Words and photos by Terry Buchanan
My son, Brayden, is a member of the Rad Racing NW Junior Cycling Team. He competes in mountain bike and cyclocross races with a program that has over 35 kids involved from around the Puget Sound Area. It has become a team tradition to compete in the 24 Hours Around the Clock in Spokane, WA each Memorial Day Weekend. The race is a 24 hour mountain bike race contested by solo riders and teams of two to ten riders. The race makes for a fun weekend for the kids and parents in attendance. Rad Racing sets up an impressive camp of tents, RV’s and camper vans with a fire pit and food station at the center. Riders and family have a good time racing and spectating as well as visiting and getting to know each other better in the shade of pop-up tents by day and the warmth of camp fire by night. Parents take on the roles of camp cook, team mechanic and such as needed.
The Juniors (under 19 division) compete as 5-person teams. Rad Racing’s team director, Jim Brown, usually fields three teams of Juniors all balanced with riders of varying ages and abilities in an attempt to make an even race within Rad Racing NW and let whatever happens happen in regards to the other teams fielded in the race.
My son is 14 years old and has a good group of friends in the team of similar age. They have a pack of five of them who are tight and are certainly pushing each other to be great riders. Early in the season they all let Jim know they wanted to race “the 24 hour race” together and take on the older kids in the team. 1) They want to race together as a team and 2) they felt they could win. Jim agreed early in the season to make it so. The five boys, Brayden, Scott, Calder, Layton and Ben became focussed on doing a great ride at “the 24 hour race”. As a parent and a former serious bike racer it was satisfying to see the boys motivated by the event and teamwork that would be required to achieve their goal.
What became impressive was how well a group of 13 and 14 year old boys laid out a plan to run the race and follow through with it. I helped them set a schedule and pace for each lap as they rotated through the laps one rider after another. They made it clear to each other what they needed on the course for equipment for emergency repairs. The plan for sleep was set and followed: Rider A would wake-up Rider B; Rider C would get them ready as they waited on deck to exchange with the current rider in the race. This plan was executed without fail. The boys kept an accurate record of their progress in the race and the expected exchange times. The record keeping was so good that from the start at 12:00 pm to sunset at 9:00 pm the team knew they were an hour ahead of schedule and readjusted start times for each exchange going into the night laps.
With the foundation of a good plan and execution of that plan the boys did what they loved to do, ride mountain bikes fast! One rider after another rode 56 – 60 minute laps over the 15 mile course. They started the race after two exchanges down 4 minutes to the other Rad Racing NW team that stacked their rotation with two older boys at the start but they did not panic early. They rode strong through their first rotation and by 5:00 pm had a three minute lead. Then they just got better and better than their competition going into the early hours of Sunday taking a 45 minute lead. Challenges came as dawn approached but they regrouped at sunrise with a 17 minute lead and started stretching it out again. Finally at 11:30 am on Sunday, as scheduled, they sent their final rider, Ben, out for lap 23 bringing home the win. The five of them were so proud of their riding and bonded together tighter by the 24 hour journey. They greeted Ben at 12:26 pm with a Twinkie hand-up on the homestretch with a 35 minute lead over second.
“The 24 hour race” is an unique opportunity to challenge one’s self as a rider, a supporter of a rider or a volunteer. Sleep is scarce, focus can be lost easily and endurance is certainly challenged. One younger girl on Rad Racing NW’s ten-person team headed out on her first ever night “mountain bike ride” with her father to race her lap not wanting to go alone. Dad breaks his chain along the way and daughter takes on the uncomfortable task of completing her first ever night mountain bike ride alone as a teammate is expecting her to make it in so they can race into the night as well. And Dad takes on the challenge of letting his daughter go for it alone. Over the course of 24 hours with 700 riders competing the stories are many and the debriefing among friends fills the days after the event.
For Brayden, Scott, Calder, Layton and Ben as they race together over the next few years (before the pursuits of adulthood split them up) they will always have the “24 hour race” in 2014 as a monument amongst themselves. They will recall Ben breaking an axle at four in the morning at the beginning of lap 17 and having to hustle Calder out of bed to get him onto the course as quickly as possible to take Ben’s place for that lap. They will recall Scott extending the team lead by 5 minutes on lap 6 when when an older Rad Racing member on another team at the event told him he was going to hunt him down and put the boys back into second place. Brayden will always have that moment when he rode the team into first place on lap 5 and they never let go of the lead.
Done! Can he stay up until supper?