Western’s Mountain Sports Program provides numerous opportunities for its athletes to travel and compete in unique events around the United States in a wide range of disciplines. This past weekend the Mountain Bike Team made the lengthy 13hr trek to sunny Tuscon, Arizona for the 24hrs in the Old Pueblo Mountain Bike Race. This unique race is the largest 24hr race in the nation, the race hosts nearly 500 different teams streaming in from all across US competing in different categories. It’s a place where the energy is high, the weather is warm, and the biking community comes together to support each other and have a good time.
The first day of racing started out with a quarter of a mile run, known as a le mans start, racers would then arrive at their bikes and start down the 16 mile loop. With Western’s team consisting of 5 riders, Benjamin Jackson, Kirsten Paulson, Angela Vitulli, Zoe Smith, and Sean O’Donnell, each rider had their chance to make a loop to count towards their overall lap count.
As the sun set, slowly bringing on the first full night of racing, athletes prepared themselves mentally and physically for the long evening of taking turns pedaling down the dark desert trail. Competitors wore a set of two lights to help guide them through the night, and hopefully around the cacti that heavily vegetated the sides of the trail.
The team awoke the next morning, with each athlete having 3 tiring laps under their belts, and going into their final 4th lap before the end of the race.
Coming into the final hour of the event, Zoe Smith brought it home for the team being the last competitor for Western to cross the finish line. The team was tired, sore, and covered in desert dust, but filled with a sense of accomplishment for taking on the grueling race. The Western team finished in an outstanding 5th place in the 5-Person combined age group with a total of 19 completed laps. The males on the team had an average lap completion of 1hr and 1o minutes and the women with 1hr and 20 minutes. With an improvement on times and places from last years results, the team headed home with their heads held high ready to come back even stronger next year for this unique and challenging event.
Story and Photos by Preston Hoffman