Monday, September 04, 2006
7Springs Subaro 24hr Champion Challenge
TOUGH AS NAILS
As is usual it's hard to put 24 hours of mountain bike insanity into words but I'll give it a go.
There's a lot of things that this race IS. Fun, challenging, technical, a bunch of climbing, a chance to see old friends and make new ones...
This year there was a few things it wasn't:
DRY and DUSTY
The conditions were at best difficult. If you came to have fun, you would, that's just a matter of attitude. If you came to race, you'd better have brought your WHOLE game, and be ready to lay it all down, 'cause that was just what it would take.
At the start it seems like one racer knows what is in store.
The first lap was led by a Dirty Harry's Team rider (TJ Platt?), who turned the fastest lap at 1:07 on a single speed. Tinker Juarez (solo of course) was close behind in second. They had already opened up a 3-4 minute gap on the field.
Mike Schultz was not far behind in second place solo. He would stay on the same lap as Tinker for more than half the race.
As the "sun" went down a thick fog descended upon the mountain that made riding like driving while blind. Even with the best lights money can buy visibility was about 4 feet. Many just packed it in, to get up and ride again at daylight, or not ride again at all.
Somewhere just after midnight Tinker lapped Mike. Fast solo laps were now in the 1:35-1:50 range, add in 5-10 minutes for bike and clothes changes, a bite to eat, and logged lap times were around 2 hours.
After the "sun" came up it was cruise control for most solo riders that remained. Between 9 and 10AM the whole math game comes into play. The Cannondale/Juarez crew was checking the board and figuring things out to help their rider. It looked like Tinker quite possibly could finish his lap just before 10AM and not have to go back out.
After a quick pit Mike went back on the course at 8:15 and said "I have 2 more laps in me, and that's it, I'm DONE". If he could turn those laps in 3:45 and finish before noon, Tinker would have to go again, and it would be a race for the last lap. Rose and Terry Juarez, having seen Tinker suffer enough in RAAM for 3 lifetimes, were all for him stopping and waiting it out. 2 laps in 3:45 on this course, at this stage of the game, would be possible but almost superhuman.
As Tinker reached the end of the last climb at ~9:50, his crew was there and ready to tell him to pull off and wait, he shouldn't have to go out again. Tinker just looked up through tired but determined eyes and said - "I'm going on, it's too early to quit". During the 23rd hour, I was over by the Juarez/Cannondale camp. Terry looks up and says , "You know this is a tough as nails event. You have to be tough as nails to ride this course for 24 hours." Yup, you sure got that right. Tough as nails.
An hour and 45 minutes later Tinker came by the same spot near the top of the last climb. I told him he didn't have to go out again. With a slight smile he said "I'm stopping now, I have no power left". He knew the race was over, the deal closed. He won it like the pro he is, not by sitting around and waiting, but by going out and gettin' 'er done.
Mike went on to get those 2 laps, finishing after 12 noon. He put in an absolutely heroic effort out there for second place. After some digestive problems held him back at Nationals, he came to this race ready and got some well deserved redemption.
Huge round of applause to everyone out there that took part in this epic event.
I tried to illustrate this a bit more, but once again, blogger shut down the image posting.
I have MANY MANY MANY pictures to put up. I have to say it's some of the best stuff I've done with a camera. Still learning though. The lighting conditions left a lot to be desired, but it helps when you have a bunch of crazies out their getting dirty and having fun. Over 850 shots have been through the cropping, correcting and editing stream once. I'll go through them again tonight and have a link up here on Wednesday morning. It was quite an experience being out there as a full time spectator/photog and not racing. There was only 1 or 2 times I wanted to trade places with you all.
It's a warm sunny day here in western PA, think I'll get out on my bike and play....