I've just had time to rummage through the digital memory of my Olympus Stylus 720SW camera and dig out some of the shots I took while at the 24 hours of Moab race.
SRAM very kindly invited WMB/me to be the only UK media at the official ride launch of the 2008 RockShox SID fork. They flew me out, put me up (and put up with me) and sorted a brand spanking new SID Race fork. Joel Smith from Tomac bicycles sorted me a Tomac Carbide to race on and the combination proved to be the perfect ride for the sandy and rocky 15 mile course at Behind the Rocks a trail system a few miles out of Moab itself.
I was part of a team which included Gary Fisher pro Willow Koerber, Giant trial ace and secret XC lover Jeff Lynosky, 1990 World DH champ and all round diamond geezer Greg 'my RV is your RV' Herbold and a couple of others. Together we cranked out the laps as part of Team SID Vicious - get it...?
SRAM laid on a five star chef, a team of sports physios and masseurs headed by former World Cup DH honchette Elke Brutsaert. Thanks to Elke's magic hands I also had a misaligned knee problem sorted as well as riding with the loosest muscles in history.
The entire race was brilliantly organised, even if the rider change over procedure was a little more complex than, say, at Mountain Mayhem. Even so it was a joy.
On the Friday we rode a practice lap where I realised for the first time just what a technical challenge this seemingly easy looking course was going to be. Had it been hard packed trails you'd have blitzed the 15 mile laps, but as it was, whatever wasn't sharp ledgey rocks, was deep powdery sand.
Hit any of the sand at any speed with tension in your arms and shoulders and you'd be off in second. Several times I had to consciously tell myself to calm down and chill the F out as I saved one near miss after another. Three quarters of a lap later I pretty much had the sand vibe nailed.
Riding with Greg is an education. He may be getting a little older and softer in the places where beer tigers get soft, but don't think he can't A) school you on any downhill and B) crank out a lap that will put you to shame (and do most of it while wheelying and telling crap jokes). Herbold is a legend - don't let anyone tell you differently.
Race day dawned and I was chosen to do the Le Mans run start. I didn't want to do it - I run with the grace of a baby goat with a serious case of athlete's hoof. Plus Willow was there and it doesn't do to cry in front of girls - especially cute ones.
With everything set and time ticking down I'm on the start for the mile long out and back run along with another four hundred or so other riders who chose not to cry about being picked as the runner.
Bang - the starter's gun goes off and I'm lost in the middle of a cattle stampede.
Thick dust rises as 800 SPD 'hooves' mash up the sand. I'm in oxygen debt within a minute - only 23 hours and 58 minutes to go...
I can't find my bike, nearly get on another one, then spot it already covered in a thick layer of dirt. I jump on and try to hit the gas. Nothing much happens except for my heart trying to burst through my chest. Gulping air doesn't help and only serves to fill my dry mouth with more desert. Yum.
Engage Ipod (via Timex Ironman remote Ipod watch - very handy) and try to use the tunes to calm me down and zero in on the zone. As is always the way on the opening lap of a 24hr race it was a bun fight whenever the trail got tight or technical which was about every thirty yards.
All of humanity seemed to be trying to get ahead and you realise that racing is racing wherever you are in the world. I was way back in the field but slowly began making places. Partly because I climb quite well and partly because the Tomac Carbide just eats this sort of trail for breakfast dinner and tea. The legs weren't good, I kept asking for more, knowing it was there, but nothing happened. Just more solid plodding.
The lap ended with what should have been a three mile rip down a dry river bed, but instead it was a three miles lottery as you tried to keep the speed near twenty miles per hour while the four inch deep sand tried to induce tank slappers as you fought for a firmer line.
Eventually I got to the finish and buzzed my electronic pass over the key pad - one lap up to the Vicious.
It was back to Herbolds luxury RV for a shower and dry clothes but not before dropping my bike off to the SRAM technicians so they could clean, re lube and gently buff the bejesus out of the bike in time for the next lap. Refreshed, I headed to the kitchen marquee for poached salmon fillets with olive and tomato tapenade, baby new potatoes and fresh salad.
I couldn't have made the race but for a handful of choice items. I feel they deserve a shout out...
Castelli Rooso Corsa bib shorts. Expensive but I swear they're about the best you can wear.
Selle Italia Signo saddle - finally a race light (180g) saddle that works with my butt to make the ride a pleasure
Apple Ipod with Timex Ironman remote control watch - all the tunes and the ability to control it all while on the move.
Giro Ionos - light, airy, and not prone to getting sweat laden.
Brave soldier products - look for the Brave Soldier brand and become a convert to these great skin care products.
Elite protect cream - one of the best saddle creams I've ever used. Never broke down, dried up or irritated.
The SID. Seriously, this fork is awesome. It may only be four inches of travel but it works so well that you'd swear it was more. It saved my bacon on more than one occasion. If you like riding XC fast, you'd better plan to be on one of these by the middle of next season.
Well, there are a million more stories, but they're for another blog...