Natalia, Rachel, Melanie and Ashleigh went out without much of a plan for 18 Hours of Fruita and came away not only with first place, but 3 additional laps on the closest team! Natalia sums up her FIRST mountain bike race below.
About three months ago my boyfriend told me that he signed up for the 18 hours of Fruita race. For those who are not familiar it is an 18-hour mountain bike race. You can race it solo or in a team. He signed up to do it solo and I thought he was crazy but at the same time I thought it sounded fun. My first love is road cycling but I got a mountain bike last fall and have been on it only a hand-full of times. It quickly grew on me so I decided to recruit a team of four. Rachel Scott and Melanie Wong agreed to join me but we couldn’t find a fourth person. Luckily, Melanie’s friend Ashleigh from Avon, CO wanted to race, so we recruited her to join the Naked team. This was going to be my first mountain bike race and first time riding at night. After I registered the team I realized what I got myself into. I was terrified. All ladies on my team are experienced mountain bikers and I was the most afraid of letting my team down. After a few months of anticipation and not knowing what to expect, the day finally came. On Friday morning, my boyfriend and I packed up the car and headed up to Fruita. We arrived at the Highline Lake State Park in the afternoon. After setting up the camp, I met up with my teammates to discuss the strategy. We agreed to start with 2 laps each and since Melanie has done the race four times we decided she would go first. We had no idea who our competition was and our goal was to get through the night first and just have fun on our bikes.
At midnight I went to the start line to cheer on my boyfriend and his team, but I could not find Melanie. The night was warm and clear and watching the stars and the lights go around the lake helped calm down my nerves. I didn’t feel tired but I went back to the tent to get some rest. Around three o’clock in the morning Chad came back to the tent as his light went out. He didn’t have a backup light and it wouldn’t recharge fast enough so he decided to take a break until the sunlight. At 3:30 it was time for me to head out. Rachel came through the transition area and was kind enough to let me borrow her clear glasses. The course was very dusty and without the glasses I would be in tears and not able to see very well. As soon as I was on the course I was pleasantly surprised to see how powerful my light was. One mile into the race I started to pass other rides, which gave me a nice confidence boost. I thought to myself that I didn’t suck that much and could do this. After all, I paid to be here and I reminded myself to have fun with it. I completed my first lap in less than 40 minutes, 5 minutes under what I estimated. I started my second lap feeling strong and confident. I had less than one mile to go when my light ran out of battery. It didn’t give me any warning and all of the sudden I found myself in the dark. At that moment I was going downhill at a good speed. I slammed on my breaks and hoped nobody was behind me. It was around five in the morning and starting to get light enough just to see the sandy single track. After my eyes adjusted to the dark I got back on my bike and started following the trail very slowly. I knew there was a bridge ahead of me and a half a mile climb at the very end. Finally somebody passed me so I sped up and followed them to the end. After all this I only lost one minute, so I was pretty pleased, but most importantly I finished the lap safely.
When the night was behind us we checked the results and discovered that we were in first place, one lap ahead. The competition was on! We continued to ride as fast as we could and quickly were two laps ahead of our opponent. We safely completed 28 laps or 204.4 miles, in 17 hours, 51 minutes and 42 seconds. In second place were the Dirty Phat Chubbettes, four ladies from Carbondale, CO riding fat bikes who made for a fun competition.
The race was an amazing experience and exceeded my expectations. The weather cooperated and I couldn’t ask for better teammates. Also many thanks go to our amazing support. Our guys were there for moral support, they made sure we had food, water, and took care of our bikes.