Chapter #162: 24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Race - January 24, 2011

Rider #2 uses four arms and two handle bars to take up the shock going downhill - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 

24 Hours of Moab 2010

- The Race - 

After an exciting start at the 24 Hours of Moab 2010 off-road bicycle race, I moved farther down the course to watch Lap #2. One half mile beyond the Start/Finish line, the course briefly parallels Behind the Rocks Road. By positioning myself near there, I was able to photograph action sequences that featured a brief ascent, followed by a quick drop to the bottom of a sandy arroyo. Those quick terrain changes guaranteed lots of action.
Losing control upon entry to the arroyo in 2009 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
After freewheeling downhill almost from the start, that first climb requires a quick application of energy. As they top the hill, each rider is up off their seat, pumping to maintain speed and momentum. After surmounting that knoll, the racers experience a gentle down-slope, ending in a quick drop to the bottom of a wide arroyo.
Over the years, the steep drop to the sandy bottom of the arroyo has flattened considerably. Only two years ago, some racers clamped on the binders and tumbled head over heels down that steep slope. Now, thousands Wheel slippage spells disaster for this 2009 racer - Click for final results (http://jamesmcgillis.com)of laps later, wind, rain and bicycle tires have combined to erode that slope. Rather than an unmanageable drop, the evolved location now resembles a high-speed ramp. Behind the Rocks was cattle country for many years, so the new ramp will be safe only until the next big storm widens the arroyo and recreates the precipice, as it inevitably will.
Be sure to watch high-speed action from the 24 Hours of Moab 2010 on the accompanying YouTube video.
Spanning the arroyo each year are two rubber conveyor belts, laid out, end-to-end. Ostensibly, they provide a smooth, continuous surface for the racers. If the old gravel-transport belts were not present, riders might bog down in the deep sand. In past years, we have noticed continued problems with the layout of the belts. Initially, they provide the correct course trajectory; including a slight right turn at their midpoint. During practice day on Friday, the belts begin to migrate, leaving their ends separated by ever greater distances. By race time, racers must traverse a few meters of deep sand, causing danger, delays and frustration.
"The Other" fixes a problem on the course at 24 Hours of Moab 2010 (http://jamesmcgillis.com)This year, my friend, “The Other” decided to fix the belt-gap prior to Lap #2 of the race. Until this year, when I caught his shadow on a couple of photos, no one had actually seen The Other. As I watched, The Other assessed the dysfunction of the two belts and then took remedial action. Moments after The Other finished overlapping the belt ends, second-lap leaders appeared over the crest of the hill. As the riders made their high-speed dash down the ramp and across the belts, we saw the shadow of a mysterious character disappear in the wind.
That day, I was lucky enough to catch the shadow of The Other both before and after he rejoined the belts. Here, on this page is a slideshow showing how The Other helped with safety and speed at the 24 Hours of Moab 2010. After transiting the belts, riders then sped across the plateau, as if heading straight for the peaks of the Sierra la Sal. Soon, they too disappeared over the horizon. The animated GIF image on this page shows how The Other helped make the 24-Hours of Moab 2010 race safer and faster than ever.
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By James McGillis at 12:34 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link

Chapter #161: 24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Start - January 19, 2011

Dax Massey starts the 2010 24-Hours of Moab off-road bicyle race - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 

2010 24-Hours of Moab Off-Road Bicycle Race

- The Start - 

In October 2010, I attended the sixteenth annual “24 Hours of Moab” off-road bicycle race, held at Behind the Rocks, a few miles south of Moab, Utah. As usual, it was an exciting affair, with thousands in attendance. By Moab standards, the wind was calm and the cloudless sky promised a warm afternoon and a cool night ahead.
For the two previous years, I had covered Dax Massey in his quest to win his class at the Moab race. This year, I found Dax in the Scoring Tent, checking in only fifteen minutes before the 12:00 PM start time. Competing in the Men’s Duo Championship this year, Dax wore #89 and rode for the Honey Stinger/Trek team.
Yakima & Hammer were well represented at the 2010 24-Hours of Moab Off-road bicycle race (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
After leaving the Scoring Tent, I positioned myself to see Dax complete his Le Mans style, running start. As I watched, Dax made a quick getaway on his first lap. He and his partner, Nate Bird would complete nineteen laps during the following twenty-four hours.
In the 2010 race, Dax and Nate came in a close second to the Hammer Duo team of Ben Parsons and Clint Muhlfeld. Regardless of their placement, Dax Massey and his exciting style of off-road bike racing were a pleasure to see. In order to see for yourself, watch the accompanying video.
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By James McGillis at 10:13 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link

Chapter #160: 24-Hours of Moab 2010 - Pre-Race - January 14, 2011

The La Sal Range, as seen from Behind The Rocks, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

24-Hours of Moab Live

Pre-Race Festivities 

In October 2010, I attended the sixteenth annual 24 Hours of Moab off-road bicycle race. Each year, an overgrazed cattle pasture magically transforms into a racing venue known to bicycle racing enthusiasts worldwide. Some race for fun and others race for victory in the most Bicycle Racer, 24 Hours of Moab - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)prestigious event of its kind. This year, three hundred eighteen teams or individuals competed. Of those, two hundred eighteen were still pedaling at the finish, twenty-four hours later.
From the full out run of the  Le Mans start, to the final rotation of a bicycle wheel one day later, it was an incomparable event. With a full view of the Sierra La Sal Range to the northeast, the Behind the Rocks venue is both spectacular and challenging. This year, we visited the site on Friday, as vendors and volunteers set up tents and equipment for the Saturday Noon start time.
His first day riding on two wheels! Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
On a warm Friday afternoon, the wind kicked up only an occasional dust devil. I watched as dedicated racers practiced along the entrance road. Later, there was time to take in scenes of family life unfolding before me. Out of nowhere, a young boy peddled past me, his winded father running just behind him. As I watched, that boy mastered the art of two-wheeling. As they disappeared around the bend, I could picture that young man competing for prizes in future years.
Join me now in reliving a beautiful pre-race afternoon and seeing the sights at that great venue. Enjoy our video tribute to Granny Gear Productions and the great energy that they bring to bicycle racing in Moab each autumn. I hope to see each of you there in October 2011.
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By James McGillis at 06:07 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link

Chapter #159: Moab, Utah - Winter Snowstorms - January 10, 2011

Kokopelli plays his flute, asking the Snow Gods for ample moisture this year (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Snowstorms Continue in Canyonlands and Moab, Utah

In 2006, I began working and writing in Moab, Utah. Then, and for several years thereafter, conventional wisdom held that it rarely snowed in Moab. Most locals said that when it did snow, the weather would soon warm up, melting the snow within a few days.
Then, along came the winter of 2009 – 2010. It snowed often in December and again in January. Even with partial thawing between storms, there was still snow on the ground well into February. As 2010 drew to a close, our friend in Moab, Tiger Keogh offered hopeful reports. Her emails indicated dry weather and daily high temperatures above forty degrees. Between Christmas and New Year’s, her sunny reports ended. On December 30, 2010, it snowed in Moab and has snowed several times since.
Animated GIF of snowplows working the tarmac at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
One of the benefits of deploying webcams in several locations is that we can check the weather all around Moab every day. Since this winter’s snow began to fall, our Canyonlands Field webcam has shown whiteouts overnight, followed by snowplowing the following day. Our webcam, located at the Moab Rim Campark and Cabins has shown heavy snowfall in the La Sal Range. In early January 2010, during a respite from the storms, I observed a sublime alpenglow-sunset over the Spanish Valley.
While viewing different locations in Grand County, Utah, I sat 800 miles away, in Simi Valley, California. From my remote location, I captured a series of images from the two webcams. Since each webcam updates every three seconds, I saved several image sequences. Once I had a series of images saved, I open a “GIF Animator” program and then compiled the sequences into “digital filmstrips”. I then saved each filmstrip as an “animated GIF”.
Animated GIF - A winter snowstorm clears before sunset, Spanish Valley, Moab, Utah (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
In an age where we can stream high-definition video to mobile devices, the animated GIF image seems quaint. CompuServe first developed the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) in the 1980s. With the slow-speed modems and dial-up networks then available, creating motion online was quite a feat. In order to show animated images, CompuServe applied “lossless compression” to each image. Restricted to 256 colors, not the millions of colors available in a high-definition video, animated GIFs offer impressions, not details. Even so, an animated GIF that shows spectacular scenery and at least some action can have a charm all its own.
Animated GIF - Nightfall in winter, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
Illustrating this article are three animated GIFs. The first shows snowplows working on the tarmac at Canyonlands Field. The second shows the Spanish Valley and Sierra La Sal Range, ending with an alpenglow after sunset. The third shows nightfall at the airport on January 8, 2011. I hope you enjoy the action and the scenery as much I enjoyed compiling these animated slideshows.
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By James McGillis at 04:54 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link

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