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Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Journey to Gravel Races (part 2) - A Misguided Plan

Three years ago about this time, I was looking ahead to the upcoming year for mountain bike races to pencil in the calendar.  A random thought shot across my mind.  2013 marked ten years since my last 24 hour team relay mountain bike race.  Really?  Ten years?

Time to search for a race and get some old riding buddies back together.  But the 24 hour race pickings are slim.  Over the past 10 years, the big production 24 Hours of Moab and 24 Hours of Adrenalin have vanished and the overall number of 24 hour races is way down.  I eventually find the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest, outside Gallup, New Mexico.  The course and venue look great and, importantly, the local promoter looks committed to all participants.

Magical night lights at the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest.  (photo by ziarides.com)
I cook up a grand plan:  make a family trip to Denver; pick up some teammates and fellow racers; caravan to New Mexico; and race all weekend, just like the days of yore.  I register early and start to contact former teammates and other friends.  As usual, I hear lots of positive reactions, but no solid commitments.  That's standard fare for putting together teams for 24 hour relays.  It's a big commitment of time and energy, especially for a race hundreds of miles away.  No worries.  I'll let this percolate a little.

Over the next few months, however, the grand plan unravels.  My teammates from the past enjoy reconnecting, but none commit to another 24 hour race out in the sticks of New Mexico.   Our active teenage daughters have schedules and plans of their own, which not surprisingly do not include much enthusiasm for this trip.  It started to look like it may be a solo trip, not only to Denver, but also to Gallup.  I question the purpose of this endeavor.

Then, the promoters announce that the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest would be the U.S. National Championship, as sanctioned by USA Cycling.  Ugg.  I'd had my fill of that organization over the years of both road and mountain bike racing, with its top down, heavy handed dictation, myopic focus on elite racers and open contempt for everyone else.  For my grand plan teetering on the brink, it was too much.

When USA Cycling latched on, I bailed out.  All for the best.  (photo by ziarides.com)
So, I did something I had never done before, or since.  I told the race promoter that I would not be there to race and ate the entry fee.  Oh, she offered to refund it.  But I told her to keep it, she'd need it, since everything USA Cycling touched turned to lower racer turnout, among other things.

As usual, it all turned out for the best.  Lightening and flash floods struck the race and USA Cycling clumsily stepped all over the promoters and racers to impose their will and turned a tough situation much worse.  Had I been there, it would have been an exercise in exasperation.  So, after dodging that debacle, now what?

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