By Sue George
Granny Gear announced a slimmed-down National Points Series (NPS) for next season. The six race series will shrink to three races, keeping its two most popular events: the 24 hours of Moab and the 24 hours of Big Bear and adding the 24 hours of Nine Mile. Gone from the series are past venues like Killington, Vermont; Conyers, Georgia; Vail Lake, California; and Landahl, Missouri.
The series will commence with the 24 hours of Big Bear in Hazelton, West Virginia, on June 13-14, 2009. It will stop next at the 24 hours of Nine Mile on July 25-26 in Wisconsin before wrapping up at the 24 hours of Moab in Utah on October 10-11.
Granny Gear's owner Laird Knight gave both business and personal explanations for next year's shorter calendar.
"My mantra for next year is manageability and profitability. Obviously a company has to turn a profit to survive. The smaller races haven't been holding their own. In addition, I'll be adopting three children from Ethiopia," said Knight, who wants to make sure he has time for his new family.
"In 2009, we'll do what we do best - run big races. I'm really excited about next year."
The 24 hours of Nine Mile will be new to Granny Gear's series. Although Knight and his crew helped with timing at the 2008 event, which doubled for the final time as the USA Cycling 24 hour national championships, 2009 will mean much more involvement for the West Virginia-based company.
"I've been working with the Wisconsin race since the beginning, and last year was a chance for me to do the site visit. I think the race is a good addition to the series. The spirit and feel are similar to that of our other races, but the course is very different. It's a high-speed, turning-type course - fairly flat and not super technical. It's really fun."
With the shorter schedule, Knight predicted, "We'll be able to put a lot more heart into the races. I'm so proud of my staff for pulling it off this year, but it's important for us to put one race away and move on to the next one." That's something that should be easier to do with just three races during the course of the season.
The first Granny Gear event was the predecessor to the 24 hours of Big Bear; it was run in 1992. The 24 hours of Moab started just a few years later, in 1995. 2009 will mark the fifth time the Big Bear event is run at its current Hazelton location after it was previously held in Canaan and Snowshoe, West Virginia.
New for 2009 will be the addition of 12 hour categories at the Nine Mile and Big Bear events. "Last year, when we helped time the 24 hours of Nine Mile, we had to include 12 hour classes. We realized that our timing system can do that easily."
Knight said he's still figuring out some logistics like which 12 hour portion of the 24 hour event to use for the shorter race. "Details will come out later," he said before adding that the 12 hour option will better serve those looking for "a means of entree into 24 hour racing or those who might not want to race the full 24 hours".
The 24 hours of Moab will not feature a 12 hour option. "We have a field limit and we don't want to exclude our 24 hour teams there," explained Knight. "However, at Big Bear and Nine Mile, we have more room to host more teams."