It is the toughest mountain biking race our region will ever host as the 2023 WEMBO World Solo 24-hour Mountain Bike Championships comes to Armidale this November.
Classed as one of the most challenging endurance mountain bike races we will see in Australia, it is not for the faint-hearted, and local rider Ben Luxton is stepping up to the challenge.
“I like the sense of achievement that you’ve gone out, had a goal and reached that goal or given it a go, and I really like this type of riding.” said Ben.
“People think I’m stupid and asking why I want to ride for 24 hours, but I get satisfaction out of being told I can’t do something and then I do it.”
This is Ben’s first time taking on a task this big and will be his biggest ride to date on completion.
Ben completed a 12 hour race a few months ago, with many lessons learnt heading into this next race.
“The 12-hour race was a lot hotter than I expected and I needed to lie down for about an hour and cool myself off, I just wasn’t ready for that heat, but otherwise I was pretty happy with how I went,” said Ben.
“I set a goal for kilometres and laps, and I managed to get that goal and that is what I am going to do with this one, set a goal and aim for it.”
Preparation has been key for Ben, hitting the trainer early in the morning during winter and taking full advantage of the longer afternoon to get out on the bike during spring.
“The most important thing for preparing to sit on the saddle for a long time, is sitting on the saddle for a really long time, many times a week.” said Ben.
“I’ve been trying to do longer session riding the bike, a few sessions during the week and then a longer one on the weekend.”
“Another big thing is nutrition and getting you body use to eating the kind of things you’ll be eating while you’re riding, while doing the training rides, so that has been a little bit different to just riding the bike around.”
Goal focused; Ben knows what he wants to achieve on the day.
“The goal is 15 to 16 laps, so that will be around 200 km, and trying to aim to be on the bike for 20 of the 24 hours and try and minimise the number of breaks that I have.” said Ben.
Ben will be up against the best of the best with the top current male world champion, Canadian rider Corey Wallace, and female world champion, American rider Chelsey Magness, confirming their attendance at Armidale’s event.
A big opportunity for local riders to mix with this high calibre of talent.
“Very rarely do we get the chance to race a World Championship style event in our own backyard on your own trails, so it’s a great opportunity to race some quality riders in the local environment.” said James Harris, New England Mountain Bike President.
Two hundred riders from home soil and overseas are expected to register for the two-day event, running from Saturday 4th November to Sunday 5th November, held at the University of New England track.
“WEMBO is a 24-hour solo mountain bike race, effectively where you ride for 24 hours solo around a single track about 15km long, and the person at the end that’s covered the most distance is the winner.” said James.
“The winner will probably spend 15 to 20 minutes not riding in that whole 24-hour period, they do not take very many breaks if you are at the pointy end of the field.”
Armidale will host WEMBO’s 10th edition race, following Italy’s event last year, and previously Brazil and Scotland before that.
So, what does the local track look like?
“The course is roughly a 15 km track right around with over 300 vertical metres in each lap so a reasonable amount of climbing and its almost all single-track mountain bike, so its not a gravel road, its like a single bush walking track,” said James.
“We’ve had fantastic support from the University, Armidale Regional Council and the State Government to bring this event to Armidale and we looking forward to the weekend to come.”
While the course will be busy over the first weekend of November, it is open to the public outside of competition.
“The track itself is open for anyone to ride any day of the week, so if you want to go out and have a try on a track that will be raced for a world championship event, you can do that anytime you want.” said James.
2023 WEMBO World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships
Saturday 4th November to Sunday 5th November 2023
University of New England, Armidale
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