By Sue George
The 24 hours of Old Pueblo is set to draw a talented field of endurance racers for its tenth edition, titled "A Decade in the Desert" this weekend, February 14-15. The race will kick off using its usual course at Willow Springs Ranch, about 20 miles north of Tucson, Arizona, at noon on Saturday. This year's event honors Dave Wiens.
"We dedicate the race to someone every year," said organizer Todd Sadow of Epic Rides to Cyclingnews. "He's had an incredible last few years. I met him for the first time last year. I keep referring to him as the 'consummate good guy of mountain biking'. He's an easygoing dude; there is no ego in the dude, and we wanted to honor someone who has made such a good contribution to the industry."
Wiens won the past two editions of the Leadville 100, drawing plenty of media attention when he beat Floyd Landis in 2007 and Lance Armstrong in 2008. In fact, Wiens has won the Leadville race six consecutive times.
He raced professionally for 20 years, officially retiring from the pro circuit in 2004, and he has worked as a trail designer and is the founding director of the non-profit Gunnison Trails. He is married to mountain bike Olympic bronze medallist (1996) Susan DeMattei.
A dinner will be held honoring Wiens' on the evening before the racing action begins.
In this year's men's race, defending champion Kimo Seymour, an accomplished Ironman triathlete from Phoenix, Arizona, and 2006-2007 winner Tinker Juarez will have plenty of competition.
As the domestic season-opener of 24-hour races, Old Pueblo is drawing talent from abroad, too. Ian Leitch and Anthony White will make the trip over from the United Kingdom while Marco Copelli, a veteran racer of more than 34 24-hour solo races, is flying in from Italy.
One unknown is Erik Tonkin, who will be making his 24-hour solo racing debut. "He could either dominate because he's such a brawler or he could end up going out too hard with all these guys and pulling out at midnight," said Sadow, who is looking forward to following the battle.
"It will be a tough race - we probably will have a field of about 10 guys who could win." Steve Yore is another race to watch; he finished in the top five last year.
The women's race is setting up to be a showdown between Mary Metcalf and Sarah Kaufmann, who won in 2007, but did not finish in 2008.
Other big names will be attending the race in a slightly more anonymous capacity - as part of teams. Recent world cyclo-cross championship bronze medallist Katie Compton and mountain biker Kelli Emmet will team up with two others as part of a four-person team. Ryan Trebon, Barry Wicks, Kris Sneddon and Matt Slaven will race together as a team, and the Schultz brothers (Andy and Sam) will partner up with local Chris Suter and another rider for a four-person squad.