DART takes Hammerstein 24 hour MTB race by storm

Written by Cyril Jay-Rayon
Created Date: Monday, 11 June 2012 00:00

This past weekend we headed to the Hammerstein 24 hour mountain bike race held near the Laguna Seca motorway in Monterey. Racing the trails around Fort Ord is a treat and all those who compete at Sea Otter Classics have experienced the fun these trails offer. What awaited us was a fast 10.5 mile course with 1,500 feet of climbing per lap. Ryan and Jen VanGorder along with Mike Kohn entered the 3 person category while I raced solo.

No matter how in shape you are for a 24 hour, you're always going to suffer at one point or another. These races are simply too long and will beat you up. The Hammerstein 24 was no exception.

We all had to race hard to the bitter end but our effort paid off as I won the solo category and the team won the 3 person category. A lot of energy was expanded and sore muscles abound but it was well worth it.

The victory did not come easily though. After more than 4 hours of racing a mere 5 minutes separated the top 3 solo racers. I only took over the lead on lap 5 with the others close behind. Taking this lead at this point meant that the top guys were well matched but, for me, it was a good sign since I hadn't pushed the pace too much. Like most of the others, I was trying to pace myself for the long race. There is no point in leading early on if you're too tired to hold it to the end. I was there to race for 24 hours and needed to pace myself accordingly.

That said, I knew that waiting until the night to make a stronger move was risky as you never know how well you'll feel after the sun sets so I opted to push the pace a little once I took the lead to see if the others would follow. If they followed, it either meant that they were as strong or that they were pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone and wouldn't last. Of course, the risk for me was just that, that I would push myself too much too soon. Luckily, the increase in pace started to payoff as no one followed and I gradually increased my lead every lap as the daylight hours passed. By the time the night arrived, I had opened a half hour lead on 2nd place and friend Kyle Peter of team Tecnu Extreme.

Despite my lead, I knew that Kyle knew had to suffer through the night with the best in the world. As an elite adventure racer, he's been there before and a single night without sleep was nothing for him. As it turned out, he didn't disappoint as he mounted a strong comeback through the night and ate into my lead for 5 consecutive laps. When the light of day spread over the race course, a mere 13 minutes separated us. During the night, I tried to pace myself and held a relative steady pace but not particularly fast so Kyle was able to capitalize with an impressive show of force. However, I knew that when the sun came up, I would have some more faster laps in me. To cut into my lead, he'd have to ride even faster. As I had hoped, I was able to pick up the pace and, for 3 laps, I cut my lap times by 4-6 minutes compared to night time.

My faster laps worked and I started to increase my lead again. On lap 20, I came upon Kyle who looked quite worked. He told me he had had a bad case of diarrhea and was absolutely worked. I felt for him as I've been there before. But in usual adventure racing style, he soldier on and finished not only lap 20 but also 21 to consolidate his 2nd place. Steve Gallo finished 3rd, congrats.

After passing Kyle, my motivation instantly disappeared and I started riding really slowly and all sorts of pains flared up. The pains I was pushing away mentally were now flooding my brain pain center. That's when I realized that the course had really worked me with all these short power climbs and bumpy descends. Even the fun downhills sent painful vibrations throughout my sore body. Let's be clear, this was not a technical course and it was super fun to race but after more than 20 hours, the subtle challenges of the course amplify and the course slowly becomes more difficult as laps go by. It's the nature of 24 hour racing. So, I spent the last 2 laps (21 and 22) whinning to myself but when I crossed the start/finish line for the last time, I was all smiles and felt immense satisfaction. It's an incredible rush to push yourself for so long.

Shortly after crossing the finishline, I found out that the others had also won the 3 person category. We couldn't ask for a better weekend of racing!

At the Hammerstein 24, I had the biggest crew ever and they were absolutely superb in helping me throughout the night. Jackie Petro was my crew captain and she ran the show and took care of all my nutrition needs. Max Flaxman was my mechanic and kept my bike humming all race long (not an easy feet in a 24 hour race) among all the other things he did. And my dedicated friends who raced the 8 hour race but still spent the entire night helping , Paul Chung and Jack Baginski (8hr team), and Jay Harbison and Ben Morris (8 hr solo). Thank you so much gang. Without you, I won't have pulled this off. You're an integral part of my success. Merci!

Last but not least, I'd like to thank all my sponsors for their continued support of our crazy adventures. Specifically for this race, I'd like to thank Nuun for keeping me well hydrated and Feed The Machine for all my fuel and supplement needs. And, my mountain bike sponsors:

  • Light and Motion - they were on site, demoed lights, and charged racers' lights. I raced with the Stella 300 on my helmet powered by a 2 cell battery and the super powerful Seca 1400 on my handlebar with a 3 cell battery. The combo worked brilliantly!
  • Schwalbe: I rode a superlight Rocket Ron 2.2 up front and was amazed with its excellent traction. It was the first time I used a Rocket Ron and will use it going forward. On the rear, I rode my trusted Racing Ralph 2.2 tires. They are superlight and grippy as well and provide very low rolling resistance. Loved them. Not a single issue in 23 hours of racing.
  • Rudy Project: I used their beautiful and comfortable Sterling helmet as well as their amazing Magster glasses with photochomic lenses. The lenses adapt to the changing light so I could race with them even at night.
  • Stan's NoTubes: I rode their superlight ZTR Race Gold wheels. It was the first time I raced on these wheels and they will be by racing wheels going forward. Simply awesome!  My tubeless set-up was flawless. Their innovative rim design kept my tires in place even at low pressure. Not a single flat!
  • Crank Brothers: I rode my trusted egg beaters 11. They are superlight and bomb proof.
  • Hydrapak: I used their ingenious and efficient GelBot system which allowed me to carry 2 gels worth in a separate plunger inside a water bottle. Every time I grabbed my water bottle, I also had access to fuel in a separate compartment. It's an awesome system.
  • Ergon: I rode with their ergonomically designed GX2 carbon grips which were essential to keeping my hands happy.
  • Full Speed Ahead: I've been racing on their carbon componentry for years and they are light, reliable, and efficient.