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During the ’90s, mountain bikes were extremely popular. All of the new cycling technology was being tested and introduced in this market segment. 1995 was the first year for me to experience 24 hour mountain bike racing and only the 4th year after the inception of this West Virginia-based race. I entered with three other guys. The basic race format consisted of four-person teams, starting at noon on Saturday and ending the next day at noon. What a year to get into that madness.
Here’s an excerpt from a post that I found on Reddit that pretty much sums it up;
“I clearly remember 1995, where rains ended, and at night the course turned into peanut butter-like mud that stuck to EVERYTHING. My bike weighed at least 50 lbs, and I had to stop often to dig mud out of my seat stays so the rear wheel would turn. Laps took hours to complete, and everyone’s lights were dying, leaving them in a pitch-black forest unable to follow the course. I have distinct recollections of other riders sitting in the dark, some crying, waiting for sunrise so they could continue.”
If I recall correctly, I was the third rider out, and most, if not all, of my lap, was in the dark. I can attest to the peanut butter-like mud and the crying. I remember only rolling my bike the equivalent of one revolution of the 26” wheels before I had to peel the mud that contained leaves, sticks off of the wheels, and frame. Every creek crossing was an opportunity to wash the bike to make it light enough to carry. Since every lap, including mine, was over 4 hours, for our team to be an official finisher, our last rider just had to complete his lap. I remember him pushing his bike back to the rental house shortly after starting his lap with the rear tire off of the rim and him looking at us and saying, “You know, it just doesn’t mean that much to me….” This was after he slept through the night while I was on my lap. This incident planted the seed for me to eventually do more solo stuff.
I went back the following year with another four-rider team and then again in 1997 as an unsanctioned two-rider team. Chris K and I raced as ourselves and two aliases. Our strategy was for both of us to go out and ride two laps at a time in order to satisfy the requirement of each rider logging a minimum of 4 hours on the course. From what I can remember, it wasn’t fun at all…lol. The weather was good, but I was nowhere near the shape I needed to be in. The hills kicked my ass. I think that I was riding a Trek Y with Spinergy carbon wheels. What would have helped is a Shimano E8000 STEPS motor. FOR SURE, Chris K did the majority of the work for the team. My last 24hrs of Canaan was in 1998.
After the Canaan races, I also participated in a handful of 12-hour road events and the National 24 Hour Challenge, a road event held in Michigan. The format of this event when I rode was that you had to first complete one 120ish mile loop and then move onto a 20-something mile loop until dark. Then you were riding an 8-mile night loop until morning, when the race ended. In 1998 I ended up with 213 miles, and in 2001 with 238.9 miles which I was the oddball who rode a mountain bike. Truth be told, I did these events mainly for training for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB races that I first attempted to complete in 1997, but that’s a topic for the next blog.
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