By John Stevenson
This past weekend, Australia's national capital Canberra played host to the Mont Australia 24-Hour Mountain Bike Championship, believed to be the biggest 24-hour race in the world in terms of total participation.
The growth of endurance mountain bike racing over the last several years has led to events that generate some pretty staggering numbers and the Mont's 2,445 participants generated their own startling statistics.
The course, a 19km loop of fire road and singletrack at Kowen Forest in the Australian Capital Territory, held up to 612 riders at any one time, according to the event's timing guru Russell Baker. Their average age was just over 34 and riders clocked up a total of 8,621 laps for a total distance over the race's 24 hours of 164,747km. That's equivalent to more than four times round the world.
Finding somewhere for all those riders to stay is one of the biggest challenges for an event this size, and organizing club Canberra Off-Road Cyclists carved out 190,000 square metres of campsites in the forest to provide accommodation for an estimated total of 6,500 people. As one of the commentators remarked, these events have become the Woodstock of mountain biking.