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The Chris Davidson diary
Chris Davidson is a mechanic for Bontrager Racing Service, which provides neutral tech support provider for US domestic races.
24 Hours of Moab, Utah, October 12-23, 2002
Last week Vegas, this week, the 24 Hours of Moab race. One word: epic.
This weekend I got a chance to work for one of the other big neutral service providers here in the USA: Shimano Multi-Service. And a little change for me, a 24 hour mountain bike race! This weekend's race was the 24 Hours of Moab, located in beautiful southeastern Utah. This is a place of legend in the MTB world: SlickRock, Poison Spider, Arches, Canyonlands. This year's race was held about ten miles southwest of town in this amazing canyon.
I left Salt Lake City early on Friday morning with an old friend, Shimano mechanic Chan Head, and arrived fours hours later in Moab at the City Grocery. We had to pick up provisions for the weekend. We would be on site the whole time, so this was the last stop in town. Once on the race site, we went to straight to the tech area where Matt Eames [head guy with Shimano MTB Multi-Service] and Foye [mechanic extraordinaire] had already setup up the tent and service area. Chan and I were off the hook until 3:00pm, so we headed over to the SOBE/Cannondale truck where their mechanic Matt was able to set me up with a demo bike so that Chan and I could take a lap of the course.
The 20km loop included a good deal of jeep roads and wide open sections and it would have been super fast, except for the tons of sand. Matt had set me up with a Lefty equipped C'Dale demo that had 5in of travel both front and rear. The bike floated across the rocks, but I unclipped a number of times in the deep sand. The single track and the technical sections were not that bad, but I was pre-riding in the light....
We got back and showered up in the ever-growing race village, then went to work in the Shimano tech area. Chan and I swapped in for Foye and Matt, and there was a steady stream of customers for the next four hours. The major difference in neutral support I noticed at the 24 hour race and other NORBA/World cups is the pace. At NORBA/World Cups, the stream of riders needing help comes and goes in spurts. It is not unusual to have 30 people in line for tech help outside the Shimano tent during the two hours before an expert race. But here in Moab, the line was never more than a couple of people, and the pace and general feeling was much more relaxed. People were very happy to get a little help and an expert tune on their bikes the day before the event.
We closed up shop at 6:00pm and set out the grill. In the next hour the sun started to set and many riders did a short ride with the lighting system to give them the final check before Saturday. As the sun set, the whine of the generators started in the tech area. Set up right next to us was the Trek/VW team and they looked like they meant business. For this race they brought in Chris Eatough, Jerimah Bishop, Sue Haywood, and Alison Sydor to compete in the four person mixed pro division. Heavy hitters indeed. Their camp included six support people, the big rig, and a large work/warmup area.
Friday night wound down with a few beers around the campfire then into the sleeping bags for the night at 11:30.
Saturday we opened the tent at 9:00am to a steady stream of racers until about 11:15 when it tailed off. By 11:30 everyone was staged and the tent was dead, so we went up on top of the Shimano trailer for a view of the start area. This race used a "LeMans" start, where the riders start on foot for a short jog before mounting the bikes and heading out. At noon, the gun went off and the cloud of dust started. Eatough of Trek/VW was the first of 500 teams to get back to his bike and hit the trail, but behind the struggle in his dust was just starting. The day was almost 70 degrees, but the steady 25mph winds kept it cool and dusty. No real work at the tent for the next 90 minutes as the fastest first lap was around 1 hour. As the afternoon wore on we started to see the first crashed bikes, and other bikes needing adjustment in the face of the mounting dust. Quickly bikes and parts became unrecognizable under layers of Utah sand. Lots of squeaking pulleys and dry chains.
When nightfall hit the number of repairs went up as the lap times started to increase. Plenty of derailleur hangers to realign after crashes, wheels to true and brakes to fix. By 8:00pm some of the riders coming in to the tent were looking worn, especially the solo category participants. Some people could not remember if they had crashed or not on their last lap.
11:00pm and business had slowed at the tent. Matt, the boss, had put out a sign indicating that we would be open to 11:00pm for service. We kept the fire burning till about 2:00am, working on only a couple of bikes an hour, until the temperature was in the 30's. In the space of 20 minutes, Foye, Chan and I succumbed to the need for sleep and warmth. The light in the tent went dark until 5:45am when Matt was the first up.
I love the smell of dust in the morning...
The coating of dust on everything was thick in the morning. The night hours had slowed the lap times considerably, but Trek/VW was still number one. In a surprising third place was a four-women team, Tokyo Joe's, competing against other pro teams with two men and two women. They were parked beside the Shimano trailer and did the whole race out of two cars, sleeping in the back between the race shifts. Their mechanic Nick was a weary soul, but kept the tight schedule and bikes running on a diet of beer and coffee. These women athletes had the most positive attitude in the pit area, and were a pleasure to have in the
By 11:00am we were starting to take down the tent as most team's last riders were already on the race course. In the end, Trek/VW finished on top, a tour de force. The Tokyo Joe's women amazed everyone with the third place in the coed pro division. We serviced a couple hundred bikes over the course of 48 hours, and watched as thousands of dollars in parts succumbed to the dust.
I do not get that many opportunities to do MTB neutral service, but this 24 hour race was a blast. As opposed to road support where the service is on the move, it was nice to have a central location where we could stay on top of the entire race scene and help out the riders, kind of like a huge dirt criterium. Matt at Shimano runs a great operation and his work makes a lot of people happy.
2002 is winding down, but the 'silly season' is underway is preparation for 2003. Congrats to Mario for World's. I hope to see you out on the road in 2003. For now, thanks for reading.