Racers beware! It was a, now infamous Grouse, that was the story of last year's High Cascades 100 race, fiercely defending its turf and pecking racers along a section of trail that had many running for cover, doing whatever it took to somehow avoid and get past the clearly irritated fowl. Will it return in 2011?
Fortunately, however, weeks of cool, rainy weather in Oregon has moved on and given way to more pleasant weather, meaning racers can look forward to clear skies and warmer temperatures, approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Following an epic battle last weekend between the three-time reigning Kenda NUE Series Champion, Jeff Schalk (Trek) and the six-time Breckenridge 100 defending Champion Josh Tostado (Santacruz/Shimano/Maxxis) that saw the NUE Champion finally able to overcome adversity and take the win in his third effort, The High Cascades 100 rolls into Bend Saturday July 23 with a full field in tow to take on the 100 miles and 12,000+ feet of climbing.
With his huge victory at Breckenridge, and by just one point, Schalk becomes the NUE series leader, edging out Christian Tanguy, (Team CF), who has lead the series since April. While NUE leaders Schalk and Tanguy get some well-deserved rest in preparation for the July 30 Wilderness 101 in State College, Pennsylvania, other contenders will be hoping to make their mark on the NUE Seris in Oregon this weekend.
Among the men's open contenders this year, 2010 High Cascades 100 Champion Cary Smith (Hammer Nutrition) returns to do battle with Tostado, still recovering from wounds suffered in a crash on the descent from Wheeler Pass last Saturday following a fierce battle with the NUE defending Champion.
Another hopeful starter, Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain, Shimano) is fresh off a win at the BC Bike Race. He took second place in last year's HC100. Can Tostado shake off his wounds from one week ago and recover enough to compete in this field? Doing so would, no doubt, be yet another great testimonial of his amazing strength and resolve.
The HC100 course features 75 miles of singletrack as the snow pushed the race a bit closer to town this year with a 35-mile opening loop that features only 1,500 feet of climbing in the first 20 miles and close to 3,000 feet for the last 15 miles. It will include the recently completed Steve Larsen Trail, welcoming the NUE Series as the first racers to compete on this trail.
The race will donate $5000 to the local trail organization COTA (Central Oregon Trail Alliance) which provides trail access and opportunity in partnership with the Deschutes National Forest
2008 NUE Women's Champion Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) continues to lead the NUE Series with just eight points following second place finishes at the Cohutta 100 and Syllamos Revenge, a win at Mohican and a third place finish at the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan.
Among the elite women who will be contending at the HC100 is NUE Reigning Champion, Amanda Carey (Kenda-Felt). With three wins in the NUE Series, Carey has a great opportunity to move into the top spot and what would be a commanding lead, following a win in Bend.
However, a few women will be standing in her way: Rebecca Rusch (Specialized/Red Bull) and Namrita O'Dea (Topeak Ergon), fresh off an impressive performance at the recent Cascade Creampuff. Noticeably absent is defending women's champion Sue Butler (Rivercity Bicycles) due to a nagging injury that requires a bit more road miles this week with the Cascades Cycling Classic.
Reigning NUE Singlespeed Champion and series leader Gerry Pflug (Salsa Pro Bikes), who maintains a perfect score of just four points, returns to defend his singlespeed crown against a determined crowd ready to knock him off his perch. Pflug, like Tostado, is still recovering from a hard fought seventh place finish in Breckenridge, Colorado, that took place in the clouds, mostly above 9,000 feet.
We caught up with "The Pfluginator" on a flight from Denver to Portland on Wednesday. According to the 42-year-old Pflug, who was the ONLY undefeated NUE racer prior to the Breck 100, the altitude simply took its toll on him as it did for many flatlanders that day. According to Pflug, by loop three, he was getting lightheaded and wondered whether he would finish at all. His seventh place finish, however, does not diminish his perfect score in this best four of eleven series. Can anyone challenge Pflug for the series title?
In the Masters 50+ open division, Bill Holden (Holden Brothers) holds on for another round with 56 points, leading the NUE Series as the only masters racer who has completed four races. However, following a win at the Cohutta 100 and his recent victory at the Breck 100, 50-year-old Doug Andrews (www.GeoLadders.com) becomes a major threat to the title of NUE Reigning masters champion Robert Herriman (Trek 29er Crew/WSC) who has first place finishes at the Mohican 100 and the Lumberjack 100 and a third place finish at Cohutta. Just one point behind Herriman, also with three finishes, is Roger Masse (Trek 29er Crew) which leaves the masters division in total disarray with no clear leader. Perhaps a leader will emerge at the High Cascades 100
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage.