It isn’t often that a 100-mile mountain bike race is decided by who has the strongest legs at the end. But that’s exactly what happened in the open men’s division at Saturday’s Mohican 100, the second stop of the National Ultra Endurance mountain bike series. Reigning marathon and short track national champion Jeremiah Bishop (Monavie-Cannondale) took the win after outfoxing his five breakaway companions in the final three miles.
“It was pretty nerve racking,” Bishop said. “I was on the edge of cramping the whole time. My attack was kind of a Hail Mary pass.”
Bishop entered the final section of singletrack alongside teammate Tinker Juarez, Michigan riders Chris Tanguy (Fraser-Cannondale) and Michael Simonson (Gary Fisher 29er Crew), Brandon Draugelis (Cannondale) and Jeff Schalk (Trek), the reigning NUE series champion. Bishop and Schalk sprinted for the entrance to the final section of singletrack, locked arms and nearly went down.
The Trek rider gained the advantage heading into the trail, but Bishop rode on his tail waiting to attack.
“Jeff looked back at me over his left shoulder and I pinned it on the right,” Bishop said. “I could tell I had a few seconds gap.”
That was all Bishop needed to take his first NUE victory of 2009, and he finished in 6:50:26. He finished second to Schalk at Georgia’s Cohutta 100 in early May.
Bishop, Schalk and the rest of the men in the lead group agreed it was highly unusual to have six riders together at the end of a 100-mile race.
“Usually (the NUE) races explode early and it’s just groups of one or two for the whole day,” Schalk said. “This was like full-on short-track tactics coming into the end.”
With Bishop off the front, Schalk and Tanguy gave chase. Tanguy, a 34-year-old engineer originally from Lyon, France, eventually came around the Trek rider to claim second. Schalk, Simonson, Draugelis and Juarez rounded out the top-six, and finished within five minutes.
The finale came after a daylong slog through rural central Ohio. The race started promptly at 7 a.m. in downtown Loudonville (population 2900) with paved sprint uphill to a city limit sign (Schalk won the $200 prime). The course then turned into a 24-mile section of winding singletrack through Mohican state park. Racers then spent 50 miles spinning on rolling dirt roads, trails and pavement through central Ohio’s Amish country, before heading back to the Mohican trail.
Taking the win in the women’s open division was Betsy Shogren (Cannondale), who finished ahead of Karen Potter and Cheryl Sornson (Trek). Shogren earned her gap early, and said she found speedy groups of men’s riders to pace off of.
“I feel like I have one speed. It isn’t that fast but I can keep it going,” Shogren said.
Shogren, the defending Mohican 100 champion, is the wife of famed American mountain biker Gunnar Shogren, who was one of the nation’s top professionals in the 1990s. Gunnar Shogren also raced, but he suffered a broken wheel early in the race.
“I passed Gunnar at mile three and I didn’t see him again. I was afraid he might have had a heart attack,” Betsy Shogren said. “But he caught me in the last half mile so I knew hew as OK.”
Betsy Shogren took the sprint ahead of Gunnar, taking her first-ever family victory.
The Mohican 100 saw 400 riders take the starting line — a new high water mark in the race’s seven-year history.
The NUE continues June 20 with the Lumberjack 100 in Manistee, Michigan.