By Steve Medcroft
As if there wasn't enough endurance racing this weekend, round four of the National Ultra MTB Series is scheduled for Saturday July 29 as well.
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 (about 40 miles in), says promoter Chris Scott. Then theres 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. 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.
Among those who will take a crack at Eatough's record is Trek/VW teammate Jeremiah Bishop. The NORBA pro who most recently placed third in the US National cross-country championships and is in the middle of an intense training block that included a win last weekend in the Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (11,000 feet of climbing in 55-miles, a race in which he holds the course record), announced in his blog that he plans to race the Wilderness 101. Although he's not a contender for the Ultra series, Bishop is at home on the rocky terrain and is a favorite in the race. His presence alone will lift the pace for the Series' challengers.
And there will be challengers - series leader Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) says that even though the Wilderness 101 is scheduled the same weekend as the US 24 Hour Solo National Championships, he doesn't expect there to be a lighter-than-normal field. "We're still going to have most of the heavy hitters from the series." He adds that Bishop's presence will add a dynamic to the race. As will the presence of a rider he calls 'someone to watch' - twenty-one year old (Bear Naked/Cannondale team rider) Brandon Draugelis. "He's a local and has been tearing it up this year so everyone will have to watch out for him."
Price is comfortably in control of the Open Men's category of the series having raced all three races so far and placing highest of series contenders at each (even winning the Lumberjack 100). But he is careful not to let himself get too comfortable. "(The lead) is not safe," he said by phone on Thursday evening. "Anything can happen. But if can keep ahead of everyone I've been ahead of so far in the series at this weekend's race, I should be okay." Okay because with four races and four high results, he could mathematically be the series victor.
As for his chances on Saturday, Price says the Wilderness 101 is like a home race to him. "This type of terrain is more my style. It's more technical than some of the other races and has a nice mix of big climbs and technical terrain.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for news and results from the Wilderness 101