The Jack Mormon Militia

A Note from Fatty: For a couple weeks, Fat Cyclist stories will be coming from you, the readers. If you’ve got something you’d like published in this blog, send it to [email protected]. Today’s story –an excellent writeup of last weekend’s 24 Hours of Moab race, comes to you courtesy of my good friend Kenny, owner of Kenny’s One Hour Photo.

My team (four men, all on rigid singlespeeds), the Jack Mormon Militia, went to Moab with one goal: to see how high we could place in the overall. Last year we placed seventh. We hoped that we could improve on this, with the right conditions.  

Run, Josh, Run
The race started out great.  We had the newbie, Josh Wolfe, do the Le Mans start. It was a good way to break him into the race. It’s a crowded run in a rutted, rocky field about 500 yards around a bush and back to your bike.   You end up starting your lap out of breath with a nose full of dust.

It turned out to be a good call, because Josh did well in the run and was on his bike fifth out the gate.  He passed everyone but Nat Ross on the climb and kept his lead until the slight downhill section, where he got passed back, because of the singlespeed, by a lot of the faster solo riders and duo pros. He turned out a 1:12 and we were in tenth place.  

Get My Name Right
Chuck, the second to go, went out with a mission to do the fastest lap for our team and set the tone for the rest of the race. 

The announcer was making a big deal about Nat Ross leading the race and the solo category.  He was talking about the fact that Nat likes to lead the race for the first couple of laps and then settle into a 24 hour pace.  I knew the first guy to come in would be in Gary Fisher gear, but it wasn’t going to be the factory guy. Here’s how events unrolled:

Announcer: “And here he is Nat Ross coming thru on his second lap in the lead.

Chucky: middle finger. 

Announcer:  “Wait, Wait….that’s not Nat Ross..that’s Cameron Chambers”  (who wasn’t even at this race). 

Chucky: another middle finger. 

Announcer: “Hold on a sec.  278…that’s the Jack Mormon Militia, Charles Gibson on a rigid single speed, tearing it up with a 1:10 lap time.  That, my friends, is a superior athlete!”   

Not Bad for a First Try (Ha)
Kevin Day from Ogden was the third to go out.  He rode a 1:15.  He later admitted to me that this was his first ride on a rigid single speed bike. His chain fell off 5 times, because he was riding with a cog that he took off of an old cassette.  (Those of us who ride singles know that doesn’t work.)

What was amazing to me was that this was his first ride on a single speed bike, his chain fell off 5 times and he still did a 1:15 lap.  He got passed by one kid from a junior team from Boulder, sponsored by their channel Four news.  This team was amazing. They were kids, 16-18, and super fast. 

Kenny the Boat Anchor
Being the slowest guy on my team (Editor’s note: ??!??!), I elected to go last.  Secretly, I had done the math, and if all went well that would give me 3 day laps and 2 night laps.  In my old age, my night vision isn’t what it used to be. 

I felt great on my first lap.  The course was fast, not too sandy and I came into the tent in first place with a couple of minutes to spare. I did a 1:12. 

At this point the announcer was throwing out all sorts of crap. I think I heard him say that my 1:12 lap on a single was the equivalent of a 50 minute lap on a geared bike. I wish.   

All Hell Breaks Loose
Josh had another 1:12 lap and all of a sudden we had a gap of about 7 minutes on the channel four team, in second. 

That’s when all hell broke loose. 

It started to rain.  Then, it started to pour. Then, it started to flood.  I’ve heard of the desert flash floods, but I’ve never witnessed one first hand.  There was seriously 2 feet of water on the dirt road in front of our tents.  Chucky was out on his lap, the first night lap, when all this started. He said he saw a guy ride into a puddle and then just disappear into a giant rut. 

At an hour thirty, Chuck rode into the transition area, holding his light in one hand, because the bracket had broke off.  By the time he made it up to the road in front of our tents, the two foot river had subsided to only a foot.  

Kevin did another 1:30 lap in the harshest of conditions. That’s when they called the race.  They let everyone finish their lap and they said that they would start again at 7 in the morning.

Yes, that’s right: We were leading the race by 11 minutes over second place and they stopped the race.  I’ve done so many endurance races in harsh conditions and never have they even considered stopping the race.  I’ve always felt that an endurance event, is just that, enduring. Enduring weather.  Enduring harsh conditions.  Enduring your fitness.  Enduring bike issues. It’s never too wet or too cold if you are prepared with the right clothes and the right gear. 

Everyone signs the waiver. Let everyone make the decision whether they are prepared to endure. 

So after they got everybody off the course, for the next 12 hours, the powers that be tried to figure out a way to restart the race. 

The rain went away. 

The rivers went away.

The course was prime, but no one was on it.  

They said it was taking so long, because they were trying to figure out the fairest way to get everybody back riding. 

Genius Restart
What they actually did, I can’t understand how they felt like it was fair and why it took so long to make the decision.  They subtracted every team’s last lap added 14 hours and somehow came up with a start time for each team.  There were 4 teams with 7 laps.  We were one of them.  The faster teams spent one and a half to two laps in the bad conditions. 

They let the slower teams go out first.  Our start t
ime was 11:33 am, only 27 minutes before the end of the race.  They were starting riders at 9:00, and the first place team, my team, they had decided in the fairest way possible to send out at 11:33. 

To be perfectly clear: They let the fifth, sixth and seventh place teams start out more than an hour and a half before we could even start riding. Which meant that they could catch up to us and pass us before we could even get back on the course. 

And that’s what happened. 

As a team, we decided to make a statement with our fastest lap.  I knew I could only do this with my team’s help.  We’d all just been sitting around for 14 hours waiting to ride, so we decided we would do the lap together as a team. 

I went for it.  It was all or nothing. 

I had only done one lap so far and it was the day before. My team rallied behind me, literally giving me pushes on the hills and drafts on the flats and descents. On the big sandy hill that everyone walks up Kevin and Josh took turns carrying my bike to the top. I tried to jog up, but I was feeling pretty hammered. 

I started to recover a bit on the top rolling section and was spinning hard on the flats.  We must have been some what of a spectacle, four guys in blue, riding single file on single speed rigid bikes, hammering thru the rocky sand stone drops and ledges. Josh was yelling out occasionally, “YEAH ….Jack Mormon Militia!” 

I was starting to feel really sluggish as we came to the last climb out. My team mates would yell out encouragement as they saw me starting to fade.   I was pegged, but finished hard thru the camp and into the timing tent.  I jerked down my jersey zipper and ran my time card across the sensor.  1:09:17

I’ve probably done close to 50 laps around that behind the rocks 24 hours of Moab course.  That was and always will be the most memorable. 

I’m not sure how the standings are going to work out.  At this point we’re sitting fourth.  I heard they’re planning on giving us the win and calling the race as of 8 o’clock, when they shut it down.  If they do, it will be the first time a single speed team has won the overall. 

That would be cool.

(left to right: Kevin, Chuck, Kenny, Josh)

PS from Fatty: If you’d like to let Granny Gear Productions (the promoter of 24 Hours of Moab) know your views on who won this race, you can reach them via email: [email protected]. Be clear, be polite, and tell ’em Fatty sent you.

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