Posted on: September 7th, 2015
Ian Bongard - Sans Number Plate Photos Courtesy of Steffen Gronegger, Enduro MTB Magazine
GROM Racing was represented in the Chomolungma Challenge Endurance Downhill race at Snowshoe this past weekend by riders Phillip Steele and Ian Bongard.
“Chomolungma” is the traditional Tibetan name for Mt. Everest. From a Downhill racer's perspective, it is 30,000 feet of vertical drop from top to bottom. (Not 30,000 feet tall, from bottom to top!). The Snowshoe race consists of 20, 1500 ft. vertical drop laps, for the equivalent of the Mt Everest vertical. There were two races, a solo event on Saturday and a team event Sunday.
As if the nature of the race isn’t grueling enough in itself, Ian decided to run both the Solo on Saturday, and then join forces with Phillip to run the Team challenge on Sunday!
Saturday's Solo event held a few “surprise” challenges for Ian too. The neat thing was how it once again showcased the success of the Team’s Mission to “Develop Skills, Character, and Performance in youth riders”. He had 3 flat tires and lost his number plate off the bike, which was also the lap punch card that verifies the number of laps you have run. No punch card, no lap credit! Through it all, he kept his cool, dealt with the situation, and kept racing. Good job Ian!
Ian started the solo race with a flat tire on the first lap When he got to the bottom, Doug Steele was in the team pits and would have made Dale Earnhardt proud with what Ian said was a 60 second tire change to get him back out on course! The rocky terrain at Snowshoe is hard on tires, and numerous people were getting flats. Another one of GROM’s stated missions is to help any youth rider, team member or not, if they can. So Doug had lots of practice fixing flats and helping with some other repairs on Saturday. On lap 10, Ian experienced flat number two. This one must have leaked down on the ride back up to the top because he noticed it as soon as he got off the lift. With the pit at the bottom, he had no option but to run a whole lap on the flat. Back on course, again, he had yet one more flat before the end of the race, at which time Doug said that he better not get another, because they were out of tubes!
Ian then encountered the biggest problem when his number plate ripped off the bike on the way down somewhere. No punch card, no lap credits! He went back up and took a slow lap down while looking for the card while Brian and Linda Bongard started running the course UPHILL looking for it. Phillip ended up finding it as he started walking down the course from the top, and quickly got it back in Ian’s hand. Through all of this, Ian maintained his composure and kept working through the challenges like a Pro. Endurance racing is tough and he conducted himself well and the Team rallied around him in the process. Nice job and thank you everyone.
Sunday’s Team event was less problematic, but there was the added drama of being in the running for a podium finish all day. Philip was faster than ever. Ian was pumped up and didn’t seem to be physically fazed by his Saturday run. Pit strategy was again important. They worked out the lap strategy between themselves, each running half of the 20 laps. They adjusted that strategy a bit as conditions changed when rain drenched the course and delayed the race for an hour toward the end.
They did podium with a 4th place finish in the team event against some really fast competition, and were by far the youngest racers on the podium. Congratulations!
Despite all the problems, and with “Lightning Doug” on tires in the pits, Ian finished with a surprisingly strong 8th place finish in the Solo event.
Thanks to Snowshoe for again putting on this unique and challenging event. It was awesome.
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