By Kip Mikler , VeloNews Editor
It’s called 24 Hours of Moab, but it actually took the Trek-Volkswagen team of Travis Brown, Chris Eatough, Sue Haywood and Alison Sydor 25 hours and two minutes to take the Coed Pro/Am title in one of the most exciting 24-hour team races to date. After 25 hours of four-person relay racing (two male, two female) in the Utah desert, it all came down to a last-lap showdown between Sydor, a 24-hour rookie despite her three world titles and multiple World Cup wins, and Gretchen Reeves of Team Beaver Creek II.
When Brown finished the team’s 21st lap at 11:53 a.m. on Sunday and handed the baton to Sydor for the final lap, the Canadian set off with a 30-second advantage over Reeves. It was all she needed.
“After 24 hours to have it come right down to the finish is amazing,” Sydor said after squeaking out the win by just two minutes.
Brown and Sydor may be mountain-bike icons with Olympic experience, world and national titles hanging in their trophy cases, but at Moab they were right there with hundreds of other rookies mixing it up on the jagged 13-mile tour of Moab’s infamous “Behind the Rocks” loop. Challenges awaiting the more than 1700 entrants included Nose Dive Hill, Prostitute Butte and enough sand to hold a beach volleyball tournament.
For Eatough and Haywood, racing around the clock is old hat. Eatough is the two-time world 24-hour solo champion and Haywood hails from Davis, West Virginia, the place where 24-hour racing was born.
The Coed Pro-Am category, where teams must race with two men and two women, had the hottest competition. For much of the noon-to-noon event, Trek-Volkswagen was barely in the picture, outmatched by a battle between SoBe-Headshok (Eric Jones, Jimi Killen, Shonny Vanlandingham and Kerry Barnholt) and Beaver Creek II, a veteran crew from Colorado made up of Reeves, Mike Janelle, Jay Henry and Melissa Thomas.
The gaps between the top three teams were remarkably close from the start. When the sun set on the remote desert locale, which was transformed into a makeshift city of 3000 fat-tire campers for a weekend, SoBe had the advantage. Riding a mix of Cannondale hardtails, Scalpels and Jekylls, the team had an advantage of nearly seven minutes over Beaver Creek II as darkness settled in. Trek-VW was another minute-and-a-half behind.
In addition to Brown’s light problem, Eatough had suffered a flat on one lap. Still, the Trek team never lost hope. “We never gave up,” said Haywood. “We never even thought about second place.”
Sydor seconded that: “We had problems going into the night, but we overcame it.”
As noon Sunday approached, all three teams were on the same lap. SoBe’s Vanlandingham was the first to hit the second-to-last lap, but Brown and Henry went out in hot pursuit as they tried to complete the lap before noon. Brown passed Vanlandingham just before the midway point, and came in 30 seconds ahead of Henry, giving Sydor that cushion for the anchor.
“I’ve been a team rider in the team relay and in road racing, so I’ve been in pressure situations,” Sydor said, “but I tell you, my heart was racing.”
On the line was $8000, as well as the pride of the Trek team, which has made 24-hour racing a focus since the early days of West Virginia’s 24 Hours of Canaan race.
Sydor’s teammates were hardly worried, though. “She’s Canadian, you can’t break her,” said Haywood.
Sure enough, Sydor delivered — and she had an escort to help out. There are no rules barring a teammate from pacing a rider on course in 24-hour racing, so Eatough helped keep the trail clear for Sydor on the final lap.
Reeves finished at 1:04 p.m. to seal second place for Beaver Creek, while SoBe’s Barnholdt came in at 1:18, giving them third place.
In solo racing, Rishi Grewal strolled to his second win at Moab, while SoBe-Headshok rider Nancy Busching took her first major 24-hour solo championship.
Grewal had a smooth ride on his Klein Adept Pro, which was a far cry from the last time he raced Moab — on a hardtail in 1998. The former World Cup cross-country racer, who retired from the NORBA circuit in 1998, said he likes the “offbeat” events like Moab and plans to continue racing in them. So far, Grewal is two-for-two at Moab, and has one unofficial world 24-hour title to his name.
Conditions on the “Behind the Rocks” course — a sand and red rock rollercoaster that climbs 1100 feet per lap — were close to perfect. Daytime temperatures were in the 70s, and nighttime temperatures dipped to the 40s. Skies remained clear for the entire 24 hours.
24 HOURS OF MOAB, Moab, UT. October 13-14.;;
1. Trek-Volkswagen (Travis Brown, Chris Eatough, Sue Haywood, Alison Sydor), 22 laps finishing 1:02;;2. Beaver Creek II (Jay Henry, Mike Janelle, Gretchen Reeves, Melissa Thomas), 22 laps, 1:04;; 3. SoBe-Headshok (Kerry Barnholdt, Eric Jones, Jimi Killen, Shonny Vanlandingham), 22 laps, 1:18.;;
1. Rishi Grewal, 17 laps finishing 12:51; 2. Nat Ross, 16 laps, 12:19; 3. Butch Peterson, 16 laps 12:46.;;
1. Nancy Busching, 13 laps finishing 12:00; 2. Sandra Musgrave, 13 laps, 12:21; 3. Jenna Woodbury, 12 laps, 12:00.;;
1. Ride the Beav, 21 laps finishing 12:56; 2. Must be the Money, 19 laps, 12:02; 3. Three Inch Difference, 12:04.