Locals in the hunt at 24 Hours of Moab
Every October for the last decade, a once peculiar, now famous race called the 24 Hours of Moab has attracted local mountain bikers for a noon-till-noon peddle fest in Utah’s Canyonlands country.This year – for the 10th annual edition, held last Saturday to Sunday – was no different. Held on a sandy 15-mile loop trail about 10 miles south of Moab, in the Behind the Rocks area, the 2004 24 Hours featured 18 division and 450 teams – from soloists to fivesomes and coed combinations – and lots of valley cyclists and their friends in an estimated crowd of 5,000.And, as usual, Aspen-area riders finished among the leaders.”The brightest star from the valley was definitely the girls,” said Hub of Aspen owner Charlie Tarver, referring to a Hub-sponsored foursome in the women’s expert class. “They were banging head to head with a team from Vail all night long.”The team, Valerie Alexander and Katie Monahan of Aspen, Theresa Mattingly of Basalt and Corrie Eldred of Durango, completed 17 laps (alternating riders each lap) in more than 25 hours of racing.In the end, the Aspen team finished second – by just 4 minutes, 57 seconds.
“We were winning until, gosh, about 9 in the morning,” said Alexander, “so we were feeling good. But you’re looking at laptops the whole time – are we still in the lead? Where are we at? So you know right where you are and what you need to do, you just need to do it.”We were definitely keeping the pressure on and praying not to get a mechanical – when it’s that close, you can’t afford it – but things didn’t work out and they just had stronger laps in the morning,” Alexander continued.”But out of 1,500 minutes of racing, losing by five minutes is quite a race. And you’re kind of rubbing elbows with them the whole time. It’s a fun friendliness, good camaraderie, but you’re definitely competing too.”Last year, riding with two other teammates, Alexander and Monahan won the women’s sport division with 15 laps.”Definitely the best I’ve felt racing it,” said Alexander, a three-time 24 Hours racer. “It’s a product, I think, of being on the bike and having done it before. And we had really strong riders. Katie, obviously, is an Olympic athlete and you don’t get tougher than her.”In the men’s expert division, an Aspen foursome of Jason LaPointe, Mike Armstrong, Elliot Larson and Steve Marolt finished fourth, and seventh overall. They spun 19 laps total (two laps short of the total posted by the overall champion duo pro team of Jimi Mortenson and Jay Henry of Vail).In the duo pro division, Jaclynn Derosier of Snowmass Village and Suzanne Scheer Brown of Basalt combined to crank out 13 laps (for a 16th-place finish, lumped in with the men). And former local riders, Lindsay Yaw and Becca Blay of Boulder, managed 14 laps in the duo pro division (for an 11th-place finish, with the men).
In the particularly maniacal solo division, Aspen had a number of competitors.Making his 24 Hours solo debut, former Leadville 100 champion Kevin Willson spun the fastest lap of the entire event – and that includes a grand total of 59,216.3 miles logged. The official results list Willson’s fastest lap at 58 minutes, 51 seconds. (However, Willson apparently isn’t certain the time is accurate, Tarver said, adding, “What a gentleman, huh?)Willson was running in fifth place after eight laps. But at approximately 11 p.m. Saturday (11 hours into the race), he dropped out.”His body blew up,” said Tarver. “He came in and said, ‘I’ve had it.'”Nevertheless, after catching some sleep, Willson woke up the next morning and rode three more laps. He finished 21st. Men’s solo champ Nat Ross of Breckenride won with a total of 16 laps.”Kevin was pretty happy he got 11 laps, and eight hours of sleep,” Tarver chuckled.
Snowmass Village’s David Garaffa completed 13 laps to finish 11th in the men’s solo class, and Aspen’s Wade Newsom finished 22nd with 11 laps.Basalt’s Kevin Jones completed seven laps before dropping out at about 10 p.m., and Rick Wilder of Aspen and former Aspenite Blake Nelson and each managed nine laps, finishing 30th and 33rd, respectively.Aspen’s Gary Albert, 60, became the oldest rider ever to participate in the 24 Hours’ solo division, riding five laps to finish 41st. (Read more about the former toy company executive turned endurance cyclist in this week’s Aspen Times Weekly.)Tarver, a former 24 Hours solo racer, explained the experience this way: “People think 100-milers like Leadville and Vail are hard, but there’s a depth you hit in 24 hours solo that you can’t compare to anything else. It’s nuts.”And that, perhaps, is why some 5,000 people gather in the Utah desert every October in the first place.Said Alexander: “In some ways, it’s an individual sport because you’re out there alone at night. But at the same time, you also have the support and confidence of your teammates, and that keeps you going.””Charlie [Tarver] outfitted us all in pink, so we were getting lots of hellos on the course, which is really cool. Not that you need it, but it certainly gives you a little spark in your step when someone yells, ‘Yeah, Aspen.'”
Women’s Nordic combined will not be in the Olympics in 2026, preventing the Winter Games from reaching gender equality. The International Olympic Committee elected to not add the sport to the schedule on Friday.
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