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24 Hours of Fun in the Old Pueblo

Hello there. New guy here, checking in from the first race of the season. First off, I’m Carter. I used to be a nordic skier in college, but started racing UCI mountain bike races last summer. I live in Bozeman, MT and I am super excited to be joining the Dryve Crew this year. I met Shane and Landon a couple years ago while I was ski training in Bend. They seemed super cool at the time and they have treated me like a teammate every time we have been at races together so I am super excited to officially be teammates this year, along with all the other newcomers.

3 tired dudes
Landon Payson and I after High Cascades 100 in 2021.

Since I live in Bozeman, it has been pretty cold for the past few months. I decided to take a break from the winter and head to Tucson, Arizona for some winter training and racing at the 24 hours of Old Pueblo. I planned to to team up with my friend Kyle for the 24 and he was gracious enough to host me at his house. I flew in on Tuesday and spent a couple days riding the roads and trails around Tucson before heading up to 24 hour town on Friday afternoon. It was nice to get some sun and wear shorts on some long rides.

Thursday ended up being a double session when Kyle suggested that we give our lights a good quick test on the trails. Thanks to Shane, I was freshly kitted with dual Knog lights that made night riding a breeze.

On Friday we packed up the car and headed up to 24 Hour town. It was already full of RV’s, vans, tents and tons of people stoked to ride bikes. We found a nice spot for our tents next to an RV with a grill and plenty of extra food.

The course is fast and mostly single track, but not too much climbing and flowing all the way through. Cacti line the entire course so you have to be careful to keep your hands and elbows in on all the corners. We got a good look at the course in the daylight and then settled into camp and stocked up on calories for the next two days.

The gun goes off at noon on Saturday, so we had plenty of time in the morning to get everything sorted before the running start. I wanted to try to get some fast laps in with to test my XC speed early in the season, so I decided to start first and try and go with the leaders on the first lap. Keegan was the heavy favorite for the race, but since he was flying solo it seemed unlikely that he would be setting the lap pace.

The Le Mans Start is quite Chaotic

The race starts with a pretty long run in bike shoes before grabbing bikes and heading out for the lap. I tried to position myself near the front of the pack out of the start and got out of the bike corral cleanly in the top five. The pace was aggressive from the start and I was quickly in a group of three with Ryan Standish and Alexey Vermeulen. Though the hilly section of the course known as the “Seven Bitches,” I started to lead the group. I led through the first section of single track and our group of three got some separation from the next riders. At the end of the next section of single track we popped out of onto a quick section of dirt road with a little climb. Alexey came by and started smashing up the climb and I started to lose their wheel. At that point I just kept on the gas and tried to ride the rest of the lap as fast as I could, and handed off to Kyle in 3rd.

Kyle laid down a fast lap and we went back and forth one lap at a time until it was dark. We each did one night lap and then decided not to push all the way through the night and instead spend some time hanging out and eating some dinner. When we checked the results we realized that we were leading the Duo standings. We briefly considered suiting back up to ride through he night, but quickly decided that some good food and a bit of sleep was the better option. We agreed to wake up early and lay down some laps before it got light out and then push it all the way to the end.

After a few hours of sleep, I suited up and turned on the lights for one more dark lap. As I handed off I started to do some mental race math, to determine whether we could fit in a lap before noon. Kyle and I switched off for one more lap and I was beginning to think we would miss the cut-off.

After looking at the lap times, I realized that it could be possible with a couple of fast laps. I knew I needed some motivation, so I put on a fresh pink kit, chugged some caffeinated Nuun, and took a caffeine gel just before the start. I made sure that Kyle would be there for the tag off, and sprinted out onto the loop. I was feeling surprisingly fresh, but tried to meter my effort to make sure I wouldn’t bonk and miss the time cut. After six laps, I was feeling pretty dialed in on the course, and came around to tag off with a few minutes to spare.

Since Kyle had the last lap, I was able to go and watch the rock drop, which had gathered quite a crowd, as everyone finished their final laps. I even got to see some guy on a Santa Cruz jump over the guy on the microphone ;)

Solo Winner Keegan Swenson Airing it out over the Announcer

All in all a very successful and fun week in the desert. Happy with my riding and effort and super excited for more racing later this season...after a few more ski trips.

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