This week the world’s toughest endurance riders are descending on Canberra’s Stromlo Forest for the World Solo 24 Hour Championships. This will be the first time that the Championships have been held outside the Americas, but with three winners from the previous four years Australia has earned its home ground advantage.
Australia is well placed among the contenders this year, with defending champion Jason English an early favourite.
Australia’s Craig Gordon – a former champion and big chance for the 2011 title – is in doubt after suffering an injury in training. Rumours suggest that he has broken an arm, but whether this is enough to keep him away won’t become clear until the weekend.
In the women’s race, Victorian Jess Douglas is the local favourite. She is the defending Australian title holder and keen to improve on her fourth place at the 2009 Solo World Championships in Canada.
The event itself is simple – competitors set off with a Le Mans style running start, and complete as many laps of the course as possible within the 24 hour period. With over 400 competitors entered from 15 countries the event promises to be huge.
Management of food and hydration is obviously of massive importance in a race this long, with competitors relying on a balancing act of food and liquids. Failure to get the formula right is destined to end in a painful failure.
CORC, Canberra Off Road Cyclists MTB club is hosting the event, which will showcase some of Australia’s premier trails. The Glen Jacobs designed network has hosted a number of big events, including the 2009 UCI World MTB Championships.
Successful solo 24 hour racing requires a special athlete – exceptional fitness, the mental strength to race for 24 hours and enough skill to navigate technical courses are the basic necessities.
Many suggest that this is not enough, with the word insane never far away when these individuals are described. Craig Gordon was taken away from his victory celebrations at the 2006 Championships in an ambulance and spent the following three days on dialysis. The verdict – he poisoned his kidneys with the toxins produced as his muscles broke down.
Clearly these events are gruelling, but their wide appeal saw the 400 available places fill quickly.
In addition to the main event, the Scott Australian 24 hour Championships will also be held this weekend, but on separate trails. This will contribute greatly to the buzz over the weekend with over 2000 entered in the teams’ events.
Stay tuned for results and more news.