Multiple World Mountain Bike Champion Advises Athletes
Thursday, 24 November 2016
Chris Eatough, who left Bolton School 26 years ago to move to the US with his family, returned today as six times World 24 hour Solo Mountain Bike Racing Champion. Back in the UK to deliver the Tillotson Lecture that evening at Bolton School, he first addressed his former school’s current crop of elite athletes.
In a fascinating lunchtime presentation, he recalled how from the moment he joined Year 7 of Bolton School in 1986 he loved his time at school. He recalled enjoying national biathlon success (swimming and running) on two occasions within a year or two of his arrival and also training hard as Mr Pledger and the school introduced water polo into the sports curriculum.
He then re-lived his soccer-playing days at Clemson University in the US before talking about how he dominated 24 hour solo mountain biking for six years. Aged 21 and having been a team player all his life, he decided that he could also have fun as a solo athlete, realising that the harder you trained, the more instant the reward in terms of scaling the rankings. Initially, his career in mountain bike racing was over shorter distances and he quickly became top 10 in the US. However, he soon came to realise that he could keep going for longer distances without dropping his pace and ultimately progressed, with the help of his father, into 24 hour racing. He said, it really is a great test as you fight against the biology of your body as you race from noon to noon. Chris said that although the race is billed as “solo”, it is actually a team that pulls together with the pit crew being responsible for the bike and taking care of the rider’s nutritional needs. Keeping your energy levels up is a constant demand as you burn up 4000-5000 calories each hour and probably only take on board 600-700 calories. He retired from the sport six years ago, having enjoyed 14 years in which he had travelled the world and been pushed to his limits. He is married with two young children and still lives in the US where he devotes just as much energy and passion into bike transportation and sharing in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
Taking questions from the audience, he said that he had taken part in two or three 24 hour races each year; he was world champion in 6 of these races and second once and 5 times US champion. He said a lot of the sport is “in your head”. He always found the first and last hours to be the easiest and that the middle bit is suffering and pain and a constant battle in your head to keep going. He recalled how the tough water polo training at Bolton School had helped build his endurance levels. He said that experience teaches you that the more you have been through in the race, the more satisfaction you gain on crossing the finishing line. The toughest trails he said he had raced on were in Canada, near Whistler, although the desert like conditions in California were also tough. Addressing the issue of food, he said to save time he would have his pit crew stuff food in paper cups into pockets in the back of his shirt – this could include small sandwiches, pancakes in syrup, bananas, potatoes, pasta or even sometimes at four o’clock in the morning, pizza! The inevitable question about using the toilet also arose and Chris said you just do not need to go as often when you are racing – but there was always the woods! Talking about drugs in bike racing, prompted by a photo of himself with Lance Armstrong, he said he had just been short of making the US Olympic team at shorter bike racing and doping would have been what some people would have done to give themselves the edge. However, he said this was never an option for him and he can look back and be proud that he achieved all he did in endurance racing without cheating!