(Sept. 18-19) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., became home to the Rocky Mountains' latest 24-hour race. The event flew without a hitch.
The Academy is home to the Falcon Trail—a 14-point-something-mile loop that offers fast downhill cruises, a big grunt of a climb near the halfway point, and several sections of gnarlyness that demand even the best riders stay on their toes. Although the trail is located on the Air Force base, maintenance is administered by the City of Colorado Springs and the dirt is open to the public during daylight hours. The 24-Hours of Colorado Springs gave non-military personnel a chance to experience the trail after hours.
About 100 racers took advantage of the opportunity. With categories for single riders, duos and four-person teams, the sparse turnout meant uncrowded conditions and a chance to ride the trail as fast as anyone might have wanted. What's more, the Falcon Trail is 99 percent singletrack, making the venue perhaps one the most singletrack-rich in the region.
According to race organizer and founder Tim Scott, the 24-Hours of Colorado Springs was an idea hatched by a group of friends during a moment of folly.
"It started as a collaboration of crazy things that happen when you're sitting around with your buddies in winter wishing your were on bikes," he said.
The event was put together and pulled off in about five months—not bad for a logistical challenge that included working with the Federal Government, which, in this case, turned out to be an advantage.
"Working with the Academy was a privilege," Scott said. "My grandfather flew in World War II. Every USAFA interaction that has been a direct interaction has been a 100 percent positive interaction. It is probably one of the safest mountain bike race courses out there with the planning we undertook with the Academy."
Scott said the local community was also extremely generous with its support. Volunteers were plentiful, with about one volunteer for each racer this year.
"The effort from people up here helping out has been phenomenal," he said.
Solo male winner Taylor Sheldon completed 14 laps, riding for 23 hours, 40 minutes and 56 seconds. Sheldon spit out some fast laps—the fastest an outrageous one hour, six minutes—with plenty of others hovering around hour-twenty-minute territory.
Solo female winner Elizabeth Boese completed five laps, riding for 19 hours, 23 minutes. It was plenty of time on the exhausing trail.
Solo singlespeed winner Nick Thelen powered down 12 laps. With an unrelenting climb beginning near mile six, selecting the correct gear combination was key and Nick kicked.
Dry conditions provided some long sandy stretches for racers, furthering the exhaustion. According to Scott, other than some minor scrapes and tumbles, no serious injuries were reported during the race, though many riders were taking advantage of the massage tables at the finish tent.
Race participant PJ Juarros of Woodland Park, Colo., said he is a seasoned veteran of the 24-Hours of Moab, the 24-Hours in the Old Pueblo and many other popular events, but the 24-Hours of Colorado Springs "has the funnest 24-Hour Course out there."
Scott hopes to see the race grow in coming years.
"Hopefully next year we'll get a couple hundred and go from there," he said.
For full race results, visit 24-Hours of Colorado Springs.