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Racing into the Dark

October 2, 2011

24 Hour National Mountain Bike Championships Village, Colorado Springs, 8pm (Mary Topping)

11:35 p.m., Saturday October 1st, 2011. While Colorado Front Range residents sleep, 200 mountain bikers pedal paths between trees, rocks, and cactus guided by helmet and handlebar mounted lights. Some cruise in groups of two or three on the 13 mile course in Palmer Park in Colorado Springs, but most cut through the darkness alone. Their constant companions: summer’s last crickets, the crunch of tires chewing through sandy earth, a crescent moon, and thoughts about the approaching witching hour.

Five hours earlier when the sun started to fade, Stephen White said, “Two a.m. is when the fatigue starts. They’ll either get into the groove or slow down. It’s usually at night when the time gaps are made and the race won.” His wife,  Kerry White, rides on course as he speaks. She competes in the solo category, a TeamType1 athlete. Stephen staffs Kerry’s support tent near the start / finish line. She rolls up to camp White near the end of her fourth lap to refuel and collect lights. She chugs spring water from a gallon plastic container. I ask her how she feels. “Good,” she says. “It’s early.”

Kerry White in-between laps at 24 hrs of COS, with son Calen (Mary Topping)

Kerry White's bike at 24 hours of COS, lights mounted

At 6 p.m. in a 24 hour race that began at noon, three-quarters of the race stretches before her.

Eighteen hours also remain for Team FliByeRacing. Steve, Andy, Todd, and Ian alternate laps in the four-man open classification. At about 6:15 Todd rides into the team transition area, passes his yellow Velcro timing anklet to teammate Andy, then makes his way to the team’s camp, a tent about 50 yards from camp White, to rest for three hours until his next turn. Team FliByeRacing’s pace of 64 minute laps earns second place so far. It’s an excellent start toward a podium goal.

At 9:58 p.m. Steve will say his third lap, the first in the dark, took four minutes longer than a day-time lap. He’ll begin his fourth lap, 13th for the team, near 12:30 a.m. on Sunday. One minute later he’ll  leave the start-finish area’s generator powered lights behind and disappear into the dark.

Steven Thompson's dream destination mantra

Steven Thompson, FLiBYeRacing, in-between laps at 24 hours of COS (Mary Topping)

From → Mountain Biking

  1. Dallan permalink

    Very cool! I didn’t know mountain bike races like this even existed.

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