By Steve Medcroft
The U.S. National MTB Ultra-Endurance Series comes to close this Sunday at the Shenadoah Mountain 100 in Harrisonburg, VA. 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.
The four competitions in the series will be decided on Sunday. In the Open Men's category, Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) has an insurmountable advantage and based on series rules, needs only to appear in the race to win. The Pennsylvannia-based freelance photographer has placed highest of all the Ultra Series competitors in every race he's attended this season. He won the series opener (Mohican 100), and the last East Coast race (Wilderness 101), and came second to Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) and Josh Tostada (Giant) at the Lumberjack 100 and Brekenridge 100 respectively.
In the Masters category, John Majors has been the only 50+ rider to stick with the whole series - race four of the six total available races as required. If he had a challenger, he probably would be in the winning position anyway though; he won three of the four.
In the Singlespeed category, a bit of a horse race has developed for the final day. Dan Jansen (Founders Ale/ Alger Racing) won the first two races but stumbled at Breckenridge and again at the Wilderness 101 to let the series lead slip to Matt Ferrari (Mt. Nittany Wheelworks). The lead is tenuous though; by his own calculation, Ferrari can lose no more than one hour to Jansen in the final race to hold onto the series lead. In a 100-mile, back-country epic on soaked, technical terrain, losing an hour is a very real danger so these two riders will be doing everything they can to manage the outcome of the race to their favor.
The women's race has suddenly developed a little drama as well. Through the first three races, TransRockies teammates Tricia Stevenson (Landrover/Cannondale) and Karen Masson (Litespeed) had traded the lead and set themselves up for a head-to-head battle down to the finale. But a crash in TransRockies has put Stevenson out of the series and a broken collarbone sidelined Masson so a real chance to make an impression at the finale has opened up for three other women; Hillary Harrison is flying to Virginia from Washington state to take her shot, and regional racers Ruth Cunningham (Jet Messenger) and Tiffany Mann (Independent Fabrication) have a chance as well.
Since the Shenandoah Mountain 100 is in the backyard of some of the East Coast's most successful mountain-bikers, the race should be alive with action. Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW; fresh off eighth place at mountain-bike worlds - the best American male finish in eleven years - and SMT100 course record holder at 7:23:36) will be there. As will Bishop's teammate Chris Eatough. The recently-crowned U.S. 24 Hour Solo National Champion will be looking for a high-speed tune-up before he attempts to win his seventh 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Championship in Georgia next month. In fact, a cadre of Trek/VW regional and national riders will be in Harrisonburg trying to fight off local favorites like Paul Buschi, who has won the SMT100 before, and Nick Waite (Kelly benefits Strategies) who we saw on the NORBA podium for the first time in 2006.
Racing gets underway at dawn on Sunday. Check back on Cyclingnews for results and a full race report as we get them.