The 2008 Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series concludes with the 24 Hours of Moab event October 11-12, as endurance athletes from around the world descend to see if they have what it takes to survive in the desert after a long season.
Among the dirt warriors assembling to do battle in the Solo Men's category are two-time Olympian and 2003 Moab champion, Tinker Juarez (Cannodale-MonaVie), of Downey, California., defending champion Chris Eatough (Trek VW), Ellicott City, Maryland, and an on-form Josh Tostado (Giant), Breckenridge, Colorado.
Eatough and Tostado made history recently with their grueling performance at the 24 Hours of Nine Mile in Wausau, Wisconsin. Tostado led the race for 18 laps, only to be passed and defeated by Eatough, who hit the front two laps from the end and won by a mere 16 minutes, one of the closest finishes in a solo men's 24 hour race.
"I was at Nine Mile timing the 24 Hours of Nine Mile; it was an amazing race," said Moab race director, Laird Knight. "I recognized Tostado's potential several years ago but at Nine Mile he announced his arrival by giving Eatough the best run-for-the-money that Eatough has ever had."
Eatough is under no illusions about the task ahead in Utah.
"Nine Mile was a tough race, and Tostado pushed me hard the whole way," he said. "There are going to be lots of strong riders and good competitors at Moab. Tinker, for one, has been having a very successful year."
Tostado will arrive in Moab quite possibly still seeing stars after Nine Mile, but very hungry for revenge. Last year at Moab he never hit full warp speed, and quit the race early. This year he will be looking to earn the title of the galaxy's fastest 24-hour mountain biker.
Juarez is pleased to be back at Moab, and expressed great excitement about how many people from the MonaVie team will be showing up. A two-time Olympian, Juarez always has the experience, and can be counted on to get right in the middle of any Tostado/Eatough action.
"I'm hoping for a good race weekend," he said. "With Eatough and Tostado coming out it should be a good battle."
This will be the first time all three are competing against each other at the same time and without a doubt it will be the race of the year.
One dark-horse rider who could well mix it up with these front-runners is 24 hour newcomer, Eric Sullivan of Gunnison, Colorado. Known as a successful adventure racer, ski endurance athlete and erstwhile bar-room pugilist, "Sullie" is looking for a supernova ride that will form him as a new star in the sport.
In the women's field, Pua Suwiki (Ellsworth) will beam in from Mililami, Hawaii with the sole intention of claiming the Solo Women's galactic title. After beating several cross country pros to win the American Mountain Classic, and finishing fifth overall in the National Mountain Bike Series, Sawicki looks a worthy challenger for the defending champion, Jari Kirkland, of Crested Butte, Colorado, whose result last year was good enough to take second place in the Solo Men's race behind only Chris Eatough.
Kirkland, 32, has distinguished herself as an adventurer racer in recent years, and in her college years was an All-American swimmer.
This is the first time the two have gone head-to-head in a 24-hour race.
For the women's Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series win, look for Liz Baumgardt-Kays who travels halfway across the country from Loves Park, Illinois, in an attempt to clinch a first 24-hour series victory. With series leader Namrita O'Dea unlikely to attend following the sudden withdrawal of her sponsor, Baumgardt-Kays is virtually certain to win the series.
Although unlikely, it is still possible that Eddie and Namrita O'Dea, early leaders in the Suzuki series, will compete. Recently they were informed that their current sponsors are unable to transport them to Moab. Any sponsors wishing to step into the breach stand a good chance of emerging with the series double-shot: both men's and women's solo series contenders.
Among the international entrants are: Let's Roc, a veteran team from London, England, Dan Brennan who is making the voyage all the way from Singapore. Yuki Saito from Japan, Roan Exelby from South Africa, and Leighton Poidevin and Jason Sandquist from Canada.
For more information, visit http://grannygear.com/Races/Moab/index.shtml.