Stash Your Trash!!!

I noticed a disturbing trend this year at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. The entire course was littered with gel and bar wrappers, casually tossed aside. While some of it might be attributed to the increase in teams and racers, that is no excuse for laziness and littering. Put bluntly, I was disgusted by the amount of wrappers I rode past during the race. There is no reason why if an athlete can carry an unopened gel packet, that same packet can’t be carried out in a jersey pocket when empty. I can’t even count the number of top riders I saw leaving the transition tent with one or two gels, then cruising back into camp with no trash at all. A rider skilled enough to open and eat a gel on that course is skilled enough to stuff that packet into a jersey pocket. And the riders who look up to the faster teams are given the idea that it’s okay to just discard trash along the course – not a message we should be sending.

Every empty wrapper, every piece of trash reflects on all athletes participating, as well as race organizers and volunteers. And it is not a reflection I want to look at. It says that we care more about speed then the surroundings that we race in; that we are more focused on the race then taking care of the venues. Is that the message we want to be sending to other user groups? We as mountain bikers are lucky to be able to train and race in such beautiful and unspoiled single track venues like at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. We should care enough about our ability to access these trails to take the few seconds to properly dispose of our trash, both while training and racing. It’s already hard to get access to trails and to promote mountain biking as an environmentally friendly sport. When we leave a race venue trashed, with gel wrappers strewn across the desert, that makes the battle even harder. Our numbers are growing, but that makes being respectful to the environment that we have to train and race in even more important. Leaving behind the amount of litter I saw at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is not a good way to gain additional access for riding and racing.

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo covers a 16.1/16.3 mile course. After the race, someone has to go out and examine every foot of every mile to ensure that there is no evidence of the race left behind. Every tear tag, every bar wrapper, every gel packet has to be picked up and carried off that course. And that is in addition to ensuring that 24 Hour Town is left cleaner then when we moved in for the weekend. In 2010, Nick and I spent 6 hours Monday morning cleaning up micro trash in 24 Hour Town. In six hours, we had barely covered a fourth of the area, walked away with 60 gallons of trash, and it was not easy work. I would not want to have to peruse the entire course, searching in the cacti for garbage left behind by careless racers. And judging by how quickly people abandon town, neither does anyone else. I don’t see many racers helping clean up more then their little section of town, if even that much. But it has to be done. If not, we all jeopardize the ability to hold the race at that venue. And that is true for all mountain bike races.

So pack it in and pack it out - stash your trash! Find out if your favored nutrition company has a loyalty program for returning empty wrappers or if there is some type of recycling available. But don’t ruin it for the rest of us by discarding them along the trail. I don’t want to see it and neither does anyone else.


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