Racing in the desert, all day and all night
Somewhere back in the late 1980’s, Laird Knight of West Virginia experienced an epiphany. Turns out, Knight felt the East Coast racing scene was getting a little stagnant, so he decided to create a format where teams worked in a relay race for 24 straight hours.
The 24-Hours of Canaan made its debut in 1990 and, five years later, Knight decided he wanted a version of the race out West. He created 24-Hours of Moab. Little did he know how big his creation would become.
More than 80 Summit County locals will be buying into the idea this weekend, as the ninth annual 24-Hours of Moab race commences at noon on Saturday at the Behind the Rocks recreation area just south of Moab.
This year, not only is Knight promoting four 24-hour races nationwide, but a grassroots group known as Adrenalin promotes a 10-race series of 24-hour races across the country, including a World Championship that was held in Whistler at the end of August.
Add a National Off-Road Bicycling Association (NORBA) 24-hour championship race and complete Canadian and European schedules being run by various promoters, and it becomes obvious that Knight’s idea was a good one.
The race in Moab begins with a Lemans-style start, where racers are required to run 400 meters before getting to their bikes.
Then, the riders head out on a 15-mile loop in the Moab backcountry before handing a baton to a teammate.
After 24 hours, or around noon on Sunday, the teams with the most laps will win their respective categories.
Categories consist primarily of four- and five-person teams ranging from sport to expert classes. The divisions also feature a men’s and women’s solo and duo category.
The most challenging part for most participants is when riders must head out in the dark of night, negotiating the sandy, rocky course with lights mounted to their helmets and handlebars.
“I think that night riding scares a lot of people for those who haven’t done it before,” said Copper Mountain’s Eddie Mason, who is racing in his first 24-hour relay race.
Along with Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone, Dillon and Summit Cove are all represented among the 24 registered teams that are based in Summit County, according to the registration lists found on the races Web site, http://www.grannygear.com. .
“It’s like a big end-of-the-year party,” Mason said. “This is what it’s all about.”
Among the prominent local racing teams to be seen at the race will be the Arapahoe Warriors, the MSO/Ti Amo Divas, Great Adventure Sports and Maverick Sports.
Mark Taylor, who owns Great Adventure Sports in Breckenridge, is participating in his first 24-hour race. Taylor believes that the race, held almost 300 miles away, has been a boon to his otherwise slow autumn business.
“We’ve sold things based on it and I’ve had friends from the Front Range come up and ask about it,” he said. “What a scene it’s turned out to be. It’s just exploded.”
Locals Brett Morgan of Summit Cove, David Pickett-Heaps of Frisco and Ann James of Silverthorne all plan to ride solo in the race, along with James Dean, who lives in Fairplay but is a fixture on the management staff of Mountain Sports Outlet in Silverthorne.
Dean is competing in his fifth 24-Hours of Moab, though this is his first attempt at riding it solo. “I feel prepared,” said James, who finished 10th in the 2002 Montezuma’s Revenge and is hoping for a top-10 finish in the Moab field, which will feature 60 of the best solo endurance riders in the country.
Watch for former Breckenridge resident Nat Ross to do well in the solo division as well. Ross, who now lives in Vail, had a stunning season this year in which he finished third in the World Championships and second in the NORBA race.
And, of course, there’s always the team names. Ever since Knight created his first race, he’s encouraged creativity on the part of participants to name their teams.
Summit County will be represented by “Half a Ton of Fun,” “Riders on the Storm,” “I Hope They Didn’t Miss the Trail,” “Nachoes with a Side of Guacamole,” “The Tele Thugs,” and “The Battered Wives Club,” among others.
From other parts of Colorado, though, “Race Now, Golf Later” from Glenwood Springs, “Sleekstack Virus” from Basalt, “Monkey Butts” from Telluride, and “Four Old Men, Eight Numb Nutts” from Eagle all plan to attend.
Editor’s Note: Richard Chittick will be attending 24-Hours of Moab to work tech support for
several local teams. Look for a story on his experience in Wednesday’s online edition of the Summit Daily News.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
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