06.21.05 - big bear complete write up

June 18th-19, 2005
Big Bear Lake at Hazelton, WV.
24 Hours of Big Bear – Solo Event Write Up

Hey all, first endurance mountain bike event for me has come to a conclusion and here comes the write up. Enjoy.

For those new to my adventures, here is a short introduction:
For the past few years, I have been competing in endurance mountain bike events. These events are based on how many miles one can complete in a given amount of time and is in relay race type of format. For instance, if the race starts at noon and lasts for 8 hours, and I am doing roughly 1 hour laps and come in just before 8pm, I can go out for another lap and in the end I will complete 9 laps in roughly 9 hours. In the same instance, if one of my competitors is hot on my trail, but comes in at 8:01pm, he has missed the cut off and CANNOT go out for another lap.

In most cases, two, four or even five man teams typically enter these types of races. For the extreme tough guy competition, an individual rider can race the event by himself. This race class is called “solo” and is the class I compete in.

This class has no type of rider skill level breakdown that you typically have in other classes. For instance, a beginner would not race against a professional in the team events. But in the solo class, it is every man or woman for themselves – beginners race against the top professionals in the country.

The current breakdown of classes for mountain biking is as follows (from lowest to highest): beginner, sport, expert, semi-pro, and then pro. Last year I turned semi-pro and hopefully will turn pro before heading out to my biggest race of the year this September at Whistler.

The Race:
Big Bear. A roughly 13 mile twisty loop with lots of rocks and short rolling climbs. Only one major climb at the 10 mile mark left me wondering if this course really suited me as I feel like I am a better climber then technical rider. Feeling that I needed to sharpen my skills in the technical area, I raced in some “warm up” races to in the weeks previous to this event, and also had pre-ridden the course 3 times before race day.

My competitors:
12 solo men entered, but I was really only concerned with two. Cameron Chambers is an up and comer to the 24 hour scene and is racing full time pro with Gary Fisher. He placed second to me last year at this event, but he was just coming off of a win at the US National 24 Hour race that was held 3 weeks prior at Spokane.

Mark Hendershot was also a contender. From Michigan, he was previously ranked 3rd in the World a few years back and has beaten me at numerous events. I had beaten him before at last years 24 hour event at Snowshoe, but Mark is very fast and often times sets a furious pace at the start. He also raced at Spokane a few weeks prior as well, but had to pull out due to dehydration.

Knowing that record heat waves hit the Spokane race and that basically 4 out of the 5 top endurance riders in the nation had to pull out because of it, I knew both of these guys were possibly not 100% going into the race. In my mind, I had the advantage going into the race.

My Pit Crew:
Think of my pit crew as the guys who jump over the fence at a NASCAR race who fuel the car, change the tires, yell out split times and get the driver out as fast as possible. Same thing applies to 24 hour bike racing.

Dan the mechanic does all bike related work. While I am out riding bike #1, he is busy working on bike #2. I’ll swap bikes roughly every lap. I’ll dump one off, yell to him what I want him to fix or what is not working, and when I come back on the next lap, I have a freshly repaired and clean bike for my next lap. And when it comes to the night laps, he’ll rig my bikes and helmets with lighting systems as well.

Dad will be in charge of all my nutritional needs as well as my clothing. I’ll have bottles of either carbohydrate or protein mixes to keep me going as well as an assortment of supplements in capsule form to help me stay awake and alert, to stop me from cramping, and to help flush and buffer the pain of lactic acid that will surely be burning in my legs. While not the norm, I prefer to keep on an all-liquid diet for the 24 hours, as my stomach seems to get upset very easily.

Thursday June 16, 2005
Arrive at the venue late in the day. Things are just getting rolling for the event and I had hopes of pre-riding the course to memorize the trail for the best possible lines to take during the race. Rain is coming down pretty good, and the temperature was dropping so I bagged hopes of riding and setup my tent with my father that would be used by my pit crew.

Friday June 17, 2005
Pre-ride the course at about 10am and was happy to see the sandy soil drained the previous days rain very well. I talk with Hendershot and Chambers both briefly about how the season is going. They both look fit and lean and as usual, we are all very secretive about how we are currently riding.

Saturday June 18, 2005
Start/Lap 1
All the racers line up at the start line. Seconds before the race starts Hendershot, Chambers and myself all shake hands and we wish either good luck and to keep the race fun. The gun goes off at noon at we run to our bikes.

We run approximately an eighth of a mile to our bikes (this is done to string out the field to single file so that there are not 140 racers trying to get into one 2 foot section of trail all at the same time). We run through the pit area where all the fans and spectators are yelling and screaming and photographer’s bulbs are flashing. It’s pure chaos. At one point, I do believe a rider was drinking a beer as he ran past me.

We jump on our bikes and into the woods where I was probably in the top 30 or so riders, right along Mark and Cameron. The trail went along the pit area for a little bit, so more fans were down in the first couple of sections of trail. There was one fan with an old fashioned boom box that had the rock band Queen playing. The song they were playing was a classic – “I like to ride my bicycle.”

With the three of us keeping a close eye on each other, I decided to pick the pace up a little and ended up coming in on my first lap within the top ten riders overall, only a minute behind Cameron.

Lap 2 – 3
With Cameron and Mark still hot on my trail, I kept the pace up for the 3rd lap. I was flying. The rocks seem like pebbles and the climbs were rolling by. I was still keeping pace with the top teams at this point, so there were no riders to slow me down in any way. I did most of the third lap without seeing another person and came in to complete my third lap with roughly a ten minute lead over 2nd place.

Lap 4-6
With the arrival of all of my family, my spirits picked up as I learned of my rough time splits. At this point, I also started to carry a hydration pack as I knew 1 water bottle per lap would not be enough. Bikes were working great.

Somewhere around lap 5 and 6 I started to not feel so well. Overall I felt OK, but I felt the need to throw up. At the beginning of lap 6 I consumed a gel pack and took a bottle of my electrolyte fuel and I started out again. Immediately after I left I almost hurled but for some odd reason, I felt 150% better after that. Very odd.

On lap 6 I came in, instructed Dad that I would consume any more protein until I felt better and I didn’t want any more gel. But bring on the Red Bull. Oh yes. The Red Bull brought me wings as their ads claim, and took me into the night laps. The dreaded night laps.

Lap 7-9
Came in on lap 7 and did a complete wardrobe change as the temperature was starting to drop and my clothes were wet with perspiration. Dan hooked up my lights and informed me that Cameron and Mark were trying to catch me, and Cameron was starting to make up ground.

Somewhere on the 7th and 8th lap, Cameron caught me. He was flying. But I also noticed that he did not change clothing yet and it was cold enough to see my breath, so I tough he had to be cold. I had also noticed he was not carrying a hydration pack and laps were now well over an hour long, so I knew he was probably at this point a little on the dehydrated side. I figured whatever time he gained on me this lap he would loose. I told myself the following: “He’s freezing. He’s dehydrated. He can’t keep going like that.” “I’ll catch him at the end of the lap.”

Well, it didn’t take that long. In fact, I passed him about a half hour later. I thought he was waiting for me for some reason, but I rode right past him and he didn’t try to chase me down.

On lap 9, my tummy was better. Bring on the protein fuel. Oh ya, and don’t forget the Red Bull. Yummy.

Lap 10
Freaky lap. Why freaky? I passed Cameron at a water station at the 9-mile mark. He was talking to another guy about his lights, or something. I don’t know what he was doing, but he wasn’t paying attention to riders going by. And he never saw me go past him. I just lapped the current national champion. Trying not to totally freak out about it, I ride on.

On the end of lap 10, Dan informs me Mark is 8 minutes ahead of me and he looks really bad. I had intended to change clothes at this point as the sun had come up, but I wanted to lap him as soon as I can. I changed bikes, refueled, switched helmets to take off my lighting system and went off to chase down Mark.

Funny thing was, I caught Mark right were I had caught Cameron during the night. I informed him of Cameron’s troubles during the night and when I looked at him, he looked white as a ghost. He didn’t look good. Knowing he had to pull out of the Spokane race weeks earlier due to dehydration, I honestly hoped he would at least finish in second place. (He later pulls out while in second place and finishes 6th overall.) After speaking to him, I continue on.

Lap 11-14
At the beginning of lap 11 was my last and final wardrobe change. I had by now completely lapped the entire field, so the tension levels in the Asylum/Speedgoat team tent was pretty low. My dad joked that I had to do a one-hour lap if I wanted to win because I was only 1 lap up on everybody. Dan laughed. I had to think about it for a second before I laughed as well.

So, I put on some fresh clothes and some new shoes and gloves. Then I settled down to a warm cup of chicken soup topped off with some water and a full can of Red Bull.

At this point, my original thoughts were that my competitors would still be trying to chase me down so I would go out hard for two laps. When they would see my times, they would be demoralized and would start racing for second place. But with everybody a lap down on me, the game plan changed.

The game plan was to finish the race, stay upright and not let anybody pass me. So for 4 laps, I was careful in the rocks and went hard on the climbs. Nobody caught me.

Lap 15
At a little past 10am, I knew this was going to be my last lap and nobody could take away my win at this point.

So, on my last lap, on the only major downhill, I flat. And both spare tubes are bad. When I almost give up, along comes the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place rider. They wait for me. Yep, they wait for me. Nobody can make up any places or loose any ground.

We try to fix it to no avail, and then along comes Steve from Speedgoat racing in the “just for fun” category. He has a tube for me. In fact, he even fixes it for me.

Our parade lap now becomes 5 riders long. We take way too long to finish the lap, but shared some good conversations during our last two hours.

Just before we got in to the finish line, they let me ride ahead for the glory. And as I crossed the line, it all seemed like a dream.

It may have been a victory for me, but it was also a victory for my family, Dan the man (my mechanic), all the guys at Speedgoat, for Chris and Beth at the shop, for Asylum bicycles, for 29’r bikes, for the guy whom talked to me about my blog web site during the race, for the people who yelled my name even though I didn’t know them, for my sponsors (Tifosi, Hammer Gel, XPERT), for Jennifer and her family, for Wobblenaught fits, for phatty and my pals back in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for EJ and Sharon, and for everybody whom ever believed in me.

This victory was for all of you. Thanks for your help during my 2005 season.


joe said...

cool riding with you for a couple minutes on saturday night... i was the blog fan on your 8th (?) lap. it was pretty damn cool being in the middle of the battle between you and cam.

congrats on the victory...

Tris said...


Fine victory mate! Keeping the spirit of the Irma Street Cycling Center alive.

Keep goin' strong!

- Tris

Jason said...

Great victory and write up. You looked super smooth out there on the Asylum. I ended up in 5th solo. This was only my 2nd Solo 24 so each one is a learning experience. Congratulations again and good luck with the rest of the season and the Worlds in Sept.

Anonymous said...

Your Nephew and Niece are very proud of their Uncle Ernesto and to all the racers down at Big Bear! Great weather, great race, great UNCLE!


Chris said...

great report...congrats!

Guitar Ted said...

Way to go Ernesto! Glad to see you posting great results since Trans Iowa! Good luck on the rest of your season!