Left to right: Zephanie Blasi, Heather Holmes, me, Amanda Riley Results
The Titus factory caught on fire, our photo shoot in Phoenix was almost rained out, and it rained and snowed at the venue with 25 degree lows, but we still had a great time. The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo event is tons of fun and it was great hanging out with the Kenda Titus Hayes team, staff and sponsors. We ran brand new Titus bikes, most of which were put together right before the race. The only hardtail I have ever ridden is my singlespeed, but it didn’t take long to get used to the Titus Fireline. Since we didn’t have much time (and I didn’t want to get my brand new bike dirty), my first ride was my first race lap. Todd kept telling me to be careful so I started slowly but picked up the pace pretty quickly; it is a great bike to race.
Running tubes in cactus country isn’t the best idea. We had flats like crazy, but most were slow leaks so we rode in on them. Some leaks weren’t slow, but it was cold so we rode in on them anyway. I did not have to change a flat on the course! Actually, I didn’t have to change a flat period; we had the best mechanical support possible in Chris Davidson. No matter what we did breaking in the bikes or running over cactus, they were good to go for the next lap. Chris asked us to stay on the trail and out of the cactus, but that is a lot easier said than done (especially when you have to pass 40+ other racers per lap).
For the first two laps my fork would lose air, making it hard to control. Then the Hayes mechanic figured out that a nut was loose on the fork and that fixed the problem. Our tire selection was spot-on, Kenda Karma (front) and Kenda Small Block Eight (rear); they hooked up really well. I know I was faster in the corners than on any other tire I have ridden. I never washed out the front tire, even on my crazy night lap. The Hayes Stroker Carbon disk brakes were also great; basically they worked perfectly, the lever was positioned exactly right and I never thought about them during the race. The reach adjustment on the lever is really a nice feature.
Lap after lap at race pace is a great way to shake down a new bike, I made adjustments for the first few laps, and it was dialed in for the last few laps. After coming in from the first lap with really sore arms, Chris pulled my brakes, shifters and grips in so that ~1.5" of bar was sticking out either side; magically my arms felt great. I now have a 3 inch stack of spacers on my steerer tube from lowering the bar. I still need to practice getting into Crank Brothers pedals and I need to take the bike in for a Wobble-Naught fit. It will be interesting to see how close I got it just by feel. I wasn’t getting all the way over top of the pedals like I do with the 55nine fit by Eddie O; I need to get back to that sweet setup.
The Really Bad Lap (my 2nd lap): I ran from the exchange tent to my bike and when I turned on my brand new Dionette light the mount snapped in half (too cold?). I had a tiny light (Dionette 200L) that was almost worthless by itself. I thought about stopping and taping the 600L to the bar, but didn’t. It made for an interesting, crazy, scary lap where I was in the cactus more than I was on the trail. With ~30 minutes left in the lap, I got a huge cactus spine in my shin. It hit a nerve or something, if I pointed my toe down even a tiny bit I got a shooting pain down the front of my leg to my toes. If I had been walking I would have fallen down it was such an overwhelming pain. When I finished my lap Todd pulled it out, it was down to the bone. I am not sure why I didn’t stop and pull it out… The adrenaline from everything going wrong seemed to help because my lap time was not bad.
On my second night lap I had working lights, but I did go down hard. A guy would not let me around and I finally forced a pass, but it didn’t work. I cracked my already hurt knee (car/bike incident) and had to spin for a minute. I caught him again, asked nicely for a pass, his response was to slam on his brakes, coming to a complete stop in the middle of the trail. Somehow I avoided smashing into him and got by as he yelled at me to not follow so closely. Of all the people I passed he was the only rude one. I feel sorry for the solo guys and gals who had to let us by all night long, they were very patient.
The best advice was from Dejay Birtch, who told me to "find the flow" and "let the bike ride itself". I did that for the third night lap and it was fun, but not as fast, so I ditched that plan for the final race pace lap. My teammates had to pack their bikes for the flight home so I tried a final fast lap (no issues, my fastest lap), then a super slow spin lap for a total of 6 laps. I rode the Fireline the entire time and felt fast. The hardtail was great for this course but I can’t wait to get the new Carbon Racer-X for more technical rides.