I was very excited for the 2017 Riverwest 24 for a couple of reasons. First, I got to enjoy the race as a spectator for the first time by riding on a team instead of going solo. Second, with our house being located directly on the route, my wife and I got to host the Belgianwerkx trailer right out in front of our house along with my cycling team and some other friends.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Riverwest 24, it is a 24 hour bike race with 5 categories: “A team”, “B team”, solo men, solo women, and tandem. “A team” is comprised of up to 6 team members that all ride the same bike. “B team” is comprised of up to 6 team members that ride their own bikes. Solo men and women is pretty self explanatory (and yes people do ride all 24 hours by themselves). Tandem is pretty self explanatory as well but just in case it is two people riding a tandem bike.
The race course has 4 checkpoints that riders must complete in order and have their manifest punched at each checkpoint. Four punches equals one lap and depending on the route a rider takes, it’s about 4.5 miles. The rider with the most laps wins. There is one caveat: bonus checkpoints. Bonus checkpoints give riders extra laps by completing a task. The tasks are not revealed until the rider arrives at the bonus checkpoint. All a rider has before going is a name of the bonus checkpoint, a location, and a time frame to show up. More to come on those later.
My team, Beer Muscles, was made up of people who all enjoy cycling in their own special way. From being all about speed (guilty) to enjoying a slow roll short commute to work. Our team’s approach to the race was to break the 24 hours (7:00 pm to 7:00 pm) down into 2 hour blocks and take turns. My first shift was from 9:00-11:00 pm so I got to watch the start, which is quite a spectacle with homemade tall bikes, people in all kinds of costumes and creatively decorated bikes.
When 9:00pm rolled around, I started by going to a bonus checkpoint which included fake blood and Nerf guns. An alley off of Center Street was set up with strategically placed garbage bins. People were split into zombies and shooters. Zombies were squirted with fake blood and set up in the alley. Their job was to touch the shooters to “kill” them and avoid being shot. The shooters got Nerf guns and had to run through the alley without being touched trying to “kill” as many zombies as possible. I got a tommy gun, which was baller. I entered the alley when they said “GO” and proceeded to kill 5 or 6 zombies when all of a sudden a zombie grabbed my ankle. This zombie had clearly played video games before because he was hidden behind some garbage cans laying on his belly making strange noises.
After turning my gun in, I hopped back on the bike and proceeded to complete two very fast laps just in time to arrive at the next bonus checkpoint. This checkpoint required some cyclocross skills, except I was on a road bike. They lined up six of us to take 3 laps on an oval course in a grass field. I ended up in the same race as Bonnie. She had the inside lane while I had the very outside lane. When the light turned green, I got clipped in quite fast and I was in the correct gear which was crucial. This led me to third place on the course. I will be honest I was content with third place since it was dark, we were in grass that was beginning to get damp and the course was lit by only a few lights. Rounding the second to last turn still in third place, the guy in front of me went down and I zipped around him to take 2nd behind Bonnie who then got to take a victory lap with the checkered flag. After that bonus checkpoint, all that was left was to ride laps until my shift was complete. I ended up completing 4 more laps before 11:00 and handed our manifest off to my teammate.
After settling down a bit, I went to bed to try and get some sleep but I was too excited. After getting only 4 hours of sleep, I got up at 5:30 am to get ready for my second shift: 7:00am-9:00am. When I got the manifest from my teammate, I found out I again had two bonus checkpoints to complete. After riding two quick laps, I went to the first bonus checkpoint which was partner stretching and yoga. It really did feel good to loosen things up even though I hadn’t been riding that long.
After yoga, I went right to the next bonus checkpoint which was taking a negative statement you associate yourself with and with the help of a coach finding a new phrase to say to yourself instead of the negative statement. Before leaving that bonus checkpoint, I grabbed one of the cookies that they had for the riders. Who says you can’t have a cookie at 8:30 in the morning?!?! I then rode two more quick laps and then handed the manifest off to my teammate thus completing my riding in the 2017 Riverwest 24.
Now it was time to be a spectator. Laura (my wife) and I set up some tables and umbrellas and made some cold lemonade for the riders. We turned on the music and cheered on all the riders. Later on we brought out the grill and made some brats. Even had a rider stop and ask if he could have one because he was so hungry from riding all night. It was a great time cheering on all the riders from all walks of life.
On the very last lap, my team rode our manifest in together. Beer Muscles ended up in 20th place or something around there but as they say, “Everyone is a winner at the Riverwest 24!”
I will finish by saying that the Riverwest 24 is my favorite cycling event of the year and if you haven’t experienced it, I encourage you to come out and watch or even ride! It is a blast!