Even before last weekend, Rebecca Rusch was an accomplished elite athlete. But over Memorial Day weekend in Spokane, Wash, Ketchum's adventure-racing girl-phenom put a substantial notch in her belt by winning the solo overall at the Washington State 24-hour Mountain Bike Championships. It was Rusch's first solo attempt in a 24-hour race.
"I'm surprised. I've done well in the men's field before, but I've never beaten everybody," she said.
In Spokane, three of the top five finishers were Wood River Valley bikers (Reed Melton finished third and Eric Coury was fifth), but it was Rusch who was better than the rest.
Rusch is no stranger to pain or feats of endurance. Last year, she helped propel her team of four Ketchum women to the top of the winner's stand at 24 Hours of Moab in southern Utah and she is a defending champion of the RAID Adventure Championships. She has a slew of sponsors, but these days is fueled mainly by Red Bull.
In Spokane, Rusch set her normally high standards and then soared high above them. Her performance was so elite, her statistics sound like exaggerations.
She was the fastest single human on a bike for 24 straight hours of riding. She was faster than 20 teams of bikers, 18 of which were squads of at least four people. She was more than two hours faster than her next closest female competitor, 25 minutes faster than the fastest man.
Having learned that she is more than capable in 24-hour mt. bike races, Rusch now has National and World Championship races in her crosshairs later this summer. It's doubtful, though, that she will ever again enter as a dark horse.
"It was nice to show up under the radar (in Spokane), but I think that's over now."