Cory Wallace captures first 24-hour world title
For every crash, injury and catastrophic meltdown Cory Wallace has endured over his 17-year career he can now say with confidence that he truly knows what it takes to win a 24-hour world mountain bike championship.
The local mountain biking legend completed 38 laps enroute to winning his first WEMBO World Solo 24-Hour Mountain Bike Championships in Italy, June 3.
The victory marks a career milestone for the 32-year-old who has been chasing the 24-hour world title since racing in his first world championship race in Canmore in 2008.
“It feels great,” Wallace said as he prepared for his next race in Sri Lanka.
“I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals in cycling, but this was one that had been lingering for quite a while so it means the world to have finally won.”
Last year Wallace came close to winning the race in New Zealand but finished 3.5 minutes behind Australian Jason English, who has dominated the sport for the past seven years.
“Last year I was super close to winning but I came up short,” said Wallace, who has competed in 10 24-hour world championships.
“There’s just so many things that can happen in racing so you don’t know if you’ll get another chance, whether it’s injuries, bad luck, or illness, so it was pretty special to have another chance and finish it off.”
Reflecting on the race, Wallace said the first six hours were a gong show with 350 riders jockeying for position around a short 9.5-km course.
“The first couple of laps were fine, but then we started hitting traffic. At spots there would be 30 guys lined up on the trail so you just had to be patient,” said Wallace.
Despite the traffic jams, Wallace said he knew he had a good chance to win the race by the second lap.
“Jason and another guy Josh, the USA champ, went out pretty hard and I caught up to them pretty quickly so right then I knew I had the best legs in the race.”
Putting his game plan into action he decided to slow down to wait for things to open up and the air temperature to drop before making his attack.
“After the first six hours a lot of guys pull off the course because they get tired so I made that decision to just take it easy and let the other guys race for a while and then start going for it once the race opened up.”
Complicating matters, it didn’t help that Wallace didn’t know a lick of Italian, making it difficult to communicate with the other riders on the course.
“It was a real problem because you don’t know what to say to people when you’re trying to pass them. We basically had to learn Italian while we raced,” Wallace said with a chuckle.
By mid-afternoon it started to cloud over and the trails began to open up so he decided to increase the tempo, slowly pulling away from the other riders and leaving just him and English at the front.
Taking advantage of a 12-minute climb on the backside of the course, Wallace soon dropped English to take the lead about eight to nine hours into the race.
“My plan was to go hard on that section to hurt the guys and then conserve energy the rest of the lap and it worked.”
Building on his lead, Wallace soon got word that English was about 10 minutes away from being lapped, which he knew would be a game changer if he could make it happen.
About 14 hours into the race, or around midnight, Wallace made his move.
“Jason has probably lapped me seven or eight times over the years so it was nice to get one back on him,” said Wallace.
With six hours to go it looked like Wallace had it in the bag, but suddenly his stomach started to go.
“I thought I had my nutrition down this year, but one by one I had to quit eating food. First it was Clif Bars, then it was these honey sandwiches I had and pretty soon there was no food left to eat. I would put it in my mouth but I would have to spit it out. My body rejected it.”
To try and get some food in his belly he decided to drink water to try and flush his system.
“It was really hard to eat anything, but I knew I had to so I just kept eating these little Clif Shot Blocks.”
In a normal race he said he would consume 300 to 400 calories an hour, but at this point he was only able to consume 100 to 200 calories per hour.
“I was really playing with fire there, but I was pretty convinced I was going to win and I didn’t want to have to come back again next year and try again.”
Wallace continued to build on his lead eventually crossing the finish line a full lap ahead of English to win his first world solo 24-hour mountain bike championship.
Reflecting on the race Wallace said it’s been a long journey, but he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“The journey I took to get here, over nearly a decade, is one I will never forget and possibly the best part of the whole thing.”