Picture perfect conditions this weekend drew 127 teams to the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center for the 18th annual 24 Hours of Great Glen bike race. The 345 racers who participated pedaled a total of 16,000+ miles on the 9.1 mile course, which included a new 120 foot floating pontoon bridge. The festivities also included a 12 hour version of the race and a “24 Minutes of Great Glen”, which is a perennial favorite for the many kids and families in attendance.
For this one weekend each year the base area of the Mt. Washington Auto Road and Great Glen Trails are transformed into a combination of a major bicycling event course on one side and a family campground all decorated in this year’s beach party theme on the other–complete with the Fwhatza Marimba Band in the festival tent on Saturday night.
While the beach party theme, music and food all weekend long created a festive atmosphere, at the heart of this event is an endurance race that draws a diverse cross-section of athletes and teams. Some are here just to finish, but many are serious competitors here to win their division. It takes real commitment and fortitude to keep going throughout the day and night, always keeping a rider on course despite fatigue or equipment issues. The resolute expressions and tired smiles say it all as rider after rider come in out of the darkness, swipe their timing card and head back out for another lap. Just fielding a team and finishing the 24 hour race is a genuine accomplishment. Placing at or near the top means you are a serious athlete who has earned his or her medal.
The overall team winners for this year were the Cape Cod Mountain Bike Racing Team from Brewster, Massachusetts, which included Lucas Provost, Seamus Woods, James Gloo and Jack Perry. Best solo Female was Danielle White from Providence, Rhode Island and the top Solo Male was Jay Dietershagen from Ithica, NY.
“After last year’s washout conditions, we felt we had unfinished business at this event,” explained David Bettridge, 47, of Providence, Rhode Island. “This year’s new course and features, especially the floating bridge, were really great! The bridge was just tippy enough to make it fun, but not break your pedaling rhythm,” he said.
Even while these athletes are pushing themselves to win their class, set a personal best or just finish one more lap it’s clear they are all having fun-as evidenced by some of the team names, like: “Campaholics With a Biking Problem” or “Shift Happens” and “Single Track Minds”. One member of the “Duckin’ The Diapers” Team who was returning after competing (while pregnant) last year, didn’t duck them for long, as she returned with her new baby to ride this year.
“This is my fifth year participating in this race and considering I carried my son Lincoln inside me last year that has to make him the youngest racer to complete the course,” said a laughing Kristina Fjeld Sparks of Lyme, NH.
The defending overall champions (all North Country residents) from last year “One Speed Wonders” returned this year and finished second overall. Last year’s rain and washout conditions may have favored the team, which tackled the course on one speed bikes. “We absolutely love this event!” exclaimed Ben Mirkin, 36, of Bethlehem, NH, captain of the One Speed Wonders. “We’ve been doing this for seven years and last season not only won the overall race but the costume competition, too! I think last year’s weather was so bad that a lot of people struggled…but we’re just four guys from northern New Hampshire so were used to lots of mud and cold, wet conditions! In fact, how about a pirate or Viking theme for next year?” Mirkin enthusiastically said.
Depending on the individual team and racer’s level of competitive spirit and strategy, the course can be taken at a slow, measured pace or as an all out sprint. Considering that it’s a 24 hour race, it is surprising to see how many of the competitors seem to maintain a blistering pace throughout. Kyle Clark, of the “Clark Brothers” racing team had just returned from a lap, covered with mud and happily recounting his first fall to his teammates. “What a great course-if you want it, it can be really fast and I love the new features…and even when I went down it was easy!” he said with a chuckle.
While there were no serious injuries during the event, there are always a few scraped knees, which are proudly worn as a “red badge of courage”. Professional mountain bike racer Andrew Slowey, 25, of Martinsville, NJ, noted that it’s all part of competition. “I’m used to an all out 3 minute downhill sprint and there are some pretty spectacular wipeouts involved…this is nothing” he said, indicating his scraped knee. “I was going into a switchback turn around the 5 mile point, maybe a bit fast, hit some loose rocks and washed the front tire out. This is my first endurance race-I’m just used to going all out,” he said.
Amongst the activities in and around the expo tent were several equipment suppliers to the 24 hour endurance bike racing world. One of them was Tommy Bryant of Nite Rider (a bike lighting system manufacturer based in San Diego, CA) who was at the 24 Hours of Great Glen for the 6th time. “There are about sixty of these 24 hour races each year throughout the Unites States and I attend 42 of them. I definitely rate this event in the top 5. Nobody else does for families what is done here and with all the amenities and activities it really is more of a festival than just a bike race,” Bryant noted.
This was, of course, always the direction event organizers have been going over the years, as more and more families enjoy outdoor activities together. Besides the popular “24 Minutes of Great Glen” kid’s course, there were games and activities throughout the weekend, including free kayaking and stand up paddling on the Great Glen Pond and a movie night on Saturday.
“The 24 Hours of Great Glen has evolved over the years into a great family event and it’s really something to see some of the racers who were here 18 years ago still on the course with their own kids! Of course, some of them have dropped down into the 12 hour race,” said a smiling Howie Wemyss, GM of the Auto Road and Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. “Still, a lot of ground is covered here in a very short time…Given that 16,000+ miles were pedaled during the 24 hour event, that would equal 1,992 trips up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, or nearly 2/3 of the way around the globe!”
More than $7,000 in cash and prizes were awarded in a variety of categories, including: Performance awards, Camp Site Award, Team Costume Award, Fastest Lap Awards and more. A bike raffle and Cruiser Class raffle was also held.
The 24 Hours of Great Glen was presented by Eastern Mountain Sports. Other sponsors include Dasani, Nite Rider Lighting, Coca-Cola, The Bike Shop, Hammer Nutrition, Powerade, VDO, SRAM, Felt, Red Jersey Cyclery, Light and Motion and Exposure Lights.
For more complete results, photos or other information about the event call 603-466-2333