By Andrew Genco
Special to Singletrack.com
This weekend will mark the second running of the High Cascades 100 in Bend, Oregon, and for the lucky men and women who will toe the start line a challenging day in the saddle will be in their future.
This is the only stop in the Pacific Northwest for the eight-race NUE Series (HC100 is the sixth race. Read race #5 report: Wilderness 101), providing racers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming a chance to battle for regional bragging rights. In the men’s open division, there are several racers who have been pegged as pre-race favorites. Josh Tostado (Bach Builders/Santa Cruz) is hot off his sixth-consecutive victory at the Breck 100 and will be racing for victory in a different type of terrain.
Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bikes) is the defending champion with local knowledge of the trails, and as a result will be a marked man the entire day. Sheppard also won this year’s BC Bike Race in the solo category.
Jeff Schalk, current NUE Series leader and winner of the series overall the last two years, is making the trip across country from Maryland to contest the race.
Cary Smith (Hammer Nutrition) has had a great four-week run including two dominant victories at both the Cascade Creampuff and Galena Grinder. Finally, Ben Parsons (Hammer Nutrition/Sportsmens Ski Haus) is fresh off a victory at the Butte 100 last weekend, and placed third at the Creampuff behind Smith and Evan Plews. Parsons may also have some Oregon karma on his side from his quick thinking this past June at the Blodgett Test of Endurance 50 where he saved the life of a man having a heart attack.
Aside from those four, race organizer Mike Ripley said the rest of the field would be comprised of “A West Coast who’s who of tough people.”
In the women’s open division, Angela Sucich is the returning champion, but will receive stiff competition from Sue Butler (River City Bicycles). Both women hail from the region, so you can be sure that battle for local bragging rights will lead to a good race between them.
While Butler and Sucich may be the two favorites, there are plenty of other ladies who have entered, and may be trying to play the dark horse card. For the kooky gang of derailleur deficient boys known as the singlespeeders, Gerry Pflug (Salsa/SPK/Pro Bikes) is the defending NUE overall series champion, and has shown that he is always a force to be reckoned with no matter the terrain or altitude.
Dejay Birtch (Niner/Ergon/Stans No Tubes) will make his long-awaited return to the NUE Series and has spent the previous week and half in Bend, aquatinting himself with the race course. Defending singlespeed champion John “Fuzzy” Mylne will be absent due to the fact that he will be busy grooming his beard.
The course is comprised of three separate loops, with the start and finish at the Wanoga Ski Area outside of Bend. Of the 100 miles racers will face, 85 are on singletrack. While the actual elevation gain is around 11,5000 feet, Ripley said that with all of the “little ups it will feel closer to 16,000.”
Ripley also said that the course will “wear people down more than they expect. Some people can’t ride smooth over the lava rocks, or take the outside corner going through the dust, and if you ride sloppy you’ll suffer.”
The first loop is roughly 41.5 miles long, and will take racers around Mt Bachelor and to Lava Lakes, before heading back to Wanoga Ski Area. The second loop is “The Big Epic Loop” nearly 45 miles long with over 5,500 feet of elevation gain, according to the race Web site. This loop will take racers to Tumalo Falls before back to the Wanoga Ski Area.
The final and shortest loop is comprised of a trip down the local trail named “Tiddlywinks,” then a climb back to Wanoga Ski Area on the “Funner” trail. While this loop is only 12.75 miles long, the climb up the Funner trail will have many racers cursing Ripley’s name.
There will be several factors for the racers to consider when make their final preparations for the race. Although the start at 5:45 a.m. will be under cold conditions, the area will get hot in a hurry. Combined with the dry air, racers will need to monitor their fluid and electrolyte intake. There will also be a fair amount of particulate matter for racers to breathe in from the dusty logging roads and trails, as well as a wildfire burning in the Sisters area.
The sharp lava rocks that litter the trail can shred tire sidewalls. Racers will need to be mindful of this while selecting their lines as well as making tire choice for their race rigs. The descent of Tiddlywinks trail includes several BMX-style jumps and berms. Racers will need to tap deep into their inner Bike Jedi in order to select the fast line and avoid any last-lap mechanicals or crashes. Finally, racers will be forced to not get excessively distracted by the stunning scenery.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, as a result of the race Ripley and Mudslinger Events will be able to donate $5,000 to the Central Oregon Trails Alliance (COTA). Sponsors of the event, include Niner Bicycles, Ergon, Hammer Nutrition, Belgium Budder, Chris King, and Yakima.