'Daredevil' racer is enjoying his ride

"I have a little bit of a daredevil in me," said Chris Eatough of Ellicott City. "I like to go fast - very fast." But it takes more than speed to be a six-time winner of the World Solo 24 Hours of Adrenalin championship mountain bike races, held once a year at grueling courses in the United States and Canada.

"Most of the race, to be honest - you're fighting the instinct to want to stop, to quit," Eatough said. "You're in some pain - it's not an easy thing. The good moments are few and far between.


"The mental aspect [of racing] is every bit as hard. You can stop and take a rest, sleep, eat - but you're not going to win if you do that," he said. In his most recent world championship race, Eatough was never off his bike for longer than 30 seconds.

Eatough, 32, is a professional mountain bike racer on the Trek/Volkswagen racing team.


He is also the subject of a coming film, 24 Solo, documenting his pursuit of a seventh world championship, which ended in a second-place finish at the U.S. Olympic mountain bike course in Conyers, Ga., in October.

The film will open in April at the Sea Otter Classic races in Monterey, Calif.

"I learned more from this race than any other world championship experience," said Eatough, who assigns no blame and exhibits no bitterness.

"I knew he [Craig Gordon of Australia, who placed first] would be a tough competitor - he was very motivated," Eatough said. "But he was carried off the course and spent days in the hospital on dialysis."

Gordon experienced rhabdomyolysis, which according to Web MD, "can occur from extensive muscle damage as, for example, from a crushing injury or an electrical shock. The risks with rhabdomyolysis include muscle breakdown and kidney failure."

"Twenty-four-hour solo racing is getting more attention each year, and every year there's been more pressure," Eatough said. "When it sank in and we had time to reflect over days and weeks, I'm thankful I'm healthy. "With a new wife, and a new baby on the way, I was not quite willing to go so far as to put myself in the hospital," he said.

Eatough's perspective is a mature one - wrought from years of intelligent athleticism involving tough choices. Working toward a professional soccer career as a youth growing up in the United Kingdom, he shifted gears when the family moved to the United States.

"I kind of let go of it after I came here," he said. Still, Eatough played Division 1 soccer at Clemson University, which he attended on an academic scholarship. While in graduate school, working on a master's degree in civil engineering at the University of Virginia, Eatough was looking for a new athletic outlet and started riding one of his father's mountain bikes.


"My dad was a mountain biker who raced most weekends at high levels. I could see how much he loved it, and he had a bike I could ride, a helmet I could wear.

"I'm very competitive with whatever I did. I liked to see the improvement," he said.

Eatough started entering races, placing higher and higher.

"I've never found anything as exciting as riding a bicycle fast on a trail," he said. "You're in control of everything - you feel all the roots, ruts and rocks. It's very varied, very satisfying.

"I'd always ride with people who were better - I'd have to ride better, naturally, to keep up," said Eatough. In 1997, after one of his victories, he was approached by Trek to be a member of its team. Eatough and his four-member Trek team consistently placed first in 24-hour mountain bike races - which are strenuous and challenging.

"For some reason, at the end of the season [in 2000], I was feeling fit and healthy, and I decided to try it [the 24-hour solo world championships]."


Eatough won and kept winning for the next five years.

Eatough is training for the next 24-hour solo world championships, to be held Sept. 1-2 in Monterey.

He rides three to six hours each day, often in Patapsco Park.

"This is an excellent area for cycling in general," he said. "No big mountains, but a lot of hills - it's rocky, with challenging trees and slimy, slippery roots."

He and his former team manager, Jon Posner, also are hard at work on another project, the Michaux Rocks 100, a new 100-mile mountain bike race they are organizing for July 15 in Pennsylvania.

"It's a way of giving back to everyone else," Eatough said. "We know what a good race is all about."


Eatough and his wife had their first child - a girl - last week. Talking about the future, he said: "I plan on doing this a lot more - my Dad is 60 and still enjoys it. If I'm riding with my daughter some day, that would be great. My wife and I like the outdoors, and there's a good chance we'll be doing outdoor things with her. But whatever she likes, I'll be very supportive."

Registration for the Michaux Rocks 100 mountain bike race will begin next month at