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Hammerstein 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race

Hammerstein 24


About three weeks ago my buddy Ryan asked me if I’d race the 2-man 8 hour Hammerstein mountain bike race with him on what I thought was the 29th of June.  Thinking that I only had about a month or so to get in shape, I was hesitant, but committed (the name along was intriguing enough to get me to go) .  The Topanga Creek Bicycles crew was heading up to Monterrey en force, and I figured it was about time I gave racing on the dirt a shot.  When I found out about two weeks ago that the race was on the NINTH of June and not the Twenty-ninth, this changed my approach a bit.  And by changed I mean dissolved.  Either way, I figured I’d be able to bang out a few laps and hopefully not lose too much time while Ryan, who is super fit right now, could keep us in the race.

The rigs


I returned from a work trip to New York on Thursday, got some much needed, albeit jet-lagged, sleep that night, and by Friday afternoon was back in travel mode en route up the coast to Laguna Seca in Monterey.  Despite taking the California incline to PCH to the 27 to the 101 all the way up to the Salinas highway and into Monterrey, it still took us a good 8 and a half hours of fighting through Friday traffic on the road.  Although we found out from some other TCB crew members who had taken the 10 to the 405 to the 5, then were planning on taking the 46 to the 101 to the Salinas highway that there was a fire on the 5 and they had to back track back down the 405 to the 101 and so on.  We lucked out.

By the time we arrived at the camp site (after buying me a pillow – which I forgot – at Rite-Aid) it was almost 11 at night.  Much of the crew had gone to sleep in preparation for the big day tomorrow, but a few were still eating s’mores and swapping stories.  The whiskey on the table was instant confirmation that like often touted, mountain bikers are a different breed than road racers.  With the help of those already settled in, we set up camp in the dark and turned in.

Whiskey and cigars



The one thing all cyclists have in common – road, dirt, or otherwise – is coffee.  I do not leave my house for a weekend getaway without my French press and some freshly ground Groundwork coffee.  The black joe went quickly the following morning as racers rolled out of their beds and wandered over to the camp fire.  Shortly after, I heard bacon (yes, bacon is one of the few wonder foods that satisfies ALL senses).  Eric from the shop was cooking up an omelet storm, oatmeal was a plenty, and hungry bellies were being filled.  The mood was mellow – no one acted as if they were hours away from toeing a start line, bombing down rutted down-hills and turning pedals through soft sand and across wind-blown ridge lines from 8 to 24 hours.

The camp




The mellow mood carried on into the pre-race rider meeting as the race organizer pointed out the kegs of beer filled with a custom brew donated by Santa Cruz Ale Works for the race.  Riders and support crews cheered, but had a sense about them that this was to be expected – of course there were kegs of beer to be drunk.  The racing itself was some of the most fun I’ve done on a bike.  The course was fast and flowy with lots of wooded single-track, and was relatively light on the technical sections.  All told there were about 25 TCB members that would be racing in various events – everything from 8 hours solo to 24 hour 4-man teams; co-ed and otherwise.  As Ryan took our first lap, I headed back to camp to fill my bottles and get my equipment sorted out.

Ryan completed the first lap with the leaders, and soon I was out on course.  I lost some time, and he made it up, and we kept this pattern for quite some time until we couldn’t pull it back any more.  But we kept fighting and ultimately held on to second place in the 2-man 8 hour division.  Good enough to earn us a few bottles of commemorative beer.  All things considered, a solid result.  Meanwhile, our good buddy Cyril was fighting it out in mad-man style in the 24 hour solo category (with his container of ORIGINAL Prolong).  The guy is nuts.  TCB members were scattered all across the podium.

Casey and Ryan on the podium

Beer trophy

The TCB crew

After the race it was all celebration as bottles were popped (so gangster) and plates were filled (less gangster).  We ate and drank and ate and drank and ate and drank – then slept – at least some of us.  The atmosphere at endurance mountain bike races is unmatched.  As far as I’m concerned, it is the ultimate camping experience (I get bored just camping sometimes, and need something like a race to keep me occupied).  It’s a family event where support for loved ones is evident.  It is the intersection of friends hanging out, competitors battling, food and drink being shared and enjoyed, and people appreciating simple things like good conversation and sleeping on the ground (and hot showers).  I am absolutely looking forward to being part of the TCB crew at the next event this fall, and fully intend on getting in shape enough to really throw down.


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