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Mountain Bike News and Notes: Eatough and Sawicki win U.S. 24-solo champs; No Lance for Leadville; Bishop’s Challenge

By Fred Dreier




Chris Eatough collected his fifth national 24-hour solo mountain-biking championships on July 29 at Wisconsin’s 24 Hours of Nine Mile. The six-time world 24-Solo champion went blow for blow with Nat Ross (Subaru-Gary Fisher) before finally pulling away from the Coloradan during the night.

While 24-Solo racing is still considered a fringe sport for the physically tough/mentally insane, the 2007 U.S. championships featured an impressive 45 entrants. Still, Eatough has taken a step back from his bread-and-butter this season, and has spent 2007 diversifying his racing. The Maryland native won British Columbia’s seven-day B.C. Bike Race stage race in July and has followed the National Ultra Endurance Series, a seven-race series comprised of individual 100-mile cross-country races. Eatough currently sits in second place.

And Eatough, who is a six-time world 24-Solo champion, says he will not ride at the 2007 world championships, held September 1 at Laguna Seca Speedway in Monterey, California.

And that’s not the only thing new in Eatough’s life — he’s been a father for six months now. VeloNews caught up with Eatough as he was driving home from Wisconsin.

VeloNews: Let’s get a little race report. How’d it go?

Chris Eatough: Well Nat was very aggressive and took charge of the race early on. He was the one setting the pace for the first five hours of so, and I was just keeping tabs on him. I didn’t want to race any faster than he was, so I just paced myself. It was about seven hours before I first saw that I had an advantage on him. I applied some pressure to see what happened and got a small time gap on him. But Nat was still hanging on and maybe losing only a minute a lap until the start of the night laps. At about 12 hours into the race he was maybe 10 minutes back which is nothing in a 24-hour race. It was still close. It wasn’t until the late, late night laps that I got more of a gap on him. I think he was feeling the effects of his early efforts.

VN: Sounds like you made a different bike choice for the race.

CE: Yeah, I rode a hardtail for the first time in years. I chose the new 69er to race on because I’ve been enjoying riding it this summer. I was feeling a little beat up toward the end of the race and switched to the dual suspension, which is a 69er also. It was a really twisty, turny course and the 69er can handle corners like that better than any bike I’ve ridden. I even rode the singlespeed 69er for one lap. The course was fairly flat which helped out.

VN: You’re the most prolific 24-Solo racer in the history of the sport, and you’re not going to contest the world championships this year. Why not?

CE: Yes that’s true, the news just came out a day or so ago. Well, the new 100-mile series [NUE series] finals is on September 4 and I really wanted to finish out that series, and when you commit to something like that it would be a shame to miss the series finals and lose the series. I’m also not crazy about the venue at Laguna Seca. I’m not a huge fan of racing there for 24 hours straight. I mean, even though I’m a pro 24-hour racer, the racecourse needs to be fun for me to race on it. I don’t want to be miserable, and if I’m not enjoying what I’m racing on then it’s not worth it to me. I’m going to do the 24-Hours of Moab instead, and I’ve never done that race and always wanted to do it. I’ve always missed the Moab race for world’s.

And this year I’m not the defending world champion so I don’t feel obligated to go and defend the title. This is an opportunity to go and try something different.

VN: Craig Gordon beat you last year at the world championships in one of the best off-road battles of the year. Will he be coming over from Australia to race?

CE: I’ve heard he’s not coming, and I wanted to let him know that I wasn’t going to be there and I’d be at Moab in case he was planning to come over here. I wanted to give him the opportunity to race me if he was planning to come to the U.S. I talked with [24-Solo Film producer] Jason Berry who keeps in touch with him a bit, and it sounds like his wife opened a new business and he is going to stay in Australia and help her out with that.

VN: It looks like you’ve been diversifying your schedule a bit this year. Why?

CE: Yes, it works for me because I only want to do two 24-Solo races a year. Anything more than that would not be sustainable for me. That leaves some pretty big holes in the schedule. I had been doing the NORBA marathon series and Super D races at the national events, but the marathon series doesn’t exist anymore.

This year I did the B.C. Bike race with Jeff Schalk and the experience went really well. I’m definitely going to do that in the future. There is a one-day championship, but the scheduling didn’t work out. I started looking at the 100-mile races last year and the series was successful. They banded together successful races with individual promoters into this series and the races are in areas with good riding. I’ve really enjoyed them.

VN: So how has your life changed with the new baby?

CE: It’s only gotten better, that’s for sure. I’m enjoying being a dad. Yeah, it’s required a little bit of juggling the schedule, and I don’t have an open plate anymore as far as my training goes. My wife Allison and I trade off taking care of the baby because she works too, so I have a set time to train in, not all day like I used to. But it seems to be working out just fine, and my results are good and I fel fit. That’s been the only adjustment.

Sawicki Wins 24-Solo jersey at Nine Mile
Monique “Pua” Sawicki (Team Mata) took her second national 24-Solo cross-country championship at Wisconsin’s 24 Hours of Nine Mile. Sawicki completed 18 laps, beating second-place Rebecca Rusch, the defending champ, by one lap.

“It feels good to win on this course, especially because I had such a nightmare of a race here last year,” Sawicki said.

Midway through the race, Sawicki was surprised to learn that her progress put her inside the top 10 of the men’s competition. When Sawicki finally finished her race, she was the fourth fastest on the day.

“It was cool, I came through the feed zone and someone told me that Mark Hendershot was only five minutes ahead of me, and was in third place,” Sawicki said. “I didn’t expect that.”

Armstrong will not be at Leadville 100
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will not compete in the 2007 Leadville 100 mountain-bike race, held Saturday, August 11 in Leadville, Colorado. A scheduling conflict will keep Armstrong from competing in the race.

“He was in the area a few weeks ago and rode a few of the passes and I think there was speculation in some of the local news that he was back in, but that is not the case,” said Mark Higgins, Armstrong’s spokesperson.

Embattled 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis will compete in the 100-mile off-road event, and will go up against former Leadville 100 winner Dave Weins and 24-Solo rider Nat Ross.

Bishop Challenges Others to Donate Prize Winnings
Trek-Volkswagen cross-country rider Jeremiah Bishop donated his $380 prize money from winning the No. 5 round of the National Mountain Bike Series to the World BicycleRelief Project.

The Trek-Volkswagen rider is now challenging others to make the same commitment. Bishop, a native of Harrisonburg, Virginia, will donate his winning race number and an autographed jersey to an athlete willing to match his donation to the fund.

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