WILMINGTON — Cameron Cogburn, of Ashville, N.C., has vacationed in the Adirondack region and he’s even won two road cycling races up Whiteface Mountain. But this was the first time he tried mountain biking.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student looked just as comfortable on a mountain bike as he does on a road cycle when he raced away to a first-place finish during Sunday’s third-annual Wilmington Whiteface 100K (WW100).
Cogburn and 10 other cyclists spent most of the first half of the race together, before he broke away and completed the 69-mile event and Leadville 100 MTB qualifier (LT100) in four hours, six minutes, 21.20 seconds.
“The course played to my strengths, I got away from the field at about the half-way point, coming through the ‘feed zone.’” said Cogburn. “All the guys stopped, I didn’t have a drop, so I had all of my stuff and I just kept going. I killed it up the hill and tried to hold it from there.”
Since so many hills make up the course, the WW100 is regarded as one of the toughest Leadville Series qualifying events. Beginning and ending at Whiteface Mountain, cyclists endure jeep and gravel roads and back country trails through Wilmington, Jay, Keene, Lewis and Elizabethtown, as well as climbs that measure more than 750 meters each. All of this before two, three-mile finishing loops and a pair of 350 foot climbs at Whiteface, ahead of the finish line.
Being from Ashville, Cogburn felt right at home on the WW100 hills. “I just tried to get away on the big hill coming back,” he noted. “I lost some time on the single-track sections, so I didn’t want to leave it until the very end. I knew that the final hill at Whiteface was steep, but it wasn’t long, and I knew that I wanted to build a couple of minutes coming in. So when I came out of the second to last single-track section, I was told I had eight minutes, I knew that I was in good position.”
Gered Dunne (White River Junction, Vt.) tried to keep up with Cogburn for the first 30-plus miles, but gave up the chase and finished second in 4:11:14.22.
“It’s a ‘roadie’ kind of race, but there are some really nice single-track sections to spread it out,” Dunne remarked. “The downhills are fast and they really make you focus, it’s still a mountain bike race in the end, this is great.”
Dereck Treadwell (Topsham, Maine) rounded out the top three cyclists in the men’s field. Treadwell finished in 4:11:40.96
Six-time LT100 champion David Wiens (Gunnison, Colo.) was also in the lead pack, but he couldn’t keep up with the pace set by Cogburn and finished fourth.
“With that group, I got dropped on the steep pavement on the Jay Mountain Road,” added the mud covered Wiens, whose finish time was 4:12:43.97. “On all the climbs I could barely hang on and it was Cameron and Billy Demong who were pushing really hard. Then when Cameron went off by himself, nobody wanted any part of that I don’t think.”
Demong (Vermontville) crossed the finish line in eighth place. The 2010 Olympic Nordic combined gold and silver medalist finished in 4:23:51.22.
Last year, Crystal Anthony (Beverly, Mass.) lost to Rebecca Rusch (Ketchum, Idaho) by 19 minutes. Sunday, she beat the four-time women’s Leadville champion by almost eight minutes.
“Crystal and I have been racing together for two years now. She had a good race and I had an okay race,” added Rusch, who finished in a time of 4:49:50.46. Anthony was clocked in 4:42:00.71. “I’m so happy when this women’s field gets stronger, stronger and stronger. It’s good for everybody. Second is not the first loser.”
Rhonda Stickle (Barrie, Ont.) was the women’s third-place racer. She crossed the finish line at the base of the Olympic mountain in 5:00:50.73.
One-hundred of Sunday’s athletes are now making plans to race in the Aug. 10 LT100. Fifty of the LT100 qualifying spots were awarded based on performance in each division for men and women, and the other 50 were distributed randomly from a pool of all racers, who finished under the maximum cutoff time, which was eight hours.
Since the LT100 lottery had already taken place, this was one of only five nationwide Leadville Series qualifying races in which cyclists could still qualify and compete in the LT100.
Sunday’s WW100 also featured a 50K event. Colin Delaney (Lake Placid) won the men’s race in 2:14:55.73, while Caitlin Curran (Burlington, Vt.) topped the women’s field. She completed the event in 2:14:39.64.