Wilmington-Whiteface 100K(Leadville Qualifier) Report by Team Racer Ben Coleman.
The only reason I took on this race for the second year running was to qualify for Leadville later this summer. It’s not the idea of 69 miles (apparently they just call it 100k for giggles) and over 10,000 feet of climbing on the mountain bike that cuts my enthusiasm for this race, but rather the final 2000 feet of climbing. This comes in the final few kilometers up the, steep, rocky, and loose service roads straight up Whiteface Mountain. This ends up being a 25-minute hike-a-bike in the sun with small sections of torturous riding mixed in. But Leadville was on the bucket list so I decided to endure it once more.
Aside from the final climb, the hardest part of the race is actually just after the first 5 miles on the first major climb. This is where the elite groups are created that you will spend most of the day with, and making the front group will ultimately end your day 20-30 minutes sooner. After a fast start on pavement, 350 racers hit the dirt climb and I positioned myself toward the front. Unfortunately, with the likes of Justin Lindine smashing the pedals as hard as he could I popped off the front about a kilometer from the summit and watched the elite group of 10 roll over the top about 30 seconds in front of me.
I settled into the second main group of about 15 and for next several hours steadily punched across the climbs and dirt roads of the Adirondacks. By the way, if you ever want to kiss 50mph on mountain bike this is the race to do it. It’s freaky. I moved to the front on the last two major climbs of the day (excluding the trip up Whiteface) and set a hard and steady tempo from bottom to top. I felt great and by the time we came off the final descent and were headed toward Whiteface I had reduced our group to 7. With 15k remaining we hit a long section of single track with some gradual but steady incline through a pine forest. I entered the woods fist and hit the juice. 15 minutes later myself and one other rider came back onto the road with about 45 seconds on the rest of our group. This proved to be a little too much of an effort, and I sat up and soft-pedaled for roughly a mile on the run-in to the final ascent up Whiteface.
I entered the final climb 12th on the road, however once the difficulty of this final climb reached the ludicrous level this all goes out the window. Guys you haven’t seen all day start to come backwards, and people start to catch you from behind as well. When you aren’t riding, you’re not running either, but rather hunched over your bars, putting one foot in front of the other, cursing your existence. 200 meters might take 5 minutes or more. I finally reached the top (which is not the actual summit, the organizers aren’t that cruel), and passed a few guys on the white-knuckle decent back to the base. I rounded the final turn, looked at the clock, and had to open up an immediate cramp-inducing sprint to cross the line a half second under the 5-hour mark.
I ended up 16th overall on the day, and with the licensed pros separated into their own category I was 2nd in my age group. It was just enough for a ticket Leadville. Now I can look forward to 8+ hours between 10,000 and 14,500 feet.
So who’s hiding the altitude tents out there?