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Thursday, October 4, 2012

FAREWELL TO MOAB, THE PLIGHT OF 24 HOUR RACING?

This image above is fairly simple and unassuming. It also represents something that has disturbingly seen what appears to be a downward spiral in popularity at certain races. This image is of the Rocks. These are the rocks which are referred to when you hear "Behind the Rocks" when the world class mountain biking destination of Moab, Utah is mentioned. This coming weekend is what now, according to Laird Knight is the last edition of the 24 Hours of Moab. This race has been dying a slow death for about six years now and it appears the glory days of 24 hour mountain bike racing are fading as well. Just this past weekend in Colorado Springs, only 150 racers showed up to contend for a National Championship 24 Hour race event. I found this a disturbing number. There are many reasons why the popularity of these events are fading as I see it. For one, there are just too many 24 hour races. Over 200 a year in the USA. Moab at one time was THE 24 hour event and people traveled from all over the country and world to do it, Moab was the race you could not miss. For many it was the pinnacle of their season, myself included, everything revolved around racing well at Moab. And then a couple of weird weather years and how some things were handled by the promoter to deal with it occurred, and that seemed to change some things a bit in Moab. I'm not sure if these race promoters understand what it takes for the common man, the unsponsored athlete, to commit to a race like this. How much it cost, the time involved to train, the time off for the race, the logistics of travel and getting three other people to do the same. It's costly and a tough deal, and it gets tiresome, not too mention everyone is BURNT out this time of year if they have had a busy race schedule starting in Spring. People get married, have kids, lose jobs, move, and it changes all the dynamics, and there is really no draw to bring in new blood. It seems like enough is enough for most of the old school 24 hour racers and that they would rather do something else with their time. This time of year we have the draw of CycloCross now every weekend and nearly everywhere you have bike racers. A few 24 hour events are flourishing still, but for how long? It seems there is a growing trend towards 50 mile events and 12 hour races. They are plain and simply much easier to manage for racers, and you do not have to crawl out of a tent and freeze your ass off at 3am in the morning to go do a lap. these are self contained one day events, and they are much more user friendly. On top of all this throw in the fact that so many of us were traveling and racing on borrowed time and money before the economy shit the bed and it just makes it all harder to do. I'm a poor bastard monetarily (however I am filthy rich on experience and fun) and can barely afford a new set of tires for one of my many bikes much less pay someone $100-$200 to race when I can have more fun and chill riding for nothing. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy as hell people continue to race, it's my livelihood, and I love calling the action, but I can't help recall a quote from a very good old friend of mine about twenty years ago who now lives outside of Cabo and fishes his life away. We were out riding one day and I spoke of racing to which he cut me off in mid sentence and asked "what the hell does racing bikes have to do with mountain biking?" I had no answer for him, but I'm glad we still do it, because it's fun, hard and fantastic socially and I suppose this is what I should have answered that day.

With that said. Goodbye to you this weekend Moab, we all have stories of glory and suffering thanks to you, many of us just don't want to do that 3am lap anymore.

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