This past weekend Chico Racing celebrated the 20th Anniversary of their 24 Hours of Summer Solstice Mountain Bike Race. For the uninitiated, this race runs from 12pm on Saturday straight through to 12pm on Sunday. Riders compete in a relay style event to complete as many laps of the course as possible within that timeframe.
My first '24' was back in 2010 and while the event humbled me (and my riding abilities), I quickly fell in love and it has since been the event that I look forward to most each year.
I thought that it would be fitting to share some of the reasons that I love this race and why Chico's 24 Hours of Summer Solstice is North America's largest (and best) 24 hour event.
The Course: This race has been in a number of locations, but Albion Hills Conservation Area has been the race's home since the early 2000s. Albion Hills offers some of the provinces best biking with over 50km of trails and a healthy mix of flowing single track and fast double track. The Chico team selects approximately 15km of double and single track for their course. The course design is founded on the "double F" formula; "Fast and Fun" and sets up well for experienced riders and new riders alike.
The Start: By 11am on Saturday morning the elite riders are already lining up for the start. With hundreds of riders setting out at 12pm, it pays to be in the front of the pack. By 11:59am the starting line is packed with hundreds of riders, teammates and spectators. The energy is palpable and the area erupts when the race starts as the riders take off and jocky for position.
Solo Riders: This year 67 solo riders participated in the event. Solo riders are a different breed and frankly built of much better stuff then most of us. These riders will be tackling the course on their own and most will be biking for the full 24 hours with little rest. Solo riders are easily identified by their race plates and it has become tradition that fellow riders and spectators shout out encouragement when they see these solo riders. Some solo riders will complete as many as 300+ kilometers in the 24 hours.
Night Riding: Come dusk, riders will outfit their bikes and helmets with state of the art lighting and set out to complete the same course in the pitch black. For the less adventurous there are 'no night' categories to compete in, but for me the night laps are what set this race apart from many others. Albion Hills at night offers up a completely different experience and it's one that simply needs to be experienced.
Novelty Riders: Solo riders aren't the only crazy ones on the course. Be prepared for anything at these events from costumed riders, people toting around stuffed animals and ever type of bike that you can think possible. Over the years we have seen cyclecross riders, fixies, recumbent bikes and this year there was a tandem 2 man team that completed the event on unicycles. It was incredible to watch. I would also like to say that I'm not using the term 'novelty' disparagingly. These riders are all incredibly skilled athletes and they can all ride circles around me!
Family Environment and Kid's Race: This was my first event as a parent and I really noticed how family oriented this event is. A lot of riders brought their entire family to the event and made a weekend out of it. Chico racing also offers up a small obstacle course geared towards kids, a bouncy castle, a freeze chugging contest and separate races on Saturday afternoon for the little ones.
The Awesome People: It would be tough to find a bad apple in the bunch at the 24. Sure there are people that are more competitive but for the most part all of the riders are cordial and get along well on the trail. There are also dozens of volunteers that help make this event happen. From the timers to the staff running registration and the refreshment areas. It's great to see so many people coming together for a single purpose and there is no shortage of encouragement shouted from the sidelines.
Chico's Mud Bog: The mud bog is a fan favourite at this event. The organizers specially prepare (through the use of dirty, water and magic) a giant mud pit on the course that is optional for riders. Few make it through and if you are going to ride it, prepare to get muddy. Those that attempt are rewarded with a special edition t-shirt after the lap. A special shout out to our team rider Peter Koller who challenged the bog this year and won! See the insanity for yourself here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEEu2t0dek4
Team Names: Each team provides a name that they race under. I love hearing the creative names that people come up with. Our team has been competing under the banner of The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers for a number of years. Other great team names include: Nucking Futs, Sabertooth Snails, Duckbutter, The Pacemakers, Mud, Sweat and Gears and a personal favourite of mine Sofa King Awesome (say it fast).
Catching The Last Riders: As the clock ticks toward 12pm on Sunday teams push to get 1 more lap in before the race ends. Riders that start a lap before 12pm are allowed to take another lap but it must be completed by 1pm. This design makes for a lot of excitement as time counts down. The crowd cheers when riders count their lap just seconds before 1pm and a collective lament of disappointment fills the air as riders miss out by just mere seconds.
Bonus - Sense of Achievement: There is an incredible sense of achievement when competing in this event. By the end riders are beaten up, broken and exhausted but just try to find someone that doesn't have a smile on their face. Whether you completed 2 laps or 20 laps, many personal goals are reached and the sense of pride and achievement will last 364 days until next year's event.
For more race information check out Chico Racing's website:https://www.chicoracing.com/24hour