One hundred and seventy-five racers representing 15 nations showed up in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, to compete in the 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Championships July 26-27. But the big story was actually a piece of mud.
At 10:30 p.m., as defending champion Rebecca Rusch of Ketchum, Idaho, was building an insurmountable lead in the women’s race, so was 47-year-old mountain-bike icon Tinker Juarez, also the 2007 champ.
The dreadlocked former Olympian had already demoralized his two main rivals and seemed headed to a second-straight victory. Kelly Magelky, 27, who rode wheel-to-wheel with Juarez in the 2007 race for 23 hours to take second place, pushed hard early but was blown off by his opponent’s surge on lap three; he never recovered, eventually finishing 12th.
The 2007 Australian solo champ, James Williamson, 25, who caught and rode just ahead of Juarez for four laps, was so distraught after Juarez’ lap-eight surge left him seven minutes behind that he stayed in his pit for several minutes to rest and eat, openly conceding the race. “I just want to finish,” he told his crew.
That left Juarez to contend with his two toughest rivals: The mud — and himself.
An unexpected 8 p.m. storm left all the riders coated in clay-marbled muck from head to toe by nightfall. Juarez, without glasses or a fender, began having problems removing grit from his right eye.
“I couldn’t see the ground well and started wiping my eye with my muddy glove when I scratched it,” he said. The eye started swelling. Soon he couldn’t see out of it; he slowed, and spritzed it with water, to no avail.
“Nothing worked,” he said. “I was blind in that eye and it hurt bad every time I blinked.”
At a checkpoint two-thirds of the way through the lap, after race volunteers poured water over Juarez’s face and dabbed his eye with Q-tips, Williamson still hadn’t arrived. But Juarez was now effectively blind; his right eye was only good for crying.
“I wanted this; I had it in my hands,” he said sadly. “I should have worn glasses — but there was so much tree cover that I didn’t need them. I’ll be back with them next year.” A vehicle ferried him to the first -id center at the finish, where he officially withdrew when his vision got no better than what he called “foggy.”
The unexpected turn of events immediately cleared things up for Williamson, who maintained a comfortable edge on a half-dozen potential contenders, mainly Aussies, over the next 12 hours, winning with 16 laps (208 miles) in 22:49:09. He took home $3750 for the win.
Energized by a thriving 24-hour scene back home and by Craig Gordon’s 2006 victory over the previously unbeaten Chris Eatough, the Aussie invasion brought 35 racers to Canmore. With Eatough and perennial top-five finishers Mark Hendersot and Nat Ross not attending, Australians
took four of the five Adrenalin top spots. Jason English, the 2008 Down Under Solo champion, a P.E. teacher from Port Macquerie who was back on the bike just seven weeks after suffering a broken back, finished an hour behind Williamson to take second. Aussie Mark Fenner of Gerringong took third with 16 laps.
In the women’s race, Rusch also finished with a large gap, lapping 37-year-old Aussie lawyer Katrin Van der Spiegel to finish with 14 laps and 182 miles in 23:26:21. “It was the hardest course I’ve ever done — the climbing, the rain, the mud — it was survival of the fittest,” she said.
Legendarily fit, having spent a decade as one of the world’s top adventure racers, Rusch made use of markedly improved bike-handling skills, which her boyfriend Greg Martin, winner of the singlespeed
division with 14 laps, said make her his equal on technical downhills.
That combination of skill and strength overwhelmed early challenger Jennifer Gersbach of Avon, Colorado, who’d beaten her at the 2008 marathon nationals (third place to fifth place) and pushed her here on laps two and three before falling back with lengthy pit stops. Gersbach finished third with 12 laps.
The 10th-anniversary festivities included the first inductees in the 24-Hour Hall of Fame, including the world’s first-ever 24-hour soloist Ed Hunt; endurance legend John Stamstad; single-legged rider
Brett Wolfe; and Steve “Dr. Doom” Fassbinder, the first singlespeed 24-hour soloist, who took third in this year’s event.
24 hours of Adrenalin Solo World Championships
July 26-27, 2008
Canmore, Alberta, Canada
1. James Williamson (Aus), 22:49:09, 16 laps
2. Jason English (Aus), 23:53:56, 16 laps
3. Mark Fenner (Aus), 24:00:49, 16 laps
4. Jeff Toohey (Aus), 24:27:25, 16 laps
5. Cory Wallace (Can), 24:31:10, 16 laps
6. Thomas Widhalm (A), 24:40:40, 16 laps
7. Leighton Poidevin (Can), 23:48:45, 15 laps
8. Dallas Morris (Can), 23:28:35, 14 laps
9. Jay Petervary (USA), 24:06:49, 14 laps
10. Josh Oppenheimer (USA), 24:14:22, 14 laps
1. Rebecca Rusch (USA), 23:26:21, 14 laps
2. Katrin Van der Spiegel (Aus), 22:59:23, 13 laps
3. Jennifer Gersbach (USA), 22:55:01, 12 laps
4. Carena Parr (Can), 24:07:08, 12 laps
5. Karen Armstrong (USA), 22:50:43, 10 laps
6. Mei Anna (I), 23:40:02, 10 laps
7. Megan Dimozantos (Aus), 22:50:32, 9 laps
8. Jean Boyd (Can), 23:02:29, 9 laps
9. Kate Aardal (Can), 23:32:00, 9 laps
10. Melinda Behrens (Aus), 24:09:01, 9 laps
1. Greg Martin (USA), 24:16:22, 14 laps
2. Lonn Bate (Can), 22:25:03, 13 laps
3. Steve Fassbinder (USA), 23:05:12, 13 laps