24 Hours of Moab draws strongest field

Chris Eatough is a favorite for the 24 Hours of Moab

Chris Eatough is a favorite for the 24 Hours of Moab (Image credit: Sven Martin)

The 2008 24-hour racing season will largely come to an end for North Americans with the 24 hours of Moab on October 11-12 in Utah. The final round of the 24 Hour National Points Series, run by Granny Gear Productions, is also going by the name of the Galactic Championships.

Among the dirt warriors assembling to do battle in the solo men's category are two-time Olympian and 2003 winner Tinker Juarez (Cannodale-MonaVie), defending champion Chris Eatough (Trek VW), and an on-form Josh Tostado (Giant).

Eatough and Tostado made history recently with their gruelling performance at the 24 Hours of Nine Mile. Tostado led the race for 18 laps, only to be passed and defeated by Eatough, who hit the front two laps from the end and won by a mere 16 minutes.

Eatough is under no illusions about the task ahead. "Nine Mile was a tough race, and Tostado pushed me hard the whole way. There are going to be lots of strong riders and good competitors at Moab. Tinker, for one, has been having a very successful year."

Tostado will arrive in Moab hungry for revenge. Last year at Moab he never hit full warp speed, and quit the race early. This year he will be looking to earn the title.

Juarez is pleased to be back at Moab, and expressed excitement about how many people from the MonaVie Cannondale team will be there. A two-time Olympian, Juarez can be counted on to get in the middle of any Tostado/Eatough action.

"I'm hoping for a good race weekend," said Juarez. "With Eatough and Tostado coming out, it should be a good battle."

This will be the first time all three are competing against each other at the same time.

One dark-horse rider who could well mix it up with these front-runners is 24 hour newcomer Eric Sullivan. Known as a successful adventure racer, ski endurance athlete and erstwhile bar-room pugilist, "Sullie" is looking a breakout ride that will prove him as a new star in the discipline.

Rob Lichtenwalner is setting his gyroscopes on the National Point Series (NPW). The overall win would be his second in a row if he clinches it.

In the women's race, Pua Suwiki (Ellsworth) will beam in with the sole intention of claiming the solo women's galactic title. After beating several cross country pros to win the American Mountain Classic, and finishing fifth overall in the National Mountain Bike Series, Sawicki looks a worthy challenger for the defending champion, Jari Kirkland, whose result last year was good enough to take second place in the solo men's race behind only Eatough.

Kirkland, 32, has distinguished herself as an adventurer racer in recent years, and in her college years was an All-American swimmer. This will be the first time the two have gone head-to-head in a 24-hour race.

For the women's series win, look for Liz Baumgardt-Kays attempting to claim her first 24-hour race victory. With series leader Namrita O'Dea unlikely to attend following the sudden withdrawal of her sponsor, Baumgardt-Kays is virtually certain to win the series.

4,000 mountain biker racers, support crew and fans are expected to populate tent city four the 14th edition of the race. 400 teams will compete on the 15-mile track that winds through the foreboding and beautiful high-desert terrain.

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