FROM TEAMMATE TO PIT CREW
Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Steve Swenson, a 45 year old computer software consultant with three kids and an incredible wife. We live in Calgary and enjoy many outdoor activities that the close proximity to the mountains allow. I have completed 14 24HOA events, 12 as a solo including seven World Solo Championships and two more as a pit crew.
What got you interested in mountain biking?
In 2002 I was asked to join a corporate team for the 24 HOA in Canmore that summer. I had heard of the event and didn’t own a mountain bike but figured it would be fun. I borrowed a 10 year old rigid frame bike for that first year and I was hooked on mountain biking by the end of the race. After a 5 person team the next year, I had the urge to see if I could ride longer so I set my sights on riding solo for 2004. That first solo race with no pit crew was disorganized for me and I left thinking I would never do another. A few weeks later I was informed that I qualified for the World Solo Championships in Whistler that year. My friends and family convinced me to do it, volunteered to pit crew and helped raise money for me to go. Having a pit crew for the WSC definitely made the experience better and I found endurance racing presented a new challenge and I wanted to keep bettering my last result.
You have been doing the 24HOA event for over 10 years. What is it about the event that continues to attract you to it?
I really enjoy the atmosphere and people at the 24HOA events. The organizers, volunteers, racers, sponsors, and spectators all coming together to enjoy and share the challenge of a sport we all love. There is nothing like coming through the transition tent at 3am and hearing Crazy Larry and the rest of the volunteers and riders cheering you on. It always gave me a burst of energy to get back on the bike and head out for another lap.
You have also been a participant on a team, a team captain and a pit crew manager for a solo rider. Tell us about each of those experiences and what makes them unique?
My first couple of years I was on a team, which was a great learning experience with a focus on the fun. With all of the down time between laps I had plenty of time to meet people and take in the midnight corn roast, bonfire, and late night movies.
By far I enjoyed riding events solo. I made countless friendships during this time and seemed to talk with more people on the course than ever before. As a solo, everyone takes a few extra seconds on course to offer encouragement and discuss how the weekend is going for them and you. During this time my family and friends became more involved in my passion for riding and looked forward to our 24HOA weekends as much as me. As a solo rider you have todo more planning prior to the event but once the race begins you just focus on riding. My awesome wife Colette ran my pit crew for many years and made it all seem smooth and easy. Something I would learn later wasn’t as easy as she made it seem. I was lucky enough to race 24HOA WSC events in Canmore, Atlanta, Laguna Seca, Whistler, and Canberra, Australia. Participating in WSC events was a rare opportunity to meet and race with icons of mountain biking.
When my life got busier with other family activities, I decided to retire from racing in 2011. Shortly after that decision, an elite solo rider asked if I would be her pit crew manager. My son Tyler and I agreed and have helped her win the Canmore 24HOA the past two years. I always knew pit crews had plenty of work to do when their rider came in but didn’t realize how quickly the breaks between laps went by. It has been an interesting experience being a pit crew for a serious rider as I found crews don’t get to sleep at all during the weekend either.
What is one piece of advice that you’d give to those doing their first 24HOA?
Try to enjoy the atmosphere of the event even with the pain and fatigue that inevitably comes with riding your bike for long periods. Heed the advice of experienced riders, the information I learned from other riders in my first years was instrumental to the success and enjoyment for many years to come. You can never be over-prepared, be ready for anything!