Sabino Cycles Team member Scott Luikart recently competed in and won the 2014 National 24 Hour Challenge. Here is his race report from that outstanding performance.
2014 National 24 Hour Challenge
For 32 years the National 24 hour challenge has been held in Middleville Michigan on Father’s day weekend. The event is one of the largest in the country for ultracyclists and this year was no exception with nearly 300 riders from throughout the United States and a few foreign countries.
On Friday night we registered and enjoyed the spaghetti dinner held at the Kellogg Thornapple Middle School and had the chance to catch up with some old friends and see many familiar faces. There was a buzz in the air that tomorrow was going to be a big day with perfect weather, high temperature around 80 and lows in the 50’s with mild winds.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we made our way to the school and the place was packed with riders and crew. After the ceremonial bagpipe band played we lined up to take off at 8am. I knew the field was strong and included Collin Johnson the two-time defending champ and definitely the favorite in this years race.
The pace was steady and I stayed near the front to avoid any accidents that may occur with such a large pack of riders and we rolled along at about 23 mph, Collin rolled up alongside and we chatted and wished each other all the best and talked about our upcoming race schedules. By the time we reached the 70 mile point we had a few of us doing all the work on the front with too many looking for a free ride. Following a nature break Collin and I decided to leave them behind. Apparently during the nature break one rider decided to attack off the front but Collin and I rode steady and worked together and completed our first century in 4hr 23 minutes which I thought was a good start. As we finished the first loop, 124 miles, we caught the lone rider who had attacked, Damon Taaffe from Washington DC, and the three of us headed out on the 24 mile middle loop together. The three of us worked well together each sharing the work and our speed was over 22mph. We completed our second century in 4hr 25 minutes and I was feeling good as I always look forward to riding at night when the weather is cool. We rode the 24 mile loop six times for a total of 268 miles when we agreed to stop and put our bike lights on before heading out on the short 7.6 mile night loop. I changed my socks while the crew put my lights on and I was on the road before 8pm. Collin and I rolled out together but Damon was not ready so now it was just the two of us. We rode together as darkness set in and the miles were clicking away. My goal for the race was to break my age group, 50-54, record held by Dave Stebbins, another class act who was racing as well and would go on to break the 55-59 age group record. But we were well ahead of that pace so I just wanted to relax as I was feeling really good. Somehow as we rolled through the pits Collin did not come out with me and I found myself alone in the lead. The laps continued to roll on and I rode with my friend Mark Sclater who along with his wife Shana have always been good friends and a lot of fun to go to the race with. I crossed over the 400 mile mark at about 2:15amand with a lap on Collin I was just cruising along thinking the all-time high mileage mark of 502 miles just might be attainable. At about the 490 mile mark the battery in my DI2 electronic shifting died so I was unable to shift until I got back to the pits where we changed battery. So Mark and I were rolling along at a steady pace on the lap to break the 500 mile mark when Collin passes us on a mission to get back on the same lap as me. So we hop on his wheel and now I know the race is on, I pulled my gloves and arm warmers off and it was time to race. We came to the checkpoint and the people were cheering us on. We all stopped to get our card punched and people were shouting 23 more minutes until 8am. In this event, only complete laps are counted so we had to make it all the way around and back to the finish line before 8am. We tore off for our last lap, so the high mileage record had been broken but if Collin made it back in time he would set his age group record and if I made it back I would have the new overall high mileage total and my age group record. The pace was high and we came to the line with people screaming and hollering as if they had not been up for over 24 hours. We made it with three minutes to spare… the clock read 7:57am. The spirit of ultracycling was alive and well as Collin and I shook hands and congratulated each other on a great race. Collin finished with 503.5 miles, only the second time in the 32 year history of the event that the 500 mile barrier has been broken and I finished with 511.1 miles.
These events are truly a team effort and I want to thank my crew of my very supportive wife Jen who is behind me 100% and a real key to me being able to train and race. Also, on my crew was our youngest son, Eric who along with his friend Parker Cole and Parker’s dad Rick. This was Parker and Rick’s first time to an ultracycling race and I think they picked a good one.
I would like to thank Pete and Kathy Stave for a well-organized event with very helpful volunteers, excellent facilities and a nice course with good road conditions. A first class event all the way around.