Hundreds of ultra-endurance athletes will roll out from Carter Park for the start of the Breckenridge 100 Mountain Bike Challenge on Saturday, July 17 at 6:00 am. The Colorado race is round four in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series.
With 13,719 feet of climbing, this course offers three Continental Divide crossings, altitudes of over 12,000 feet and spectacular, jaw dropping, "hey man, keep your eyes on the trail" scenery. Each rider will be treated to a test of high altitude strength and endurance like none other in the NUE Series. The Breckenridge 100 has arguably earned its place as the toughest kid in town.
Five-time undefeated Breck 100 Champ, Josh Tostado (Bach Builders/Santa Cruz) is set to tackle this beast, battling it out yet again with the reigning National Ultra Endurance Series Champion, Jeff Schalk (Trek Co-op). Last year featured a close race between the two until an intense push from Tostado in the final stage of the race left Schalk to chase atop Boreas Pass, the last major climb, which tops out at 11,500 feet of elevation.
Earlier this season, the competition stiffened with a battle at NUE Series round three at the Mohican 100 in Loudonville, Ohio. In Mohican country, Schalk raised his spear atop the podium once again. Earlier in the season, he also topped the charts at the Cohutta 100 in Tennessee and the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan and with three wins in this best four of eight series, he appears unstoppable in the men's open division.
However, Tostado had his best finish ever at Mohican, taking third in the largest race so far and by all appearances, seems to have gained strength, steadily moving up the NUE rankings each year. His home course advantage also comes into play at Breck. In addition to his five straight victories at this race, it is rumored that Tostado resides in the clouds at 10,200 feet.
But this race includes more than the two most likely contenders. Like vulture’s waiting for a slip among either of the two giants,veterans Kip Beise (Pearl Izumi/Old Town Bike Shop) and Garth Prosser (Cannondale Factory Team) will be circling along with many other possible darkhorses with dreams of knocking off the reigning champions.
And at least one other question remains. Will anyone top Tostado's 2008 record finish of 8:14:37?
In the women's open, Eszter Horanyi (Waltworks Space Cowgirls) will be back and is prepared to defend her Breckenridge victory of last year. Horanyi's finish at 10:07:19 last year will certainly leave her challengers with a tall order. The most likely challengers include Jari Kirkland (Team Alpine Orthopedics) a record holder at Montezuma's Revenge and the 24 Hours of Moab, who is returning to her hometown for a taste of the action.
Another giant beckoning from the East is 2008 NUE Women's Champion Cheryl Sornsen (Team CF) who currently stands atop the women's standings after coming off a big win at the Lumberjack 100 and second place finishes at Cohutta and Mohican. Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) her nearest series competitor, is not registered for Breck but has won two of the three NUE races this season. If Sornsen can somehow manage to stand atop the podium at Breck, she will further solidify her slim series lead over Carey. Currently fifth in the NUE Standings, Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) will also contend at Breck.
In the singlespeed division, the NUE reigning campion Gerry Pflug (Salsa/SPK/Pro Bikes) is one of two NUE Series contenders currently registered. Pflug is coming off a fresh win at the Lumberjack along with a second place finish at Cohutta and a third place finish at Mohican. His nearest competitor, former NUE men's series champion Harlan Price (Team CF) is not currently registered, which could offer Pflug an opportunity to further pad his lead.
Coming off two fourth place finishes at Lumberjack and Mohican, and currently second in the standings, Ron Sanborn (McClain Cycle and Fitness) won't be cutting the singlespeed champion any slack as he looks forward to his opportunity to move into the top spot.
Among the Masters 50+ Division, the series division leaders are mostly absent from the pre-registration list. However, seizing the opportunity, David Grauer (Orthopro) currently in 20th place with a top 10 finish at Cohutta, could quickly move up the ranks if he can finish well. NUE Series leader, Robert Herriman (Gary Fisher 29er Crew), can afford to sit tight and watch the action as he leads the series with three straight victories this year.
This year's course is mostly unchanged, offering three unique loops, and promises to remind all riders what backcountry mountain biking is all about. In addition to the four NUE divisions, Breck offers a three-person team category in which each member does one of the loops.
Also new this year, the top 10 finishers will receive payouts in addition to the top 10 men and top 5 women. Podiums will be four deep and each will be rewarded with a custom Breckenridge 100 mug.
Three non-profits will be spotlighted, including the newly formed Colorado High School Cycling League and returning beneficiaries, The Summit County Hippotherapy Program and the Mountain to Mountain Foundation.
Additional editorial assistance provide by Sarai Snyder.