From the western slopes of the Tetons at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta Wyoming, the Kenda NUE Series heads east, all the way east, to Greenfield for the series debut of the sixth annual Hampshire 100, a 100-mile and 100-kilometer course that winds through the beautiful and varied terrain of Southern New Hampshire. It will include a two-mile Strava segment, earning additional awards for racers who are able to clear this section in minimal time.
"The event travels through six towns in southern New Hampshire with the cooperative support of approximately 80 landowners," said race director Randi Whitney. "The trail boss always adds a change or two each year. His adage is to avoid pavement whenever possible. Therefore, a few new singletrack pieces have been substituted in this year."
The course is made up of about 50 percent doubletrack or jeep trails, 29 percent singletrack, 11 percent dirt road, five percent pavement, and five percent that is uncategorized.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, a charitable organization employing more than 900 people and whose stated mission is to serve individuals with disabilities and their families, embracing personal choice and development, and building communities of mutual support.
With just four races remaining in the NUE Series, many top professional racers have been added to the guest list this year, including a few who understand that a win in New Hampshire is really one win away from a national title.
Women: Potter aims to defend as Sornson sets her sights on third series win
Karen Potter (MTBRacenews.com) returns to defend her Hampshire 100 win last year where she set the bar at 6:06:12. Potter also placed fifth at the Wilderness 101 this year. For a third straight year, NUE Series defending champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) leads the NUE Series with five straight wins including her most recent win at the Pierre's Hole 100 where she put more than an hour on her nearest competitor.
Carey's nearest competitor, 2008 NUE Champion Cheryl Sornson (Team CF), has two wins this year, including a win over Carey at the series opener at Cohutta, a third place at Syllamo's Revenge, and her most recent win at the Wilderness 101 in Pennsylvania. With Carey in the high country of Colorado, leading the Breck Epic, Sornson has a great opportunity to earn her third series win, setting the stage for an epic battle at the Fool's Gold 100 in Georgia, the final tiebreaker in the series. Sornson may also benefit from having teammate Kathleen Harding (Team CF) by her side. Harding has two fourth place finishes this year at Syllamo's Revenge and the Mohican MTB100.
Vicki Barclay (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) placed second at the Wilderness 101 and fourth at Cohutta. A win in New Hampshire could add to her momentum towards a top three finish in the series this year.
Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) has had a firm grip on second place, behind Carey, throughout the season and is having her best season ever. She has completed five races this year, including three podium finishes.
The dark horse may be local racer Susan Lynch (Union Velo) from Medfield, Massachusetts. Lynch is a masters racer with the strength and course knowledge that could propel her to top spot on the podium. Another challenger is the only singlespeed woman registered so far, Hannah Johnston (Trestle Bridge Racing).
Men: Tanguy will defend against top level field
Justin Spinelli of Nashua, New Hampshire took the top spot at the Hampshire 100 last year in just 4:47:53.
NUE defending champion Christian Tanguy (Team CF) continues to lead the NUE series but faces an uphill battle as many more series contenders have emerged mid-season.
As the NUE series enters race number nine in this best four of 12 series, the men's division is far from decided with Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) announcing plans to build on his wins at Cohutta and Wilderness 101 by entering the fray in New Hampshire. Win number three could set him up nicely for a big series victory at the Fool's Gold 100 in Georgia, where all ties will be broken and a national champion crowned.
"I am really excited to see some classic New England singletrack. I have never seen the course but hear it's really fun," said Bishop. "I had better be on my toes! The field will be gunning for me after last weekend's Leadville 100 bronze. Having a teammate should help control the attacks. I am not sure whether I am recovered but I want to win the NUE Series so I am fired up for a solid ride."
The teammate Bishop referred to is none other than Mountain Bike Hall of Famer David "Tinker" Juarez (Cannondale). Juarez placed third last year behind Manual Prado and has back-to-back wins at the Butte 100 in Montana.
Juarez, who was the first men's US Olympic mountain bike representative in 1996, also plans to compete on Saturday at the Mt. Washington Hill Climb before lining up alongside his teammate on Sunday morning for the hundy. Juarez competed at both events last year as well, still managing to claim a spot on the Hampshire podium the next day.
Drew Edsall (Kenda / Felt), who is second overall in the NUE standings, Ben Swanepoel (Squirt Lube), Barry Wicks (Kona), Evan Plews (Ibis Cycles/Reall Racing), Michael Simonson (Trek/RBS/CPA Crosssings), third overall in the NUE Standings, and Kevin Carter (Gripped Racing) are among the short list of top contenders threatening Tanguy's repeat.
Each contender has more than one top finish this year and is just a couple wins away from claiming the NUE Series title. The SiMonster and Carter, so far, are the only contenders among them on the guest list for the H100. Carter and Simonson both have second place finishes this year.
Other top contenders include Rob Spreng (Dirty Harry's), Troy Barry (Hammer Nutrition/NoTubes), Jonathan Davis (Trek Bike Store Racing), Ernesto Marenchin (Pivot Cycles) the only racer who has completed all but one race this year, Justine Lindine (Redline) coming off a third place finish at the W101 and Eddie O'Dea (Topeak). After witnessing the determination of Tanguy at the finals last year as he took out the three-time NUE Series Champion Jeff Schalk (Trek), it is evident that nothing is impossible for him when he digs deep. Tanguy may also benefit from the help of teammate Brandon Draugelis (Team CF).
Singlespeed: Series leader Pflug faces fierce competition
Paul Simoes from Hubbardston, Massachusetts won last year's race in just 5:22:44. He is not yet on the guest list, however, the racer right behind him, Christopher Cyr (Bikeman.com) from South Portland, Massachusetts, who finished less than 19 minutes back to finish second, is returning to attend to unfinished business.
Defending NUE Single speed Champion Gerry Pflug (Salsa/NoTubes/Pro Bikes) started the NUE season with back to back victories at Cohutta and Syllamo's Revenge and before a stealthy tick bite at the Revenge forced him to drop out halfway through Mohican with no Pflug to be found at Lumberjack and Breckenridge.
Since then, the Pfluginator has recovered well, steadily clawing his way back, week by week, to the top of the podium and a series lead. Third place at the High Cascades 100 then, one week later, second place at the Wilderness 101, then, one week later capturing his third first place finish of the season at the Pierre's Hole 100. Despite all this, the battle to defend his title is far from certain.
Pflug's greatest threat continues to come from the west winds in the form of native AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald's Bicycles/Misfit Psycles), who took second at Breckenridge then first at the High Cascades 100 before dropping out of the Pierre's Hole 100 with stomach flu like symptoms. A rematch is in the cards for Pflug and Linnell at the Hampshire 100. One gear fireworks will be on display.
Ron Harding (Trestle Bridge Racing) placed second at Syllamo's and Mohican. A win at Hampshire would put him in contention for a late season run. Philly native Hal Batdorf (www.Lonewolfcycling.com) placed first at Lumberjack, fifth at the W101, and has a lot to gain from a win on Sunday. There is no lack of motivation here.
Perhaps the ultimate dark horse of the series continues to be Matthew Ferrari (Freeze Thaw/ Hubcap Cycles/ Stans NoTubes). With three third place finishes this year, he could peak and take Hampshire by storm. Ferrari has been hanging in the shadows of the headlines for years now but the spotlight of victory could be lurking just around the very next bend.
Other challengers include Richard Long (Cycle-Smart Grassroots Team) of Orono, Maine who currently stands in fourth place in the NUE Series following his fifth place finish at Pierre's Hole, Robin Oscar (motor mile racing/scv) and Kelly Klett (Trips for Kids - Triangle/Grassroots Bikes) both have top 10 finishes at Cohutta.
Masters 50+: Virello rules or perhaps Sanborn versus Masse
For two years, Mark Virello of Boston has owned the masters podium finishing 5:58:00 last year. Virello is a fierce competitor who has taken on grueling 24-hour events as well as earning many top finishes, including the Mohican 100k. He may not have dreams of an NUE series victory, but will defend the turf in his own backyard.
Ron Sanborn (Einstein Racing), an unlikely series leader who stepped into mountain biking as a last resort in a battle for his health, now finds himself leading all contenders in the masters division with wins at Cohutta, Mohican, Lumberjack and most recently, a second place finish at the Wilderness 101 behind his greatest challenger yet, Roger Masse (Trek).
Masse took second to Sanborn at Mohican then made the critical pass at the Wilderness 101 to stand atop the masters' podium! If he is peaking and can take Sanborn again at Hampshire, he will find himself in a headlong rush to the title with just three races remaining.
The dark horse contenders include Michael Johnson, who placed sixth at the Mohican 100 in Ohio.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Hampshire 100.