Never say never again

Mountain bike movie 24-Solo was supposed to be the story of another American's seven-victory winning

Reigning 24-hour solo world champion Craig Gordon wants to defend his title, it was announced at the Sydney premiere of the movie 24-Solo yesterday. John Stevenson was there.

Mountain bike movie 24-Solo was supposed to be the story of another American's seven-victory winning streak: the endurance mountain biking equivalent of documenting Lance Armstrong in France in 2005. It follows Trek's top endurance mountain bike racer Chris Eatough in his preparation for the 2006 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Solo Mountain Bike Championships, an event Eatough won every year between 2000 and 2005.

But nobody bothered to get Australian Craig Gordon to read the script.

Gordo - as he's universally known - was present at yesterday evening's Australian premiere of 24-Solo, thoroughly enjoying the cheers of the small but highly partisan crowd at Sydney bike shop City Bike Depot.

Film-maker Gripped Films responded well to the derailing of the expected story, though it's clear that neither they nor Eatough's support crew expected Gordon's challenge. Riders Eatough usually beats - Nat Ross, Mark Hendershot, Cameron Chambers - are featured in pre-race interviews, but the equivalent coverage of Gordon is obviously post-race. It's hard to disguise an interview shot in a hospital bed, which is where Gordon put himself in winning.

Twenty-four-hour racers are generally considered to be a bit crazy, but Gordon's effort at the 2006 solo world's was beyond that. Attacking Eatough from the gun, he treated the event like a cross-country race. The two went at it for half a day, lapping and transitioning together, till Gordon got the advantage during the night and eventually lapped Eatough. The effort caused so much muscle damage that Gordon had to spend two days on dialysis afterwards to protect his liver and kidneys.

Trek funded 24-Solo, so the highly enjoyable film still focuses on Eatough, but the story is unavoidable: the previous king of this branch of mountain biking was dethroned, despite his 50 miles per day training regime and the immaculate organisation of his support crew. Gordo was simply better on the day: better trained, despite a full-time job, and faster.

Gripped Films cameraman Nick Alexander emerges as a hero of the story. On his final lap Gordon ground to a halt as the pain in his damaged muscles - especially his calves - became so intense he could not walk. Alexander literally carried Gordon to level ground where he could ride again. As a result that lap didn't count, but it didn't matter. Gordon still had a lap in hand, and a world title to add to his Australian 24-hour jersey.

Documentary makers aren't supposed to step into the limelight, but Alexander's involvement brings home just how hard 24-hour racing is at the top level. It was obvious that Gordon was in serious trouble, and the film conveys this well, along with the confusion over whether he actually needed to complete that final lap.

Eatough and his crew were devastated by Gordon's victory and 24-Solo captures the emotion of his wife Alison and manager Jon Posner as it become clear that Eatough is not going to take his seventh title.

From his hospital bed, Gordon said he wasn't going to defend his title. The biggest cheer of the evening came when City Bike Depot owner Hugh Flower announced that his shop was spearheading an effort to get enough funds together to get Gordon back to the US this year.

24-Solo is well worth adding to your DVD collection, but what everyone who attended the Sydney premiere last night is really looking forward to is the sequel: Gordon vs Eatough II will be blockbuster boffo box office.


Gordo and Hugh Flower [pic: John Stevenson]


Gordo chats to fans [pic: John Stevenson]


Victorious, Gordo makes his way to two days on dialysis to protect his liver and kidneys [pic: Gripped Films]

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