Rusch overcomes pressure for 24-hour threepeat

Rebecca Rusch (Specialized Factory Racing) celebrates her win.

Rebecca Rusch (Specialized Factory Racing) celebrates her win. (Image credit: Jon McCuskey)

Despite the pressure leading up to the 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championships, Rebecca Rusch (Specialized Factory Racing) had just what it took to win her third title in Canmore, Canada, last weekend. The former adventure racer from Idaho covered 180 miles over 18 laps with 30,000 feet of climbing in 23 hours.

"I... achieved a goal that I had not dreamed possible: three consecutive 24 hour solo World Championship titles!" said a happy Rusch on her blog after the race. "The pain and damage my body took from the thrashing is going to take weeks of recovery. The glow of winning worlds three years in a row is going to take years to wear off."

Rusch modified her training so as to focus it on her goal of winning the worlds. "The pressure of coming back multiple years in a row with a target on my back and the expectation of winning was a heavy weight. The unspoken pressure was thick and anything less than a three-peat would have been a disappointment for me."

The course offered little opportunity for rest. Rusch's partner Greg Martin described it as "similar to operating a jackhammer for 24 hours".

Rusch battled US 24-hour national champion Jari Kirkland among others. On lap one she quickly built a seven-minute advantage which she opened up at a rate of about five minutes per lap until night.

"Before dark I lapped Jessica Douglas from Australia and shortly after that Jari Kirland," said Rusch, who had a 90-minute lead at the 12-hour mark.

"I settled into the darkness and my favorite part of these ultra long races. The night riding offers a whole different dimension to the riding experience and a calm settles over the race," said Rusch.

It wasn't an easy win, however, as Rusch suffered stomach problems in the morning and had to convert to a liquid diet. Severe asthma attacks didn't help either.

"I had a scare when Jari came blowing by me on an uphill around 8:00 am. I was still a lap ahead of her, but she had unexpectedly gained time on me while I was stopped in my pit trying to get some food down."

Nonetheless, Rusch plugged on and finished the race at about 11:15 am, when she was greeted by her supporters with hugs and congratulations.

"I have no idea what is in store for me next. For the moment, I am going to take a well-earned break and let my body and mind relax for a bit."

Rusch will have plenty of time to celebrate with her partner Greg Martin, who won his second consecutive 24-hour singlespeed title during the same event.

Read Rusch's complete account of her race on her blog.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.