Now that the dust has settled on our trip the US, it is time to commit the memories to paper before the little grey cells destroy them.
Most importantly is the race – the main reason for our trip.
The venue for the race was Highline Lake State Park, which is located approximately 10 miles from Fruita itself. The state park offers fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking, camping and of course mountain biking. The campground is compact with just 31 sites, each equipped with a fire pit, BBQ grill and picnic table. There were plenty of water taps around and for those who cannot leave the comforts of modern life behind and bring their monstrous RV’s with them, electricity hook-ups.
We opted to camp there for 4 nights before the race in our little, well-travelled REI tent – TAJ. This gave us the opportunity to have plenty of rides of the race course and also to ride some of the other trails in the Fruita area – 18 Road and Kokopelli trails.
Our daily routine was to get up, ride the course, have breakfast and then head out elsewhere. As a result we were able to get familiar with the course.
The course ran around Highline and Mack Lakes and was mostly single track. The packed surface we enjoyed during the week before became a bit of a dust bowl during the race. There were enough challenges for everyone but the section I liked the least was shortly after the start when the trail ran alongside the lake, looped inland and then up over the headland twice. I was convinced that I would ride into the lake in the middle of the night – that didn’t happen of course.
The race entry was limited to 100 teams (which can be made up of any combination), and as a result, the event was more slightly more expensive than most but makes for a more pleasant racing experience. Even with the small entry, Park Ranger Alan still had to plan carefully to fit the teams into the campground. Each team is limited with the number and size of vehicles they can bring and teams have to ‘buddy up’ to fit. Solo and Duo teams have to camp in the day use area.
We struck gold by being put the main campground where we shared a site with a female duo – ‘Gears, Blonds and Bruises’ aka Julia and Lisa. They were accompanied by their ‘bitches’ Adam, Rodney and Scott, not to forget Goldie the dog (who was a bitch).
As the race was not due to start until midnight on Friday, the day was spent riding 1 final lap of the course (taking photos), moving sites, socialising and generally getting ready. I got to ride a fat bike again courtesy of Randy at The Gear Exchange. Big wheels = big smiles!!
Since all of our previous races started during the day, it was difficult to decide what to eat and when to sleep, but we did & all too soon the midnight hour was approaching and it was time to get ready. I had ‘volunteered’ to do the 1st lap but no-one knew what Troy had planned for us. We headed down to the beach with our bikes to await instructions. In true Troy style and as it was 5th May (Cinco de Mayo), a bottle of tequila was passed around!!
There were 2 options for the start:
- Run round the nearest restroom building
- Pair up and ‘wheelbarrow’ race across the beach to the tree at the end and back
I went for option 1 and so the race was underway.
Roy and I decided that the best option for us was to alternate laps. Each lap would take around 40 minutes which would allow time to fuel, check the bike and catnap. I was not prepared to let Roy go to sleep as I might not get him up again. Our strategy was improved when the guys next door started cleaning and checking our bikes for us. Big gold star to Adam, Rodney & Scott. This was such a huge help for both of us.
As dawn came around, sections of the course became bitterly cold – particularly the section near the headland but as the sun came up, the cold was soon a distant memory. Unfortunately the wind picked up and we were soon facing 30mph gusts. As sections of the course were very exposed, I found it quite hard to ride and I had to push hard to make any forward progress. My 29er might not have helped due to its larger profile.
At this point we were lying 3rd in our class but 2nd was still within reach if everything went our way.
Unfortunately it didn’t! On my 7th lap, I was about halfway around the lap when I got a rear puncture – one of the downsides of riding in the desert. I lost around 20 minutes, made worse when I wasted my gas cylinder. On the positive side, Roy got a longer rest.
Team Darkstar MTB managed 20 laps in total and finished on the podium in 3rd
To finish off a great event, one of the event sponsors New Belgium Brewing had turned up with FREE beer: Fat Tyre amber ale, Shift pale lager, Ranger IPA.
Would I do the 18 Hours of Fruita again? After 1 hour – never again. After 3 hours – when do the 2013 entries open?
This was an awesome race. The course was great with some challenges. We got to meet some awesome people. And I got to ride 2 fat bikes!!