For the first time in history, an Italian rider has taken the top step in the Elite category. Gaia Ravaioli, from Genoa, has been crowned Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike World Champion, alongside Cory Wallace, from Canada, who finally wins the WEMBO title after an eight-year-long chase.
Hundreds of athletes take part in the WEMBO Championships once a year to race solo or in pairs for 24 consecutive hours, day and night, without breaks.
Cory Wallace (Kona Factory Team) from Canada rounded off a dream he has been pursuing during eight long years; he hit his target during his first ever participation to the race in Italy, on a technical and varied race course.
“I come from the sport of hockey, where the roar of spectators and crowd is a big thing. Racing here in Finale has been really thrilling; the enthusiasm of the people along the race course added strong motivation. I had a relaxed start and until the air temperature fell, I paced myself. Legs were good; as soon as some clouds closed in and it got dark I launched my attack and started imposing my speed”, said Wallace.
With 38 laps completed, a total of 380 km and 23.48 hours in the saddle, Cory gained a one-lap gap to the seven-time world champion from Australia, Jason English and held a two-lap lead over the American Josh Tostado, third.
Gair Ravaoili takes women’s WEMBO
The loudest applauses in Finale Ligure went to Gaia Ravaioli (Bike Garage Team) from Genoa: she becomes the author of a remarkable chapter in the history of the Italian mountain-biking by taking the first ever Italian win in the Elite category.
Showing up at the start line almost as an outsider, Gaia surprised everyone with a very fast start, up to the point that many were wondering if she could keep the same pace for long. Gaia was listening to her feelings: she didn’t give up and she kept the lead of the race from start to finish, securing herself a margin of more than one hour at some point. She only had to manage her lead over the chaser and defending champion Liz Smith, from Australia, who finished second.
Even if this sounds like the strategy of an expert 24 hour racer, this was only the third time she had participated in this type of events.
“I certainly went through some tough moments, especially during the night. I had a flat and I crashed, too. But I stayed calm, trying to overcome these problems with sheer determination. Taking part in a race of such importance here, in Liguria, my region, has been one of the things that motivated me most. But I owe a lot to my team too: they gave me massive support. I had set my mind on doing a good job, but I had never thought up to this point. It will take me a while to realise what happened in the last 24 hours”.
Gaia, with 32 laps, 320km and more than 24:16 hours in the saddle, pushes the defending champion Liz Smith into second by 16 minutes and Iwona Szmyd, from Poland, into third by one lap.
Australia scored some titles, as Peter Selkrig won his age group, as did Kevin Skidmore, Claudia Fiess and Jason Archer.
The 24H of Finale proves to be one of the most exciting 24 Hours out there. An event where event village and expo area perfectly integrate with the competition to create a magic vibe, something really loved by participants and public both.
Russel Baker, founder of WEMBO, the organising company said: “Only here in Finale participation is so enthusiastic, with a warm, supportive public that loves and understands the essence of what is a very special discipline within mountain-biking. At the same time, the race course remains extremely hard and selective: this is the mix that makes the race of Finale something unique”.
Wrapped up the WEMBO World Championship with awards and rainbow jerseys, the spotlights are again on Altopiano delle Manie where at 15:00 the show kicked off with the 24H of Finale TEAM 4/8/12. With more than 2500 participants, and an edition that celebrates ‘Bike in Wonderland’, this second part of the event will give us again a lot of fun and an excitement just as intense.
All photos by FRANCESCO BARTOLI AVVEDUTI