Posted earlier today on the official 24 Hours of Georgia Facebook page:
Do [sic] to unforeseen circumstances Dirty Spokes and Chain Buster Racing will no longer be holding the 24 Hours of Georgia mountain bike race. We appreciate each and everyone one [sic] of you for your support and participation in this event. We look forward to providing new and improved events for the future and appreciate your understanding.
This is a sad day for mountain bike racing in the Southeast, but I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming. 24-hour racing is, unfortunately, a quickly-dying breed. 24 Hours of Georgia will be buried next to the fresh graves of the 24-hour mountain bike worlds, which was recently canceled in August of 2012, and 24 Hours of Moab, which was also canceled after the 2012 event.
Many other notable 24-hour races have been canceled, and the ones that are still hanging on are fraught with funding and participation issues. Back in 2011, maddslacker wrote an article in an effort to help save 24 Hours of Moab, and while the race continued for 2012, it was canceled after that final rendition.
While 24-hour races are almost extinct, 100-mile races are on the rise. Races in the rapidly-growing National Ultra Endurance Series constantly sell out, and usually well before the registration is scheduled to end. The NUE series was comprised of 11 races in 2011, grew to 12 races in 2012, and added True Grit and the Wildcat 100 for a total of 14 races in 2014. Add to that the numerous 100-mile races across the nation that aren’t associated with the NUE series, such as the Leadville 100 and the 5-race qualifying series that now accompanies it.
Multi-day stage races and enduro races are also on the rise. The Trans-Sylvania Epic, Breck Epic, Pisgah Stage Race, and BC Bike Race have all garnered reputations as important races on the calendars of endurance mountain bikers across North America.
Finally, while this is harder to quantify, it’s my impression that self-supported ultra-endurance bike packing races are gaining in popularity, too. In the United States alone, the Tour Divide, Colorado Trail Race, Arizona Trail Race, Tour North Georgia, Stagecoach 400, Huracan 300, Dirty Kanza 200, as well as others, continue to attract more and more ultra endurance crazies every year.
As for why the 24-hour format has died off, I had a chance to talk with ultra-endurance racer Eddie O’Dea of Team Topeak-Ergon. O’Dea is the current course record holder for the Tour North Georgia, Stagecoach 400, and the Huracan 300, and he organizes the Fools Gold 100 mountain bike race, the Southern Cross ultracross race, and used to organize the Burn 24 Hour Challenge mountain bike race. According to O’Dea, “there were a number of factors” contributing to 24-hour racing’s decline in popularity. One of the biggest factors is that “the challenge has been done for most people. There are so many good events, that people are moving on to other, newer challenges. And I think we’ll see this with other genres of mountain biking.”
O’Dea also commented that 24-hour racing is complicated. Getting a team together, and convincing people to commit, is a challenge, and “as a solo rider, there’s just not many people that want to commit to that.” Whatever the multiple causes might be, the bottom line is that racing “is getting fragmented, and people’s interests are moving elsewhere.”
One thing is certain: while 24-hour racing is on the decline, there is still no shortage of options for racers who want to pedal their mountain bikes all day long.