Photos: Sportograf

Last weekend a bunch of type-2 fun enthusiasts descended on Finale Ligure, Italy for the WEMBO World 24-hour Solo MTB World Champs. Among them was three-time event winner Cory Wallace, trying to add his name to the trophy for the fourth time. Well as the title of the post suggests, the Hei Hei CR DL riding Kona Endurance Team Rider was indeed successful!

We caught up with Cory right after his historic World Champs win to ask him a few questions about exactly what goes into Solo 24hr racing.

How long have you been racing 24-hour events and how did you get into it?

My first 24-hour event was in Canmore Alberta in July of 2008 when the 24Hrs of Adrenaline hosted the World championships.  My friend, and first sponsor at Freewheel Cycle in Jasper, Dave Macdowell, convinced me I should sign up for the race. Coming off two months of tree planting in May and June the endurance and mental toughness were pretty good and I went on a two-week bike packing trip in the Rockies to try and get some cycling miles in the legs before the race. It was a tough intro to 24hr racing, I was sitting 10-15th most of the race before a big rainstorm moved in and took its toll on the competition.  In the end, I landed on the last podium step in 5th, after putting in a hard last lap to catch a few riders.  The body was completely destroyed, but I knew one day I wanted to come back and win.  
Have you ever ridden or raced in Finale before? 

We raced the World 24-hour Championships in Finale Ligure in 2017. It was my first title, finally dethroning seven-time Champion Jason English from Australia after nearly a decade of trying. The course was awesome with a good mix of singletrack and some double track for passing. Parts of it overlooked the Ligurian Sea and the Italian Riviera, it is a very inspiring place to ride. This year the course was a bit longer at 12 km and 380m of vertical of climbing per lap. It is an all-rounders course with a great mix of technical sections, some punchy climbing, and one solid 10-15 minute diesel climb on the backside. The highlight was the last flowy descent into the race village where they had a rave set up in the middle of the night. The atmosphere was insane and reminded me of playing in some rowdy hockey games back in the day.

How do you stay energized for 24hrs?

There is a bit of the formula but the most important thing is to go into the race with a full tank. This means racing a bit less and focusing on proper recovery and nutrition in the months leading up to the race. During the race, I try to stay off caffeine until darkness hits so I don’t burn out the adrenal glands too early. This also provides a nice lift going into the night portion. For energy I focused mostly on liquid nutrition this year, taking in about 300 calories an hour. It is key to keep the energy coming into the system every 10-15 minutes to keep a steady flow of fuel and to try to avoid any energy lulls.

What is your favourite race food on a 24-hour race?

My favourite race food is something greasy during the second half of the race. In Scotland, in 2019 I ate greasy/salty potatoes for the last 12 hours of the race. Potato chips are also a favourite. This year I had some Moong Dal from Nepal (fried beans) which tasted pretty amazing in the early morning.

What’s the longest break you took between laps?

The longest break this year was 8-10 minutes just before midnight. We ran into a slight technical difficulty so I opted to take the opportunity to change cycling kits, drink a coffee, and reset my mind for the battle to come. Other than this, the breaks were generally 5-15 seconds, with a couple of 45-second – 1-minute stops mixed in there.

What does your support team look like for a race like this and how important is a good support team?

The support team is key in a 24HR race as it is a huge team effort all around. In the days leading up, there is a lot to do to prepare with the bikes, food, and gear not to mention travel and some training. Having the right team around to help keep everything calm and organized is essential. This year I had my cousin Ali fly over with me from Canada. She was a great travel partner and was calm when we had to deal with the chaos when our travel car got canceled hours before landing in Italy, requiring us to overnight in Milan and then haul two bike boxes around airports and train stations to get to Finale Ligure.

Once at the race I had my long-time coach and friend Luke Way and his girlfriend Stacey in the pits from Balance Point Racing, along with Ali’s friend Kat, Hiran, and Ester from Radical Lights, and my Italian buddy Allessandro. It was amazing how well everyone worked together throughout the 24-hour period. Every time (x32) I came through the pit area they had food ready, time gaps to other riders, the other Hei Hei ready to roll and lights/batteries for the night portion of the race. This meant all I had to do was put my head down and focus on the hammering!

What’s next, will you go for a fifth title, or are you done with Solo 24-hour Racing for now?

It was nice to get this 24hr Championship out of the way early in the season, I can now go back and focus on the Lifetime Fitness GrandPrix. The first event of the six-race series was at Sea Otter in California back in April, and now the second round is coming up in Kansas at Unbound this weekend. It will be a wildcard how the system responds just six days after Worlds. After Unbound I’ll be looking to focus hard on the last four races of the series. Other than that I’ll be tying in some Canadian Racing such as BCBR and maybe TransRockies, along with the Breck Epic in Colorado and then possibly some overseas stage racing and adventures in India and Nepal this fall.

As for a fifth title, I plan to head to Australia in the fall of 2023 and go for it! I’m not getting any younger, and time passes so fast, so I’m excited to take the opportunities while I still can.

Is there anyone you want to thank?

I want to thank the Kona Bicycle Company for standing behind me all these years enabling me to chase these dreams and races around the World! It’s a very fortunate situation to be able to stick with and work with the same team and bike company for so many years!

My support team both at the race and in the background I can’t thank enough.

Thank you Luke and Stacey @ Balance Point Racing. My cousin Ali for being a great travel partner and calming influence in the pit, and her friend Kat, Hiran and Ester at Radical Lights. Alessandro for rescuing us after the race since we had no rental car, Randall at the Bench Bike Shop in Jasper for the late nights working on the bikes, Brian Cooke at the Bicycle Cafe for the rear shock, and the crew at Straight up Cycles in Victoria, Leighton and Candace for the support at the previous three World titles and of course all my friends and family back home, the list goes on and on!

It takes a village of support to win Championships like this, and I’m very grateful for everyone that is in my corner!

What bike and setup did use for the 24 hours?

I rode the two bikes equally. The go-to bike for when a fast lap was needed was the Hei Hei which went up Kilimanjaro and across Africa last winter. It has the same build as that trip, except Fox reworked the fork, Shimano sent over new parts, and Maxxis sent some new rubber!

Here are the specs:
Shimano XTR 12 spd drivetrain with a 10-51 cassette and a 34T front chainring.
Shimano XTR Pedals, brakes, crankset and BB.
Pro Bike gear carbon seat post, handlebar (700 mm) and stem (65mm)
Astral Serpentine Carbon Wheels
Maxxis 29 x 2.25 Ikon Tires
Fox 34 StepCast Fork 120 mm front and 120 mm in the rear.
WTB Silverado saddle.
Squirt Chain lube and tire sealant.

The other Hei Hei had a nearly identical setup but was slightly heavier and built for a bit more comfort.
The difference was a Fox Transfer SL Dropper post, a slightly heavier and supple FOX 34 Trail fork and Maxxis 29 x 2.40 Aspen Tires