Wilderness 101

For the past four year, I’ve competed (and I use that term loosely) in the Wilderness 101 in central Pennsylvania. It’s a well-run, epic mountain bike race that covers one huge loop (with no repeats) in some stellar riding terrain.

I made some hard scheduling choices this year, and couldn’t make it to the 101, which took place last weekend. Fortunately for me, I received a well-written press release that recounts this year’s event, which I though I’d share with my fellow slackers who did not make the pilgrimage to Coburn, PA this year:

Wilderness 101: Scorching Temperatures Lead to Scorching Course Records

By: Zayne Braun

At promptly 7 a.m. on Saturday, 250 racers started the 7th edition of the Wilderness 101, race 5 in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series, near State College, Pennsylvania. The competition was fierce in all categories with several course records set in the open men, open women, and single speed divisions. Weather conditions in the week prior resulted in a fast, dry, technical course and racers took advantage of these conditions on the single loop course.

In the open men, Chris Eatough (Trek/Volkswagen) was expected to race, but Eatough didn’t feel fully recovered from coming off a convincing win at the 24 Hours of Nine Mile in Wisconsin the previous weekend. In his place Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/Volkswagen), Harlan Price (Independent Fabrications), Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), Josh Tostado (Giant/Smith/Dakine/Redbull/Michelin), Sam Koerber (Pro Bikes), Brandon Draugelis (Bearnaked/Cannondale), and Shawn Adams (October Research/Lake Effect) battled for the top podium spot. This elite group escaped around 20 miles into the race and never looked back.
“This was a really tough race due to the caliber of riders present, and especially daunting knowing that Bishop was here,” said Price, last year’s winner of the Wilderness 101. “I knew I had good legs and felt Bishop and I were working pretty well together. I would move to the front of the group on the long climbs and set a hard tempo. When it got quiet I figured that it was fast enough.”
This pace making was enough to drop Draugelis off the group around the halfway point of the race. Juarez and Koerber flew into station #3 with lead bunch, but they fell off right away as Bishop and Price got out of the pit faster. The leading duo extended their lead on the headwall climb, up Sassafras Trail, to one of the highest points on the course by over a minute.
Adams, having fallen off with 2 early flats was never able to regain contact with the frontrunners. Tostado, fresh off his win at the Breckenridge 100 had a tough time with the rocks and triple flatted, but was able to claw his way back into the top 10 finishing 6th, showing that he would have been a force at the front had he not had difficulties.
Bishop and Price continued to push each other and extend their lead, until a minor mechanical caused Price to drop off the pace about 20 miles to the finish. “I stopped to pull a stick out of my wheel and that’s when Bishop dropped the hammer,” recounts Price. “I just couldn’t close the gap. I kept him in sight after that, but when we hit the rail bed I could see him getting smaller and smaller in the distance.”
Bishop’s attack launched him to the win and the course record in a time of 6 hours 52 minutes, beating the old course record of 6 hours 59 minutes set by Chris Eatough in 2005. Price crossed the line second, 5 minutes back, with the second fastest course time. Rounding out the podium in third was Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), Draugelis (BearNaked/Cannondale) in fourth, and Sam Koerber (Pro Bikes) in fifth.

In the open women, the competition was just as fierce. The top 3 ladies in the NUE series were present, as well as some terrific regional talent. Betsy Shogren (WV F29er/Cannondale) rode away with the win, but not after a prolonged battle with Trish Stevenson (Pro Bikes).
“I thought I got rid of her several times, but every time I looked back there she was,” Shogren said of Stevenson. “Finally, I guess I was able to make one stick. I still was constantly looking back, but fortunately I didn’t see her again.”
Shogren’s winning time of 8 hrs 35 minutes set another course record. Rounding out the top five were Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store), Erica Tieszen (Giant/Smith/Dakine/Redbull/Michelin), and Michelle Schneider (VisitPA.com).

The race for top single speeder was heating up, as well. Defending champion from 2006 Greg Montello (Independent Fabrication), regional riders Weston Schempf (VisitPA.com), Tim Dougherty (BareNaked/Cannondale), regional legend Gunnar Shogren (WV F29er/Cannondale), and local Matt Ferrari (Mt. Nittany Wheelworks) all were within striking distance of one another.
Relative unknown Steve Cummings (Meredith/GPOA) took off on a flyer from mile 15 and appeared to be on course for the win. An unfortunate navigation error cost Cummings a shot at the top step, but opened the door for the rest. Schempf and Montello continued to ride together until what proved to be the decisive climb at mile 45.
Schempf, the recently-crowned US National Semi-Pro STXC Champion, extended his lead over the duration while a battle between the rest played out behind. Finishing 7th overall with a time of 7 hours 49 minutes, Schempf set the course record for single speeders and took the category win. Shogren used his experience to slip into second and Benji Klimas (Specialized) rounded out the podium.

What may have been the most anticipated race within the race was for top local. Plenty of State College’s finest and fastest turned out for the local hardman title. Rising to the top for this year’s bragging rights was Rich Straub (Mt. Nittany Wheelworks). “I just rode my race and kept consistent,” said Straub. “Matt (Ferrari) and I were trading verbal jabs as we rode up the climb out of check point 4. He took off, but I didn’t panic and was able to dispatch him on the next road section and solo to the finish.”

The final results of the day have both present and possible future ramifications on the overall standings in the NUE. In the Elite Men’s Category, Harlan Price moves into second place overall, squeaking past Shawn Adams (October Research/Lake Effect) by a quarter of a point. Jeremiah Bishop’s win over defending series champion Price may eventually help his teammate Chris Eatough to take the title in 2007. With only two races left in the seven race series, every point counts for the leaders. The Elite Women category saw Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store) leapfrog over Danielle Musto (Slingshot Bikes) into the series lead, while Erika Tieszen (Giant/Smith/Dakine) jumps seven places into third. Finally, John Majors’ win in the Masters class enables him to hold on to his series lead in that division.

For a look at the 2007 race results click here.