Photos: Patrick Means
The first 17 hours of the WEMBO World Solo 24 hour Championships in Weaverville California went great with 6 time World Champion Jason English and I cruising together with over a 30 minute lead on Josh Tostado in 3rd. The course was sweet with a 5 km fireroad climb followed with a fast, dusty California style singletrack descent back into the pit area. The last 7 hours of this race were rather forgettable as my vision declined to a point in which it was barely possible to make out the outline of the trail, sometimes losing it in places in the twisty forest where it would blend into the surrounding dusty landscape.
In the end after 400 km and 10 000 metres+ of climbing, I’d managed to finish 4th which is a big success in any 24 hour race but certainly not what I was gunning for. One of these years it will come together. This was my 8th 24 hour solo race, making me a bit of a greenhand compared to Jason’s 30+, which I think he’s been undefeated in the last 30 or so.
Excuses don’t win you championships though and I’m set on eliminating them all for next time starting off with getting lazer eye surgery next week to eliminate the use of contact lenses which seem to factor into the eyes clouding over late into these races as they get clogged with dust and prevent enough oxygen from getting in there.
The race itself this year was a great one with Tinker Juarez and a handful of other guys going out like a World Cup race on the first lap. I’d usually join these guys for this tactic but like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the past and opted to stay with Jason as whatever he does seems to work. By lap 3 the announcer said we were 20 minutes down on the leaders, I think this was an exaggeration but I thought “oh shit we’ll be lapped in another 6 hours”. I turned to Jason and asked if we should pick the pace up a bit as those guys were going pretty good off the front. “Good or hard?” he responded, “if they keep going that pace they’ll be curled up on the side of the trail in no time.” Ok, I thought, this guy is calm as possible about this so I better relax a bit. Over the next 12 hours we would overtake everyone, riding together 90% of the time with him pitting a bit faster, which turned into 30 seconds faster a lap once I started having to put eye drops in. I’d catch back up on the climb, sometimes pulling ahead a bit, with us both descending around the same. He was great company as we caught up on each others lives over the past two years and even had time to discuss the problems us riders have with Grizzly bears in Canada and the drop bears in Australia.
If someone asked if I was going to win this race at 3 am I would’ve bet them $1000 on it. At 4am or so Jason put in a bit of an effort heading into the descent which I had a tough time following, blinking manically as the trail wasn’t coming across too clearly anymore. Lap-by-lap it got worse to the point I had no choice but to take the contacts out, hoping wearing my old eye glasses would help the cloudy eyes go away. This was to no avail and my race turned into a survival mission to the finish.
In the end Jason would keep his pace and seemed to even up it a bit towards the end to take is 6th straight World Title and tie Chris Eatough for the record. After seeing how Jason finished the race I know even with good eyes, I will need to up my game going into the next one as he’s a wise racer and always seems to have more left in the tank than you think he does. I have no clue how a guy can be so consistent as everyone else is normal and has good and bad days, yet Jason always finds a way to get it done. Normally in 24 hour racing you try and rest going into the race. Jason has his own tactic and did a 450km, 17 hour ride 6 days before the race, flew in Thursday night, had about 38hours to overcome jetlag from flying halfway around the World, smokes us all, and heads straight back home to take out the Australian 24 hr Champs just 5 days later.
Going into this race I wasn’t too keen on 24 hour racing after past experiences of dislocating a shoulder, passing out in the woods, cloudy eyes, putting myself into a grave numerous times from over consuming caffeine and sugary foods (48 caffeineated gels over 24 hours will do that) and having numb hands and feet for weeks after races ended. This year I swapped to rice cakes with nut butter and some chocolate blocks from my friend Stacey Stand and plain electolytes in the drink bottles. I also saw my buddy Luke Way at Balance Point Racing to get the bikes and shoes dialed in and Shannon Snow at Valeo Physio in Kelowna to make sure the body was aligned. This had the bike and body feeling great.
My pit crew lead by good buddy Dave Mcnaught, Sean Babcock, Patrick Means, my Dad and Eilleen did one hell of a job giving me every possible opportunity to win this race. You guys placed number 1 in the 24 hr pit championships last weekend I’m sure! Obviously a few more tweeks are needed in my game plan but the elusive 24 hour World title I’ve been chasing for some years is getting closer!
After having this race end in a kick to the balls kind of way, a fire has been re-lit and I’m motivated to re-asses the situation and show up at Worlds in New Zealand this February with a whole new arsenal of bullets to fire Jason’s way and finally pull out a full 24 hours and at least be in a sprint with him on the last lap. Off to get the eyes zapped and a little bit of normal life stuff as I’ll take an early off season this year to reset the system and come back on a whole different level for 2016!
Huge thanks to all my sponsors for making this all happen. Kona Bikes, Freewheel Cycle, Russ Hayes, Wild Mountain & Balance Point Racing.
Over and Out!