as written/reported by Rob Horn

We are a bunch of friends from the mountains of far Northeastern Tennessee. We are the riding hillbillies. Only two teams have come to wage war on Big Bear down from the nine we brought in 2001 to Snowshoe. Team number one is “Dr Skips Medicine Show”. Myself, Rob “The Rockboy” Horn, our captain, Brian “The Duckman” Archer, Bob “The Great White Goat” Lamberson”, and Michael “Epic Mike” Ritter. Dr Skips has been doing this race for many years in one form or another and for the first time comes to the race with the same members two years running. We are an over 35 veterans team with high hopes of a podium visit. Team number two is Team Scrotum Cycles. Their captain is Paul Windsor with Wes Lamberson, John Waldo, and Andy Clevinger signed on to bring on some pain. Truly a sport team being lead out by 13 year old Wes with plans to finish in style.

Race day it is. The venue is pumping. You can feel the electricity amping up. Racers cruising the pits for one last check on their race machines. Last minute pre-race tuning, test riding, numbering of bikes, getting the gear lined out, and just trying to keep the nerves at bay. Bob is our Le Mans runner and is ready to go by 10:30 AM. About an hour before your lap begins you normally find yourself alone using the time to clear your head and prepare your mind to go as hard as you can for twenty four hours. No slacking, no easing up, never quitting or giving in to the pain, and most of all wrapping your mind around the fact that once again your team, friends, family, co-workers, spectators, and the mountain biking world are watching and routing for you to see this thing through with courage and style. No pain, no fun, and go till ya blow and then go again. Lets give er!

I slam down some more oatmeal while loading the camera film and getting the big daddy zoom lens set. At 11:45 AM on Saturday June 18th, 2005 we begin our short walk to the front line of the war called Big Bear. The cannon goes off at high noon, my adrenaline goes sky high, and the Le Mans start is off. Wes is on the bike at the front of the pack with Bob a few places behind. We run down to course behind our camp and watch the carnage begin. One slick root claims at least 20 riders and Wes and Bob just keep passing riders. We ride down to the next opening in the course to catch the riders coming through. I run into Keith Bontrager and we have a short talk about the race and wish each other luck. Bob comes rippin’ up a rock shelf with Wes about thirty places behind. Our boys are moving and it is now time for me to go get my race face on. Michael and I head back to camp for some light chow and settle in for 24 hours of raging war. I am riding third with Michael fourth so we have some time to chill out. The Duckman is already mounting up for a warm-up and heads out of camp with a most serious look about his face. I am due to ride around 3:15 about 1:00 PM I start setting my clothes out in order, double checking my Yeti ASR for good tune, giving Pete my parrot mascot one last coat of “Bike Lust”, and laying out my per lap fuel with my clothes.

3:00 PM and the time is near. The Yeti is in the starting line bike stands, I am signed in, and ready to rock. The pep talk is over and any second the gauntlet will drop and a new level of pain will come about. I meet a rider in the start tent named Matt Hemberger from Morgantown. This is his first 24 hour race and he has only been mountain biking a few months. A huge linebacker like dude that has lost 30 lbs in three months. He reminds me of how nervous I was my first time so I chat it up with him about the high fun factor to help calm both our nerves. 3:18 and Duckman hands me the baton and I am on the bike and rippin’. I keep telling myself to start easy and finish strong but I feel real good and after the first half mile I drop the hammer hard. I hit the five mile mark in 31 minutes and know that I am going to hard. I back off slightly in the groovin’ pine forest roller coaster and then hit it hard on the climb up to the rock garden downhill. I enter the garden in the big ring and begin passing riders. As the course steepened and the tech factor went high I found myself spun out in 27th gear sans brakes just passing at will. At the roughest section the spectators were yelling to others to get the hell out of the way so I just let it roll for one mile of pure rocky DH. I was really diggin’ it and was getting more stoked by the minute. At the bottom of the last climb which is a hike a bike section for about ½ mile I passed team 114 Mr T & The Yo Yo’s. At the top of the climb I was stoked knowing that I had passed four veteran teams on my lap and a sport rider and I dropped the hammer. He had topped the climb with me and noticed that I had passed 114and offered to show me a fast line over the last rock drop before the finish. We hit the big ring and slammed in to the finish side by side. I handed off to Michael with note that 114was a couple minutes behind and to not go out to hard. Back at camp we were all stoked on our laps and new we were good for a 2nd or 3rd place if the demons would leave us alone.

Duckman handed off to me at 10:07 PM. I was way fired up. Night riding is my favorite and I have thousands of night riding hours under my belt. Dr Skips knew that Rockboy’s best laps always come at night and a screamer was expected for sure. I dropped the hammer right out of the gate and never let up. Four miles in I passed Big T’s while climbing in the big ring. Left him sitting still. I knew he had left out 20 minutes ahead of me so I wondered what kind of problem he might have had all the while jamming big gears with a WV local suckin’ my wheel chanting “lets keep rippin’ dude, Keep pacin’.”. He passed me at the top of a short steep climb bidding me to keep hammerin’ so I surely did. I passed a few and then rode alone until the pines. Just before I dropped into the groovy pines I checked my time. Oh hell ya, 26 minutes. Yahoo! I lit it up all the way to the rock garden knowing that I could ride the one mile of big ring rocks brake free. I dropped in to the rocks WFO and HID’s on high. I passed a Singlespeeding chick just as she politely moved over, the drunk spectators were going wild at the top so I just laid my hands on the grips and let it roll passing another and then launching a mid air pass over a root ball around a fast moving rider.

In mid air, feeling invincible, with nirvana on my mind when I heard a loud crack. I had my landing planned but had no idea of the two inch thick tree limb that had lodged between my frame and tire during take off. I hit my intended landing zone dead on and jammed the pedals to keep motoring. I found myself flying over the bars still clipped in holding onto the bars at warp speed in the dark with my back wheel locked up. I had time for little thought and no time to even let go of the bars. Just before crash landing it did cross my mind that a long hospital visit was in the future and then I hit the ground. Arrrrgggghhh! I found myself still clipped in looking uphill with my back against a giant tree with my shoulder dug into the deep sponge like moss off the side of the trail. I had missed a rocky landing. The rider I was passing when my plan went awry had stopped when I lost it and yelled at me “Don’t move, you are broken to hell.”. “I think I am okay,” I say. “No way dude, don’t move, cause your bike is broken to hell.”. He helped me out of my pedals and helped me decide that I was alive and well but my bike was wasted. I thanked him and sent him on his way knowing that I had an extra hanger and tools to get the Yeti back in the hunt.

Lets sit down and assess this deal and check the time. Pull off the Rocket pack, take a drink, double check myself for damage, and now to the Yeti. Rear derailleur bent, hanger bent bad, chain bent, spokes broken, big ring bent, and rear wheel is jammed in the rear dropouts. Another rider stops and helps me get the wheel out by standing on my frame while I wrench the wheel out. I thank him and go to work. 25 minutes later my steed is good to go. I gently ride the remaining DH and ease up the next climb. My gears seem crunchy but are running. I drop down into a creek and crank up the other side out of the saddle. Just as I top the bank my drivetrain lets go and I fall flat on my back in the creek with my rear derailleur in two pieces. Oh hell no, this cannot be happening as I look up at the mile 6 sign. I pull the chain via the SRAM link, shove the remains in my jersey, pull the broken HID (a broken mount) off my bars and begin to run. At the mile 7 sign I stop pull my rear wheel out of the bike, bang the bent section on a tree, and drop the wheel back in the bike. Rollin now so I don’t have to carry Mr Yeti for 7 miles. “Run Forest Run” keeps going through my head. My team is waiting and the race is on. Big T’s pass me at about mile 8. I think to myself “he must be having major trouble or bonkin’ hard.”. The pass inspires me to run harder knowing that the demons pay a visit to any team in the race. As I run and run everyone passing me gives strong words of encouragement. A GU shot here, a Cliff Bar handout, Water from the Gatorade tent in the woods, and then along comes my brother Matt. He offers help and I just ask that he let Michael know that I am okay and just running a blown up bike. As I near the finish my knees are screaming with pain, lower back pain like you cannot dream of, and thoughts of a cold beer just keep me running. The same drunk spectators are at the last rock drop. I run up and ask for a cold beer. “Hell no, we just popped our last one.” He says. “Look man, I have been running a blown up bike for seven miles and am damn thirsty so lets have some.” I rip the Natty Lite long neck out of his hands that he had just opened and chugged it down. Let out a thanks to the screaming of “That’s a real racer, lets give him a push.” A push? Bring it on! The big burly EMS guys down the trail grab hold and start running me down the hill to the finish line bridge over the road. They run so hard they finally cannot keep up and hit the ground rolling. Yeehaa! Over the bridge and into the tent, hand off the baton to a smiling Michael with a high five and the entire tent gives a standing ovation. The word had been out that team 112 was out there running from mile six. They also knew that I was not giving in cause Matt and Elvis had spread the news. Lets keep racing cause it ain’t noon Sunday yet.

I get some much needed rest and Duckman hands the baton to me as the sun starts to rise in the east. He has had a bad lap time and a yells that he bonked so hard he tried to eat ferns from the woods and finally found a mud soaked energy bar of some sort to get him home. Ya, that’s what I am talking about. Hardcore teammate doing what it takes to bring it home.

Dr Skips and Scrotum Cycles are still running well and having tons of fun. Smiles all around for sure. I hit my sunup lap knowing that I must take it semi easy cause I surely will be doing a fourth to finish us off past noon Sunday. My knees and feet are rebelling against the big gears but after mile two I start to feel warm again and get into a groove. I come upon Matt H at the 7 mile mark and we ride together through the slow techy stuff for a while. As we spun along my knees started to feel better so I waved adios and dropped the hammer to try to make up some time. No time to complain, just motor on and save some for later. I came in with a slow 1:54 lap handing off to Michael with the words of “Burn it up”. I had another in me but my knees would pay. I had ridden that lap mostly left legged trying to ease the pressure off the right side.

It all came down to Dr Skips Medicine Show being in a solid fourth place. No way to catch Bit T’s and fifth place Happy Hour rides again coming in only 14 minutes behind us. The deal was done and Bob brought us home at 12:00:01 on June 19th, 2005. Bob was the first rider to finish the race and therefore the first one to have a cold beer in hand to celebrate. Dr Skips brought home a 4th place in the over 35 year old Veterans Class. Scrotum Cycles finished a strong 97th overall and the most amazing thing is that I am the only Dr Skip’s rider that crashed with John Waldo holding the honors for Scrotum Cycles by only hitting the dirt twice. Usually the word is not if you will crash but how many hard hits will you take. Keeping the rubber down and a twenty four hour smile is what this deal is all about.

I awake Monday morning to an empty campground and Cracker Barrel on my mind. We hitch up the mules and head off for home. After a less than stellar drive home I parked the car in the drive, rolled down the windows, and just sat for a minute soaking up the time warp I had just past through. I drove through five states, raced a course that traced through West Virginia and Maryland, hung with my mountain friends, and time warped back home through the same five states. Then it hit me. Time to unload this car and start preparing for the 2006 24 Hours of Big Bear. What can we do better? More training, Kyle is coming to wrench for sure, split the drive up, and like a dream my mind is still reeling about 2006 a solid month after the race. If you have not done it you better start planning to do it. Lets start practicing this fall with the 12 Hours at Sac River, The 24 Hours of the Ozarks, Rapture in Misery, and finish it off with the Burning at The Bluff in October.

Lets do it again, Rockboy