Monday, September 03, 2007

24 Hours of 7 Springs 2007

....come on Matt, get up. You gotta get ready for your next lap! I verbally threw into his tent hoping to get a reply of some sort. Anything would be great at this point coming from him. 'Hmmph, ugh, yah.....' spilled out of Matt's sleepy mouth. From inside of his brothers tent, sleeping for 2 hours may have well been 2 minutes. Everyone was getting worn down being 18hours into the 24 hours of 7 Spring's 24hr mountain bike race and no one was really kicking up their heels to fill Matty's spot if he couldn't make it out for his turn at a lap. More on this later.

The 24 hour race circuit has been growing steadily over the past, hmm, 11 years that I have been involved with them. This was my 6th team that I have aligned myself with over that time span and by far the BEST bunch of guys I have ever given my support to. Not that I may come off as being partial since the 4 of them work and wrench for the bike shop I run. This posting will cover the team, it's personalities, breaking situations in the race and a beautiful ending for everyone on our squad.

My skills, talents, O.C.D, whatever you want to call it, were at the disposal of Matt Gross, Jason Gross, Josh Clingan and Blake Chilson. On the B team we had their ladies, Kandice and Melissa.
Support vehicle number one. The Subaru is loaded and ready for the drive to 7 Springs. Bike---check. Bike tools and tent---check. Food and beer---double check!
The field you see above is with your back to the 8mile spectator point. The fielded extended far to both sides of the frame full of teams. Beautiful weather all weekend long.

Base camp, Saturday morning the day of the race. Representing Kona to the fullest extent, tent and bikes under the guys. Blake was rockin' the Voodoo Djab, close enough to be a Kona ala Joe Murray design baby!
Blake catching up on some reading before the start. Wall Street Journal? Road and Track? Oprah's 'O'. He reads them all. Blake and I used to work across town at another bike shop. For whatever reason they stopped giving him hours. There loss is my gain. He and I always got along, whether talking about each other's Voodoos or rally racing. Blake is really approachable, can pedal the shi-at out of a bike and grow a mean Mark Weir lookalike mustache too...I mustache you a question Mr. Blake. Weapon of choice, 1998 Voodoo Djab Ti.
Matty G strapping on his lid. He was the lead guy for the team. A Leman's style start were you have to run for less than a mile, unrack your bike, then start your lap. Matt has been with the shop for around 3 years as an employee. Customer before that. He has loads of energy, almost lost his spleen last February knuckling a 22 footer in Stratton, VT snowboard park. Matt lived for most of the summer in Colorado working as an intern for Ball...polymers are his thing. Riding at a high altitude as given him super power strength 80 fold of us mere mortals, ha! Weapon of choice, 2006 Kona Kula Supreme with SRAM X0. It's a shame Kona's don't come with some SRAM stink on them.
Jason, Matt's older brother and only one, tip tying his plate onto his dirt slave for the weekend. This bike later becomes the Cinderella story for Matt and the team. Jason has a huge love for the outdoors like his family. I used to work for his uncle years ago who is an avid skier. Jason started working in the snowboard shop the same time as Matt. I sold Jason a GT mountain bike years ago at the shop across town. He rode the wheels off it, literally and now depends on a 2006 Kona Kikapu Supreme. Tore the group off it and now rides it with full Shimano XTR Dual Control/Hydr/Mavic hoops. Fox on the front. Shame they used the SID forks on the replacement version, Hei Hei Supreme for this year...Shitty Inconsistent Dampening I think is the meaning of Rock Shocks fork?

Josh Clingan. Man this guy makes me look small in this photo! Just look at his handle bars. What are they? Something like 40 inches wide?! Well maybe not but his quads I bet measure 40inches around. Josh has more bicycle races under his belt than anyone I know. At a young age living northeast of here near Trexlertown, having a dad that was an avid cyclist, molded Josh into what he is today, friggin' fast when the hammer has to be dropped. Growing up a track sprinter at the T-town Velodrome years ago, playing rugby at York College and working at a ski shop years before coming to the one I work at; has created a 40+mph sprinter with a high threshold for pain and a love for picking a good line through the gnar. Weapon of choice, 2007 Kona King Kikapu. Wife of choice, Melissa J.
Team orders for the event. Matt does the run. Pace yourself the first time through. Ride smart and show some man nipple when passing the spectator 8 mile point!
Matt approaches the 8mile spectator point. We all hoot and holler, scream and cheer.
And the first lap is done. Matt rounds the final corner, heading towards the check in tent were Jason is ready to roll for his first lap.
Blake warmed up on the roller as Jason passes buy the 8mile marker. Who ya representin'?!
Jason rolls through with great speed, great man nipple shot and ended up chalking up a 1'10" lap time, freaking quick! Nice one Jason!

Blake giving the ladies an extra treat here. A shot of pepperoni and a tat of Mazda's famed rotor out the Wankle engines. Yes Blake loves RX-7s to say the least. Nice homage. 3 hours into the race and everyone is still pumped. Blake stayed pretty consistent throughout the event; physically, mentally and mechanically.
Josh giving a righty here. The woman in the foreground is cheerfully clapping and yet wondering why his chest is so hairless? 12 and 24 hour racing is becoming an addiction of his. Last year he did this event and the weather was super garbage. Team Troges, Clydedales. They seemed to have forgotten the fact that this year Josh is 30 pounds lighter and killing it on the bike! Glad he's in our corner. Josh, Blake and Keller did the Ole Bull 12 hours and netted a solid 4th in their division. This event, Josh remained pretty solid for lap times.

The laps went by. The rider that goes out at 6pm had to have a light on their bike. At least a 6 watt I suppose. Jason was the man on that lap. As the sun had settled with an orange hue in the western ski, the temperature slowly start to drop. With a no campfire policy at the race, layers would be called for.

Evening time and I didn't take any pictures of the guys. I focused more on some mechanical services for the bikes. Josh's King Kikapu was hick-uping on the cassette and chain sucking on the front, damn I hate Shimao chains. I pulled it off and installed a SRAM PC951 which helped with things on the rear. Chain suck on the front seems to happen with the Race Face cranks too...aggressive machinging on the chain rings? Josh knows what and where to ride his gears so that baffled me a bit. During the day I restored the bikes to showroom condition. Nothing worse than having to look at a dirt pile of a bike for 24 hours. As psychological as it sounds, daytime, well detailed, well running bike equals a strong running rider. As the bike looks aged, dirty, used hard with a tiring rider, the pair makes for a ship of misery. Night laps it's dark so the cleaning isn't focused on the appearance but rather still with the quirks you'll now feel because your other senses are heightened due to the darkness. Tire pressures need adjusted because of the drop in temperature,
intake of calories increased slightly as the body needs to burn more fuel to stay warm too.

So far, half way into the race, the team called the Flannels were the direct competitors. Lap times are really close to The Dirt Biscuits pb Ed's Ski & Cycle team. At one point going into the night we were 12 minutes up on them. After that things started to change as they always seem to do during the night laps. Matt and Jason wrecked a couple of times. Once with Matt and guy that wanted to pass with little regard to Matt's safety. Jason double flatted during the darkness. Matty's light pack also died 2 miles into his mega early Sunday lap. With only a small head lamp for supplemental light, should a tube change be needed, met us at the 8mile point with further bad news. Matt's rear SRAM X.0 shifter had detonated. No 1-4 gears only 5-9 but couldn't get to them unless you pushed up and forward on the lever. 3 rings on the front were still good though. Matt finished up the lap with only 3 speeds and a bad lighting system. As his description of that experience went, 'My arms are killing me from going so slow and hitting everything I couldn't see.' He turned himself inside out to finish, rolled the bike back to me in the pits and collapsed into his tent without eating a thing. Not good.

I worked on the SRAM X.0 pod with much determination and vengeance. I used to have an uncle when I was younger that used to talk to his cactus. I attempted much of the same approach with the shifter but when things turned to '...you dirty monkey...' it was time to put it aside and install the spare parts we brought along. This summer, I have serviced and brought back to life a lot of old Shimano shifter pods including Campagnolo's Ergo Shifters with a rebuild kit or two but damn it, this pod just kicked my ass. There is a downward facing tab that sweaps a toothed notched half ellipse cavity and wouldn't stay in the notch, flapping around. I'll call warranty on Tuesday. SRAM is a good company to deal with regarding warranties.

Jason hit the sunrise lap. Lucky dog because he had the sunset lap too. The 8mile spectator point ran through the middle of the camping area so we would go up and watch the guys go by. That was usually 45-55 minutes into the rider's lap. From there we could have an extra water bottle or food ready if needed. Back to Jason on his sunrise lap. Pulling a sold pace, he pulls over to us for an extra water bottle. We aslo cut the zip tye off holding his battery for the light system, I pulled his helmet light off as he is bending over to remove the battery pack, slammed a gel pack into his rear pocket and off he went.
Josh on the train of whoop ass. He hauled around this corner like it was a Friday night Scratch Night. Past this bend is a quick, insultingly steep hill to the finish area. He big ringed the whole hill. With the rear of the Kikapu looking like a drag car finding traction off the line, Josh motored pasted his screaming wife and into the tent to hand off to Matty G. Strong finish brother!

Still 10 minutes behind the Flannels due to the mechanicals we experienced, I summon Matt from his tent as Josh is just starting his morning lap. Matt pulls himself up and out of bed. We fed him drink, scrambled eggs, rubbed some Tiger Balm on his achy spots and saw the lights starting to come back on. With much encouragement from everyone that he has another lap left in him, I made a decision to put Matt on Jason's Kikapu Supreme. I know Matt is a good mountain biker but something wasn't clicking with all the crashing he was doing. At least Jason's dualie would be more comfortable and they are the same frame size with the exception Matt's inseam is 2cm shorter than his brother's. So with an impromptu fit on the Kona and swapping of pedals he was ready to go out there and pin it!
Matt decided in humor of the team to do his final lap with no shirt, only bibs and a Camelback pack. I recommended that he cross his straps for that extra mile of dedication. We all gathered at the 8mile spectator point, Melissa, Blake, Josh and Me in order to see what kind of a gap the Flannels had on us. They would go buy and we' d have a man within 10 minutes following, ugh! Jason decided to go down to the bottom of the hill climb that was the start of the 8mile section, to cheer on Matt. Time check...no Flannel 40 minutes into the race. Hmm. 50 minutes, nope. Then suddenly, 'Go Matt!' I hear Jason yelling at the top of his lungs. We all stood up. Over the crest of the 8mile point approached Matt cranking like it was lap number one! 'I passed a Flannel!' Matt pointed and barked out. What? Shit! We didn't expect Matt for another 5 minutes.
Jason comes up the hill eventually after Matt had already passed. He said that one of the Flannels had a bike malfunction and had to go the pits for service and restarted his lap. At this point the energy in our camp could have powered a small town. Matt's closing comments were that Jason bike was like riding on a couch and much faster with the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs.

Blake suits up and volunteers to do a final lap for the team. Nice move man.
Blake finishes his and the team's final lap. With a high five from teammate Matty G, they guys clenched the number one position at the 2007 24 Hours of 7 Springs Sport Open class.
Congratulations guys! I am as proud as a father and mechanic could be!
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\m/
stickboy








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