Review: Doug King
Photos: Lily Felgenhauer
If you live in the Inland NW and ride a mountain bike, there is only one place for you to spend your Memorial Day Weekend: Round and Round Production’s 24-hour mountain bike race at Riverside State Park in Spokane, WA. 2011 marked the 12th running of the endurance mountain bike race with more than 850 riders. Racers compete solo or in teams of 2, 5, or 10 members. The race starts at noon on Saturday and riders can start their final lap at 11:59 a.m. on Sunday.
And They’re Off
Rain had made the course very soggy the week leading up to the race. However, it held off for the weekend, making a well compacted and very fast race course. The approximately 15-mile course covers a good mix of technical rock garden infested single track, fast smooth single track, and fire roads with a ¾-mile section of pavement thrown-in to bypass the flooded “little Vietnam” section that the course normally runs on.
As the fatigue of lack of sleep and ever-increasing mileage built, riders began to fully understand the local names for different sections; Marakesh Express, Purple Haze, Devil’s Up, and Devil’s Down.
Let Not the Pain Stop
Due to the fact that there are so many categories and one has no idea what lap everyone else is on, competitions are pretty much internal or arbitrary. I found myself in a top gear sprint to the finish at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, against a rider from EMDE Sports, a local development team. I beat him to the line only to realize two disappointing facts: my team did not have another rider lined up for the final lap and if your team finishes before noon on Sunday you are marked down as a DNF.
“292 going out again” I gasped to the timing folks as I scanned my chip. I darted off course to our tents and gulped down four partially empty water bottles that belonged to other team mates and the dog and got back on course for the final time.
It was eerily quiet on the final lap. Giving encouragement to nearly unconscious solo riders was almost the only distraction from the numbness that was spreading up-limb from my toes and fingers. Fatigue got the best of a Badlands Cycling Team member on the final section of pavement. When I passed, medics had him back boarded and were sucking teeth out of his airway as he had eaten pavement while trying to grab a power gel before the last 5 miles.
Before the race I had asked my brother for any last minute advice. He said to develop a mantra. For most of the race, mine had been “keep pressing,” but it changed to “don’t crash” on that trying final lap. I decided to stop and loosen my shoes lest I join the count of bodies next to the trail, because at that time I was numb up to my knees.
Our team finished last in the Police, Fire, and Military category. Yet it was our first year, and most of the team has already asked if we are going to do it again next year … and besides, we were only one lap down from the Olympia FD that won. Like most endurance sports events, it was kind of fun, kind of painful, makes for great stories, and is very addicting.
Join us at Spokane’s Riverside State Park next year to find out for yourself!
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© 2011 Big Mountain Riding