On Saturday, July 16 at 6:00 am, ultra endurance athletes from all over the US, both solo and teams, will roll out from Carter Park in downtown Breckenridge, Colorado, for the start of the 7th Annual Breckenridge 100 Mountain Bike Challenge, race number five of the fast-growing Kenda National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series. Racers will also receive points toward the statewide Colorado Rocky Mountain Endurance (RME) Series.
Course architect Zobbewan has linked together an amazing network of backcountry trails, roads, doubletrack and bike paths featuring 13,719 feet of climbing through Summit County's pristine backcountry. This race course, set mostly above 9,000 feet, is arguably the most difficult of the series, offering three Continental Divide crossings at altitudes surpassing 12,000 feet along with spectacular, jaw dropping, "hey man, keep your eyes on the trail" scenery.
The first loop sends racers up and over the famed Wheeler Pass. Due to record snowpack in the high country, racers may face a much more difficult crossing in the snowpack this year. "The typical 30 meter snowfield may be 200 meters!" said race director Thane Wright.
After passing through the start/finish zone in Carter Park, racers head out for loop two, considered the most difficult of the three cloverleaf loops. Wright, "Loop 2 will test any racer's metal, but the extensive sections on the Colorado Trail make the effort rewarding."
Passing through Carter Park again, racers venture forth on loop three toward an aid station located on the Continental Divide at Boreas Pass. Racers must reach Boreas Pass by 4:30 pm, the final cutoff, which is earlier than all other NUE series races. The Rocky Mountains are reknown for afternoon thunderstorms with dangerous, high altitude lightning. For racers able to make the cutoff, the reward is a ride on the historic flowing descent of the old flume - Gold Dust Trail, before a third crossing of the Continental Divide toward the finish at Carter Park.
At the post-race celebration at Carter Park, racers will enjoy with a gourmet buffet dinner featuring local cuisine from a variety of local area restaurants along with fresh brews from Colorado's famous Oskar Blues Brewery, purveyors of Dale's Pale Ale.
In addition to cash and prizes, NUE sponsors are kicking in an additional US$1000 worth of quality Kenda brand tires plus gift certificates from Velocity Wheels and Yakima Racks. All racers who complete at least four NUE Series events become eligible for series awards, including custom NUE Endura Brand Champion Jerseys. As always, no license is required to compete in NUE Series events.
According to Wright, "Registration is still open, however, time is running out for anyone that would like to register for this epic event. For racers who may not be up for the whole enchilada, shorter distances are also available for solo riders and teams who would like to experience this spectacular high alpine cycling challenge."
To see current NUE series standings going into the Breckenridge 100, click here.
In the men's open division, the question remains, can anyone prevent local strongman Josh Tostado from winning his seventh consecutive Breckenridge 100? Tostado won last year in 8:23:47 and holds the course record of 8:14:37 set in 2008.
To win again at high altitude, Tostado (Bach Builders/Santa Cruz) will face three-time reigning NUE Series Champion Jeff Schalk (Trek). Last year brought a close race between the two until a couple of flats on the rocky descent from Wheeler pass, early in the race, took the defending champion out of contention.
According to Wright, "Local legend Josh Tostado absolutely owns this race, winning every edition of the contest since its inception seven years ago. He has taken on all comers including Tinker Juarez, Jeff Schalk, Travis Brown and Evan Plews, to name a few, but none has been able to topple this man of steel who is undefeatable on his home turf."
Earlier this season, Schalk and Tostado gave us a preview of the Breckenridge race at NUE series round 3, the Mohican 100 in Loudonville, Ohio. In Mohican country, Schalk found his legs and appeared to shake off the gremlins that derailed him early in the season, and set a new course record in the process for his third Mohican win, ahead of Tostado, who placed fifth in his only NUE Series race finish, so far, this year.
However, a new challenger has arisen from the Great Lakes state of Michigan. He is currently leading the NUE series by one point with victories at Cohutta, Syllamo's Revenge, and, most recently, on his home turf at The Lumberjack 100 in Michigan just two weeks ago. Christian Tanguy (Team CF) will be making an appearance in Summit County this year in an attempt to be the first to unseat Tostado and, in the process, win four NUE Series races this year. To accomplish this feat would allow him the enviable position to sit back and observe until the final race at Shenandoah Mountain 100, where all ties will be broken in this best four of 11 series.
With six races remaining, including a late season back-to-back race at the Park City Point to Point in Park City, Utah, followed by the Shenandoah Mountain 100 in Virginia the next day, nothing is assured for Tanguy.
Other known challengers registered for this year's event include, Jesse Jakomait (SRAM / Bandwagon Racing) of Colorado Springs, who finished fourth last year, 41 minutes behind Tostado and Keith Collins (Bach Builders/Infinit Nutrition) of Denver, who finished sixth last year.
In the women's open last year, Jari Kirkland (Team Alpine) of Crested Butte set the bar for women at 9:59:07. Kirkland is also a record holder at Montezuma's Revenge and the 24 Hours of Moab. Eszter Horanyi (Space Cowgirls) finished 10:20:49; however, so far, neither are registered for this year's race.
Also noticeably absent from the roster, so far, are NUE reigning champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) who has three wins so far this year and 2008 NUE Women's Champion Cheryl Sornson (Team CF), who currently leads the NUE Series with four finishes, including a second place finish at the Mohican 100.
Their absence could leave the door open for challengers, Laureen Coffelt (Velosoul / The Natural Way) and Molly Wolf (Gore Bike Wear/Wheel Werks), both in the NUE top 10 with three finishes so far this season. Both are pre-registered.
In the singlespeed division, two-time NUE series singlespeed reigning champion Gerry Pflug (Salsa/NoTubes/Pro Bikes) returns to the Breckenridge 100 after placing third last year, 47 minutes behind Mark Thompson (Wilderness Sports) of Breckenridge, who took the top spot at 9:33:55 and Chandler, Arizona's Michael Melley (Landis/Red Rock), who finished in 10:17:22.
The one-geared wonder known as "The Pfluginator" is off to another amazing season as the only racer in the NUE series that remains undefeated with four straight wins. With last year's challengers absent from the roster, could Pflug pull off his fifth straight win?
Matt Turgeon (Moots/Big Wheel Racing) returns this year after placing fifth last year, 24 minutes behind Pflug. Also returning is Jeffrey Carter (Spot Brand) of Denver, who placed sixth last year and Ryan Friedman (MORF / Redstone Cyclery) of Winter Park, who finished seventh last year.
Bill Holden (Holden Brothers) leads the NUE Series after four rounds this year as the only Master with four finishes, including a fourth place finish at Syllamo's Revenge in Mountain View, Arkansas this year.
With three finishes under his wheels, defending NUE Masters Champion Robert Herriman (Trek 29er Crew/WSC/ACFSStores.com) is well on his way to a repeat with wins at the Mohican 100 and the Lumberjack 100. He has faced stiff competition this season in the form of Roger Masse (Trek 29er Crew), now just one point behind the defending champion with second place finishes at Cohutta, Mohican, and Lumberjack this year. However, none are currently registered for the Breckenridge race. If any of these leaders decide to show, all bets are off.
Larry Dewitt (Pro Cycling) of Colorado Springs set the bar in the masters category at Breckenridge last year finishing in just 11:35:57.
Of the 12 starters last year, just five finished this difficult race, including David Grauer (Orthopro) who finished less than five minutes behind Dewitt, placing second. He returns with course knowledge this year, becoming the top contender with a great opportunity to take his first win of the NUE season.
Before the celebration begins for Grauer, however, a new gun is reportedly coming to the highlands of Colorado this year and his name is Doug Andrews (GeoLadders.com). Andrews settled the score at the first showdown of the series at Cohutta this year, riding off into the sunset with the top prize. Although he dropped out at Mohican, Breckenridge presents him with a real opportunity to become an NUE Series leader. Let the shoot-out begin!
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for the latest results, photos and detailed race reports.