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October 5, 2004
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Survival of the fittest
Keith Bontrager to cross off 50th 24-hour race at 24 Hours of
MOAB, Utah (October 5, 2004) When he turns 50 on December 18,
Keith Bontrager will match the number of birthday cake candles
with the number of 24-hour races he has completed since 1994.
Bontrager, designer of the wheels that carried Lance Armstrong
to the top of the podium in the Tour de France in 2003 and 2004,
forged his much lauded reputation as a mountain bike framebuilder
in the early 80’s in Santa Cruz, Calif. Bontrager’s
induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1994 distinguished
him as a key contributor to the sport. As part of the fastest
growing sector in off-road riding, on October 16-17 Bontrager
lends his pioneering legacy, his superlative fitness, and his
benchmark “50 by 50” achievement to the 10th Annual
24 Hours of Moab.
“It happened accidentally - very little that I have ever
done has been part of a plan,” explained Bontrager. “I
was adding up the races that I’d done in my head one day
and realized that I could get to 50 with a pretty typical race
calendar this year. I’d been riding as many as ten 24-hour
races a year and, even with a personal boycott of the Adrenalin™
series, there were plenty of good races to go to.”
The majority of 24-hour racers ride on relay teams of four or
five people. With the exception of one solo effort in 2000, Bontrager
typically builds his teams of four from local talent in the vicinity
of the race. No doubt there are a lucky few racers out there who,
at one time, stared at their phones in disbelief while the voice
of the venerated master calmly invited them to race on a team
with him. The objective is to complete as many laps as possible
on the 8-15 mile course from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday.
And while Moab’s 15-mile course challenges racers with 1,100
vertical feet of climbing, technical singletrack, fast descents,
and sand; it is one of the most scenic race courses as it winds
its way through the red-rock, high-desert, south of Moab.
Event promoter, Laird Knight, designed the Moab course with the
dedicated mountain bike racer in mind but ask Bontrager about
his racing career and he’ll tell you that while he races,
he is not a racer. His swollen race calendar and determined training
program tell a different tale.
“I like to be fit. It’s a good feeling, maybe one
of the most important reasons for doing this sort of thing,”
said Bontrager. “And it is more fun to go to a race with
the confidence that reasonable fitness brings, and to pass other
riders rather than to be passed.”
24-hour racing also demands a degree of mental toughness—a
character trait that merges neatly with Bontrager’s preternatural
ability for figuring out the way things work. He picks apart each
race the way a linguist picks apart the English language and then
isolates areas to improve. His Darwinian approach to perfecting
his race strategies has proven a threat to competitors but with
a nod toward his opponents, he admits that there are lots of faster
riders in the race.
24 Hours of Moab is Bontrager’s nineteenth race with event
organizer, Granny Gear Productions. Since 2001, every one of Bontrager’s
lap times has been recorded using Granny Gear Production’s
unprecedented, state-of-the-art, RealTime™ scoring system.
RealTime™ results are posted on grannygear.com. Should he
desire to, Bontrager can measure his performance on each lap with
how he did in previous years or he can see his lap times while
the race is in progress. Race fans can track Keith's team, Bontrager
Masters, at Granny Gear’s Results page.
We live in a culture that brokers the image of youth the way
a medicine man sells snake oil. 50 years is two-thirds of our
anticipated lifespan but for the brokers of youth, 50 is the brink
of antiquity. While 24-hour racing is no fountain of youth, the
fitness required for a race like Moab suggests that Bontrager
will be back at it for a long time to come.
“I have no idea whether fitness pushes back the effects
of aging,” Bontrager remarked. “It does push back
the effects of being fat and lazy though, and I’ll be happy
if it works that way for a while longer.”
The largest mountain bike race west of the Mississippi, a weekend
of world-class competition and fat tire camaraderie, and an opportunity
to race on some of the most stunning terrain in the U.S. earns
The 24 Hours of Moab its status as one of the most celebrated
mountain bike races in the world. Supporting Sponsors include
NiteRider Technical Lighting Systems, BIKE Magazine, VeloWear.com,
and The American Lung Association. Contributing sponsors include
Shimano USA and East-West Printing.
Granny Gear Productions, a sports marketing and event production
company, has earned a reputation as the industry's most innovative
and successful event organizer. With more than 22 years as a mountain
bike race organizer, Granny Gear President and CEO, Laird Knight,
created the 24-hour racing format in 1991. In 2001, Knight became
West Virginia Tourism’s Person-of-the-Year and in 2002,
Knight was inducted into The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
For more information, visit: www.grannygear.com
For press credentials, photographic material, or to set up an
interview with Keith, call Wendy at 617-308-2500.