Wallaby Stew top on Donner Pass menu
Happily, the only thing Sierra at Tahoe’s Wallaby Stew bike team devoured in its adventure on Donner Pass was the race course.
In all, Wallaby Stew’s three South Shore and one North Shore residents ate up 151.8 miles of the 24 Hours of Donner Pass race course over a full day of racing, Aug. 7-8. The team won the men’s expert class with 23 laps in 24 hours, blowing the second-place Velo Sapiens away.
“It was a little nervous heading into the men’s expert class,” said Drew Bray, who provided his team of Sean Sweeney, Gary Morgan and Jeremy Rutherdale with its Aussie name. “It’s definitely a step up from the open five-person class we did last year, but we had a strong team and we kicked butt.”
Wallaby Stew had the same number of laps as the second-place team, but finished its final circuit more than 45 minutes sooner. The riders attributed their win to superior strategy, which allowed the riders who weren’t on the course to rest while their teammates were pedaling away, and kept the lap times of all four racers consistent. Wallaby Stew overcame a seven-minute deficit and buried the Velo Sapiens over the second half of the race, starting from a dead heat at 9 p.m. to open up a half-hour lead by 1 a.m., then expanding it to nearly an hour over the course of the night.
“I think the strategy was what made us be successful the last couple of years,” said Sweeney, who works at Sierra-at-Tahoe along with Bray. Morgan, a former Sierra employee and a South Shore native, rounded out the team, along with Rutherdale, who works at Sierra’s sister resort on the North Shore, Northstar-at-Tahoe.
Wallaby Stew’s strategy paired the four riders into two groups of two: While one rider was turning his lap – which took about an hour – another waited on deck to ride the next lap. The other pair could eat or sleep for five or six hours until it was time for its shift.
“Time seems to fly by, and our strategy allowed us to have, like, five or six hours break when it was our turn,” Sweeney said. “I think the strategy plays a key part, and I think the team aspect just makes the event so great, just adds that appeal to it.”
Wallaby’s game plan made it easier for team members to achieve good sleep during their breaks, instead of just three or four hours of sleep at a time. That, in turn, paid off during the late-night laps on the technical Donner Pass course.
“It’s the most gnarly, technical course I’ve ever ridden, for any course,” Sweeney said.
He also credited the team’s support crew, which included a mechanic, two cooks and a handful of friends who cheered the team on during the wee hours.
“Midnight to 4-5 a.m., those are the toughest hours,” Sweeney said. “Having someone standing at the finish line and helping you out made a big difference.”
Wallaby Stew may not stop at Donner: the crew is considering a trip to compete in The 24 Hours of Moab, the crown jewel of around-the-clock mountain bike racing Oct. 9-10 in Moab, Utah. If the team can find time off during their busiest times at the resort, the riders are considering entering the Moab race, which usually boasts 450 entrants, as opposed to Donner’s 63. And they’ll keep the Wallaby Stew name.
“We’re thinking about it,” Bray said.
Sierra’s mountain biking season continues Sept. 12 when the final race of the Kooka Cup cross country series visits the resort.
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