This year's men's podium at the USA Cycling 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike National Championship looked familiar. Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) won, with 20 laps and 285 miles ahead of Nat Ross (Subaru / Gary Fisher) and Mark Hendershot (Santa Cruz Syndicate) with 271 miles and 19 laps.
"Nat was pretty aggressive at the beginning of the race. He was setting the pace," said Eatough. "He had a lead for the first four hours, but never more than 90 seconds. I was sitting in second and just working my rhythm. I caught him and we stayed pretty close for another three or four hours. Then I started to pull away - I think my lap times stayed more consistent than his during the middle part, during the night part."
None of the other men really challenged Ross and Eatough. "It was a two man race from the early stages," said Eatough. His steady pace paid off, and as Ross began to fatigue, Eatough passed him and eventually opened a gap during the night.
"I knew I couldn't catch Chris and Nat. I just wanted to keep a good lead over the rest of the field," said 43 year-old Hendershot. "Heck, at my age I have to pace myself."
The weather was much more favorable this year, with moderate temperatures and no major tornado-like storms. "The track was in great shape," said Hendershot. "That was really appreciated because it sure is a long one."
Endurance specialist Pua Sawicki (Team MATA) took victory in the women's race ahead of Rebecca Rusch and NUE Series Contender Danielle Musto. Sawicki finished an amazing fourth overall.
Sawicki made up for 2006, when she was forced out of the national championships after succumbing to injuries sustained in an earlier mountain bike accident. She quickly built a three-minute advantage over second-place Rusch (Specialized/Red Bull) in the first lap, and she never relinquished her lead.
For complete coverage of the 24 Hour National Championships, click here.