"Now you pay fees for camping, parking, shuttles," adds Mike Ikenberry, a.k.a. Captain Endo of the Legion of Vroom. "What's next—a toll after every lap?"
Knight, who charges an entrance fee per team of either $160 (for pros) or $110 (for amateurs), dismisses such critics as "die-hard retro-grouches." He courts sponsors and quotes a self-commissioned survey that depicts 24-hour participants as older, better educated and more affluent than typical mountain bikers.
Bling-bling is one of Snow-shoe's indisputable allures. The 10 coed pro-am teams vied for the lion's share of the $30,000 cash purse. Three-time defending champ Trek- Volkswagen JBL led out the opening lap in one hour, 13 minutes, followed closely by perennial also-ran Cane Creek Pro's. However, when Trek's Jeremy Wimpey (a former Hugh Jass cyclist) popped a stem bolt a third of the way through Lap 2, the team lost more than half an hour and never recovered. The four-person Cane Creek won with 17 laps. Thirty-five-year-old Paul Bell, who covered 12 laps, won the solo competition.
Cane's ablest rider was its newest, a gun for hire named Chris Sheppard. His clockings in the second and fifth laps (1:05.57 and 1:06.07) were the fastest in the race. "This was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," moaned Sheppard, last season's eighth-ranked North American pro on the NORBA tour. "At about 1 a.m., as I was running my bike through four miles of calf-high mud, I started yelling what I'd like to do to the organizers."
Meanwhile, Sheppard's teammate Gretchen Reeves claimed she had banged her knee against a tree so hard that she saw Elvis. "He was heavily medicated," she remembered. "Half the time, I wished I were, too."