Vernon-trained cyclist comes out of retirement for record-breaking ride

Golstein is partnering with Vernon’s Venture Training.

With only 10 kilometres left in the race, Leah Goldstein said she knew she had to push to the finish.

The Silver State 508 takes riders from Reno, Nevada across some of the most desolate highway stretches in the U.S. Riders have 48 hours maximum to complete the 508-mile course. Goldstein was shooting for a much quicker time of 32:32 to break the record.

“After 800 kilometres of riding, the last thing your legs want to do is sprint. But my crew told me to just put my head down and go hard, and I could still break the record. Somewhere inside I found some extra energy,” said Goldstein about her first ultra race in five years. “A few years ago, I thought I was done with racing. But I’m excited about it again. This was a great warm-up event for Race Across America next year. It gives me confidence going forward.”

Although Goldstein is a professional Israeli road racing cyclist, she was born in Vancouver. She is now partnering with Vernon’s Venture Training in her Race Across America fundraising efforts.

Related: B.C. man cycling across Canada

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Her crew — Lori Moger, LPN Ray Cusmano, and bike mechanic Ben Toombs — manned the follow car for the entire Silver State race.

“We have to navigate, feed her, follow a meter behind her at night, change her bikes and clothes – basically anything she needs, we deal with it,” said Crew Chief Lori Moger. “Ray and Ben just blew me away with their effort. Crewing for the first time is tough, and they really stepped up.”

Strong tailwinds made for a very fast first half, with Leah slowing down only to weave around some free-range long-horn cattle and admire some wild horses. She then took advantage of a calm, cool night to re-hydrate, brush her teeth and eat some soup — all while staying on the bike, of course.

“I only stop pedalling when it’s absolutely necessary. Every second off the bike counts,” Goldstein said.

She said she was kept alert all night by hundreds of jackrabbits bolting across the road.

“They were everywhere — it was pretty entertaining.”

As the sun came up, Goldstein’s crew knew she had a shot at the record.

“She had a really strong headwind coming back, so we kept recalculating the numbers. Leah attacked the final climb to Virginia City and descended through 60 km/h gusts of wind to the final stretch. We told her to sprint the finish and she did, cracking the record by six minutes,” said Moger.

Cusmano was there to catch her bike at the finish line.

“Being part of Leah’s crew has given me a new outlook on life,” he said. “Watching Leah climb mountain range after mountain range showed me what hard really is, and I know now that I’m capable of more. Marathon here I come.”

Skyride Bike and Brew lent out their mechanic, Ben Toombs for the race who ended up driving the follow car for the entire 32 hours.

“It was actually way more fun and exciting than I thought it was going to be. It’s impressive to watch a race like this,” he said.

“Ultra-racing is truly a team sport. There’s no way I could’ve broke that record without my amazing crew,” said Goldstein. “Near the end, I started to ease up. I knew I was going to win, so I slowed down a bit. My crew started holding up signs like, “NO LIMITS” and “GIFT OF WORK’ – all the things I say in my speeches. I decided to practice what I preach and kept pushing hard. I really needed their tough love in that moment – and it paid off.”

Related: Vernon woman praises helmet after truck runs over her head

Related: Vernon’s new bike park opens Monday

Related: Reporter takes a first-time crack at bike trails

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