24 Hours in the Old Pueblo: Mountain bikers rally at temporary city
Each year, a temporary town of mountain bikers rises from the desert north of Tucson and remains bustling for three days. The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo event welcomed about 4,000 attendees this weekend, 55 percent of them from out of state.
Todd Sadow, one of the event's founders, said many mountain biking races are serious in nature and could be intimidating for some people who are interested in the sport.
The relaxed atmosphere of the Tucson relay race "is really a fresh air for mountain biking, to have a group supporting you and cheering for you," Sadow said.
The event was founded by Epic Rides in 2000, making this year the 23rd edition of 24HOP. It takes on the Willow Springs Ranch north of Catalina, at a distance from the Tucson metro in a pocket of space where people are able to camp, mingle and participate in the race.
"In the '90s, mountain biking was a fairly new sport. It was kinda new," Sadow said. "That was when we decided to create 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo."
The track spans for 17 miles, resulting in an estimated total of 88,500 miles biked by the end of the race. The racers ride up and down dirt hills, maneuver around the obstacles a natural track presents, and those who were feeling brave could ride down a wall of boulders. Whichever team who completes the most laps in the time allotted wins, each member getting to pick their choice of product from the event sponsors as their award. The top five winners were Not So Pretty in Pink, Green Machine, Team Low T, Cal Poly Cycling and Away Message.
The campsite this weekend was mostly all RVs and neon outdoor gear. Friends greeted each other, families walked with their children and their leashed dogs. Some participants wore costumes: Beetlejuice, Spider-Man and a chicken. One of them, Damion Alexander, who is a Tucson real estate agent, was dressed as a cowboy and said he intended to change into 15 other outfits for the duration of the race.
"I love the biking community here. Bikes bring people together and create a healthy lifestyle," Alexander said.
Alexander attended his first 24HOP in 2008 and hasn't stopped since.
"There's people who here who really do want to win, but there's many of us here who want to have fun," Alexander said.
Libby Beseler, who traveled from Wisconsin, was participating with her corporate team, Canyon Physical Therapy and Aquatic Rehabilitation. She said she was there for the fun, the music and the costumes.
"Everyone here is here for a good time," said Beseler, who was attending for the fifth time. "Even if they're putting in a lot of work, they still have fun."
"My favorite part is the sunrise ride," Beseler said. "Everyone is so tired but so stoked to be there, and the desert looks beautiful."
Friends Pat Murrish and Scott Bridges camped overnight at a trailhead in Catalina State Park and biked over to the event to spectated. Murrish had attended the one in 2003.
"We're here to just have a good time, maybe do some lighthearted heckling," Murrish said. "Some people here take it very seriously."
Bridges said they planned to leave as soon as the race started.
Once the last round is over and the event is over, everyone packs up and leaves. The town is no more.
Bianca Morales is TucsonSentinel.com’s Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.