CHICO 24 Hour Summer Solstice Mountain Bike Race
Albion Hills Conservation Area,
This event, as the name suggests is a 24hr continuous race completed either in various team formats or as a solo. There is also a no-night option for the more timid at heart. My team consisted of four people in total, and essentially you are free to do as many laps as you can in 24 hours, with one person on the course at a time. The race runs from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday, with the caveat that if you cross the line before noon on Sunday you are free to do one more lap but it must be completed by 1pm for it to count on your total.
Basic setup of the site included each team getting a campsite within the conservation area to setup camp. There was a transition area with bike racks for outgoing racers waiting for their incoming teammates to complete their laps. A timing chip was administered to each time, with a reading device within the transition tent. Complete a lap, swipe your chip, pass it off to your waiting teammate, go back to camp and pass out… one great feature was the ability to sign up for email and text alerts. Each time your chip was swiped in transition, your phone would instantly get an email/text with great information such as exact time it was registered, lap time, your team placement within category (11 out of 33 for example), how far behind the team in front, how far ahead of the team behind you, etc. This allowed people at their campsite to know exactly when their outgoing rider started their lap and as such allowed you to accurately estimate when your next rider needed to head up to transition to be ready.
There was a mass start at noon on Saturday with 378 riders (representing 378 teams, 2,244 riders in total) taking the first lap together. We selected our most experienced rider (not me) to take this lap, our logic was such that they would be best able to deal with the close quarters of so many riders. The first lap was unique, the organisers incorporated an additional 2km loop at the start of the lap to try and spread the field out before getting into the standard loop which began with a very tight technical section. Our rider completed this lap in 1:11:54, which was a great time, and placed us 13th out of 33 teams in our category (4 person open division). Our female rider went next and completed her lap in 1:36:15 which put us in 26th place. I went next with a lap time of 1:09:51 bringing us back into 21st place.
The course was just shy of 18km’s in length, with a total ascent of 441 meters (1,446 feet)… yeah, you read that right… lots of hills! The course was by far the most demanding I have ever ridden, not that I am overly experienced in this style of racing, but this was echoed by many of the more experienced riders as well. Primarily single track sections of tight twisty trail in the trees connected by wide open double tracks to get you form one trail section to the next. The trails had a mixture of exposed roots and occasional rocks to keep you focused on your placement, but there were no overtly rocky sections. Much of the single track was fast and flowing which was extremely enjoyable, if not completely mentally exhausting, as you were generally never more than a few inches from trees on either side of you, there was never a moment where you could mentally relax.
Our team of four started as a three, as our other rider was driving in from
He passed the timing chip off to me and I was away on my second lap, our teams 7th. This lap was memorable for me as I was unfortunate enough to perform a wipe out of epic proportions. Long story short, at very high speed I hit an exposed root, my left foot came unclipped just as the sharp downhill became a sharp uphill, causing me to bottom out, and with only one foot clipped in that meant I was headed over the handlebars… I remember getting up and my left arm being completely numb. I grabbed my bike, ran to the top of the hill, tried to grip the handlebars and realised I couldn’t control my left hand at all. I gave it a minute or two and started to get a tingly feeling back in my hand, just enough for me to grip the handlebars. Anyway, off I went trying to makeup for lost time, gradually getting more feeling back in my left hand as I went. I managed to finish the lap in 1:15:10 and headed back to camp for some recovery.
My next lap began at 12:40AM, and I have to say I was a little intimidated by the prospect of tackling that course in the dark. My recent crash hadn’t done the confidence any good either. My left arm was still painful, but I had gotten most of my grip strength and control back in my hand. Armed with my new MagicShine 1100 Lumen (MJ-808U) bike light I took off on my lap determined to put in a reasonable time for my team. The course was extremely quiet as many teams opt for the non-night ride option, which forbids them from being on the course between 9pm and 5am. Once I got into my lap and started to flow through the course I realised I was keeping a very comparable pace to my daylight laps. There’s almost something zen about riding alone at night, you’re not really focused on anything else except what is right in front of you at the very moment, your peripheral vision is gone due to darkness, it’s very quiet and you enter sort of a meditation state of mind, not thinking about anything else… I completed my night lap in 1:26:04, which I was very happy with, and enjoyed every second of it.
Our team continued to flow through the laps as the daylight began to break. I started my fourth lap at 8:33AM and finished in a time of 1:23:25. I was completely exhausted at this point and the heat was beginning to tell on everyone. We finished our final lap two minutes before noon on Sunday. Our team was able to complete a total of 19 laps, placing us 11th out of 33 teams in the four person open category.
Side note: If the category had included a co-ed sub-category we would have finished 3rd out of 9 teams… just sayin…
Overall I would say this event was one of the toughest endurance events I have ever competed in. The relay style is something new to me, I am used to continuous movement with my triathlon and adventure racing experiences. Going flat out for over an hour, then stopping for 3.5 hours before going again multiple times is very tough on the body, as is the 24hr style. The race was incredibly well organized, and there were lots of quality draw prizes available from the sponsors.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys mountain biking and is up for a challenge. If you are less inclined I would suggest a team with additional members. The race has both 5 person and even 10 person team options.
· Fastest lap time by anyone: 46:53
· Most laps completed: 28 (ten person all-male team)
· Most laps completed by solo male racer: 18 (under 40 category)
· Most laps completed by solo female racer: 17 (under 40 category)
· Most laps completed by solo male racer (over 50 category): 17