It should have been my turn to go out for a final lap, but I had already ditched my chamois for a pair of cutoff jean shorts and an ice cold can of Avery beer. The 11-hour Subaru ERock Sunrise to Sunset race was nearly 10 hours in when Terry Breheny, the man ahead of me in the rotation, rode off on course. My 40-minute laps of the 8-mile course weren't doing us much good, but team IMBA Beer League didn't much care. Everyone expected that Terry would be the last man in with about a half-hour to go until the cutoff, and then it would be time for more grilling and chilling.
But then there was Rich Cook, IMBA's development director, still at the start/finish line, kitted up and full of energy. Already with 45 miles under his belt for the day, he was determined to go out for a final lap if Terry got back with at least 35 minutes to go. For that last lap to count, he'd have to finish by 7:00 p.m.
Thirty-five minutes ticked by on the official race clock and no Terry. By then, all 13 of the IMBA staffers and friends who were there to race together had gathered, beers in hand. With 32 minutes to go, Terry came barreling in and, without a word, Rich hit the gas and was gone. We all toasted the guy, but weren't sure how it would go.
With two minutes left on the race clock and the finish line crowd an increasingly-unruly mass of stinky, beer-drinking bike riders, a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon, led by a black helmet and bent elbows (feature photo above). There he was, mashing his full-suspension Niner with long, skinny legs and putting in a monster effort, bettering his previous lap times by several minutes. We went berserk, screaming our brains out as Rich blew by in a blaze of glory, solidly beating the race clock to the finish.
Rich at the finish; Brooks handing him a well-deserved cold one after his hero lap
Rich's power lap put IMBA Beer League (Rich, Terry, Evan Chute and Katherine Fuller) into 11th place out of 26 coed, 4-5 person teams, one lap and one spot ahead of Team IMBA Wolfpack (Rod Judd, Aimee Ross, Scott Maureaux, Selby Hansen, and Tony Scott). Team IMBA Slayer, featuring IMBAciles Jenn Hill, Carlie Mock and Aaron Clark, and IMBA husbands and mountain biking badasses Brooks Beal and Nat Ross (yeah, that one), took second overall in the coed, 4-5 person team category.
It was a fitting end to race day. Other than, "Hey, Team Slayer has a chance," most of us weren't worried about what transpired throughout the day, as long as it was awesomeness, which there was plenty of. Many of us rode in cutoff jean shorts in honor of IMBA South Central Region Director Steve Schneider, who has a penchant for the things. We call them "Steves," and over a good pair of cycling shorts, they are surprisingly comfortable. The trick is to make sure they're not too tight up top, otherwise you'll be riding with your fly undone so as to not cut off your circulation.
Speaking of awesomeness, on his second lap Evan caught up to a guy on a single speed who was in a world of hurt. "Less gears, more beers!" Evan called out as a way to encourage him. "Yeah, you got any?" the guy replied. Evan did not, but he did have a flask of whisky in his fanny pack, which he offered to the single speeder. After some hesitation, he accepted, and the two shared a pull in the middle of a long climb before Evan went on his way.
And that's the great thing about mountain bike racing. There's room for everyone, from the hardest core to the beer leagues. ERock in particular is an excellent introductory race since the course is smooth (there's only one rock; don't hit it), only 8 miles long and mostly double track, meaning you'll never be in anyone's way. OK, meaning I was never in anyone's way and my teammates could pass people. I don't race at all, but I love these 6, 12, and 18-hour events because of the party atmosphere and the generally welcoming courses. We saw plenty of people out there in cotton t-shirts and tennis shoes on vintage rigid bikes riding alongside guys in full-white Spandex kits on all-white carbon wunder-machines.
Did I train? Nope. Did any of us? Nope. If you ride a mountain bike somewhat regularly, you can do one of these things and have fun. Just remember to bring a grill, lots of good food and sunscreen.
Thanks to Subaru ERock Sunrise to Sunset for giving IMBA primo placement for our IMBAru Outback, entry and a damn good time.