After a 12-month break from racing, Craig Gordon (Rock Star Racing) proved his is back with a win at the Coffs Mountain Marathon last weekend in Australia.
Heavy overnight rains, left the course wet and slow. Gordon emerged solo after 23km from an initial break that also contained Jason English (BMC), Nick Both and Tim Bennett (Media Flight Centre). Gordon pressed his pedals to expand his initial gap, and by 50km, he had a lead of six and a half minutes. By 72km, it was up to 12 minutes.
He crossed the line in first in 4:37, 17 minutes ahead of English. Bennett finished third.
Gordon's win came after being off the bike for eight months due to an altercation with a car in October 2007. A long rehabilitation with extended trainer sessions followed. The former 24 hours of Adrenalin World Solo Champion Gordon is slated to race the Scott 24 hour race coming up in October as well as the Crocodile Trophy. He won a free entry to the epic Australian stage race, set for October 21-30, thanks to his popularity in an online voting poll.
Ross and Rusch triumph at Payson Stampede
By Sue George
Nat Ross and Rebecca Rusch returned to the Payson Stampede, the penultimate USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Calendar Ultra-Endurance event in Payson, Arizona, last weekend. On their way to winning the men's and women's solo 24 hours races, they had plenty of time to check out the venue that will host the 2009 US National 24 hour championships.
"I love desert racing," said Ross, who described the course as a nine-mile lap with 1,300 feet of climbing per lap. "Last year, Rebecca and I came to do it because it was in the Ultra-Endurance series, but it was at a different time of year."
The move on the calendar from May last year to September this year meant hotter temperatures for racers - as high as 90 degrees and very dry conditions - during the daylight hours.
"I just took a bottle to start with and then grabbed my Camelbak for more. I think the water in the bottle evaporated before I even had a chance to drink it," joked Ross, who was otherwise unfazed by the heat.
"It was really, really hot. I was putting ice in my sports bra," said Rusch.
Ross lead from the start. "I like to race against the team guys. I tried to stay in front of them as long as I could and then I tried to ride with them as long as I could. That will make a lap of mine about a minute faster," said Ross of his winning strategy. Ernesto Marenchin (Asylum) and Dave Harris would finish in second and third.
Rusch also took the fast approach at the start on her way to a win. "After 24 hour worlds [which she won -ed.], I was pretty spent emotionally and physically, but I came for points in the national series and to preview the course for 24 hour nationals next year. There was no rider list, so I had no idea who was coming."
It turns out that Rusch was one of just two pro women's racers. She did battle with Lynda Wallenfels, a successful pro racer in the 1990s who has returned to racing during the past few years after a break to have children.
"I didn't know what I would have in my legs," said Rusch. "Lynda's race strategy was to go out conservative because of the heat. Mine was opposite - to go out fast and see where I was. By 7:00 in the evening, I had two laps on her. I think I was among the top guys then."
Eventually the heat would take a toll on Wallenfels, who later told Rusch she wasn't feeling like herself at the race. Wallenfels sat out a lap during the day and then stopped again at night.
Rusch was curious about what was happening with Wallenfels, who also coaches Rusch's boyfriend.
"I went over and talked to her and she said she wouldn't ride more night laps, so I took a three hour nap and we both rode more laps in the morning. We then rode the last lap together and just chatted and stopped early," said Rusch, who estimated she rode 17 of 24 hours.
"I could have kept going if I needed to, but I was happy not to," said a tired Rusch, who spent much of the week before the race filling her duties as a part-time firefighter, including combatting a major, historic fire in downtown Ketchum, Idaho.
Both Rusch and Ross also took the fastest lap primes - both logged on their first laps.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Payson Stampede.