Chapter #198: 24-Hrs. of Moab, The Final Sunset? - November 1, 2011

Laird Knight, race director and promoter of the 2011 24-HOM surveys the scene. Laird will be running the race in Moab again in 2012 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Final Sunset at the 24-Hours of Moab?  

As off-road mountain bike racing aficionados know, Laird Knight, the race director and promoter of the 24-Hours of Moab may have run his last Moab bicycle racing event. After seventeen successful years conducting the 24-HOM, Laird may be ready to absorb his 2011 losses and move on to other events. This year, team entries at the fabled race fell by almost one-third. Some blame the current economy. I believe otherwise.

In 2008, when I discovered the event, pro teams abounded at 24HOM. Talking to old-timers, I discovered that Honda Motors previewed their snazzy Element vehicle at the race in 2002. In 2008, the race was dubbed the BBC America crew taped the scene over a 24-Hour period - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Suzuki 24 Hours of Moab”, in honor of their sponsorship and participation in the success of the event. In 2009, Rebecca Tomaszewski and Dax Massey teamed up to win the Mixed Duo Championship, completing seventeen laps and placing 30th overall in the race. In 2010, Shimano, Specialized, Mavic and Baja Designs all had big booths at the venue. In 2011, Dale’s Pale Ale had their beer-bus parked in a prime location, but rumor has it that they paid no sponsorship fee for that honor.

Heading into 2011, sponsors and racers alike looked at their calendars and said, “Maybe next year… There is always a ‘next year’ at the 24-Hours of Moab”. Now, only months later, a 2012 race is unlikely. Searching my race photos from 2011, I found banners or booths sponsored by Baja Designs, Camelbak, Ellsworth, IMBA, Nutro, Serfas, Specialized and Yakima. Perhaps there were others, but suffice to say, in 2011 there was plenty of safety fencing empty of advertising logos and signs. Sponsors, both old and new can help offset costs at the event, but Laird has said that too few sponsors is not what would cause him to cancel the 2012 Moab event.

Michelle Reagan of Broke Bike Mountain team enters the scoring tent Saturday afternoon - Click for larger imageLaird recently said, "My take on the team drop is simply the shift in demographics that is taking place in the sport. Many former Moab racers are getting older, having families and not riding as much, let alone racing. The economy might be 10% or 15% but I think the demographic shift accounts for the vast majority of the no-shows."  While that may be true, the number of needed participants in the race is not all that large . An increase of 100-200 new riders in 2012 might tip the scales in favor of staging the event. If I am interested enough to attend the 24-HOM each October, how many others might be likewise interested? Whether they write about it, post a YouTube video or sponsor a race team (real or phantom), it would help. Sponsoring a youth team would create new energy now and boost future-year attendance.

On October 8-9, 2011, where were most of the stars of U.S. mountain bike racing? Finishing twenty-one grueling laps between them, Colin Osborn, John & Pete Gaston and Len Zanni of the Honey Stingers Bee Team were the only Men’s Pro Team in attendance. In 2010, there were nine Men’s Pro teams and three Eventual Men's Solo winner Andrew Jaques-Maynes reacts to being told he better go back out for a 16th lap at the 24-HOM. Click to see his reaction in a larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) in the race. Honey Stinger Bee Team, Rebecca, Dax and all you other hot pros; we need you now to express your interest in racing at the 2012 24_HOM.

Below is an animated GIF image of the 2011, and what may be the final sunset at the 24-Hours of Moab. Using our back-up webcam, MoabLive.com was able to capture thirty-five images at the venue. Our old Logitech “Cue ball Cam” could not color-balance the darkness of the scoring tent and the brightness of the setting sun. As the sequence begins, it is midafternoon on Saturday, October 8, 2011. On frame 27, the disk of the sun appears in the gap between the tent roof and the bluff to the southwest. Over the following five frames, the sun, which appears dark blue, shrinks until it sets Behind the Rocks.

Sundown at the 24-HOM 2011 - Is this the final sunset Behind the Rocks? (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Also visible in the five sun-slides is a bubble of new energy light, emanating from the sun’s corona. Behind the Rocks, new energy flowed to the racers on the course, the scorekeepers, fans and the sponsors in attendance. For a moment, all who were present at the race were of one family, and bathed in new energy. Through the lens of a failing webcam, we can see that new energy showering from the sun. Although rarely documented, plasma-flow events are “real”, meaning that charged particles may strike the Earth in any given location. Present that day, but undetected in the bright light was the 2011 Draconid Meteor Outburst. Less than two hours after the race start, our unknown neighbors in the western sky were lobbing as many as 680 meteorites per hour into the Earth’s atmosphere. If I am not mistaken, stardust fell widely Behind the Rocks near Moab that day and night.

Naysayers will tell you that the 24_HOM is an unmitigated disaster, carving up and destroying a fragile desert environment. Before racing started there in the 1990s, the history of the place included the overgrazing of cattle for almost a century. In addition, four-wheel drive or social roads carved up the high plateau. By connecting several existing desert tracks, Granny Gear Productions created a racecourse that has stood the test of time. Yes, somePerenial sponsor, Yakima showed off a rack system on their Subaru - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)racers ignore or misinterpret the course markers. Few racers, however, wish to exchange the singletrack for an uncertain fate in the sagebrush. Those who go off course, do so mainly at night, when fatigue or poor lighting take their toll.

Environmentalist that I am, I believe that Moab’s annual gathering of gearheads and their greater family is too precious to let fade into the western sunset. If you care about the 24-Hours of Moab in any positive way, now is the time to take action.  Rebecca & Dax, Honey Stinger Bee Team and all you other racers, your fans are waiting to hear that you will be in Moab on October 6-7, 2012. Only if you respond, will there be yet another sunset at the 24-Hours of Moab.

In 2008, it was the "Suzuki 24-Hours of Moab" - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)It is time for me to publish these thoughts and let this story go. The outcome notwithstanding, I will be there, Behind the Rocks at sundown on Saturday, October 6, 2012 beaming a live webcast of the sunset to the world. I only hope that the madcap mayhem of a 24-hour bike race will be going on all around me. Until then, I will see you at Moab24Live.com. Happy trails.

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By James McGillis at 03:59 PM | Personal Articles | Link

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