It only took nine years for Breckenridge's Ty Cortright to win the 24 Hours of Moab.
He's been mountain biking the course every year for nearly a decade, and this year, he and his team took first place in the men's sport division.
His team has changed many times through the years, and Cortright is quick to say that this year's team - consisting of himself, five-year racing partner Jason Michalowski of Frisco, newcomers Nick Nyden and Rob Griz of Breckenridge and Frisco, respectively - was a good team. Nyden was the youngest at 26, while the other men are in their early 40s. Together, they traveled 253.47 miles and climbed 23,120 feet in 24 hours of riding. They placed eighth among all the teams and solo riders, which together numbered 166.
"This was something I was never expecting, is to win the race," Cortright said. "No one faltered mentally or physically or had any problems, mechanical problems or cramping problems. The best thing we had going for us was just that we were consistent."
He also speculates having a team of Summit men who take mountain biking seriously - even when they do it recreationally - and are in excellent condition was a leg up. It's possible, too, that race products provided by sponsor Rejuvila also helped.
The course has remained the same throughout the life of the 18-year-old race, which ended its run on Oct. 6-7, the weekend the Summit relay team put in at least four laps each on the nearly 15-mile course. Each lap took roughly an hour and a half for the riders, and the team completed it 17 times, with Nyden tallying a fifth to finish out the race. Griz put down the team's fastest lap at 1 hour, 16 minutes and 51 seconds. The team started at noon on Saturday and finished at 12:46 on Sunday afternoon.
Each year, the race attracts thousands of racers, support crew and spectators, but a precipitous drop in attendance in 2011 put the continuation of the event in question. It continued in 2012 because the results of a survey showed racers still had enthusiasm for the race, which is set in the red rock desert and mostly follows an old four-wheel drive trail that's technical enough that riders must pick their lines, carefully if not strategically. It also includes slick-rock sections, gnarly downhills, 1,360 feet of elevation per lap and "some of the most spectacular scenery in the world," according to the website. Results show that professional riders consistently break the one-hour mark on the roughly 15-mile course.
Cortright is still a little stunned to think about his transition from the beginning, when he was finishing 350th, to last weekend, when he stood on the podium with his teammates. Nine years ago, Cortright had just started riding, and 24 Hours of Moab was the first race he entered.
"It's not a good one to do as your first," he said. "It's pretty scary stuff."
In 2011, his team, Joseph and Friends, was fairly competitive. That was all Summit men too, but when one teammate flew over the handlebars and had to sit the race, it left just three competitors to relay the overnight.
This year, the team realized it had a chance to pedal to the podium when, after Lap 1, it had the lead. The riders slipped behind on Lap 2, but recovered again on Lap 3.
"From that point on, we realized we could," Cortright said. "Especially once we got through all four riders and we were still ahead."
Being new to the team and new to the race, Nyden was ready to go as hard as he could either way, but once he saw how well his team was doing, he was ready to win.
"I knew if we stayed consistent and didn't have any major issues, that was the key," he said, adding that he had one small issue that cost him a few minutes, but the team went without major incidents.
"That's pretty lucky," he said.
A fun ride, a tough ride
Nyden was particularly stoked to take on the final lap.
"You feel good when the next day rolls around and it's sunny and nice and you're out of the dark and you know you're almost done. You get re-amped somehow," Nyden said. "Rob, who went fourth, he came in right before me for my final lap. He busted out a really fast time, which motivated me to go as fast as I could on the last lap. The highlight ... was coming in on the final lap and having everyone there, cheering. It was pretty cool, like a victory lap. Everyone was there at the very end."
The riders navigated wide paths with technical rocky sections. Choosing a line is difficult in the daytime, let alone in the dark.
"I'd forget what the best line was. I just saw all kinds of rocks and didn't really remember which was the best way to go," Nyden said.
Cortright added that the course was slower this year. In 2011, it rained two days before the race, giving the sandy sections a hard base. This year, it was dry long before the event, leaving sand pits that would slow riders to a stop even if they cruised in at 30 mph. They'd dismount and run the bike through, even on downhill sections, because the wheels would slide or wouldn't turn.
"The sand was worse than the hills," Cortright said. "You could be on a flat surface and not be able to pedal through it."
About the sponsor
Having Rejuvila as a sponsor helped, Cortright said. Not only were the products useful, it was good to simply have support.
Rejuvila was launched in March 2012, featuring formulas geared toward anyone who wants pure, bioavailable organic supplements in a whole food base, replacing pill supplements containing "empty fillers and flow agents," owner Myra Michelle Eby said.
Rather than consume endless sugar supplements, the men were putting down products like Elemental AGEx, which contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, antioxidants and soothing stress itigators in an organic base of chia seed oil, raw cacao and quinoa, designed for sustainable energy.
"Elemental HEARTx was used as a muscle tonic meant to support the heart as well as other muscles through the 24 hours of rigorous strain," Eby said, adding that the other product she provided was Maca Balance from Peru, which is a century-old remedy for stamina and lasting energy as well as endocrine support.
"She's trying to wean people like us from running on sugar," Cortright said. "I was putting down the packs throughout the race, and we were putting the powder in the drinks. Maybe that's why we didn't have muscle cramps."
He added, "I think mentally, it helped us to have a sponsor and a group of people there supporting us. And the nutrition was big."