By Sue George in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with assistance from Harlan Price
The National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series wraps up Sunday near Harrisonburg, Virginia, at the Shenandoah Mountain 100.
Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) has the men's series locked up after his win last weekend at the Endurance 100, but the stage is set for an exciting battle among a strong field of contenders. Perhaps the most anticipated battle is the one between two proven endurance giants: six-time 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo champion and mountain biker Eatough vs. 2006 Tour de France winner and roadie Floyd Landis, who announced last week his intention to attend the race as he continues to await a verdict for his anti-doping arbitration hearing for a positive doping test result from Stage 17 of last year's Tour de France. Landis' hearing was held in May.
Landis got his racing start in mountain biking and has recently returned to form in the discipline with a second place at the Leadville 100.
When asked about his guaranteed series win, Eatough said, "It takes a little bit of the pressure off. I don't need to be as conservative." After hearing the news that Landis would be joining the stellar men's field, he observed, "It's a pretty unique opportunity. It doesn't come along very often." After all, how many pro mountain bikers ever get to race Tour de France contenders?
Eatough has switched his focus this year from the 24 hour worlds, which he previously announced he will not contest in 2007, to the NUE series. "My training hasn't changed that much," said Eatough. "It used to be that the 100s were training for the 24. I tried to do extra climbing, for the bigger days." He called the Shenandoah Mountain 100 is one of his favorite courses.
The lure of the 100 milers was strong for Eatough who commented on the growing popularity of the race format. "It's a huge challenge, for the fitness of rider and durability of equipment, and the races are much more tactical. You have to be smart and race with head, legs and lungs. You have to be conservative and not go from the gun. The appeal is similar to an Ironman triathalon. It's an epic day with mishaps, adventures, and just getting to the finish line is a challenge."
Eatough will be joined by current fourth place in the series Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) and current fifth place Gerry Pflug (Freddie FU/Kona/Speedgoat Bikes). Other top five contenders Josh Tostado (Giant, Smith, Dakine, Michelin, Niterider) and Shawn Adams (October Lake Effect) were not pre-registered. Favorites for the day also include Jeff Schalk (Trek / VW), Michael Simonson, Sam Koerber (Pro Bikes), Jens Nielsen (Big Wheel Racing), and Todd Helmick (Trek / VW).
Absent from the men's race will be local pro and past winner Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW), who is headed instead to Fort William, Scotland for the World Championships.
On the women's side, series leader Danielle Musto (Slingshot) is ready to do her own battle with close contender Carey Lowrey (Outdoor Store) for the NUE title. Look out for local pro rider Sue Haywood (Trek / VW), fresh off a TransRockies win, to go for the day's win. She'll also be challenged by Trish Stevenson (Pro Bikes), third place series racer Erika Tieszen (Giant, Smith,Dakine, Niterider), Kristin Eddy (Team Green), and Michelle Schneider (VisitPA.com).
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete Shenandoah Mountain 100 coverage.
NUE Series Standings, after six events, with one remaining
For complete NUE series standings, click here.