In the rolling high desert near Tucson, Arizona, just west of a little town called Oracle, Epic Rides creates their own mini city of travel trailers, toy haulers and tents inside a sixteen mile loop of single track mountain bike trails. And for one long weekend in February, come rain or shine, the crazies come out to race in teams of 6, 5, 4, 2 or even solo to see how many laps they can make in one 24-hour period.
With names like Pozers and Dozers, Swipe Right and Do It All Night, Hold My Beer, the collective group is wild and wiley. They arrive from all over the US and Mexico in their puffy coats and beanies and set up their turnsdile campsites to accommodate riders coming in and out of their laps to eat rest and then repeat. Bikes are EVERYWHERE: high end, low end and everything in between. There are 24 hour coffee shops and the best wood fired pizza I've tasted in a long time. The town doesn't sleep.
My six-person team "That Baby Don't Look Like Me" included six riders, three of whom I'd never met. It was all put together by our team captain, Keith, who organized two corporate teams. He also rented two campers and took them down the Monday of race week to ensure a good spot. We all became immediate friends, mostly because we all loved bikes.
The race got off to a great start with Sally running to her bike in the Lemond-style start. I was second to go and despite a chilly morning, our team was pumped and riding well. Darkness fell quickly and so did the temps. My second lap was at 1am and at mile seven, suddenly my lights both shut off. I was a little freaked out, all alone in the freezing cold desert with no lights and some sort of a crazy coyote pack howling in the distance/very close to me. I called the captain and discussed the possibility of riding in the moonlight until I could meet a teammate and exchange headlamps and bike lights. But as I was on the call, a very generous and kind rider stopped and helped me out. He took the headlamp off his own helmet and strapped it to mine. I'll never forget his generosity. Team 497 from Mexico, I salute you!
At 10:30am I started and finished lap13 for our group -- no records were made or broken by our team, but we had tons of fun. I'd highly recommend 24HOP if you're looking for a great experience on a mountain bike. The course was rolling with about 1000 feet gain (according to my Garmin). Lots of single track and a tiny bit of technical. The hardest part for a slow-poke like me was getting out of the way of the fast guys. Most were pretty cool about asking to pass when it was safe for me.
This event is for the young at heart -- and at 52, my heart is sometimes ahead of my mind. But you're never too old to play in the dirt!