Suzuki 24 Hour Series Opener Won by Wheeler, O'Dea Lichtenwalner, other O'Dea in close contention


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Vail Lake scenic

Suzuki 24 Hour Series Opener Won by Wheeler, O’Dea
Lichtenwalner, other O’Dea in close contention

Temecula, Calif. – Chuck Wheeler and Namrita O’Dea emerged as the solo winners, and series leaders, at round one of the 2008 Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series, the Suzuki 24 Hours of Vail Lake, which was raced and won over a scorching April 26/7 weekend at Vail Lake Mountain Resort in Temecula, California.

This was the first win for both Wheeler and O’Dea in the Suzuki Auto sponsored series.

Chuck Wheeler, a seasoned 24 hour racer from Scottsdale, Az, overcame the heat, the 2007 series champion Rob Lichtenwalner, of Nazareth, Pa. and seasoned contender Eddie O’Dea, of Atlanta, Ga, on a scenic and hilly 10.22 mile course with 1498 feet of climbing.

A heatwave that surprised even the locals drove temperatures well into the 90s. After pushing hard through the afternoon many riders welcomed the nightfall, but then began to feel how much extra energy they’d spent in keeping cool during the heat of the day.

The heat-acclimatized Wheeler, who rode true to his style of coming from behind, finally caught Lichtenwalner as darkness fell. A quick look at the Story Board(tm) – a new functionality added to the RealTime(tm) scoring system – reveals that these two swapped the lead a few times midway through race, but evenutally Wheeler proved more consistent during the night than Lichtenwalner. Wheeler completed 17 laps, compared to Lichtenwalner’s 15. O’Dea finished third with 13 laps.

“I don’t really have a strategy,” explained Wheeler, “I just go out and ride and try to stay constant. It works less frequently now that a lot of riders are getting so good,” he smiled.

Lichtenwalner was not making any excuses, but he said: “I’m not used to
racing in these kinds of temperature.” At 9 o’clock on Sunday morning,

Chuck Wheeler

he made some calculations, realized that he wasn’t going to catch Chuck Wheeler, and that third-placed Eddie O’Dea wasn’t going to catch him, so he climbed off and went for an early sleep. “I’m happy with second place points. It gets my series title defense off to a good start,” he said.

Eddie O’Dea reported serious overheating problems during the day, and then difficulty getting his lights correctly set up during the night. “It just wasn’t a good race for me,” he said on a balmy Sunday evening at the complimentary athlete’s banquet provided by Suzuki Auto.

Namrita O'Dea
Namrita O’Dea
credit: Tom Weigand

Namrita O’Dea, Eddie’s spouse, won the women’s solo race with 11 laps, ahead of Terri Wahlberg on 10, who repeated her second place at this venue in 2007. Liz Baumgardt-Kays finished third with eight laps. 2006 Race Across America winner, Shanna Armstrong, was in contention with O’Dea for much of the first day, and looked the stronger climber, but after two painful falls on her left femur during the early night, Armstrong – who was using this race as training for her Badwater Ultramarathon attempt this July – decided to exit the race.

Namrita O’Dea was bouyed by her win. “It was very challenging with the heat. But I monitored my pace and my nutrition and hydration, and was able to remain constant through the night. Even though it was not a high mileage race, there was a lot of climbing, and with the heat it was very tough,” said the nutrition student, who is planning to compete in four of the series races. “I think I have a chance for the series overall. I’m not sure who else is doing the series, but I think I have a chance,” she said.

The Duo Pro category was dominated by Colorado mountain bikers Dean Miller, of Littleton, and Dax Massey, of Boulder, who comprised the Shake and Bake team. These two led the race outright for most of the first 12 hours, but through the night the two single-speeders succumbed to the greater horsepower of the four-person Men’s Expert team of Grizzly Outfitters/Continental Construction, from Big Sky, Montana. In the end Shake and Bake completed 24 laps to the Grizzly Outfitters’s 25.
Massey (left) and Miller (right)

Simi Cycling Center rider MRT Robles

Also notable was the monumental struggle in the four-person Men’s Sport category. After going hammer and tongs with the the Manic Monkey Riders during the afternoon heat, the Simi Cycling Center bike shop team finally moved into the lead as darkness fell. Riding with remarkable consistency, and no speed decay at all, the Simi Cycling Center riders gradually stretched out all the way to the finish, and recorded a hugely impressive total of 24 laps. The Manic Monkeys called it a day at 21 laps, and third place was claimed by the tenacious Naval Special Warfare Flyin’ Frogs team, who ended the race with 20 laps.

The Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series now travels to Conyers, Ga, to the same course where mountain biking made its Olympic Games debut back in 1996, for Round Two on May 17 & 18. While the temperature might still be high, the course is substantially more flat, so expect to see the big power riders come to the fore.

Thereafter the series goes to:

Big Bear, WVa, June 7/8
Killington, Vt, July 26/27
Landahl, Mo, September 20/21
Moab, Ut, October 11/12

For more information about the Suzuki 24 Hour National Point Series, please visit

source: Suzuki 24 Hours National Point Series

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