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Mont 24 Report

The Mont 24 is the world's largest 24-hour mountain bike race with 2,450 competitors. Held in the ACT's Kowen forest since the old Stromlo course was destroyed in the fires of 2002 and 2003. You can compete as a solo rider or as part of a team of 2, 4, 6 or 8. But you have to be quick; the event sold out in a week back in April. I was part of a team of five, John having decided to he had to work in the US. Unlike most sports, the joyriders and the world champions are on the course at the same time.

Although held at the same location, more than half the course was different from last year. Some of the more boring firetrail bits were eliminated and some new singletracks employed.

The weather this year was simply terrible. There was rain earlier in the week leaving the course wet. On the Saturday,it was windy and drizzly. Usually, clouds mean cool days and warm nights but clouds disappeared and the temperatures plummeted and there was even a little snow.

The track did not hold up well under the conditions. The result was that some sections became very muddy so I found myself plowing through mud up to my axles. For the first time I wore glasses for Mont laps, even at night - shockproof ones to keep the mud out of my eyes. The mud was so bad that my rear light was invisible and I had trouble changing gears as they were clogged with mud.

Racing was started by the Chief Minister at noon Saturday and ends after noon Sunday. My first ride was a twilight ride at 1800, starting in daylight and ending in darkness. Then back again at midnight and finally a morning ride. So even on a team, you don't get much sleep. Solo riders, though, are the superheroes. While waiting at transition on Sunday morning I was astonished to hear that there was only a second between the leading male soloists! (Craig Gordon eventually beat James Williamson by 30 minutes. In the women's event, Rosi King was unable to peg back Katrin van der Spiegel.)

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