Steamboat Springs mountain bike racer Nate Bird didn't think competing in a 24-hour race outside of Moab, Utah, would be that big of a deal. After all, he completed nine, 11-mile laps on Mount Werner during this summer's Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat mountain bike race.
But the 24 Hours of Moab, one of the world's premier 24-hour mountain bike races, has a habit of humbling skilled bikers by combining round-the-clock endurance with surprisingly grueling terrain.
Bird learned that the hard way on his second night lap last weekend.
"I was on this technical, rocky downhill section and just nosed it in and went over the bars," Bird said of his crash. "I broke my light mount, so I had to rig it together with electrical tape. I wasn't at all hurt, just scrapes, but I ripped out some cable mounts."
The wreck cost Bird some time, but his four-man team managed to complete 19 of the course's 15-mile laps, averaging about 1 hour, 15 minutes a lap. Bird did five of the laps.
The team - which also included Colorado Springs' Kalan Biesel and Boulder's Dax Massey and Jordan Williford - managed a fourth-place overall finish out of a field of 385 teams.
Although the team was assembled from riders who met competing in the semi-pro division ranks of the Mountain States Cup regional mountain bike circuit, Bird said that because there was no pro/am open division for men's teams, their semi-pro Honey Stinger team raced in the Just For Fun division. Racing in the Just For Fun division eliminated them from podium honors and prize money, but it didn't stop Bird's desire to return next year.
"It's just totally different racing - it's more against yourself," Bird said. "You just hammer away and go fast. There are people on the course, but you're not necessarily racing against them. Plus, I love riding at night."
Although the race offered Bird the racing solitude of the wilderness as well as "a great opportunity for injury," Steamboat racer Jon Casson said the unique 24-hour race atmosphere also had the ability to bring competitors together.
"As the day wears on, although you're not really racing the guy next to you, you're all suffering together so there's a lot of camaraderie," Casson said. "It's really the spirit of mountain biking - going out with your buddies, challenging yourself and pushing each other to do it as fast as you can."
Casson's four-man, all-Steamboat team - which included Nate Johansing, Chris Tamucci and Adam Wright - competed in the 92-team men's sport division.
"The whole course is relentless," Casson said. "Even the 'fun' downhill sections, you can hit some technical rocks or sand. The course keeps attacking."
Amid the challenges of the course, including a dusty Le Mans start that Casson had the privilege of running, the Steamboat team managed to complete 16 laps. Each rider completed four laps, including a one-legged lap from Tamucci, who finished despite breaking one of his bike's crank arms at mile No. 9, to earn a 15th-place finish. The team was 67th overall.
Visit www.grannygear.com for full results and race details.