Bishop and Stevenson set Georgia on fire
By Harlan Price
Blessed with overcast skies chasing away Georgia's August heat, 300 people lined up for the Fool's Gold 100 and 50 mile races last Saturday. Even though there were two races going for the weekend, it was the 100 miler that created the most anticipation with a head-to-head battle between National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series dominator Jeff Schalk (Trek/VW East Coast) and US National Marathon Champion Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW Factory).
The women's field had it's own battle royale potential with last year's winner Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org), series leader Cheryl Sornson (Trek/VW East Coast) and Mohican 100 winner Betsy Shogren (Sobe Cannondale). Though the racing was to be the highlight for some, everyone had an opportunity to enjoy the festival created by the partnership between the Southern Off Road Bicycling Association (SORBA) and the Fool's Gold race promoters.
Schalk's mechanical delays showdown while Bishop takes win and Turner comes second
Photo ©: John Kelso
"Bullets from the start!" was how Jeremiah Bishop described the pace off the start line heading for the first climb.
"Jeff (Schalk) was drilling it, and he was probably trying to wear me down," he said. "I pretty much sat on and matched his moves to put time on third and fourth place. I was being conservative and trying to stay out of trouble. It had been months since I had a five hour ride in me."
The two continued pushing each other through the end of lap one and the second time up the first climb. At the top, Schalk had to stop briefly at the aid station while Bishop was skipped it and rode through.
Bishop has spent most of his season making a run for the Olympic team, and hasn't had the pleasure of racing the new 100 miler pace. Even after two national champion jerseys for the marathon and the short track on his back, he still had to play a conservative race.
On the descent from the top from the aid station, Schalk was flying down the gravel descent to catch back on when he slashed his front tire. After blowing out his tube he had to wait around for someone to help him out with a new tube and boot. He ended up walking for awhile before getting the tire inflated, and by that time he was short on motivation for continuing.
"I was looking forward to duking it out with JB," said Schalk. "He'll have to wait till Tahoe-Sierra to get another chance, since Bishop will be in Utah for the NMBS finals on the weekend of the Shenandoah Mountain 100 [Rumor has it that Bishop may stay at home and challenge Schalk after all at the SM100 - ed.]
In the miles after Schalk's flat, Bishop kept his head down and a steady safe pace to get to the finish line where he took the US$1,000 first place prize.
The overall sees no changes since none of the other contenders made the podium. Second overall Even Plews (Scott/ Capitol Subaru) was finishing up the TransRockies, while third place Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) took the time to recover from a tough 24 hour US National Championships. Fourth place rider Harlan Price (IFracing.org) is recovering from a broken wrist, and fifth place Christian Tanguy (American Cycle and Fitness) was deterred by the travel distance.
Stevenson steps to top block
Women's 100 miler podium
Photo ©: John Kelso
Less than two weeks after becoming the first female to complete the Colorado Trail Race (CTR), Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org) brought back a souvenir. Her new legs and lungs propelled her to the front of the women's field despite the presence of Mohican winner Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Sobe) and series leader Cheryl Soronson (Trek/VW East Coast).
After a season plagued by injury and fatigue, Stevenson was able to reclaim a top podium spot. "I wanted some redemption...I haven't been in shape all season. The CTR was my get fit quick scheme. It's great not suffering and enjoying the full 100 miles. Not to say that I wasn't feeling it, but my legs felt strong and my head was in it." Patience paid off for the North Carolina rider.
Shogren led the way up the first climb for the KOM while Stevenson and Soronson sat back keeping their eyes on the lanky climber from West Virginia. Trish caught Shogren soon after the KOM and they were riding together up the next climb when her rear tire blew off the rim. Shogren rode on while Stevenson blew through two CO2s before she put a tube in and found help from singlespeeder Rich "Dicky" Dillon.
Stevenson caught Shogren and Sornson to re-take the lead by mile 50. "I don't think I ever let up - having been passed late in the game by Betsy before so I kept up the effort. The course was in remarkable shape. Much improved from last year. 10 miles less, 10 degrees cooler and 100 times more enjoyable." Stevenson came across the line in 9:41 and had a comfortable gap on the second and third places. Her closest competitor was 43 minutes behind.
Stevenson's two chasers crossed the line almost together, with Shogren in second and Soronson in third, both at 10:24.
The NUE series overall for the women sees Sornson still in control of the top spot with only seven points, but now with three races under their belts, Shogren moves to the second position with eight points overall and Stevenson has 10.
The Shenandoah Mountain 100 on August 31 might be the deciding race for the second and third positions.