Sonya Looney Crowned 24 Hour World Champion

Last Updated - November 3, 2015

Looney crowned World Champion in her first 24 hour solo effort.


Sonya Looney, the two-time 24 Hour USA National Champion in the 4-person format and National Champion in the coed duo format, claimed the 24 Hour World Championship in just her first attempt in the solo category. For the first time in history, the prestigous WEMBO 24 Hour race was hosted in the United States in Weaverville, California with "one of the most challenging 24 hour courses on record." 

The course consisted of roughly 13 mile laps with 1600' feet of elevation gain per lap, with Sonya completing 18 laps for a total of 234 miles and 29,000' of elevation gain over the course of the race. 

Sonya credited her ability to stay focused and consistent throughout the race as key to her success. 

"I didn't know what was going to happen.  On the first lap, one of the ladies rode away from me on the first climb and I had to be strict with myself and just let her go.  I caught her on the downhill and we went back and forth that way for 2 laps.  At dusk, both 2nd and 3rd place were a mere 7-9 minutes behind me.  I knew that I needed to ride an unwaveringly hard pace through the night with no mistakes.  I managed to open up a gap of 32 minutes by dawn.  Persistency was key; some laps I gained 2 minutes while others I picked up 5 minutes.  I actually had the most fun at night! There's something to riding at your limit following a short tunnel of light.  I didn't even need that much caffeine!"  

Photo: Vic Armijo

Sonya on her choice of components for the race: "I decided to use the Shimano XTR 2x11 for the race. I knew the climbing would be brutal (it was 1600' per 13 miles but 1300' was in 1.5 miles!). I also wanted to have the full range of gears so I could attack the descents and pedal on the flat sections to pick up time. Over 236 miles, I needed every gear. The front derailleur design was flawless. In 24 hours, I did not have one mis-shift, nor did I have to make any adjustments to my drivetrain! I chose the XTR race brakes with 160mm rotors to save weight because the course wasn't overly steep or technical. The XTR pedals were perfect; I never worried about them being a liability and I had no problems with float or knee pain as my body fatigued.  I love riding Shimano products because I know I can rely on them for any distance, in any conditions all over the world!" 

Sonya's precision and consistency earned her her first solo World Championship, crossing the finish line at 11:50am, 50 minutes ahead of second place. 

Sonya's final thoughts on her season: "Winning World Championships was a great way to end one of the most tumultuous seasons of my career.  I had some great results with several NUE 100 mile wins including winning the biggest 100 miler in Latin America, winning a 6 day stage race across Patagonia, and a top 4 result at a UCI stage race in Spain with national teams seeking Olympic points. I was off the bike for 6 weeks in the late spring due to knee tendonitis and broke my arm a month after being back on the bike. Those injuries were a major damper on some big plans I had this summer. However, it was breaking my arm that motivated me to register for Worlds!  There is always something positive that comes out of a seemingly disappointing situation!  I'm looking forward to some big Fall rides in BC, honing some of my Enduro skills (hint, hint) and enjoying some local CX races."


Photo: Russ Baker