For most of the 1,850 riders in this year’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, the “perfect race” includes a full day of mountain biking with friends and family, great food and tales by the campfire, glorious weather in the Sonoran desert, and no prickly incidents with cacti.
But for a select group of fast and disciplined mountain bike racers, the perfect race means something much more elusive — riding 24 laps in 24 hours. Much like Major League Baseball’s extremely rare “perfect game” — a game lasting a minimum of nine innings in which no opposing player reaches base — the perfect race at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, presented by Tucson Medical Center, requires equal amounts skill, fitness, planning, and a bit of luck.
The last and only time a perfect race happened at the Tuscon, Arizona event was in 2007. The Kona Bikes team of Brian Wilson, Matthew Slaven, Erik Tonkin, and Kris Sneddon completed 24 laps, finishing at 12:24pm Sunday.
“It snowed on the race course earlier that week, helping pack down the dirt and loose sand. By event weekend, the course was as fast as we’ve ever seen it, and the weather was ideal for achieving a perfect race,” Epic Rides president Todd Sadow said.
Provided the weather cooperates this year, the perfect race requires consistent sub-one hour lap times during the day, as nighttime laps are generally a couple minutes slower than during daylight hours. Naturally, any mechanical issues would likely derail chances of riding 24 laps in 24 hours. However, as Kona Bikes proved when they had a 1:11:12 nighttime lap, recovering from a 10-minute setback is possible. Their fastest laps were lap 2 at 55:40 and lap 3 at 55:20, clocked during the day when riders were still fresh and leaders had a relatively open course with no lapped traffic. Because the race allows teams to go out on a final lap prior to high noon on Sunday, teams could theoretically only have 23 laps at 11:59am and still pull off the perfect race.