|Red dust. Everywhere.
Eyes, lungs, gloves. I can feel the grit in my shoes, between my toes. The dirt road speedway I'm on is momentarily obscured as the stabbing beam of my headlamp flares off dust flung into the air by the rider ahead. Eyes probe, trying to make out the line through the soft surface, trying to tell my body where to shift, where to pedal, where to ease back and float.
As annoyingly persistent as the dust is, it can't stop my grin as I realize I'm just about to crank a left hander and dive down the sandy surf and half pipe gully. Speed builds, unconsciously called for even though I can't quite see the corner. I just have to know where it is. I have to believe where it is, somewhere forward in the dark.
Sand reaches out with little hands, tugging and slapping my front wheel. I ease back in the saddle, feathering the rear brake, hand off the front, and lean the bike to the left, feeling the acceleration, rising off the saddle, working the balance as I fly through the dark softness. The bars tilt downhill, the blur of the front tire pushing aside the sandy hands. Headlamp and eyes panning back and forth, checking the line, glancing up for the rider ahead, checking the line, scanning for the hardpack dirt.
Speed. Now. I ease off the feathering that is keeping me straight and let the bike accelerate through the sand. Faster onto the hardpack, faster towards the wickedly banking corners I know are... here -grunt- through another left at speed and down across the transition bump to the hard -grunt- right and then stay leaning right to rail the soft sandy section that leads to the middle flat.
Three quick pedal strokes across the flat, leaning into the speed, keeping momentum and then the bars tilt downhill once again, pulling with all of gravity's tension, pulling me through the dark, starry night, pulling me forward through the 24 Hours of Moab.
A whoop erupts from my lungs and I flash forward into the dusty dark.
Welcome to the Granny Gear Productions 24 Hours of Moab, a 24-hour mountain bike race for teams of 1, 2, or more. My brother Sam and I signed up as a Duo team to promote his 24 hour ski race, Equinox Ski Challenge. 12 hours of riding each. We weren't sure how many laps that meant, but both of us knew it would feel like a lot by the time Sunday noon rolled around.
This race is a big event. 380-something teams, probably 2,000 racers, never mind support crew and cheering squads. Tent City. Park a few hundred RV's, cars, and tents in a semi-remote chunk of Utah desert, crank up the generators, tunes, bonfires and let 'er rip. Bikes everywhere. The scenes dredge up age old memories from when my friend Scott and I used to race mountain bikes in BC, but things are different here and now.
This is the first time I've ever ridden in Moab, after all the years of being involved in the mountain bike scene, embedded in the lore. We drove past the Slickrock Cafe yesterday, rolling through Moab. Amazing how some people, places and things can change so fast, and yet others can stay the same for decades.
Sam and I rode 7 laps each in a little under 24 hours. 208 miles under our combined wheels. 19,000 feet of climbing. Not too shabby. Sam joined me for part of the last lap and we ripped the last long fast downhill together. What a hoot!