Forget about the dishes in the sink. Forget about mowing the lawn and posting your blog. Forget about sleep. If you had 24 hours, how far could you ride your bicycle?
More than 400 bicyclists met at the National 24-Hour Challenge last weekend near Grand Rapids, Michigan, to seek the answer to that question. It was the 24th meeting for the event.
Seattle resident Chris Ragsdale, 29, (a familiar name to randonneur cyclists in the Northwest) learned he could set the course record by covering 502.6 miles. Just as amazing, 67-year-old Dave Thomsen of Austin, Minnesota, bicycled 403.9 miles.
Ragsdale, a former resident of Grand Haven, Michigan and defending champ, was aided in the effort by four cyclists from Grand Haven's Rock 'n' Road Cycle. After completing the initial 150-mile loop to qualify for remaining in the race, the team helped draft Ragsdale through the early morning hours.
The course has three loops: 1) the initial 126.7-mile loop; 2) 23.7 miles; 3) the 7.5-mile loop that cyclists ride until the 8 a.m. finish.
According to the Grand Haven Tribune, it looked like the strategy might not work. The four-man team tired on its initial 150 miles of riding and eventually dropped off to rest during the night.
Ragsdale kept going, until the team started waking up and took turns pulled Ragsdale over the 7.5-mile course. The pace still too slow, Ragsdale took turns at the front. The whole team helped out on the final lap, and Ragsdale set the record with minutes to spare.
For 67-year-old Thomsen, it was his eighth challenge ride since 1987. He failed to finish the last time he rode, in 1997. He told the PostBulletin:
“I wanted to prove that I could still do it. I felt that a person between the ages of 65 and 69 should be able to do 400 miles. And I thought the previous record was too low and I wanted to raise the bar.”
Thomsen's wife, Julie, inspired him to finish this year. He was ready to hang it up at about 3 a.m., when his wife said he was slowing and need to work with somebody.
When three cyclists came by she yelled “work with them.” He did, and set another record.
Congratulations to all the finishers this year. Check for results (not available yet) at the National 24-Hour Challenge website.