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MTB news feature, March 22, 2006
Six times the challenge in new US endurance series
By Steve Medcroft
Five 100-mile mountain-bike race promoters announced the formation of a U.S. ultra-endurance national series this week. Comprising the Mohican 100 (Ohio), the Lumberjack 100 (Michigan), the Breckenridge 100 (CO), the Wilderness 101 (PA), the Endurance 100 (Utah) and the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (Virginia), the National MTB Ultra Endurance Series runs from June 3rd to September 3rd of 2006 and will be awarding National Series Championships in Open Men, Open Women, Singlespeed and Masters 50-plus categories. As presenting media partner to the series, Cyclingnews will be providing reports and results from each race.
Formed, promoters say, to fill the void in national-level competition for ultra-endurance athletes, contenders for the series will face some of the most challenging and popular 100-mile courses in the country. "Ultra endurance needs to be represented on the national stage,” says Ryan O’Dell, promoter of the Mohican 100, the first race in the series. “And although most of the participants in these events aren't trying to win but simply to finish, there is a whole class of athletes - like Garth Prosser, Jeremiah Bishop, Chris Eatough, Tinker Juarez and Mark Hendershot among others - who have a unique talent to push themselves over greater distances. They deserve a national series as a way to recognize their talent."
“Ultimately,” O’Dell says, “it’s my hope that this form of racing will be elevated to the Olympic stage and that the U.S. will have a ladder of competition in place to develop more ultra-endurance athletes that can compete at the Olympic level."
A rider accumulates points toward the series championship by racing the solo male or female, singlespeed or master’ s (50-plus) categories at each race. The points are an accounting of the number of seconds behind that race’s winner in their category. For example, if the winner of the men’s Breckenridge 100 finishes in 10:30:10, a rider who finishes in 10:50:10 would earn 1200 points towards the series (the number of seconds in 20 minutes). The winner, of course, earns zero points.
The concept is that the rider with the lowest overall points in four of the six races will be declared the National MTB Ultra Endurance Series Champion at the final event of the season (the Shenandoah Mountain Touring 100 in Harrisonburg, Virginia). "Anyone who races the eligible categories at any of the six races is eligible to be considered for the series championship," says Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah Mountain 100 promoter Chris Scott. "The only pre-requisite is that they race at any four of the six events and at least attend the Harrisonburg, Virginia finale (you only need attend the ceremony, not race the final if you have enough points to win) to be crowned champion."
The group of promoters have yet to release final details on the cash and merchandise prize package for the overall series competition (attempts to secure a naming sponsor are ongoing) but with the help of sponsors Kenda, Independent Fabrication, Thompson Seat Posts, Hammer Gel and Cannondale, the prize pool is already growing. Series contenders are, of course, eligible for the cash, product and trophy prizes available at each of the individual events.
For more information, including links to each individual race Web site and registration information, please visit www.ultramtb.com.
1. Mohican MTB 100 (Ohio, June 3) - The 2006 National MTB Ultra Endurance Series opens Saturday June 3 at 7am at the Mohican MTB 100. Based out of the Mohican State Lodge near Loudonville, the first race winds through Ohio's Walhonding Valley.
Because it’s held in Michigan, racers might expect a flat and fast course but instead get 350-meter steep and rolling climbs. "This is a one-lap race held almost entirely in the 5,000 acre Mohican State Park,” says Team Cannondale’s Garth Prosser, who helped design the original racecourse with promoter Ryan O’Dell. “We have stream sections reminiscent of La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica (with the Crocodiles, giardia, E.Coli and bike thieves left out), the chance to ride some "off limits / no bikes allowed" trails (opened to us for just the one day) and sections along tree-canopied Amish buggy trails that wind through pristine old growth forests.”
The Mohican 100 has a field limit of 250 participants and fills up early so riders with Ultra MTB National Series aspirations should get registered as soon as possible. The 100-mile record was set by Trek/VW pro mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop (8:05:50).
2. Founder’s Lumberjack 100 (Michigan, June 17) - Two weeks later (June 17th at 7am), the series moves to the Manistee National Forest around Wellston, Michigan. "My race differs from all the others in the series in that it is four laps of a 25-mile circuit,” says promoter Rick Plite. “The course is also 99% singletrack and peppered with short climbs. Riders have to always be on the gas. It is a very demanding and tiring course.”
The course record (7:27:38) was set in the inaugural run of the event by Scott Quiring. Due to National Forest regulations, the Lumberjack 100 is also limited to a 250-rider field.
3. Breckenridge 100 (Colorado, July 15) - The series heads to Colorado for it’s third stop. The Breckenridge 100 course is built out of three distinct cloverleaf trails. Headquartered in downtown Breckenridge at Carter Park, the course loops through the epic backcountry terrain over surrounding ski resorts. Hometown epic racer Josh Tostado won the first running of the high-altitude race with a time of 9:13:19; ahead of Gary Fisher pro Nat Ross.
4. Wilderness 101 (Pennsylvania, July 29) - Stop four returns east; to State College, Pennsylvania for the Wilderness 101. Launching from Coburn Park at 7:00 am and run on a network of rocky State College-area trails, the Wilderness 101 promises to be one of the most technical races in the series. “The course is fast at the start until racers get past aid station 2,” says promoter Chris Scott. “Then there’s a section of bigger climbs and the downhills start to get a bit rougher as the race stretches on.”
First run in 2000, The Wilderness 101 is one of the older races in the series. “The 101 was one of the first endurance races of this genre,” says Scott. “And therefore also has a high probability of an early sell out.” Six-time 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Champion Chris Eatough set a blistering course record in 2005. “It is unlikely that anyone will break Eatough's 6:59:48 finishing time,” Scott says.
5. The Endurance 100 (Utah, August 26) - After an almost month-long break, the series returns west for the 100-mile stage of the three-race E-100 series in Park City, Utah. Starting at 6am at The Canyons Resort, the E-100 climbs through Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort, the Deer Crest Development and portions of Park City's municipal trail system before returning to the finish area at The Canyons. Along the way, riders will have climbed a total of 18,627ft; all at altitude.
Capped at 499 riders, the course record for the E-100 (10:09:07) was set by Utah rider Bart Gillespie.
6. Shenandoah 100 (Virginia, September 3) - The final race in the series, the Shenandoah Mountain 100, is held in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Rolling out at 6am from Stokeville Park, the event is a mixture of riding tests. “The highlights are the off-camber singletrack and the dark deep feel of the Eastern hardwood forest,” say promoter Chris Scott.
Multi time event winner Jeremiah Bishop (current course record holder at 7:23:36) has said he believes a sub seven-hour finish is possible in the SMT100.