1999 Toyota 24-Hours of Canaan: a retrospective

Following are the 5 entries that were posted to this site remotely from Canaan Valley, West Virginia during the 1999 Toyota 24-Hours of Canaan.  This was the 3rd year that we have provided our customers, friends and sponsors with blow-by-blow updates from the greatest race in the East.

1st entry: 11AM Saturday

 It takes a lot of strong hearts to put both our teams in the top-five at the 3rd largest race in the country.

It takes a lot of strong hearts to put both our teams in the top-five at the 3rd largest race in the country.

The Bio Wheels team has started amassing riders and crew for our fifth 24-Hours of Canaan. Having been so close to victory over the past years, Bio Wheels has tweaked the line-ups and is bringing, to West Virginia, two phenomenal men’s expert teams. Officially, the teams are entitled Bio Wheels / Jamis Racing I and II.

Returning for team 1, are Canaan veterans Matt Johnson (30, Cincinnati, OH) and Matt Hoyes (25, Columbia, KY). Both Matt’s have raced at 24-Hours since Bio Wheels brought four fresh, first-year experts to Canaan in 1995. Joining team I for his second 24-Hours (his first with BWR) is an outstanding rider; Mitch Graham (27, Cincinnati, OH). Returning from that original team is Kevin “the Badger” Caldwell (26, Cincinnati, OH). Kevin was honored as a NCCA All-American, in 1998, and will ride anchor for team I.

Bio Wheels / Jamis Racing II is no second team, and could potentially

 BWR uses a small business model to get to the podium. It takes a lot more than strong legs to get this far.

BWR uses a small business model to get to the podium. It takes a lot more than strong legs to get this far.

whoop-up on team I. Eager to try the le mans style start is Thomas Nordstrom (24, Finland). Thomas races for Lindsey Wilson College with Matt H. and Kevin C., and he represents Finland at the World Championships. Returning, is one of BWR’s fastest riders from 1998, Garth Prosser (27, Columbus, OH). This will be the first ride at Canaan for Bruce Pisarek (28, Cincinnati, OH), who has been consistently racing strong in 1999. Due to a last-minute cancellation, Bill Crank (31, Lexington, KY) was added to the roster. Bill is a Canaan veteran and a top-dog at the Bio Wheels Cyclocross Series every year.

 Greg Arnold, our photographer was still in stable condition after this stampede.

Greg Arnold, our photographer was still in stable condition after this stampede.

The 24-Hours of Canaan is a team relay that begins with a cannon blast at 12 noon on Saturday, and racing does not stop until noon on Sunday. Only the lead-off rider has to complete the le-mans style start, which is essentially 500 people running about a half of a mile of steep, rugged trail to get to their bikes. Once they’ve found their bikes, they tear off on to the twelve mile loop that eventually brings them back to Timberline Ski Lodge where they hand off the baton to a teammate who runs about fifty yards to get their bike and do the same loop. This continues ’til the sun drops and the darkness of Canaan valley takes over. Throughout the night, racers compete to log as many laps as possible before morning breaks. Once the clock strikes twelve, no more riders are aloud on the course. Those riders still on the course will race back to the exchange tent. After it’s all said and done, the laps are calculated and the winning teams get to grace the podium. Bio Wheels / Jamis Racing I and II will be working hard to reach the top of that podium.

2nd entry: 3:30 PM, Saturday

After the morning’s preparations, Bio Wheels headed up to Timberline Lodge for the start of this fantastic race.

Starting for the team I was Matt Johnson; team II, Thomas Nordstrum. Both of these riders secured front-line positioning for the lemans style start. The intensity of this start was incredible. As final countdown began, heart rate monitors were beeping increasingly faster. The crowd began roaring…thousands of people trying to keep from peeing themselves.

Kabooom!!! Off they ran. Lots of pushing. The crowd swelled into their path, causing a severe bottleneck. Tom and Matt both stayed ahead of the tide. Tom was within the top-5, and Matt was top-25.

One hour and 5 minutes later the loudspeaker wailed “Thomas Nordstrum from Bio Wheels/Jamis Racing is our first place Expert!” 6-minutes later Johnson rolled in.

It’s 3;30pm, and with nearly one full rotation of both teams complete, team

 Johnson prepares to blaze the 2-mile downhill. He can really kick-ass in the crazy stuff.

Johnson prepares to blaze the 2-mile downhill. He can really kick-ass in the crazy stuff.

II stands in third with team I five minutes behind in fourth. Overall, fifth and sixth. Both teams, although happy with their respective positions, are certainly feeling their best laps are ahead. The quickest lap recorded, thus far, by Trek/VW rider Chris Eatough: 59 minutes. Bio Wheels/Jamis Racing team laps thus far: Thomas – 1:05 (w/ run), Matt – 1:11 (w/ run), Bruce – 1:08, Mitch 1:08, Matt H. – 1:07, Garth – 1:06. Kevin and Bill are out shredding now.

 Thomas sows his oats in the rock garden. Now THIS is off-road!

Thomas sows his oats in the rock garden. Now THIS is off-road!

For anyone familiar with the Canaan loop, it seems almost unfamiliar without the slime. The new challenge posed is the speed at which the riders are flying through the course. The rocks are coming at the riders faster and faster, testing both bike and back. The downhill finale is very much do-able without a whole lot of braking, making for a thrilling finish to the loop. Riders are reporting a mass clustering of riders as lapped riders are appearing in bundles in front of the experts. But one of the marks of an expert rider is getting around riders, taking the crappy line through the rocks and trees and sordid carnage.

3rd entry: 8:45 PM, Saturday

It’s 8:45 pm, and the sun is setting over Canaan Valley. The race is flying by,

 The venue. The batons are passed in this tent.

The venue. The batons are passed in this tent.

with no signs of suffering just yet with two complete rotations of both teams (although subtle signs of fatigue are seen). Both teams from Bio Wheels/Jamis sit firmly in third and forth in the expert field (one minute differential), forth and fifth overall. The first eight hours have seen three lead changes between the two teams, making the cabin thirsty for fresh news after every lap. The decision to balance the two teams out has certainly made this race exciting. Second place currently sits five short minutes (or one flat tire) ahead while the talented Absurd Circus, from Virginia, fights to hold their thirteen-minute lead. 5th Place is more than 15-minutes back.

The pros and experts certainly garner their fair share of the attention here

 This is team Hugh Jass. No shit, they really race these things.

This is team Hugh Jass. No shit, they really race these things.

from the spectators due to the incredible speeds at which these riders fly through the rock gardens and fire roads. Yet it’s the thousands of individuals that make up the remaining 400+ teams that fuel the excitement that this race a landmark in extreme endurance events. Two mountain tandems are out dicing it up through the singletrack, receiving raucous cheers from the crowds, especially on the long climbs. Single-speeds have found a home here also, showing that if one speed is enough for Canaan, it’s good enough for the rest of the country. And of course there’s team Hugh Jass, with their fixed-gear jalopies (read: no rear brakes – yikes!) and big fat asses.

At 11PM, the mood is very relaxed at the cabin. Many folks are taking their first naps. The first 2 complete night laps were completed by Thomas (1:10) and Matt J. (1:14). Big thanks to Bell/VistaLite for providing eyes to the night. No rock is unseen in their gaze.

In past years, Bio Wheels has consistently made up mega-time in the night, so stay tuned!

4th entry: 11AM, Sunday

 One of the beautiful views of Canaan Valley. No better place to spend 24-hours of racing.

One of the beautiful views of Canaan Valley. No better place to spend 24-hours of racing.

It’s 11 am, and the finish is just around the corner. It’s absolutely wild how both teams from Bio Wheels are in the exact same predicament as they were 20 hours ago. Both teams are in a dogfight with each other, as well as team #39, ‘HFW’ out of New Hampshire. The riding has been completely intense, with no team having a lead longer than five-minutes. All BWR racers are pulling their weight. They’ve seen each other all over the course, whether in passing or working together through the pack. It will all come down to the last three laps, with Matt Hoyes, Garth Prosser, Kevin Caldwell, Thomas Nordstrom, Mitch Graham, and Bill Crank all set to post their fastest lap times at their most fatigued state ever encountered.

The weather has been nothing short of perfect the entire 24 hours, with the

 Marge Graham, Mitch's mom, crewed the kitchen and kept everyone fueled-up.

Marge Graham, Mitch's mom, crewed the kitchen and kept everyone fueled-up.

morning sunshine making many feel like new. There is plenty of suffering going on now, everywhere; but you’d never know it by the determined looks on all the riders’ faces. Canaan certainly brings out the best in people, which is why there are 2400 racers here and hundreds more on the waiting list.

Final entry: 4PM, Sunday

The emotional roller coaster ride is finally over, and both Bio Wheels Men’s Expert teams sat in the very front, hands up, screaming the whole way. Once again, 24 hours of racing came down to a matter of seconds. Team HFW (they wouldn’t tell anyone what it stood for) and Bio Wheels/Jamis Racing I and II were neck and neck until the very end.

 Competition is neck-and-neck thoughout the night.

Competition is neck-and-neck thoughout the night.

Before night fell, it turned into a race between HFW, Bio Wheels I and II for second place. (Each team completed 240 miles). The first place team continued to increase the gap, and second, third, and fourth were left to battle one another. Many people had their money on the Bio Wheels II team. They ended up finishing a strong 4th place, a mere four-minutes behind team I, after trading leads from the very beginning.

The race for second place actually ended in a tie. Flying into the exchange tent at 12:02 were HFW and BW I. They got their batons to the volunteer at the exact same time for a dead-even tie. An executive decision was made, by the promoter, to take the fastest lap time of either team to determine second place. Bio Wheels I wound up in third for the last podium spot.

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