Chris Eatough: 24-Hour lone gunman & six-time world champion

By Steve Medcroft

At 12:08 p.m. Sunday, Chris Eatough claimed his sixth consecutive 24 Hours of Adrenalin World Solo Championship. The Trek/VW endurance star said this year’s race was more challenging than all the others before it. He explained why to CyclingNews’ Steve Medcroft while traveling to Mammoth Mountain, California, where he’ll try for the U.S. National Marathon Championship on September 15.

Cyclingnews: You’ve won six straight 24-Hour World Championships. What is about this race or this format that keeps you coming back?

Chris Eatough: Because this is the kind of race I made my career on. Plus my sponsors like it; it’s the race Trek wants me to do. And 24 hours is still an emerging discipline. If it grows - if we get some TV coverage or the kind of recognition that an event like the Ironman (Triathlon series) does - I’d like to be here and be at the top when it does.

CN: You’ve done more cross-country and marathon-format racing this year. Did it affect your preparation for 24 Hour Worlds?

CE: Doing more marathon racing did change my prep. I thought marathons would be good for me but they just weren’t as long as I expected; I did a lot of three and a half hour races when I really needed six or seven hours. I developed some speed but for 24 hours, you need longer training rides. So this year (in 2005 Worlds), I lacked a little durability and strength.

CN: You’ve become somewhat famous for fast pits and methodical preparation (Eatough spends less than three minutes at any one time in a pit and in six World Championships has suffered only one mechanical issue; a flat tire). Where did the approach come from and did you change anything this year?

CE: My dad and I came up with a lot of the original thought on how to be efficient – and it boiled down to common sense and the idea that I needed to be out there riding for every possible minute and spend no time in the pits. We figured that five minutes wasted in the pits equated to a mile on the course. It would take an hour to make that mile back up on the bike. And while my dad is still an important part of the race, this was my first full year with true factory support and Jon Posner, the Trek Factory Team manager, took charge of the pit. They did a great job for me and it was really important for me to show them I could continue to do this and thank them for the support they’ve showed me throughout the season.

CN: How did the race go for you?

CE: I’ve never been rained on for an entire 24 Hours race before. It was raining – a steady or hard drizzle that only ever let off a little - before the race started, raining on the start line and raining at the finish. It wasn’t too cold – in the fifties – but when you’re wet all the time, fifty degrees feel cold. I’ve never done one of these where the conditions were that bad.

CN: You ended up with 22 laps, one more than last year on a course that was supposedly longer and steeper. So how did you cope?

CE: I changed clothes a few times and wore a really good jacket and rain paints. It helped for a little while but there was nothing you could do. It was like standing in a car wash; it didn’t matter how well dressed you were, you just got wet. I had to focus on keeping the laps consistent and doing all the things we know how to do.

CN: Your main challenge came from a somewhat unknown (in 24 Hour Worlds circles) racer; Ernesto Marenchin.

CE: Ernie rode really well. I didn’t know a whole lot about him. He had the race of his career and I guess my lead was around 30 minutes the whole race so we kept our eye on him. When he was able to reduce the gap, we made sure we put in a couple of good laps to keep him back there.

CN: What’s next on your list of goals?

CE: I’ll be racing the Super D and Marathon Nationals. I’m doing Marathon, of course, because it fits my endurance-racing mold but I’m doing Super D because it’s a fun, new and exciting aspect of the sport. It’s the kind of riding most people do when they’re out with their friends; you ride a regular cross country bike on trails with more technical downhills than you normally get in cross country.

Read the 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Championship race report and results here.

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