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24 Hours of Exposure preview

Who could win the inaugural 24 Hours of Exposure?
Ian Leitch looks at the contenders for glory

After over 10 years of people racing off-road, non-stop and for a whole day; it’s finally here; the first ever 24-hour National Championships.

Everyone who decides to ride off-road for such duration takes on a massive personal challenge. UK24 is pioneering in that it will be the first solo-only event of its type in the UK.

Alongside a truly championship worthy course every effort has been made to create a supportive environment for those stepping up for the first time. The aim: happiness, contentment and fulfillment, a badge of honour to be worn by all finishers.

There are however a strange few that choose (and are able) to push it that little bit further. After the retirement of the legendary six-time 24-hour solo World Cup winner Chris Eatough, 2010 sees no dominant 24-hour racer on the world scene.

Furthermore, in a number of recent head-to-heads the Brits are starting to show that they can compete and beat the world’s best. Some of those racers may chose to take on all-comers at the World Championships in Canberra, but the one they all want and want right now is that first national title: to wear the red, white and blue, to know that they have fought the hardest and that they are the inaugural Champion.

Here we outline those contenders who might cover close to 300 miles non-stop to take the first national 24-hour title:

Rob Dean

Team/Sponsors: Leisure Lakes

Results: Current Sleepless in the Saddle Champion, sub 20-hour South Downs Double.

The biggest rider on the scene Rob Dean is a man amongst boys. Sporting his own homebrew lighting set up and more power than any other rider in the pack he won on his 24 solo debut at Sleepless in 2009. Racers tend to improve quickly in early 24’s and with a training regime that sees 10,000 miles covered in a year, could Rob take the big prize in his second outing?

Mike Hall

Team/Sponsors: TBC

Results: 2nd Sleepless in The Saddle Solo 24 2009, 6th Muc-Off 8 2010, Elite classification Fred Whitton Challenge.

Mike is proof that practice makes perfect, climbing up the rankings with a determined ride at Sleepless 2009 to take the runners-up spot. A move from the Peaks to Wales coupled with a new sponsor could play dividends with more hills and more support. Watch for a slow burn followed by potential late night fireworks.

Steve Heading

Team/Sponsors: Whyte Bikes UK

Results: Bontrager 24 Solo Champion 2006, Bikeradar Live 12 Hour Champion 2009, Fastest ever Pennine Double, 3rd Fastest ever South Downs Double.

The Heading name is synonymous with feats of endurance. Brother Andy has won the legendary 1,100mile Idita race in Alaska whilst Steve specialises in the ‘shorter stuff’. Choosing to ‘bivvy out’ after riding the 200 miles of his South Downs double, Steve represents true toughness that could suit the changeable Newcastleton conditions. The hot favourite to take the vets class.

Rory Hitchins

Team/Sponsors: USE/Exposure Lights

Results: 27th World Championships 1988, British Team Rider XC and Downhill World Championships 1990, 3rd Dusk ‘Til Dawn 2006, 1st Gorrick 100 2010.

The most well-known face in endurance racing, Rory is the man behind the Exposure Lights that have made 24-hour racing possible. What many may not realise is that Rory has served his time on both the legendary Raleigh and Diamond Back factory teams alongside riders like Dave Wiens and Barrie Clarke.

Competing in both XC and DH at the inaugural World Mountain Bike Championships in Durango in 1990 Rory has decided that in 2010 there will be no more Mr. Nice guy as he looks to roll back the clock, open up the hurt locker and put his fellow competitors right in it.

Josh Ibbett

Team/Sponsors: Syncros Endurance

Results: Relentless 24 2009 Senior Champion, 3rd Bontrager 12 Solo 2009, Bontrager Torchbearer Champion 2008, 2nd Dusk ’til Dawn 2008

Former British Talent Team Rider Josh is the young gun making a mark. The tallest rider on the scene he has the might of the legendary Syncros Endurance pit machine behind him. Already showing ominous early season speed in races from the Whinlatter challenge through to National Expert XC, Josh will be looking to replicate those classy rides in the big one.

James Leavesley

Team/Sponsors: Genesis Bikes

Results: 3rd Mountain Mayhem 2009, Strathpuffer Champion, IditaBike Podium, 10 under the Ben, 2nd Bontrager 24 2006

Representing the true adventure spirit of mountain biking James can never be counted out. Choosing to lock himself in a supermarket fridge to prepare for his assault on the legendary 1,100mile Alaskan Iditabike Impossible race in 2009, just how is he preparing for the nationals? The Idita ended up in him being airlifted to safety by a trapper when lost in the wilderness. If conditions turn cold on the borders James could well be the man to turn up the heat.

Ian Leitch

Team/Sponsors: Independent Fabrication/Exposure/Cannondale/ClifBar

Results: Current South Downs Double Record Holder, current Muc-Off 8 Champion, 2nd 24 Hours of Old Pueblo USA 2009, 2nd Mountain Mayhem 2008, 8th Elite 24 Hour World Champs 2007.

Switching to XTerra off-road triathlon for 2010, Ian has had to do a re-jig to take on a national championship in his favourite discipline. Representing the strong riding city of Brighton and Hove and training in South Africa and Spain he will be keen to revert the disappointment of a 2009 season thwarted by a broken collarbone. Showing strong early season form and with a reputation for starting fast some are speculating on an early selection?

Matt Page

Team Sponsor: Wiggle/Focus/Exposure

Results: Current Mountain Mayhem Champion, current European Singlespeed Champion, Dusk ’til Dawn Champion 2008, Sleepless in the Saddle Champion 2008, Bontrager 12-Hour Solo Champion 2008

Based out of Brechfa, Wales, Matt Page has quickly established himself as the most dangerous force in 24-hour racing. 2009 saw a breakthrough with him besting Ant White in an Epic duel to win his first Mountain Mayhem. This was then framed by his legendary finish line marriage proposal to girlfriend and stellar pit maestro, Nia. Similar to the legendary Bernhard Hinault he slowly gnaws at his victims until they crack. With strong climbing and sharp descending skills that will suit the championship course coupled with the world class Wiggle pit crew a lot of smart money is on Page.

Iain Payne

Team Sponsor: XC Racer Gary Fisher 29er

Results: 2nd Bontrager 24-Hour Solo 2009, South West Elite XC Champion 2009

Representing the South West you can guarantee Iain will show his XC power and pedigree with a fast start. The UK’s only elite licensed rider choosing to ride in baggy shorts the Newcastleton trails could well suit his loose-fit downhill skill set. Will he repeat the savage sustained pace seen at the Bontrager 24 in 2009 and take the title back out West?

Rich Rothwell

Team Sponsor: Exposure/Infinit Nutrition/Bertie Maffoons Bicycle Co./Union Room/Enigma Bikes

Results: Current World 24-Hour Age Group Champion, current Kielder Challenge Champion, 3rd Mountain Mayhem 2008, 2nd Relentless 24 2008, Coast to Coast off-road in 28 hours.

With training rides of up to 250 miles Richard Rothwell is the local rider going worldwide. Based out of Morpeth, Northumberland he took his A-game out to the world in 2009 and ended up a champion. One of the most likeable guys on the circuit Rich is looking to take the title for the region. With a meticulous training plan and the liberation of an independent team he could be a new hero for the North East on 23rd May.

Ant White

Team Sponsor: Exposure/KCNC/Skins/Mt Zoom Zoom

Results: Current 24 Hours of Old Pueblo USA Champion, current Bontrager 24 Champion, 2-Time Mountain Mayhem Champion, 2007 Dusk ’til Dawn Champion, Gorrick 100 Champion 2008.

Has the best been saved until last? It would be quicker to list what Ant hasn’t won. For five years he has dominated endurance racing in the UK. His mental toughness is legendary as he turns out lap after quality lap, invariably ahead of the rest.

Training year-round in the UK, Las Vegas and Asia, Ant has already taken his first 24-hour title in 2010, winning the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo in the cactus strewn deserts of Arizona, USA. Weighing in at just 9 stone the climber’s course at Newcastleton is leading to many expecting that familiar scenario: Ant out front listening to hardcore and putting everyone in a whole world of hurt.

Wildcards

Who else could challenge and who else might join the fray? Corley Cycles’ John Fettis has shown sizzling early season form beating both Ant White and Matt Page at The Salisbury Plain Challenge.

Dave Powell astride his big Ragley is always strong. Super talented singlespeeder Matt Carr could be a joker in the pack and perhaps he may be joined by the powerhouse that is Singular’s Steve Webb?

Craig Bowles could repeat the form that saw him beat both Page and White over 8-hours in 2008 or Torq’s James Lister, the current Bontrager 12-hour and Bristol 12-hour champion could be a great addition to the field and would certainly put the frighteners on the big guns.

Rumour persists that the winningest and most respected UK marathon rider of all time, Nick Craig may debut at the Championships. If he does it will be a not to be missed scenario as the long stuff can make or break even the greats.

The beauty of is it however is that a new force may emerge to shake up the old order – we’ll have to see how it unfolds on 22-23 May.

Enter

There’s still time to enter the event, head over to the website now at www.sip-events.co.uk/solo-home.html – entry closes 18 May.

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