Two fantastic endurance cycling events this weekend will draw riders from all over the US (and even the World) to West Michigan. The National 24 Hour Challenge will be held in Middleville, MI, just SE of Grand Rapids in Barry County, and the Lumberjack 100 will test the mental and physical strength of mountain bikers at the Big M ski area in Manistee National Forest west of Cadillac.
National 24 Hour Challenge
Started in 1983 by local bicycle racing supporters Diane and Skip Obermeyer, the National 24 Hour Challenge is in its 27th year, and is the largest event of its kind in the country. While it is a “race” of sorts, for most participants it is more of a personal challenge. They set a goal for how many miles they want to ride, or they try to beat their personal best. The idea is to ride as many miles as you can from 8am on Saturday morning to 8am on Sunday morning. Riders will complete a 126.7 mile loop of rolling hills around Barry County. Once that is complete, they will do as many laps around a 23.7 mile loop. And once nightfall sets in, they will continue on a 7 mile loop until 8am hits. Once riders complete the first two loops, they are allowed to sleep whenever/however much they want.
The record for this event is 502.6 miles, set in 2007 by Chris Ragsdale, a Grand Haven native who lives and trains in Seattle, WA. I’ve heard rumors of another experienced rider intent on beating that record, but the ability to do that relies in part on luck, weather, and having a good team of cyclists to help pull you along.
Good luck to all the National 24 Hour Challenge participants this weekend!!
A recent interview on WGVU with Rapid Wheelmen member Joel Bierling, who has ridden over 400 miles each of the past two years.
2008 photos (in 2008 I was the official event photographer and took over 1,400 photos of the riders in an attempt to capture each individual who participated)
This is the one I am attempting this year. The Lumberjack 100 is a race to see who can survive 100 miles of singletrack the fastest. The fastest riders will complete this task in around 7 hours! I am just hoping to finish my third lap by the 10 hour cutoff time and get to the end in one piece.
Riders must complete four laps of both an 8 mile loop and a 17 mile loop with a brutally steep climb up to the top of an old downhill ski hill at the beginning of the 8 mile loop.
Good luck to all of the riders participating in this awesome weekend, particularly my Rapid Wheelmen Race Team cohorts! And if you’re going to Founder’s Fest on Saturday, dance a bit to Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe for me! I’ll be totally exhausted! It’s going to be AWESOME!!!
Local endurance cyclist Danielle Musto’s 2008 Ride Report
Lumberjack 100 map (pdf, follow the tiny arrows)
Of course, these races pale in comparison to the efforts put forth by participants in the Race Across America (RAAM), which started on Wednesday, 6/17, with the first racers finishing the 3,022 mile grueling course just over 8 days later on 6/26. Amazing!
Or there is the 2,745 mile Tour Divide, which started on June 12th and has riders racing unsupported (they carry all their gear on their bicycles) from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, NM. The fastest riders in this race should finish in around 20 days. INSANE!
Link: You can follow the riders at this link, and even track them live, here. As you can see, last year’s winner, Matthew Lee has a commanding lead and is approaching the Grand Tetons (which is a LOOOONG way from Banff, Alberta).