The Burn 24 Hour race has become a Memorial Day weekend tradition for Faster Mustache. Since 2009, we’ve fielded at least one 5-person team and finished 4th (2009), 7th (2010) and 4th (2011). This year the newly formed FM Charlotte branch would have their own team. Both teams had difficulty finalizing rosters due to the busy holiday weekend.
In the end Xtopher, Nico, Marc, Yoni and I ended up representing Atlanta, while Kurt, Tumas, Zac, Joey and Bryan flew the Charlotte flag. There was a lot of prerace trash talk, particularly from me. Nico and I had a decent showing at PMBAR earlier this month and finished just ahead of the Charlotte boys. We went into their state and (lightly) smacked them down. The Atlanta crew was looking to take a 2-0 lead in our heated interstate rivalry.
No one could have predicted how close the race would be.
We loaded up the Maxxis dually with everything 5 dudes need for a 24 hour race. Tents, tools, coolers, bikes, bags bursting with chamois; the truck swallowed everything with room to spare. We even took full advantage of the crew cab and had all 5 of us in one vehicle! We rolled out of Atlanta around 3 on Friday afternoon, heading to North Wilkesboro, NC.
Five hours later we arrived at the race venue and quickly set up our tents for the next day. Afterwards, we went to one of Wilkesboro’s many Japanese restaurants and had some mostly edible food, although no one was brave enough to try the sushi. In big baller fashion, we got a hotel room in an effort to get a good night’s sleep before the race.
When we got to the venue on Saturday morning, it was hot. And steamy. And it smelled like chicken shit. Wilkesboro is home to some Tyson processing plants and the wind was carrying the stench our way. Barf. Ah well, I bet it smells like $$$ to chicken farmers.
Number plates were tied to bikes, bottles filled, tires pumped, chamois creamed and legs warmed. The race began at noon with a ¼ mile run around the field before hitting the trail. Tumas would be running and tagging Zac for Charlotte; X was running and tagging Nico for Atlanta. Tumas went out like a rocket and was one of the first people back, Zac ended up first or second into the woods. X ran strong as well, getting Nico into the woods around 15th place.
Nico was able to close the gap and pass Zac on the first lap. The battle had begun.
Everyone on both teams was pulling solid lap times and we were flip-flopping 4th and 5th position throughout the race. Kurt and Joey had a couple of spills but still managed good times. Every lap was a crap shoot as to whether we’d see a Charlotte or Atlanta rider out of the woods first.
As darkness neared, we had pulled a few minutes ahead of the Charlotte team and had been holding for a couple of laps. On my second night lap, I had a major mechanical. I ripped my rear derailleur hanger in half! Luckily, I had just started my lap so I wasn’t too far from the finish. I had to shoulder my bike and run back to base camp where my back up bike was waiting. I yelled out to the team that I had a mechanical, grabbed my single speed and bolted back towards the trail. I managed to hit the woods just in front of Kurt, but it wasn’t long before he caught and then passed me.
I was over-geared and running rigid which made for a tough lap. I was able to ride everything, save for one little spot where another rider was going so slow in front of me that I had to get off and walk around him. The lap ended up taking 46 minutes, several minutes more than it should have taken. Bummed, I headed to the hotel to shower and rest before my next lap.
I was feeling pretty good for my upcoming lap. I was clean, fed and I had time to swap my 18 tooth rear cog for a 19 tooth I found in Nico’s tool kit. I hit the trail with a good pace and motored past tired riders. That was until about ¼ of the way in to the lap. Then everything went black. Literally. For real literally. My headlight had died and I had left my back up light on my other bike.
‘Fuck!’ I screamed. I started to panic; I was letting my team down! Not knowing what else to do, I started to jog on the pitch black trail. It wasn’t long before one of the riders I had passed earlier caught back up to me. I tried riding behind him, but it was awkward and sketchy.
Luckily, the guy I was following felt generous and leant me one of his two lights. I swapped his light over to my bike and pounded out the rest of the lap. 47 minutes. Fuck.
The rest of the race went on without incident for me and I managed to improve my lap times slightly. After my 7th lap, I was done.
The rest of the team rode well and kept us hot on the heels of the Charlotte crew. The gap would spread and then narrow depending on who was out for each team. We reconfigured our order to setup Nico to take the final lap. He was our last hope.
Charlotte had been sending their fastest riders out leading up to the final lap so there was a lot of pressure on Joey to deliver. They still had a gap on us; they just needed Joey to maintain it.
Nico had to pick up over 2 minutes in just 7 miles to pass Joey and put us into 4th place on the day. A tall order, but within his abilities.
Both teams waited anxiously at base camp on the edge of the race course. Who would come out of the woods first?
A rider came flying down the home stretch, spinning feverishly on a SS. The Charlotte boys jumped up; it was Joey. They ran off to follow Joey to the finish while the Atlanta team waited for Nico to appear.
30 seconds went by, then a minute. The race was over. Several more minutes went by. Something must have happened. Finally, Nico came tearing by asking if Joey was close. It was too late.
Nico had gotten a flat but was unable to bridge the gap after his repair.
Charlotte was victorious. They won the 2 cases of beer wager and more importantly, bragging rights. They also tied up the interstate rivalry at 1-1.
I had such a great time at the race with my team and the Charlotte boys although I was pretty bummed to be the weak link on my squad.
It’s hard to believe that after 24 hours of racing it came down to the final lap and a gap of just a couple minutes. This is one of my favorite races of the year and pretty much the only 24 hour race I ever want to do again.
I’ll be back next year. Wiser and (hopefully) faster.