Rockwell Relay 2013
Moab, Utah: I write about the place often as it has been seated deep in my heart as a second home in many ways: the mountain biking, the Desert Solitaire (some of you may know what I'm talking about here), and the history. In the Colorado Plateau there are few towns and even fewer that thrive. Like my home town of Park City, the economy is basically industrial tourism. That was Ed Abbey's one fear. As he said, there is no stopping progress. And as far as we know, he is still out there wandering around cursing us for being so blind. What is it though? At least now it is responsible and sustainable, something that I don't believe he'd been able to see. There was a reason Ed chose to live here. It is a place surrounded by red rock, blue sand, and a solitary yet powerful river running through it. To the east lay the La Sals, a looming mountain range, the type that stories and legends envelop. To the west lay the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. To the south there are too many beautiful places to count, where hoodoos and spires and arches and bridges and castles of stone dignify the handywork of the gods. To the north, well, that is the land to the north.
Standing at the head waters of the rushing river that becomes a stream is more an analogy of the Colorado River than it is of a bike race, but this race is exactly that. There was a mass of teams, roughly ninety from what I understood. Looking into the masses I saw the cookie eaters and the would be Levi Leipheimers... of course without the drugs. Some were licensed racers, people who were obsessed with the competition of the bike. And then there was me, one of the few, the proud, the mechanic. I was in a singular position, well nearly, to tell what bikes fit the bill of a race like this. I wasn't concerned so much about the riders and racers as I was about their bikes.
Bikes mean a lot to people and I'm not sure if they could tell how important they were respectively; whether by true passion or to prove something, these bikes represented a large part of their lives. These machines were nicely equipped with fine moving parts, ceramic bearings and paper thin carbon handlebars... So many bikes that were so similar, who could know which bike would take the fastest time. Who could say that the winning bike would even be as nice as the rest.
Enter stage right: a small group of cat 1 racers, lean, fit, and fast. Their sponsors had paid for their rigs.. There were silent wagers being placed in the soul of every competitive mind present. Wagers based on the bike their adversary was to ride. Many bikes of many makes floating on elaborate equipment of today's technology. The look of intimidation was in the eyes of the fearful and burned as the midnight oil runs thin, hope fading that their superior machine would not take them as far as his competitors rig would. With broken hearts and burning eyes they set themselves at the starting line.. you see it every time.
But what am I saying, every race is like this, right? No, not all races are created equal. Arriving at the startline of a "relay" is very confusing. Generally a race starts with racers. Then people like me who show up, who have no business "racing". We fill the pack, make the event look really good but we know deep down we don't stand a chance.
The breakdown from this point was obvious. The Draughts would look incredible strong, as they are, and catch many an eye; however, the Arabian would leave them in the dust. All that mattered here could be determined by the strength of the rider, not by the bike. While my bike could podium nearly by itself, I could not. I was out of shape, having conditioned poorly for the event and having had way too much fun all winter skiing.. understanding this is all crucial in the starting line image.
A countdown had begun, a rhythm of the hearts set in motion, and with time standing still racers clipped into one pedal waiting for the moment when the hammer would strike. Our number one rider was in there, fit and lean, odds of keeping up with the lead group high, and hopeful for a great climb ahead. Steely eyes behind professional optics gazed across the field ahead, streaked with fresh rays of sun beaming across the tops of the La Sal mountains 30 miles to the east.... "2. 1. 0!"
The torrent of fresh riders was released eager to head down stream in one of the few road races to ever start in Moab, Utah, the very heart of mountain biking. And so, the race was set in motion in the most beautiful time and place on earth.