With the same winners from Arcadia back on the line, a very different course-and different challengers-put everyone back to square one.
On paper, the start list looks like a small but fast start list pitting the victors and animators of the past few weeks together once again. But on a course like no other, there’s nothing certain about Conquer the Village. Jorden Wakeley rode to an impressive win last year against a solid field, and he’s the last to be worried about the additional race added for the Elite men. On the women’s side, Lauri Brockmiller will have to find an answer for the indomitable Beth Craven, who won her Elite race debut last week at Arcadian Grit and Gravel.
Challenging Wakeley on the men’s side are some local familiars, including Derek Graham and the Einstein Racing trio of Nate St. Onge, Cody and Wes Sovis. The big new name is Justin Morris, a pro cyclists new to TC and ready to test his legs on 6 circuits behind Building 50. Morris, perhaps the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, is just a few weeks removed from the Tour of Azerbaijan, and certainly ready to see how his mountain bike skills are holding up after a few years primarily on the road.
Those 6 laps are going to be more than enough to split the field a few times over. After doing 5 last year, the Elite men will have an extra 3.7 miles and 400 feet of climbing to contend with. The two main features of the race are, as they were last year, the Fire Road Climb, which brings racers up 300 feet at an average gradient approaching 7%, with two distinct pitches of 11% and 15% at the bast and at the very top. The only change to the course for 2014 is a new section that runs along the top of the ridge that plays host to much of the trail system, and adds perhaps a minute or two to each lap, plus a short but steep technical climb to get to the downhill. The curving, switchback descent that is so notorious is so tough that the beginner race won’t even go down it. Even experienced riders have bailed, walking it down rather than risk a crash.
It’s a course that demands a complete rider, and Beth Craven is looking to confirm herself as such. She’s a great climber and descender, and this could be her second win in as many tries in the Elite class. She’ll be joined by Einstein Racing teammate Stacy Smith as the pair take on defending champion Lauri Brockmiller of Hagerty Cycling.
Registration is still open, and there’s plenty of time for more contenders to join up. Racing starts at 10am Saturday, May 24 with the Beginner race, followed by Sport at 11.30, and the Elite/Expert race at 1.30pm.