Whatever gets you through the night is all right

Mary Hoyle of the Women's Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs' team rounded a tight corner during the first 24 hours of Colorado Springs mountain biking race at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK. THE GAZETTE

Two years ago, Patrick Cross was standing around his bike shop talking about bringing a fun mountain bike race to Colorado Springs.

About 35 minutes after the start of the inaugural 24 Hours of Colorado Springs race, which began at noon Saturday at Falcon Trail on the Air Force Academy, Cross started to feel “a little fire burning in the furnace.”

“We’ll see how the day progresses, but anytime at an event like this with the energy level here, it definitely gets the competitive fire kindled,” said Cross, an experience endurance racer.

Though, his competitive nature wasn’t what got Cross interested in this style of racing.“It’s just a big tailgate atmosphere,” said Cross, minutes after climbing out of a folding chair tucked under a tent next to Falcon Stadium. “I think that’s what drew me to 24-hour racing than anything else, is the camaraderie among the teams, among the racers.”

Cross and his business partner at Ascent Cycling came up with the idea to have a 24-hour race in the area — “one of those conversations that you have in the middle of a winter at a bike shop,” he said — but the concept isn’t entirely his.

“Someone who was very, very smart and very, very dumb at the same time decided to race against the clock instead of just having a lap-style format,” said Cross, who was coming off a separated collarbone and shoulder and riding with a fractured left wrist. “And now it’s one of the fastest-growing parts of mountain bike racing.”

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Saturday’s race attracted just over 100 participants hailing from the Pikes Peak region, other parts of Colorado, neighboring states and even Washington, D.C. Race director Tim Scott, who Cross credits with turning the idea into a reality, said about two-thirds of the racers were on two- or four-person teams, while 20 or so were riding solo.

“They can take a break as much as they want,” Scott said. “This isn’t a race for distance. ... The Leadville 100 is a race for distance and how fast you can do it. This race is for time — how far can you go in the given amount of time. So it’s kind of flipped the tables on 24-hour events.”

Cross’ strategy with his teammate was to switch off every lap all the way through the night. From 5:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. riders were required to have lights on their bikes.

“There’s noting like night riding, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s just very peaceful. You’re very connected with the bike, you’re very connected with the trail, because you can’t let your mind wander. You’ve got only maybe 6-to-12 feet of functional light out in front of you, so you’ve got to be dialed in.”

As for how he’ll feel after today’s noon finish, Cross drew from his other experiences.

“There’s going to be a sense of relief,” he said. “At the same end, there’s going to be some disappointment, because, like I said, there’s just so much energy ... that you kind of can’t wait to get back on your bike and go again.”

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