It all started with a birthday present-a plane ticket to Italy. Dejay's team (“Team NASA”) was invited to race in the 24 Hours of Finale, and then spend a week on the coast of the mediteranean, basking in red wine, gelato and sun. What better way to spend 10 days "off the bike," than joining the men in their adventure, as a supporter, of course. I brought along my shoes, pedals, helmet, and bike clothes, just in case I got the chance to ride a bit in the area....
We arrived in good form on Wednesday, and were greeted with a bag full of wine and foccacia by our driver, Silvio. It was a good thing for the wine, as the drive to our hotel was, um, how do you say… mildly harrowing. Silvio handled the crazy euro roads and tight traffic with finesse, however. He is obviously used to driving in such conditions.
Thursday surprised us with a chance to ride the race course on demo bikes…Niner EMD’s, with gears and, uh, suspension. It was pretty funny to hear Dejay, Fuzzy John Mylne, Mark Challoner and myself shifting gears when the pitch got steep. I could picture the bike gods laughing at this shifty group of single speeders.
Even on geared bikes the course was pretty awesome. Fast singletrack descents, short and punchy climbs, and gravel road connectors with astonishing views of castles, cliffs, and the multihued blue ocean beneath. I was able to climb everything on the short ~4.5 mile course pretty reasonably, and then rip down the singletrack with a huge grin on my face. I love 29 inch wheels.
Thursday night Chris and Steve from Niner bikes rolled in. We missed their entrance as Team NASA was busy having a team meeting in front of the wide screen. Priorities, priorities.
Bright and early, however, we were up, cappacinoed, croissanted, and heading up to the venue to build bikes, set up camp, and jaw with the Italians. It was around this time that I decided maybe I would race the 24 hour of finale Solo. An extra bike frame had showed up with Chris and Steve, and the opportunity to ride was wide open…..hmmmm, decisions, decisions. I was getting ready to flip a coin over the choice when one of the guys mentioned to the race announcer that I might be doing the race single speed and Solo. He looked at me and I shrugged. Screw it, I thought. Who needs a coin?
The next few hours were hectic as Dejay, Fuzzy, Mark, Cameron and myself built bikes and set up pit for a 24 hour race. Finally at 9 pm we insisted on getting some dinner and heading to bed. We knew the next day was going to take a lot of energy.
Saturday- the race started at 2:00 in the afternoon. As is Euro standard, it was postponed an hour from 1:00. I didn’t mind the extra time. Somewhere around this time I found out that I was going to be riding the very first ever One Nine prototype frame. I won’t lie, it was a fast little bike and knowing I would literally be riding history was pretty sweet ☺
We went off with a lemans start par normal and hit the track hot. It was one hell of a race, both for myself and Team NASA. The boys took first in their class, and third overall, pretty darn impressive for a four-person single speed team, although they somehow ended up registered as a twelve-person team. And actually, they may have come in second……..or first…..or tenth…..as you will see in a second…..
As for my race- it was pretty interesting. My main competition, Sylvia Muller, won the 24h of finale last year, with 31 laps. I decided to go out at a decent tempo and try to wear her out early. When I came around after my second lap and Niner Chris was there with a water handoff, I knew it could be possible. I was planning on self-supporting, but all of a sudden a pit crew had developed to help out. These guys were great- Chris and Steve from Niner, Ed and his SS crew, Ausilia-another SS Solo female. I kicked myself into gear and decided to get some work done. It turned out not to be the greatest idea and she and I were within a lap of one another throughout the night and into the morning. I think I pushed the pace a bit from last year, as we both ended up doing 37 (or 38?) laps and my race lasted 24 hours and 29 minutes. Around my 26th lap, I stopped on course to avoid hitting a fallen soldier in front of me. Once I started rolling again, I fell in exactly the same spot he had, knocking my head hard enough to see lights and twisting a couple of spots on my bike. I rolled through the pit and took a break, letting my crew adjust my saddle and true my wheel. Plus I ate a bunch of chicken. That helped.
Every time I asked where I was in relation to the other girl, I got a different story. “One and a half laps up,” “eight minutes behind in second place,” or “you’re a whole a lap behind her.” I started wondering if my pit crew was lying to me to try to manipulate my motivation. Or maybe they were getting wrong info?? Either way, it was screwing with my head and I finally let it go. It’s a good thing I did, because it turns out the transponder chips were malfunctioning anyway. So I ended up in second. Or first. Or, who knows? I may have been riding in the men’s four-person all by myself! ☺ In the end I don’t care- it was a fabulous race, with wonderful organizers, amazing people, and the best setting and food you could ever ask for. We Americans could learn a couple of things about how to organize an event…
Oh yeah, the next day we (Team NASA and I) went out to do a photo shoot. We had to climb up a steep, loose gravel road and we laughed hysterically the whole time. Our legs were like jello and I was barely able to climb the hotel stairs let alone this crazy hill.
Major props out to the single speediest impromptu pit crew ever- Ed was The Master. The SS cheering squad and Ausilia always put a grin on my face. Super special thanks to Mauro, Lorenzo, Silvio, Enrico and Team NASA for making it all possible.