Enduring a day-long mountain bike race
By Eric Ladd EBS Publisher
HURRICANE, Utah – It’s 8 p.m. on a star-filled, moonless night with a strong wind blowing from the west. In the distance, headlamps of mountain bikers are littered among sagebrush and rocky outcroppings as they focus on completing a 13-mile loop. They are already 10 hours into a 25-hour cycling race.
Some bikers are wearing tight spandex with shaved legs, while others instead opt for costumes. All are tasked with completing the longest timed bike race in the region. This is the seventh annual 25 Hours in Frog Hollow race staged outside of Hurricane, Utah.
The format is simple: Ride as many 13-mile laps, as fast as you can, in 25 hours.
Some riders attack the Frog Hollow race solo, and others team up in two-, four- or five-person squads with some solo riders completing as many as 25 laps (325 miles) in years past. More than 250 racers competed in the Nov. 7-8 race, a well-orchestrated, fun and competitive event that at times may be confused for a Burning Man-type festival with costumes, RVs and Sprinter vans gathered on Bureau of Land Management property.
The area around St. George and Hurricane is quickly becoming known as a Moab alternative for mountain biking – sitting in the shadow of Zion National Park, one understands why this is an ideal setting for a fall bike race that mixes athletes from elite professionals to office desk amateurs.
As 3 a.m. rolls around the headlamps have slowed to a trickle across the hillside, and lap times slow by a few minutes as the temperature drops to near freezing. Bonfires litter campsites while friendly volunteers man burn barrels and cheer on the late-night riders.
Teams discuss strategic plans during rotations and try to keep the
legs warm between laps. Seasoned endurance mountain bikers give advice, including why these types of races are won and lost between midnight and 5 a.m. The 2015 edition proves no exception, as the leaderboards in many categories change during the middle of the night.
As the sun rises, the Lions Club International food tent is full of tired riders and fans as they consume coffee and calories, and celebrate the final hours of the race. The Frog Hollow race finishes at 11 a.m. sharp, 25 hours after the Le Mans-style start, with records broken and exhausted, dust-covered racers. A celebration ensues with pizza and awards under the hot desert sun.
Many impressive stats come out of the Frog Hollow race but the results from the solo race winners are worth particular mention. Especially impressive were the top men and women finishers: Sam Sweetser, completing 22 laps (286 miles) and Jeannie Anders who completed 14 laps (182 miles). And competing on single speed bikes, the winners were Jason Whitehead (21 laps) and Sarah Mah-Withers (11 laps).
A handful of riders from Montana competed in the race including John Flach and Chris Wilson from Big Sky, who competed in the Male Solo division.
To compete in and survive an endurance mountain-bike race you need to train and bring along a support team, but also rely on some quality products to help in the effort. During the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow race, Team Hiball – a mix of southwest Montana and Colorado riders – used the following products to help the team to its first-place finish in the five-person, co-ed division.
No racer is complete without a custom-made jersey, and Verge Sport makes some of the best. Verge jerseys can be customized with logos, design and coloring to suit a casual rider or someone needing a skintight race suit. vergesport.com
Keeping the correct calorie intake aboard during any race is critical, and Hammer Nutrition is an industry leader with an array of products to supplement elite athletes. During the race the Hi-ball team used Hammer Heed and gel packages to keep fueled up, while post-race they consumed Hammer Recoverite and Endurolytes to stay nourished and prevent cramping. hammernutrition.com
A secret weapon for any athlete, especially for those needing to recover midway through a relay race, Elevated Legs are the next best thing to traveling with your own personal massage therapist. Elevated Legs is an advanced athletic recovery system that uses pneumatic compression to increase blood flow and reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. elevatedlegs.com
Hiball energy drinks
Organic and loaded with all the goodies you need for a boost of caffeine during any hour of the day, Hiball provides all-natural energy. The team found this energy drink to be a go-to product during the 25-hour race, and on the subsequent drive home. Team Hiball preferred the Ginger Ale and Grapefruit flavors during the evening hours, and switched to the coffee-flavored drinks as
the sun began to rise. hiballer.com