Race Report: 24 Hours of Rapelje June 21 – 22, 2014

What a weekend! Joel Gerhart rallied a bunch of GDC team members and a couple of extras (myself included) to form a Carnival Class team for the 24 Hours of Rapelje mountain bike race over the weekend of the summer solstice. Friday night, Joel, Leah and John Tietz, Josh Quarles, Jennifer and Brad Murfitt, Dave Dalthorp, and I (Christine Eckel) arrived at the event site pretty late at night – just as the sun was going down. Even so, we had a nice evening hanging out in Joel’s camper talking about bike racing and other fun stuff. We retired to our respective tents/campers for a good night’s sleep in anticipation of a very fun weekend. Saturday Morning: everyone was up early. We hung around the campsite and had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and eating breakfast (photos). We had to wait until 11 am before anything got started, so I decided to check out the showers. Wow! What a treat! They have a trailer with 6 shower stalls and three sinks for the event. Not only did it have warm water, but they also supplied clean, dry towels. This was going to be a good weekend: camping out, riding bikes, and getting warm showers? Doesn’t get much better than that. Dave Dalthorp drew the short straw (read: wasn’t there when decision was made) and got voted in as the guy to start the race. Thus, around 10:45 he and John Tietz (riding solo) got ready for the Le Mans style start. The rest of us gathered around to cheer them on and take photos of the start. After a bit of a long delay, they were off! I was up next for the team. As I was getting ready to ride, I said to Brad Murfitt, “We are doing this for fun, yes? Thus, I don’t have to ride so hard it hurts, right?” Brad’s response, “Oh no. This is a race. You must ride hard!” Ohhhh…. Thus, when I started out on the course for my first lap I found myself suddenly breathing very hard and putting the hurt on myself. I have not done this for a LONG time (the last bike race I entered was sometime around 2002). Yep – it was on! The course was thrilling to ride, to say the least. Most of the course was very fast, although the technical sections made my heart skip a beat or two. Trying to ride fast over technical stuff is always fodder for a potential wipe out. That said, the slightly downhill section through a field about 2/3 of the way through the course was the most thrilling and scary of them all. I think I hit something like 36 mph on that section. I kept telling myself, “Please let there be no obstacles that will make me wipe out, please let there be no obstacles that will make me wipe out . . . “ Whew! No obstacles that made me wipe out! Shortly thereafter, another woman passed me. After she passed me, I thought, “ What are you thinking? Speed up and draft off of her!” I did, and what a ride it was! After a bit, we rode side by side and I complimented her on her riding and told her how much fun it was to ride behind her. Turns out she was riding the race solo and won the women’s solo class. She was very nice – and a very good bike handler as well. Fun! Josh Quarles was up after me. He had planned to ride 2 laps – and was unlucky enough to be out there riding when all the inclement weather arrived (see it in the background?). Back in camp we had a hailstorm and a few HARD rain showers come in. Out on the course, Josh ended up riding in the rain and through the GOOP that formed. When he came in, he and his bike were in need of a good washing. He made me take some photos of his bike as proof that even though he is meticulous about having a spotless bike at all times; there are times when it is dirty. That didn’t last long, however, as I’m sure he had that puppy cleaned up within an hour after finishing his ride. After Josh, Joel and Leah ended up with stellar weather and ambiance for their respective rides as they were able to ride as the skies were clearing and showing their brilliant colors. Ahhhh… both rode great rides and came back in beaming from ear to ear! Meanwhile, in Tietzville . . . John Tietz was KILLING it! I think he passed every one of us on the Carnival Class team every time each of us was on the course. He just kept it steady and smooth and fast . . . very impressive! Like Josh, John got caught out on the course when it was raining and muddy, but was still smiling when he arrived back at the start. Joel showed what a great teammate and overall good guy he was as he worked hard to help John clean and lube his bike as he readied it for night riding. The hours between 9 pm and 6 am are a bit of a blur – consisting of riding and eating and drinking and cheering and sleeping, although not a lot of the sleeping part… One of the best things about being with this group of people was how supportive everyone was of each other. No matter what time of day or night (ok, there may have been a couple of exceptions between 12 and 4 am), the whole gang got up and went over to the start/finish area to meet the rider coming in and cheer on the next rider as he/she went back out. We were always a bit of a sight too – what with Jennifer having to be wheeled over from the campsite. We got very good at getting her over there lickety-split though! Her perpetual cheeriness was such a wonderful thing. I doubt the rest of us could maintain such cheeriness in light of not being able to ride our bikes for weeks to months because of a broken hip! One of the other highlights of the weekend was the sheer number of kids out and about riding bikes through the mud puddles and playing with dogs and the like. So many kids! If I had kids I would want them to be out having a blast like that too. What a wonderful place to bring the kids for the weekend. It was really sweet to watch many of them as they met their mom or dad coming in or going out to ride the course. You could tell they were excited and impressed – and maybe thinking that one day that might be them. Speaking of kids, Josh wore his Cat in the Hat jersey that his daughter got him for Father’s Day on his second outing. What a sweet gift! Sunday morning: John Tietz was STILL killing it! I was lucky enough to be passed by him on my last and final lap, which I started at 6 am. In fact, he passed me at the perfect time. You see, there was this field full of cows; very, very big cows…. I was just coming upon the cows, which were sauntering about in the single track, and wondering how I was going to get by them without being trampled. No worries! John passed me just as we were going into that section. I sped up to try and hang on John’s wheel a little bit (Ha! As if that was even remotely possible…) – and ended up being just far enough behind him to witness a miracle. It was like the parting of the Red Sea. He rode by, yelling at the cows, and they ran and ran and ran! Thus, the track in front of me was left wide open and I didn’t have to worry about scary cows! Thanks, John! 9 am Sunday: John finished his 16th and final lap and decided to call it a day. He was 3 laps ahead of second place in the solo category and thought the record was 18 (and didn’t think he’d be able to surpass that). Thus, he had the win in the bag so decided to take a well-deserved rest. John Tietz for the win! You should have seen the look on his face a few hours later when Dave pointed out that the previous course record was also 16 laps… D’oh! His ride was really, really impressive. Way to go, John! Just for fun – before and after pics of John. Meanwhile, Joel was representing Team Blackfoot Blunder out on the course. Joel had to be back at the start/finish by 10 am if we were to send another rider (Brad) out. Brad got ready, but kind of didn’t want to go… Lo and behold, mere minutes before 10 am, Joel came bursting in after posting a very impressive third lap! Brad: “Oh, crap!” Out Brad went for another lap while Joel was met with exuberant cheersfrom the rest of us. And so, Brad got to ride 3 laps like the rest of us (except Josh, who rode 6)! In truth, he was happy he got to ride that last lap. Who wouldn’t be? What a fun course! Joel, ever the great teammate,met Brad with a nice cold Coldsmoke at the finish of Brad’s last lap. Yay! Overall, Team Blackfoot Blunder ended up third. Not bad for a motley crew of folks just out to have fun! Here are the lap times. Could there be a better way to spend a weekend? I think not! Thank you, everyone, for an absolutely fabulous time. Let’s do it again next year! ~Christine

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