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Sunday, March 24, 2024

24 Hours In The Old Pueblo - People Make The Place

The 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo ("Two Four HOP") is well known for its welcoming, celebratory vibe. The promoters, vendors, and sponsors certainly contribute, but the racers and their crew are the life blood of this event. Throughout the weekend, I enjoyed nothing but positive and enthusiastic interactions with everyone I encountered. What an affirming experience.

Even out on the course, with challenging passes on fast, twisty single track hemmed in by large, nasty cactus, I found every cyclist to be friendly and encouraging. Every single interaction was positive, even with the fastest of the fast guys and gals. Maybe especially the fastest.

Everyone genuinely seemed happy to be there, and happy to see you there.

Ultra Trail Runner Extraordinaire Kristen Schindler brings a ready smile and a cheering section.
(image by Ultra Cyclist Extraordinaire Colin Schindler)

Here's a short introduction to some old and new friends who shared this experience and, along with many others, made the whole weekend memorable. 

Local Fast Guys

Among other things, Kristen Schindler is an elite ultra trail runner and her husband Colin is a competitive cyclist. We met at a cycling event in the Black Hills of South Dakota in late 2021 when Colin was preparing to race the Tour Divide. After his amazing 19 day finish in 2022, I interviewed him for my blog and kept in contact with them after their move to Tucson last year. 

Colin entered Two Four HOP as part of Team "Los Pitudos" in the 4 person Mens Open division, with Kristen joining as crew. But her enthusiastic support could not be contained to one team. Kristen screamed and waved a "CRAIG" sign at the start and kept tabs during the race. I later saw her (and heard her!) near the transition tent with a "COLIN! COLIN! COLIN! COLIN!" sign. I can only imagine the energy at their team camp site.

Not surprisingly, Colin rode 5 of his team's 16 laps, including 3 of their night laps after midnight, which are the hardest of the entire race, by far. Go, Colin!

Colin Schindler effortlessly cranks out another lap for Los Pitudos.
(image by Kristen Schindler)

ChristianCycling - Tucson Spoke

In advance of Two Four HOP, I contacted the Tucson Spoke of ChristianCycling to see if any of their members planned to be at the race. Conor Johnson responded that he was racing as part of a 5 person co-ed team with other friends, but that he did not know of a formal ChristianCycling team. I didn't know Conor, but we communicated over a few days before the start and met at packet pickup. 

Out on the course, Conor flew by me on a few laps, always with a loud "GO CRAIG!" or "LOOKING GOOD CRAIG!" I would have loved to ride with him, but he rode much faster. His team, "Chill Team Ride," ultimately rode 22 laps to finish 2nd in the 5 Person Co-Ed (150-199 combined age group) division.

ChristianCycling - Racers from Vintage 24 Hours of Moab Teams

Checking into the transition tent on Saturday morning, I heard someone exclaim, "Craig!" I turned to face an excited Jovan Fritsch. He introduced himself as a racer on a ChristianCycling team at our 24 Hours of Moab ministry, way back in 2005, where I was Race Teams Director for our 10 race teams. The years melt away as we quickly catch up before the start.

Much later, while checking through the transition tent in the middle of the night, I again hear someone call my name. Now, it's Mark Berghoefer, another racer part of another group of ChristianCycling teams that I directed at the 24 Hours of Moab, this time in 2004. He's retired now, but looks as race-fit as he did 20 years ago.

Both Jovan and Mark bring big smiles, along with a flood of warm memories from those ministries and from many other team rides, races, and events back then. Better yet, both shout encouragement whenever they see me out on the course or in the transition tent. I really wish I had pictures with them and hope to ride with them again.

Checking in with Conor Johnson, captain of Chill Team Ride and member of the Tucson Spoke of ChristianCycling.
(image by Conor Johnson)

Other Racers

Right before the start, a woman burst out, "Hey! Do you know if Michael Hast is here?" I recognize that name as the Director of the ChristianCycling Tucson Spoke, so my team kit must have sparked that question. "No, I don't think he's here, but I don't know." Undeterred, she introduced herself as Sarah Mulholland and wanted to know all about my story. What an energetic bundle of good cheer!

Racing with Team Baaad Hombres, Sarah and her teammates sport custom jerseys that included a happy, excited looking goat to reflect their team spirit. Later, at the start and at unexpected times during the race, I'd hear Sarah's enthusiastic shouts of "Go Craig!" What fun!

Also exemplifying the event's friendly, welcoming vibe, Ty Pessin of Tucson introduced himself at the Outbound Lighting tent as we checked out some demo lights during the Friday expo. He was plumb full of positive excitement. The next time I saw Ty was well after noon on Sunday on the final lap. He looked strong on his 10th solo lap, but apparently was pacing a struggling racer around the course. I'd love to ride with him some day.


Peter Stocker and Lonnie Calmes entered Two Four HOP as part of "Toadie's Wild Ride" in the Corporate Team division. Peter has raced here 5 times before and, amazingly, Lonnie is back for the 18th time. Yes, their camp setup is primo. When I arrived on site after dark on Thursday night and stumbled around searching for a place to camp, Peter and Lonnie recognized my predicament and carved out some space near their site. They then offered food, drink, heat, and light throughout the weekend, along with a friendly spot to relax. Good neighbors, indeed.

Other friendly neighbors included Bob and Holly (unknown last names). They are an adventurous young couple from Phoenix that enjoy a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Bob is here for his first 24 hour mountain bike race and chose to race Solo Single Speed. Holly is crewing this weekend, but will reverse roles with Bob at their next event. They both are so jazzed to be here and to just soak in the entire experience. They watched over me throughout the race, with encouragement and coffee.

Vegan Cyclist

At the venue expo on Friday afternoon, I spot Tyler Pearce, aka The Vegan Cyclist of YouTube fame. We met on a back road in Montana in 2021, where Paul Brasby and I were on Day 3 on our ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and he was on Day 1 of one of his "Impossible Rides." Tyler and crew pedaled up, cameras rolling, interviewed us on the fly, and included us in his film. After I introduced myself at the expo, he immediately remembered all that and genuinely wanted to know all about the rest of our ride. He's the real deal.

During the race, Tyler passed me several times, shouting encouragement by name each time. He ultimately rode 16 laps to finish 5th in the Solo Men division. Notwithstanding his high level of achievement, on and off the bike, Tyler fit right in.

At the Friday expo with Tyler Pearce, vlogger and film maker VC, aka the Vegan Cyclist.
(image by Tyler Pearce)


Even the vendors at Two Four HOP were awesome. Leading the way was Tom Place of Outbound Lighting, who patiently provided demo lights and neutral charging of all devices. He worked a long day on Friday and throughout the entire 24 hour race on Saturday and Sunday to keep the lights on for everyone. I demo'd their Hangover helmet light during the race and plan to buy their upcoming Portal light, which offers even longer run times. Great lights. Great service.

I enjoyed all the food vendors, but especially Single Speed Coffee Lab, which also provided high quality means to make it through the night. They even offered their "Wake Up And Kiss Me" specialty coffee in single serve steeped coffee bags to make back at your camp site. Nice. I bought an extra box to take home for #CoffeeOutside rides.

The 24 Hour Town expo additionally featured several non-profits and other organizations that contributed to the community spirit of the event. I particularly loved meeting and talking with Abby Wrent, an artist who painted, on site, four bike frame sets that would later be auctioned for charity. I recently found a short YouTube video she made of her experience, which includes the bikes she painted, some of the expo, and even the Whiskey Tree. Thanks for your positive presence, Abby!

Painting Bikes at Two Four HOP.

Many others contributed to my experience and to the overall vibe of the event. The 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo attracts special kinds of people. I'd love to return.

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