3/5/2013 12:04:00 PM Local mountain bike team finishes fifth in 24-hour race in Sonoran Desert
From left: Jay Rietz, Jon Offner, Sam Richmann and Ryan Smiley celebrate their fifth place finish in the menís single speed division of the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race Feb. 17. Submitted photo
Above: youngsters watch as Jay Rietz of the Young Life Single Speed Coffee Roasters Team races through a desert landscape during the epic 24-hour mountain bike race Feb. 16-17 in Tucson. Submitted photos
TUCSON, Ariz. - Two mountain bike teams from Williams traveled to Tucson on Feb. 16-17 to race in the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race in the Sonoran Desert. One team finished fifth in the men's single speed division, good enough to win a trophy and stand on the winners' podium.
The 14th annual 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is one of the oldest and largest 24-hour mountain bike races in North America. It attracts more than 1,800 riders and more than 4,000 spectators annually.
The fifth place single speed division team from Williams, the Young Life Single Speed Coffee Roasters Team, consists of Sam Richmann, Jay Rietz, Ryan Smiley, and captain Jon Offner.
"Essentially it's a baton pass relay style race that goes for 24 hours," said Offner. "One teammate will ride a lap of the course, about 17 miles of single track riding through cactus infested desert, and then once you complete a lap you come through the timing chip system and pass off to your teammate who then takes off for another lap."
Teams score points based on how many laps they complete within the 24-hour period. The single speed division is mountain biking with only one gear, which means there is no shifting. Offner estimated about 20 teams and 80 riders participated in the single speed division.
The second Young Life Coffee Roasters Team rode in the four-man open division, which is a four-man geared team with geared bikes that are allowed to shift. Those team members included Story Schmitz, Jeff Walker, Brad Richmann and Darrin Permenter. They did not finish in the top five in their division.
This is the second year Young Life sponsored the Williams team in the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. Offner said both teams' goal was to improve on last year's finish and crack the top five.
The race started at noon on Feb. 16 and finished at noon on Feb. 17. Temperatures were in the mid-70s during the day. Despite unfavorably windy conditions, the Young Life Single Speed Coffee Roasters Team shaved five minutes off from their average lap time from last year's race to put themselves in podium contention.
"A couple years ago Brad Richmann started to drum up some interest in the community with the local mountain bikers in town," Offner said. "He encouraged our team and was the one to put it together. As soon as we did the 24-hour epic race, we were hooked and excited to come back and do it again."
Although the bikers were hooked, Offner added that training in northern Arizona for a mountain bike race in the winter is a little tricky.
"Well we try to ride a lot and ride hard all year. We'll do trips down to Sedona to go find trails, we'll also just bundle up and get out on road bikes or mountain bikes on the road and just ride the road," said Offner. "Then we'll also get out in the back-country with some snow shoes and do some cross training hiking up mountainsides in snow shoes. It's kind of whatever we can do to keep our heart rates up and our legs going."
According to Offner, all eight members of the two Williams mountain bike teams are not only passionate about mountain biking, but passionate about Young Life and supporting the work it does with so many kids in town.
The Young Life Single Speed Coffee Roasters Team gathered sponsorships from locals and friends to raise awareness about the work Young Life does. Offner said the team also wanted to raise money to help support what Young Life does in town as well as helping to send kids to a week of Young Life camp with their mentors and leaders.
Offner, who is also operations manager and guest services coordinator at Young Life's Lost Canyon, said the mountain bike team is already looking forward to next year's race.
"We're kind of scoping out the returning competition year to year and there's some pretty good teams out there further ahead of us that have some major sponsorships," Offner said. "But our goal is to learn year to year on how we can ride better and how we can ride faster. And maybe we can turn that fifth place finish into an even higher spot on the podium next year."
More information about 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and other mountain bike races in Arizona are available at epicrides.com.