Thursday, June 26th, 2014 | by ergonusa
Whiteface Mountain, NY – The Wilmington Whiteface 100k (WW 100k), now in its fourth year, is a one-of-a-kind event that combines road and mountain bike racing. Part of the Leadville Race Series and inspired by the notorious 100 mile race in Leadville, Colorado, the Leadville Trail 100, the WW 100k closely resembles, sans altitude, the race in Colorado and features miles of pavement and gravel roads, as well as rough and tumble mountain biking.
Dave Wiens, the 49-year-old Topeak Ergon Team rider, battled with an ever-shrinking group of riders at the front for more than four hours before the race finally came down to a frantic sprint to the finish between Wiens and 25-year-old Ryan Serbel of Hartford Connecticut.
The course in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York begins with gently descending paved roads allowing for a huge group of riders to stay together at the front of the race. “I looked back once early and saw essentially all 500 riders behind us in one giant group,” said Wiens. One rider, Cristian Velasquez, attacked early, escaped and was gone. Nobody wanted any part of his ploy and there was no chase.
A switch to the gravel of Bartlett Road and some climbing breaks the race up into groups but still isn’t severe enough to make a major selection. In fact, more flat pavement allows for some regrouping before one of the biggest climbs of the race, the west ascent of Jay Mountain. The steepest portion of this climb is on the lower part and is paved. “Last year I popped off the back momentarily on the steep pavement but this year I was able to stay in the front group,” he said, “We had 12-15 riders in the lead group at the top of that section.”
Some undulations once the pavement ends give way to a stout section of climbing for the last bit over Jay Mountain outbound. “By the time we topped out, things had blown up some and we were just 5 or 6 as we began the long descent,” Wiens recalled. The descent is long and lightning fast on sketchy, dry gravel roads. A section of singletrack that forms the turnaround loop helps to rule out cyclocross bikes. “Ryan went right to the front for the trail section, which begins with some stout climbing and he was pinning it. We caught Cristian (Velasquez), who had been off the front since the beginning, and continued to hammer the trail descent,” Wiens said, “When we popped back onto the pavement and began retracing the course back toward Whiteface, we were just four riders and Cameron (Cogburn, last year’s winner) was no where in sight.”
Cogburn had been nursing a case of tendonitis and had taken three weeks off from riding. This was just his third time back on the bike since this layoff and he was being cautious on the descents. He also holds a pro contract on the road, which rightly may have tempered his competitive ambitions on the sketchy sections of the course. He was, however, a monster on the climbs. “We were four on the last long section of Jay Peak going back,” recalled Wiens, “Serbel, Velasquez, Dereck Treadwell and myself. I took a turn at the front and once finished and heading to the back of the group saw that we had lost Cristian but had regained Cameron. He caught us and went directly to the front and, climbing out of the saddle, increased the pace dramatically. I was barely hanging on and struggling. Luckily, I was able to stick over the top.”
Treadwell succumbed to cramps just over the top but would still finish in 4th. Now it was just Cogburn, Serbel and Wiens and everyone refueled and cruised the pavement prior to the gravel climb of Bartlett Road. As before, Cogburn was gapped on the descent of Bartlett and Serbel and Wiens worked together to keep the gap.
After a few miles of slightly uphill pavement, there is a deviation onto Hardy Road and two loops of the Hardy Road trails. “Ryan led in the trails and we only had about twenty meters on Cameron when we started,” remembered Wiens, “We were going hard and initially could hear him behind us. But his sound faded as we again were able to increase our gap.” They popped back out on the pavement and worked together to the final dirt of the Flume Trail and Whiteface Mountain in hopes of leaving last year’s champ behind.
The Flume Trails indicate about 15 minutes to go and non-stop mountain biking leading back to the finish at Whiteface Mountain. Riders complete two short finishing loops that feature the toughest singletrack of the event, some classic rooty, multiple line technical goodness in dark woods. “Ryan hadn’t seen the finish and I did my best to explain it to him as we rode,” said Wiens, “Since we do that last bit twice, he got a good idea of how the race would finish.”
“I was feeling okay and just stayed in front for most of this section hoping Ryan would pop off, but no dice, he stayed right with me,” recounted Wiens. “Once we topped out and had, more or less, just descending or trail riding left to the finish, I went as hard as I could with an eye toward staying in front. Passing would be tough as it was either rocky or rooty and a busy finish with short climbs, turns and an off-camber grass slope leading to the line. I was able to stay in front of him but barely. It was one of the most exciting and intense finishes I’ve ever had. Sprints are kind of a rarity in mountain bike races, especially long ones.”
Both riders were totally worked at the finish. “Cameron tore our legs off during anything that went uphill” Serbel said after the race, “and Wiens just never seemed to fade – at all.”
Next up racing for Wiens is the Tushar Crusher near Beaver, Utah July 12th, but first are two sessions of the Leadville Camp of Champions July 2-5 and July 6-9. He’ll try to defend his win from last year July 19th at the Tahoe Trail 100k at Northstar at Lake Tahoe, California.
2014 Wilmington Whiteface 100k Results