“If I finished the race and was carried off the course and had to go to the hospital for a couple of days, I don’t think (my wife) would ever let me race my bike again.” Chris Eatough, 6 time 24 Hour Solo MTB World Champion, 2006.
For anyone who hasn’t seen 24 Solo; the story of Eatough’s quest for a seventh World Championship victory and his titanic battle with Australian challenger Craig Gordon, he is speaking after seeing his rival push himself beyond physical limits, starting the race at what seemed like a suicidal pace and ultimately damaging his body to such an extent that he spent several days in hospital on dialysis to recover. It’s a fantastic story for mountain bikers and non-cyclists alike, and poses some interesting questions about just how far as endurance athletes we are willing to push ourselves. Gordon took the victory on the day but Eatough felt he had won his own victory in recognising the importance of balancing racing with family life.
Fast forward eight years to Fort William, Scotland and the 2014 WEMBO 24 Hour Solo World Mountain Bike Championships and the parallels with the 2006 race were plain to see with the frontrunners forcing what many felt was a laughably high pace on the demanding course. Each 13.5km lap included 450m climbing with plenty of steep, leg punishing sections. The descents were pretty demanding as well with a liberal coating of rock. The twisting downhill were tremendous fun but required physical commitment and full attention throughout. Would any of the early pacesetters follow Gordon’s route to the hospital ?