Unlike any other 100 miler to date, six men made it to the final six miles of the Mohican 100 in Ohio as a group, where the last bit of singletrack determined the final placing of the day. Jeremiah Bishop of Monavie-Cannondale locked elbows with National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series leader Jeff Schalk (Trek Racing Co-Op) racing for the hole shot, but chose to stay safe and went in second only to come around a few minutes later in the singletrack with a crafty pass on the right as Schalk looked left. That was all Bishop needed to leave the chasers behind and take his first win and the overall lead of the 2009 NUE series.
An ecstatic Bishop couldn't say enough about how great the racing was. "The race was spectacular and how I envision a professional level 100 miler can look like if enough strong riders show up. It's unheard of to have six guys come into the final miles to the finish."
This round two of the NUE visited the tranquil rolling hills of Ohio on Saturday with over 400 riders filling up the main street of the small town of Loudonville. In the swollen streets, riders had come from across the country to create what was arguably the most competitive men's 100 miler to date. Though the Leadville 100 might be the numbers king, the depth of the talent at this Mohican was more akin to watching a European Spring Classic with its assortment of favorites, contenders and dark horses.
Early crashes and a strong pace separated the final group of six riders almost immediately. The lead feature a promising group with most of the race favorites. Bishop, Schalk, Tinker Juarez, Brandon Draugelis, Michael Simonson and Christian Tanguy stayed together through the entire opening 25 miles of singletrack. Initially, a second group chased at just one minute back.
With its 11,000 feet of climbing, the course profile of the Mohican looks like the serrated edge of a knife. Frequent short steep climbs interspersed with sections of singletrack kept the pure climbers like Schalk at bay, while Bishop's singletrack prowess was less useful as a get away tool until the end.
Bishop said, "[It was] like a Classics race - every rider was trying to use their strengths to his advantage. Schalk and Simonson were crushing it on the road sections." On the two- to four-minute climbs Schalk was trying to drop or at least tire out the group, but with five people chasing, it was impossible for him to stay away as the chasers could roll along quickly en masse.
"I underestimated how good everyone was for the day. I've raced all these people before, and I think everyone had one of their best days on a bike," said Schalk. "I expected at least two people to fall off the pace. Eventually I paid for my efforts attacking on the hills in the last piece of singletrack."
After loosing the final hole shot to Bishop, he also lost one final spot to Tanguy in the final mile on a short piece of new trail that was so steep that Schalk's tired legs said "no" while Tanguy found the motivation to stay on the bike and muscle up to take second overall. Schalk stayed ahead of the rest of the members of the original six-man lead group and kept a third overall for the day.
With his win, Bishop leads the series by just one point over Schalk.
Shogren dominates women's Mohican 100
Lacking the fireworks of the men's race, the women's run for the podium looked like the more traditional 100-mile race scenario we've come to expect. Leading from the start, Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Factory Racing) went to the front and set a steady pace that kept her competitors behind. Still suffering from a cold, Shogren's round one Cohutta 100 race was less than ideal for her, but renewed and healthy, she arrived to the hills of the Mohican 100 with an eye on first place.
A good start with the fast-moving group going up the road in the beginning miles gave Shogren an advantage over her closest competitors after Cheryl Sorenson (Trek Racing Co-Op), Danielle Musto (Kenda-Tomac-Hayes) and Karen Potter (MTBMind.com) were caught behind less technically savvy riders in the first 25 miles of singletrack. Last year's series winner, Sorenson, returned to the 100 miler format after missing the first race of the year. Musto was in a good position to challenge for a top spot but also missed the same turn as many of the men and added an extra 10 miles to her day.
Despite the lack of fireworks, 18 women showed for the race and Shogren's time would have put her in 45th overall, beating the majority of the men in the race.
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