I found myself sprinting out of work Friday at noon on a mission to get to Gallup,NM. Granted it’s not the first place somebody would point their car for a mountain bike road trip, but most people haven’t ridden the trails there. This weekend was even better because I had the pleasure of being registered for the Dawn til Dusk 12 hour race. I have heard nothing but good things about this race for a long time, and I was psyched this year to finally have a chance to roll it.
The forecast wasn’t promising, but this was mountain biking and riding in a little “winter mix” never really hurt anybody. Making our way across the I-40 dodging 18 wheelers in the crazy crosswind we finally pulled into Gallup around 8pm. Or was it 9? I totally forgot there was an hour time change when we crossed the border. That means the painful 7am start time is going to be here even sooner than expected. We drove straight to packet pick up and one thing was evident from the second I stepped in the door. The organizers and volunteers for this race are top notch and just plain happy to be there. It was quite refreshing after sitting in the car for five hours, they made us all feel very welcome in their town. They pointed us in the direction of a pub for dinner that had a rockin’ Mariachi band playing in the corner. The beer was cold, the food was good, and there were a bunch of other racers there to bullshit with. Gallup was treating me pretty good so far.
5:30 came pretty quick the next morning. But right before the start we were greeted with a crisp, cold sunrise.
There was no Le Mans start at this race, which was kind of nice for a change. Instead we were sent down a series of dirt roads for a while to stretch out the field before hitting the singletrack playground of the real course. This was quite effective. The fast guys mashed the big rings up front and broke up into groups (from what I hear). While anybody that was turning a mortal gear on a singlspeed, like myself, got spit off the back and cruised along at conversation pace. Somebody in the group even made the comment that they wished they still had their cup of coffee.
After the modified first lap, the course becomes 100% singltrack and it is an absolute dream to ride. Bermed S-truns winding their way through the tall grass and juniper of the high desert mixed with a couple tricky little downhills and even some slickrock. As the skies opened up and it started to rain and even snow a little, the course got even faster. What was once sand is now almost like pavement packed down by hundreds of tires.
After a few laps, it was pretty clear that I just didn’t have the legs to give it a good effort. So I decided to pull the plug on my own race around noon, after about 5 hours of racing. I turned my attention towards supporting Lar in her solo effort, who decided to HTFU and keep riding just as the snow started to accumulate. People were dropping like flies out of the race as the weather continued to deteriorate. Some were even opting just to pack up and go home. Fortunately for me, while my travel companion was riding her way to second place, there was free beer in the exchange tent from La Cumbre Brewing Co. These guys donated 8 kegs of their fine brews to the race and through a steady rotation of their stout and their IPA, I was sufficiently warm for the rest of the day.
At around 3pm the organizers decided to call the race due to weather, everybody needed to be off the course by 5. The snow was flying sideways and the temperature was dropping fast. Pretty soon the course was a engulfed in a full on winter storm.
The picture really doesn’t do it justice, but it turned out to be the right call since it kept snowing well into the night. I hunkered down in a hotel for the evening and woke up to bluebird skies and a 5 hour drive ahead of me. The original plan was to go home via Sedona or Prescott for a little recovery ride but it seemed they were either too muddy or under too much snow. So we took a little detour to go check out Grand Falls. The scenery was nothing short of epic and a little hike surrounded by such natural beauty was just what I needed to soothe my worn out and aching legs.
This race is grass roots mountain biking to the core. It has a reasonable entry fee, no USA Cyling nonsense, free beer, and a course that is all singletrack. It is refreshing to see events like these growing year after year. You have to support any race promoter that emails the field with last minute directions and then signs it with her personal cell number just in case you have any questions. That kind of dedication is the real deal, and I know it was appreciated by every person in attendance. I will be checking out the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest and any other Zia Rides events I can attend in the future. My hat is off to Lindsay and the whole Dawn ’til Dusk Crew for putting on a fantastic event despite some very challenging weather conditions. Until next week, keep it dirty…by