World Cup Racing
NORBA Racing

The Finish
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As night ticks away to morning and the Boogeyman of sleep calls, three men refuse to answer. Mike Curiak of Crested Butte, Colorado, said "yeah, I got some sleep, during my 5am lap up the 'grind.' I kept drifting off to sleep and would wander off the road, just to be jolted awake when I heard the crunching of brush under my tires."

Then the rush of adrenaline would navigate him back on to the road, only to have this cycle repeated. Dana Bradshaw of Tahoe City, California, and I would also have the same glorious milliseconds of sleep, but, unlike most, we would be moving forward while sleeping.

"I have crashed a half dozen times; one bad highspeeder over the handlebars as I tried without success to navigate the 'sand box'..."

4:30am — If all goes well and my lights don't mysteriously burn out, the 32 watts of halogen I am riding with will be enough lumens to keep me traveling just under daylight speeds. I am riding the fifth of six night laps and have been fighting off sleep for some time. The sky has the look of predawn blue. In another hour, the sun should rise, saving my mind from my body's need to sleep. Concentration continues to be difficult, I have crashed a half dozen times — one bad high speeder over the handlebars as I tried without success to navigate the "sand box." This bottomless pit of sand lay at the end of a 20 mph descent.

Welcome to the Zombie Zone. In this state of mind we rely totally on our support crew. My "handler," Elaine Marques LMP, kept me upright the entire race. Elaine worked on my cramping, whiny legs three times but never let me sit down. For 23 hours and 15 minutes the only seat I sat on was atop two wheels. Her job, to keep me hydrated with XL-1 and fed with the right foods, GU, and in my lucky case, massaged.

Athletic Supporter
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When I get to this point, there exists only the instinct to keep riding. I imply a state of Zen in this, yes, the bicycle is a curious vehicle; its passenger is its engine. So long as the feet continue to push down on the pedals, there exists an engine and I can power it without thought.

The 11-mile course has 1400' of climbing per lap giving us a fast, technical course with lots of single track trail roller coastering over hills which lead into short, steep climbs with names like "hurl hill" and "the grid." Miss La Niña left her mark on these trails by way of erosion, ruts, washboards, trenches and horse traffic making for a very rough ride.

There can be many ways to look at 24 hour racing on a lap course like Laguna Seca. You can feel like a lab rat running a maze for the piece of cheese or like the mythical Greek, Sisyphus — doomed to pushing a rock up an endless hill. These races are a bit like a Sisyphian task; constant repetition. The challenge lies within the task — seeing how many laps you can ride and "clearing" the most challenging obstacles the course has to offer every time around; to experience the splendid delights of procrastinating a rest on the next lap, but never actually stopping.

Then there is the strategy. Where is the competition? Who is resting, and how long have they been in? Should I take a break or keep going? Putting time on the competition will always be the number one obsession as there's a terrible delight in watching a rival sink without a trace.

It all started on a cloudy Saturday.

The Pit
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12pm — 31 teams and 15-soloists waiting for the start of the 2nd annual 24 Hours of Adrenalin. Sponsored by TriLife International and Mountain Bike magazine. The traditional La Mann start, screaming teammates, dogs barking, the sound of hundreds of clipless pedal cleats tapping on the asphalt. As a soloist I know this is just the first lap of a long race, and getting caught up with the high paced energy only means the pain will be greater later.

The four-person team, Boyer Sports, has taken off to a fast start, ripping up the trail with a 40 minute lap; precision transition sprinting up the stairs then over the Bosch bridge to start their next lap. Team Velo Sapiens continue to be hot on its tail. It takes matching laps and precision to keep up with this blistering pace. The two person team AL-LA-SA endures trouble with a bike and stays working hard to keep in the hunt. In a 24-hour race, the hunt is long, mistakes can be overcome and leads retaken.

The largest division is the sport and corporate teams, with names like Dirt Digglers, Hells Bells and The Drive Bys. It is not surprising these folks are here to have a good time, drink beer, socialize, and enjoy the fun in the sun. This is the riding Northern California is famous for. Team Sports Center Bicycles has tricked out its pit area with a Christmas tree, living room couches, recliners, and a home entertainment center. Trilife's mantra remains, "tri life or die." These folks are having a good time with a competitive edge. Is this possible?

"There's a terrible delight in watching a rival sink without a trace..."
The 15 soloists are riding in the groove, putting down 54 and 55 minute laps for the first six hours, tearing up the trail at their own paces. The lead has passed around from Herman Adam of San Rafael, California to myself to Califonian Brian Sidwell of Santa Cruz. As we take pulls up the "grind" it's lap 7 and Brian says to me, "I think we are doing well for being seven hours into the race."

I grunt and wonder how hard I can push myself to keep up with Brian. I take my turn at breaking the wind and say "This is nothing, tell me how you feel after 20 hours." I let Brian go. This is his first 24-hour race and his pace is way too fast. I think, "wait 'til dark and see how he looks."

The female solist, Chloe Lanthier of Whistler B.C., Canada, has opened up a sizeable lead on local rider Laura Kelly. Laura had intended to race on a 5-person team that fell apart just before the race. She decided to go for the solo spot and get something out of her non-refundable entry.

12am — Midnight, the halfway point. As I stand and eat tortellini smothered in cream sauce, Elaine fills me in on the competition. "Brian has been sleeping for two hours, Herman is Silly Putty in a lawn chair." After going out too fast, these guys must pay the price. Elaine goes on to say, "Mike and Dana have yet to take any major stops, both look strong and steady." Self doubt wells up and I wonder if I can keep up this pace. Will I be answering the door when the Boogeyman knocks?

3am — The night rolls on; not much action around the venue; team members are working to get their laps over with so they can get back to sleep. NightRider Lighting Systems endure the night by talking their hyperactive tech-babble, showing off the latest tech batteries, charging and recharging batteries to keep the teams on the go, but mostly just turning the night into daylight.

Also gone are the many words of encouragement that help keep us going. As I look into my support van, I can hear the calm breathing of Elaine getting some much desired sleep. She has planned ahead and left out a full camel back of XL-1, plus to my surprise, a bag of chocolate covered espresso beans. For the ten-thousandth time today Elaine has read my mind.

"For 45 minutes Mike lay down and almost out with stomach cramps..."
10am — For the past 22 hours I have worked to increase my lead and now my job is complete. Boyer Sports and Velo Sapiens continue to ride strong. The female team, Sport Center Bicycles, has decimated its competition. The two person teams, AL-LA-SA and B-Stone Cafe Racers have stayed within minutes of each other. Dana Bradshaw has been busy putting time on Mike Curiak. In the end, six minutes will separate these two men. Chloe Lanthier has stayed way ahead of her competition.

The cacophony of support grows louder with each lap as we soloists ride around the venue to start another dreaded lap. The California sun grows hotter with each minute. Trail conditions have deteriorated with each passing tire. The end is in sight.

11:30am — Halfway through lap 19, my mind is in a tug-of-war. Should I hold back and coast in at high noon or push and get another lap? My ego says push, set a new course record, but my overheating feet say slow down for gods sake "you have it in the bag." For the past 23 hours I have been on a mission, why should I stop now? All my doubt is washed away by the deafening cheers of the crowd. The wave of support carries me over the Bosch bridge to start lap 20.

Mike Curiak comes up from behind, together we endure our last lap. Mike rides in silent self torment. For 45 minutes Mike lay down and almost out with stomach cramps. With his hold on second place slipping away, the clock ticking against him, he reached deep, climbed back on his bike, and pedaled out two more laps. For the last time we ride "hurl hill". Mike says "hurl was hard to ride but looked harder to walk."

The sun is hanging at high noon, pounding its heat down on our backs as we start the last climb up "the grind." The rock is almost on the top of the hill. As I ride down the steps of the Bosch bridge rounding the corner to the waiting crowd, cheers erupt. Crossing the finish line to deafening cheers, speakers blaring, the hug of Elaine, I am overcome with the desire to sit in the shade and rest.

Pat Norwil, Mountain Zone Contributor
Norwil, of Washington, won this year's Laguna Seca and tied for second in Alaska's Iditasport Extreme.

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