From the high mountains of Colorado to scenic Mount Bachelor, the fourth annual High Cascades 100 in Bend, Oregon is gathering top riders throughout the west and across the nation. Featuring a single loop of some of the best singletrack Oregon has to offer, round six of the Kenda NUE Series is expected to take place under pleasant conditions with temperatures in the mid to high 70s, a welcome respite to racers traveling from locations around the country that are suffering from brutal heat.
Bend is firmly ensconced at 4,000 ft. above sea level but the race will launch riders to a high point of 6,500 feet with one stretch of 65 miles of continuous singletrack that includes a scenic trip around Mt. Bachelor along trails littered with lava rock from mile 55 to mile 80.
"This will be the fastest group of riders that have ever been assembled for one event in the West to my knowledge," said race director Mike Ripley. "Winning times are expected to be in the seven and a half hour range for pro/expert level men and nine hours for pro/expert women."
Men's Open: Hang onto your hats boys, it's going to be a wild-West ride
Local resident Barry Wicks (Kona), winner of the Lumberjack 100, is going for the home town win but will face off against Carry Smith (Team CF) who is a three-time defending champion at the HC100, taking the top spot last year at 8:37:33. A well-rested NUE Series defending champion, Christian Tanguy (Team CF) has a unique opportunity now to take the series lead held by "The SiMonster", Michael Simonson (TREK/RBS), following his second place finish at Cohutta, first at Mohican and third place finish at the Lumberjack 100 this year.
Other major contenders include Michael Tobin (G-Fit/ Niner) from Boise, ID who finished third last year, Chris Peariso (Adventure212 / Specialized) from Wisconsin, Drew Edsel (Kenda/Felt), who earned his first NUE Series victory this year at the Syllamo's Revenge, Ernesto Marenchin (Pivot Cycles), the only racer who has completed all five NUE Series races so far and Troy Barry (Hammer Nutrition) who finished fourth last year before heading up NUE Series seven at the Pierre's Hole 100.
Add to that great list of contenders, Ben Swanepoel (Squirt Lube) from South Africa, coming off his second place finish last weekend at the Breckenridge 100, Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz) who placed second at the HC100 last year and who is coming off an NUE Series win at the Breckenridge 100 plus a fifth place finish at the Lumberjack 100 and Clint Muhlfeld (Sportsman ski haus/Hammer Nutrition) from Whitefish, MT who finished sixth last year.
Women's Open: Thirty-seven women take their shot at the HC100
Following her fourth straight NUE Series win at the Breckenridge 100, NUE Series defending champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt), though registered and last year's winner setting the bar at 10:03:14, plans to get some well-deserved rest following a big win at Breckenridge and before competing as the local favorite at the Pierre's Hole 100 near her hometown of Driggs, ID. Carey's absence leaves the door wide open for Alice Pennington (Team S & M) who finished second last year, just sixteen minutes behind the champ, and local pro Serena Gordon (Silverado Jewelry/Sunnyside Sports) who finished third last year.
Among the 37 women registered for this year's race, several have traveled great distance to compete including Carena Dean from Squamish, BC, Nicole Gunton (Swiss American Racing) from Mesa, AZ, Naomi Miller of Austin and teammate Lorinda Putter of Allen, TX racing for Raintree Pediatrics and Niki Milleson (Koyo/Rose Bike shop) of Alpine, WY.
Singlespeed: The Pfluginator returns to Bend!
Dwayne Goscinski (Dogfish/cyclewerx/dch/noah's Foundation), with two second place and two fourth place finishes so far this season, continues to lead the NUE Series but is not on the guest list in Bend. Returning from top finishes last year include Mike Shane (Club Ride Apparel/Sun Summit) Ketchum, ID, who took third last year, Doug Graver (Mafia NW)of Monroe, WA who placed fourth last year and Gary Ballas of Redmond WA who placed fifth last year.
Enter Richard Long (Cycle-Smart Grassroots Team) from Orono, ME who currently holds the three spot in the NUE Series with a great opportunity to move up if he can stand atop the podium at the HC100. Coming off a second place finish at the Breck 100 just days ago, AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald's Bicycles/Misfit Psycles) from Victor, ID is a rising star that could gain NUE Series prominence with a win on Saturday.
Carlos Matutes of San Antonio, TX, and James Harmon (Benidorm/Createx Colors) from Litchfield, CT are among the large field of local competitors who have traveled great distance for a shot at the Pfluginator and a podium standing in Bend.
And the Pfluginator?! The three-time defending champion, Gerry Pflug (Salsa Cycles/NoTubes/Top Gear), winner of last year's race in 9:22:37, following two straight wins at Cohutta and Syllamo's Revenge, has been MIA ever since an unnoticed and vicious tick bite at the Revenge forced him to drop out of the Mohican 100 at aid station three, just 46 miles into the race. He is reportedly recovered now and ready for action but is he back in top form? There are at least 28 singlespeeders so far who aim to find out.
Masters 50+: Can Irving get win number two at the High Cascades?
Last year's winner and NUE Series Champion, Doug Andrews (geoladders.com), smashed the field last year by nearly two hours finishing in 9:49:04 and setting a course record. Responsibilities to his family means he will not be back to defend his win at the HC100 this year, however the jury remains out on whether he will return to defend his title.
Leading the master's field is the current "Undefeated One", Ron Sanborn (Einstein Racing), who has piled up wins at Cohutta, Mohican and Lumberjack, and now needs just one more win to obtain a perfect score heading towards the championship race and tie-breaker at the Fool's Gold 100 in September. However, what may be most incredible about Sanborn could be what many readers may not know about him. According to Sanborn, he picked up cycling late in life and primarily for health reasons following years of smoking and weight gain that had him tipping the scales at over two hundred pounds, greatly affecting his quality of life. For Sanborn now, not only has his quality of life returned, a national championship is suddenly, and perhaps unexpectedly, within his reach.
While Sanborn may not be on the start list at the HC100, a packed field of masters riders, perhaps some with similar stories of success, will roll towards the podium this weekend including Chris Irving (Los Locos), who currently stands in third place with a great run that includes his first win of the season at Syllamo's Revenge.