September 12, 2005 – It was anybody’s guess how the inaugural Supercuts 8 Hours of Road Racing marathon event would play out, and few would have guessed that it would go the way it did. Eric Wohlberg (Symetrics), Los Gatos, CA, emerged as the worthy winner in the Pro Men’s Solo division, with a total of 64 laps, or 160 miles. After playing a key, but fruitless, role in yesterday’s road circuit race, the strength of his deep experience paid off handsomely today providing him with a neat victory for the weekend. Women’s solo winner was Elizabeth Benishin (Velo Bella), Palo Alto, CA, who was unopposed – as was the Subway team in the Pro Team category.
The solos and team riders stuck together in a group of 10 or so for the first six hours. This seemed the obvious thing to do given that the race was held on the same 2.5 mile Infineon motor racing course that includes the same 15% gradient climb and is buffeted by the same breezes as Saturday’s road circuit race.
The Subway team operated four riders switching in relay every four laps for the first half of the race and then, as the race wore on and legs got tired, they went to two-lap turns. With fresh Subway riders coming into the fray every few laps, it only made good sense for the solo riders to take tows off them, and with a Subway rider in the solo race the team riders were happy with this arrangement.
According to Subway rider Ryan McKenzie, the party ended when their solo man, Omer Kem, Salem, OR, decided he’d had enough after around six hours of racing. “It didn’t make sense for us to tow any of the solos around after that point,” explained McKenzie.
But the Subway team was far from finished with the race. McKenzie added: “I hope this kind of racing catches on, with other teams to race against it would be very tactical. You have all the usual strategy of road racing, but with fresh riders coming in every two laps or so it could become even more tactical. I could easily see this developing into a great form of racing, like the 24-hour mountain bike events.” His team-mate Cameron Hughes agreed: “I think there’s a future for this kind of racing. We’ve had a ball, it was a lot of fun.”
Going into the final two hours, the organizers started introducing fancy-dress primes, in which a rider would be paid $50 or so to take three laps in Fuzzy Duds, or in full downhill mountain bike gear, full face helmet and all. Eric Wohlberg picked up $320 in primes alone, as well as several bags of Galaxy Granola.
As the group fragmented in the final hour, Chris Walker (Labor Power), Goleta, CA, rode into a significant lead “He almost got a lap on us,” recalled Wohlberg, who added that going into the race he knew at some point that he would have to ride for an extended period alone – if he would make it to the finish. “I had horrible legs, and was thinking of pulling out after five hours. But I came around a bit and so I decided to stick around for the finish.”
Wohlberg put his head down for a few laps and passed the intrepid Walker. John Kelly (Webcor), Oakland, CA, remained on the same lap as Wohlberg, but could not catch the Canadian time trials expert, and finished the race with a time of 8:05:23 compared to 8:04:48 for Wohlberg’s 64-lap effort.
For Wohlberg it was a happy end to a good weekend’s late season racing. “I’m going to the world championships, and so a hard race like yesterday and then a tough eight hours today will definitely benefit me for the world’s time trial. But I’m really pleased the organizers have put on an NRC race with some prize money this weekend. Usually after the San Francisco Grand Prix it’s all over bar the crying, but this makes a really good end to the season. I’d like to say thanks to them.”
The women’s winner, Elizabeth Benishin was delighted with her effort of 43 laps, and expressed surprised that not more women were present. “8-hour racing is really fun, women would really like the relay race. With this closed course, the road surface is really smooth, and it is like doing a big endurance race without once having to stop for a stoplight. At this venue you get a lot to watch, with riders in other classes on the track at the same time, and then there’s an 8-hour cross country race going on right next to the track – you don’t get bored.”