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Fool's Gold 100 - NE
Dahlonega, Georgia, USA, August 16, 2008
Bishop and Stevenson set Georgia on fire
By Harlan Price
Blessed with overcast skies chasing away Georgia's August heat, 300 people lined up for the Fool's Gold 100 and 50 mile races. Even though there were two races going for the weekend, it was the 100 miler that created the most anticipation with a head-to-head battle between National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series dominator Jeff Schalk (Trek/VW East Coast) and US National Marathon Champion Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW Factory).
The women's field had it's own battle royale potential with last year's winner Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org), series leader Cheryl Sornson (Trek/VW East Coast) and Mohican 100 winner Betsy Shogren (Sobe Cannondale). Though the racing was to be the highlight for some, everyone had an opportunity to enjoy the festival created by the partnership between the Southern Off Road Bicycling Association (SORBA) and the Fool's Gold race promoters.
Schalk's mechanical delays showdown while Bishop takes win and Turner comes second
"Bullets from the start!" was how Jeremiah Bishop described the pace off the start line heading for the first climb and SORBA sponsored KOM in the second annual Fool's Gold 100.
"Diego was contesting Schalk for the KOM, and it made an immediate seperation," said Bishop. The contester in question was 2000 Colombian Olympian Diego Garavito (Aerocat). He went to Sydney as a cross country racer, but has spent the past few years racing mostly road, and has recently returned to mountain bike racing.
Schalk took the KOM which cause four riders to split free from the rest of the group: Bishop, Schalk, Diego and Georgia local Thomas "The Hitman" Turner (Outspokin' Bikes).
Over the top of the climb, the group stayed together until the Bear Hair and Bull Mountain trails. Turner flatted and temporarily lost a place to Garavito while he booted his tire with a gel wrapper. "Some of the most selective portions of the race were Bear Hair and Bull Mountain trails, where at that point the course climbs rough singletrack on roots and rocks," said Bishop.
"Jeff was drilling it, and he was probably trying to wear me down," he said. "I pretty much sat on and matched his moves to put time on third and fourth place. I was being conservative and trying to stay out of trouble. It had been months since I had a five hour ride in me."
The two continued pushing each other through the end of lap one and the second time up the first climb. At the top, Schalk had to stop briefly at the aid station while Bishop was skipped it and rode through.
"The second time up the hill was really tough, Jeff was still full throttle," said Bishop. "When he pulled over at the aid station, I kept the pace on, not attacking, but not letting off because I knew I would have to stop at the next aid station and he wouldn't. These races have a real tactical element to them, which makes it interesting."
Bishop has spent most of his season making a run for the Olympic team, and hasn't had the pleasure of racing the new 100 miler pace. Even after two national champion jerseys for the marathon and the short track on his back, he still had to play a conservative race.
On the descent from the top from the aid station, Schalk was flying down the gravel descent to catch back on when he slashed his front tire. After blowing out his tube he had to wait around for someone to help him out with a new tube and boot. He ended up walking for awhile before getting the tire inflated, and by that time he was short on motivation for continuing.
"I was looking forward to duking it out with JB," said Schalk. "He'll have to wait till Tahoe-Sierra to get another chance, since Bishop will be in Utah for the NMBS finals on the weekend of the Shenandoah Mountain 100 [Rumor has it tha tBishop may stay at home and challenge Schalk after all at the SM100 - ed.]
In the miles after Schalk's flat, Bishop kept his head down and a steady safe pace to get to the finish line where he took the US$1,000 first place prize. "The course was great, I had a wonderful time and weather was perfect," said Bishop. "It was one-half race and one-half festival with vendors, food and beer. The band was really good. All in all an awesome time. It was a great contrast fom the the races I've been doing. I'll definitely try to be back next year."
Mean while Turner had fixed his flat and was chasing down Garavito, but he never saw him again since he abandoned before the catch. According to race promoter Eddie O'Dea, who was on lead moto for the first lap and a half, Schalk and Bishop had gained two minutes on Garavati and Turner by the 40-mile mark and 10 minutes at 50 miles.
Turner returned to mountain bike racing just a few weeks ago, on June 29, after a three-month recovery from surgery on his shoulder to reconnect cartilage wrecked in a road crash at the end of March. On top of the recovery, he was also experiencing his first 100 mile race and was surprised by the starting pace. The shoulder must have set right because he was able to hold onto a second place only 30 minutes down on Bishop.
"I wouldn't have gone off as hard, but I trusted the pace of the company. I knew they were a lot more experienced, but I also knew I was at a similar fitness." Turner's attitude of 'if they can, I can', played in his favor since no one else was able to come within 30 minutes of him. He might have also been surprised by the aid station situation when no one stopped for a refill until aid station three, and he only had one bottle for the first two and a half hours.
Rounding out the top three was NUE series promoter Garth Prosser (Sobe Cannondale), in third, Charlie Storm in fourth and Chris Johns in fifth.
The overall sees no changes since none of the other contenders made the podium. Second overall Even Plews (Scott/ Capitol Subaru) was finishing up the TransRockies, while third place Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) took the time to recover from a tough 24 hour US National Championships. Fourth place rider Harlan Price (IFracing.org) is recovering from a broken wrist, and fifth place Christian Tanguy (American Cycle and Fitness) was deterred by the travel distance.
Stevenson steps to top block
Less than two weeks after becoming the first female to complete the Colorado Trail Race (CTR), Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org) brought back a souvenir. Her new legs and lungs propelled her to the front of the women's field despite the presence of Mohican winner Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Sobe) and series leader Cheryl Soronson (Trek/VW East Coast).
After a season plagued by injury and fatigue, Stevenson was able to reclaim a top podium spot. "I wanted some redemption...I haven't been in shape all season.The CTR was my get fit quick scheme. It's great not suffering and enjoying the full 100 miles. Not to say that I wasn't feeling it, but my legs felt strong and my head was in it." Patience payed off for the North Carolina rider.
Shogren led the way up the first climb for the KOM while Stevenson and Soronson sat back keeping their eyes on the lanky climber from West Virginia. Trish caught Shogren soon after the KOM and they were riding together up the next climb when her rear tire blew off the rim. Shogren rode on while Stevenson blew through two CO2s before she put a tube in and found help from singlespeeder Rich "Dicky" Dillon.
"Dicky helped pump the remainder of my tire and I started stomping up Cooper's Gap. I started picking off a bunch of boys and about midway thru the lap caught up to Cheryl. She was surprised and encouraged me to catch Ms Betsy."
Around the 25-mile mark Stevenson caught Shogren and kept the pace high enough to keep the West Virginian off her back porch. " I kept an steady pace and I surprised myself by being able to push past Mrs. Mtn Goat Shogren," said Stevenson.
"I don't think I ever let up - having been passed late in the game by Betsy before so I kept up the effort. The course was in remarkable shape. Much improved from last year. 10 miles less, 10 degrees cooler and 100 times more enjoyable. Eddie and Nam did a great job." Stevenson came across the line in 9:41 and had a comfortable gap on the second and third places. Her closest competitor was 43 minutes behind.
Sornson bridged back to Shogren by the 50-mile mark and continued to ride with her until the end. "It was a hard race because of the climbing, no place to rest, and it was hard to work with people. Betsy and I rode together for support to help get through a long race," said Sornson. In the end the two crossed the line almost together, with Shogren in second and Soronson in third, both at 10:24.
The NUE series overall for the women sees Sornson still in control of the top spot with only seven points, but now with three races under their belts, Shogren moves to the second position with eight points overall and Stevenson has 10.
The Shenandoah Mountain 100 on August 31 might be the deciding race for the second and third positions.
Singlespeed class taken by Gunnar
Gunnar Shogren (Cannondale Sobe) brought some West Virginia honor to the deep south by taking the top spot on the singlespeed podium, and his time of 8:56 would have given him a fifth place overall in the men's division. Chris McGill and John Brenner were second and third respectably.
Race conflicts kept the other top contenders out of Georgia.
Men's 50 plus shuffle the deck
Greg Turner put 40 minutes on his nearest competitor on his way to a first place finish, while Marshal Reeves and David Grauer placed second and third. Previous series champion John Majors was fourth and James Wilson rounded out the top five.
In the overall standings David Grauer now occupies the top spot with 17 points, while Wilson sits one point behind in second and Majors is in third. Those are the only 50 plus men to complete four races, but if Greg Turner gets one more completed in a reasonable position, he will probably take the series. However, Scott Root will be there to contest that possibility and will be playing close attention to what Turner does the next time they meet.