well, it's always nice to have someone around camp who is a total zombie, to remind you how much worse it could be.
Sample 6am conversation with Greg:
Greg: Ungggggggh. Time for my lap. I'm hungry.
Me: Did you eat?
Greg: Not really.
Me: Do you at least have an emergency gel with you?
Me: Maybe you should take one.
(Greg leaves without a gel)
So, as expected we finished second. Adam's team finished lap 36 nineteen minutes ahead, good enough to start lap 37, while we missed the cutoff and only finished with 36. But make no mistake, we weren't lapped. And the two pro teams did exactly what "pro" teams should do: beat the rest of the field by four laps.
...and now we have to come back and see if we can find 20 minutes next year. Or just break Justin's kneecaps.