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Schalk predicts tight race at Lumberjack 100

Top contenders in the men's race battle it out at the 2009 Lumberjack 100.

Top contenders in the men's race battle it out at the 2009 Lumberjack 100. (Image credit: Jack Kunnen)

The third installment of the 2010 National Ultra Endurance (NUE) 100-miler mountain bike series will happen at the "New and Improved" Founders Brewing Lumberjack 100, in Wellston, Michigan. This year's race will feature all of the trails from the first five years, plus three to four miles of the surrounding forest roads and some new singletrack switching from the original four-lap format to three. The Lumberjack has proved to be one of the most popular stops in the series selling out every year since the first. In 2010, it sold its 300 spots in less than 12 hours.

So far, the NUE series has been a mud fest. Many riders are finding it necessary to replace entire drive trains after each race. The Lumberjack has seen this type of racing in the past; many will recall the 2008 race in which racers forded what seemed like a mile of knee-deep waters on the trail each lap.

The race also endured the sweltering of 2006, when temperatures reached the high 90s and forced a record number of drops. Only time will tell, but a quick perusal of says it should be nothing outrageous, and local racer and elite women's contender Danielle Musto said, "I'm not racing for second."

On recon missions, Musto has found the trails to be riding "wicked fast", and no matter what happens weatherwise, the one thing racers CAN count on is the monstrous mosquitos and biting black flies. Locals advise racers to fast or lose massive amounts of blood to these guys!

Last year's singlespeed winner Gerry Pflug (Salsa/SPK/Pro Bikes) has different goals than most singlespeeders. He wants to score another top five overall as he did in 2009. "Out of all the NUE Series Races, I think the Lumberjack is the most singlespeed friendly. The combination of the race being almost all singletrack in the woods and the lack of any serious climbs makes it a fast singlespeed course."

"It will be interesting to see if the new course design of doing three laps instead of four will make the race even better for a singlespeed." Pflug may not want to count on that - with the added road sections. Pflug is hoping to avoid another mudfest.

Matt Ferrari (Freeze Thaw /Hubcap Cycles) will also be bringing his sweet plaid kit to Michigan to check his speed. He's been moving up in the singlespeed field the last few years and might take it with a standout performance.

In the old guy class, Jack Kline (Pure Balance Water) will return to defend his 2009 race win. But local Michigan racer Rob Herriman (Gary Fisher 29 Crew) will be throwing his top 10 overall abilities toward the gray hairs class now.

On the women's side, Betsy Shogren (Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling) will be coming up from Morgantown, West Virginia, to defend her 2009 women's open win, but former NUE champ and Lumberjack winner Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) is looking to throw her axe (note: winners receive an axe in a log) back into the log pile and take home another women's victory.

Finally to the big boys... the biggest of them is Mike "Simonster" Simonson (Gary Fisher team), who said that so far in the series, the rain and mud have not really boded well for many road tactics, but he is hoping the Lumberjack will offer a chance for him to "go blow for blow with him (Jeff Schalk)".

"But if it gets hot," said Simonson, "I'll just try to draft the best I can and use Jeff to pace me away from the others before I crack. If it's mild but sunny, I may have a chance." He will be watching another NUE Series regular, Christian Tanguy (Team CF), who will be there fresh off the Transylvania Epic stage race. Last year he threw down the biggest challenge to reigning NUE champ and winner of the first two stops, as well as two-time winner of Lumberjack, Jeff Schalk (Team Trek Mountain Co-op).

In a quick conversation with the current champ and big axe holder, Schalk said he expects this to be his closest race so far, "I expect the Lumberjack to be really close. Both my wins there the last two years were decided by less than a few minutes in the last few miles. The course is too fast with too much drafting to allow an easy breakaway," said Schalk.

"I expect that Christian will be really tough to beat, and Simonson is always tough, especially on a course that suits him so well." Schalk has won the first two races of 2010 handily by 15 or more minutes.

In the words of Charles de Mar, Lumberjack racers will be advised to "Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn".