To sum it up, I didn’t have a good race this weekend. Whatever the reason; getting over strep 10 days ago, too many trips up and down the stairs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, or just a bad time of the month; as the week progressed, my energy level dropped, and the excitement I’d felt earlier in the week waned. In spite of months of training, I didn’t have my best day. I never felt awful like last year, but I’ve had a lot of days of feeling great on the bike recently and Saturday wasn’t one of them. Even at the start I didn’t feel fresh.
Besides my lackluster performance, the race was a disappointment in other ways. My goal was to do better than 2007, specifically to complete more laps this year. It seemed like a good test. The course map posted on the race website when I registered looked identical to the 2007 course, but as I was packing my car for the race on Wednesday, the map was replaced with a new one which had us riding the course backwards and adding a (as it turned out, for me, very slow) section of trail to the route. I didn’t do as many laps this year, but even without the additional distance, the course was more difficult ridden in the opposite direction and there was basically no comparison between this year and 2007 or 2008. I’m sure many riders welcomed the changes which made the course more technical, but riding up instead of down the rock gardens, and the “new” trail section, which appeared to be under construction, and was referred to as the “skills section” on this report of the Pierre’s Hole 50/100, were punishing on my old hardtail. I don’t think my lap times dropped off at the end of the race like they did in 2007 and 2008, but I haven’t seen the official results yet to know for sure. I did take a long, 2 hour rest stop this year, which I hadn’t needed before.
In contrast to 24 Hours of ERock, where friendly riders made the event so fun, a few of the male riders here were extremely rude to riders they were overtaking. There’d been a few issues in 2007 and 2008, but nothing like this year. My crew overheard complaints from other riders as well. Later in the race the aggressive riders seemed to gain some patience, although if I’m typical, riders who had been passed earlier were so frightened they practically jumped off the trail when they knew someone was behind. In any race, I’m always looking to make it easy for riders to pass me, barring actually getting off my bike and waiting. It’s helpful to have some communication to know if a rider is ready to pass and if they have a preferred side, but in my view there is never an excuse for a rider to come up behind others yelling at them to get off the trail. It especially bothers me to think that this was happening to first time racers. I don’t like the idea that they may be intimidated into not racing again or that they may emulate this behavior if they stick with racing and in the future are passing people themselves.
Although my fork still needs new bushings which I wasn’t able to get prior to the race, a Wednesday night spring change solved the problems of it bottoming out. A Raven tire eliminated slipping in the back and a 2.1 Rocket Ron up front greatly improved steering. I could have used a wider, softer, front tire over the rocks and horse-damaged sections, but no tire change would’ve smoothed out the foot-deep pits in the “skills section” or the stair steps elsewhere.
The timer setup for 2009 was much better than 2007 and 2008. The timers had a clear, less chaotic view of riders, and recorded all my laps. There seemed to be fewer local riders. Possibly the addition of a 50/100 MTB race at Targhee two weeks prior to the 24 Hour and a downhill MTB race two weeks after gave them options more to their liking. The 2009 post-race lunch and awards, held in a stuffy, low-ceilinged room instead of the outside patio as previous years, were decidedly less festive and somewhat anti-climatic. Fewer prizes and lack of raffle indicated that the downturn in the economy, and possibly the burden of two additional races, has been hard on sponsors.
My crew was awesome!! The biggest disappointment for me was not posting a better result to show for their hard work. A friend loaned us their conversion van, the ultimate race vehicle! In 24 hours Jen and Erica never failed to be ready with a fresh bottle, fresh batteries, great food, and encouragement the moment I rolled up. They even cleaned and oiled my chain and checked my tire pressure. I’ve never had such efficient pit stops!
In my opinion, the women’s solo field was the strongest division in the race. We’ve all won 24 Hour races in the past and have all been on the podium every year we’ve raced Targhee. Rebecca Rusch, three-time 24 Hour MTB World Champion was first and it was awesome to see her out riding. Tracey Petervary gave her a good fight. In addition to her other accomplishments, Tracey set a record at The Tour Divide earlier this summer with her husband Jay. I know she must be a wonderful person just based on the fact that she spent 18 days, 13 hours and 50 minutes on the back of a tandem. Besides three World Championships, Rebecca, has a race resume as a mountain biker and adventure racer that would fill the circumference of both wheels of her 29′er. Congratulations to both of them!!
I’d also like to give a shout to Team Great Divide of Helena, Montana. They brought many riders and distinguished themselves by being such a friendly, supportive group. The local Habitat/Targhee Team and the GAS/Intrinsik Architecture Cycling Team also made themselves noticed out on the course with their friendly enthusiasm.
Next on my schedule is a 24 Hour Road TT in Oregon. I can’t wait to put the mountain bike into storage and get back to road riding!