Wheeler and O'Dea win 24-hour NPS opener

Chuck Wheeler and Namrita O'Dea emerged as the solo winners, and series leaders, at round one of the 2008 Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series, the 24 Hours of Vail Lake, which was raced and won over a scorching weekend on April 26-27 at Vail Lake Mountain Resort in Temecula, California. This was the first win in a Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series for both Wheeler and O'Dea.

Wheeler, a seasoned 24 hour racer, of Scottsdale, Arizona, overcame defending champion Rob Lichtenwalner, of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. to score his first victory on a scenic and hilly 10.22 mile course with 1,498 feet of climbing.

A heatwave drove temperatures well into the 90s [degrees Fahrenheit], and after pushing hard through the afternoon many riders welcomed the nightfall, but then began to feel how much extra they had put out in keeping cool during the heat of the day. Wheeler, who has a history of coming from behind, proved more consistent during the night than 2007 series champion Rob Lichtenwalner, who finished second. Wheeler completed 17 laps, compared to Lichtenwalner's 15. Eddie O'Dea finished third with 13 laps.

"I don't really have a strategy," said Wheeler, "I just go out and ride and try to stay constant. It works less frequently now that a lot of riders are getting so good."

Namrita O'Dea, Eddie's wife, won the women's solo race with 11 laps, ahead of Terri Wahlberg on Liz Baumgardt-Keys, who finished third with eight laps. 2006 Race Across America winner, Shanna Armstrong, was in contention with O'Dea for much of the first day, and looked to be the stronger climber, but after two painful falls on her left femur during the early night, Armstrong - who is using this race as training for her Badwater Ultramarathon attempt this July - decided to call herself done.

"It was very challenging with the heat. But I monitored my pace and my nutrition and hydration, and was able to remain constant through the night," said the women's winner. "Even though it was not a high mileage race, there was a lot of climbing, and with the heat it was very tough." Cyclingnews' diarist O'Dea is a nutrition student, who is planning to compete in four of the series races. "I think I have a chance for the series overall. I'm not sure who else is doing the series, but I think I have a chance," she said.

See full coverage of the 24 hours of Vail Lake.

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