New Paltz, NY played host to the 3rd Annual Wildcat Epic this past weekend. The race is based around a unique two-day stage race option, where riders race 50 miles on Saturday, and then race a second 50 mile course on Sunday. This year, however, race organizers added a 50 mile option Saturday and a 100 mile option on Sunday.
Wildcat Epic Stage Race
Saturday's course sent riders through some top-notch singletrack at Williams Lake and then through several local apple orchards, with some fast rail trail riding in-between. Off the line, it was Ryan Serbel who strung out the field on the way to Williams Lake, with the speed of the pace line hitting 20mph and higher on the opening sections. By the time the race hit the singletrack, Serbel's efforts had wittled the lead group down to 5 riders, including Serbel, Mike Montalbano, Roger Foco,Thomas Garcia, and Matt Williams.
Montalbano attacked early in the singletrack, taking Serbel with him. "He [Serbel] was the strongest guy in the race, by far," Montalbano said afterwards. "I needed him to panic in the singletrack, but he didn't." Serbel and Montalbano did blow by a turn near the end of the Williams Lake section though, allowing Foco to catch back up.
In the second half of the race, Foco was feeling strong on the short, punchy climbs in the apple orchards, allowing him to gap his teammate Montalbano. Meanwhile, disaster struck for Serbel. He repeatedly got lost in the twists and turns through the orchards, and eventually faded from contention. "It was heads up riding out there," Montalbano said, "if you put your head down you could easily miss a turn." Williams, having a strong second half of the race, caught Montalbano near the end of the orchard section, and the two worked together in the final miles of rail trail. Their efforts, however, weren't enough to bring back Foco, who went into day two with a 14 minute lead.
Serbel was absent on day two, leaving Foco and Montalbano as the two main contenders for the overall. Sunday's course was faster and less technical, but featured a lot more climbing. The day's main landmark was Castle Point, a picturesque lookout with 360 degree views. The climb to the top, while not consistently steep, was close to 17 miles. "He [Serbel] would have crushed that climb," Foco said afterwards. But without a major challanger Foco and Montalbano stayed together. The teammates "traded pulls and stories," Foco said afterwards. Montalbano took the sprint and the stage win, while Foco won the overall.
The Wildcat 100 course combined the Saturday and Sunday courses from the Epic Stage Race. Riders rolled out of the start finish on Historic Huguenot Street, and headed out to the days main climb up to Castle Point. From there they tackled the two 25 mile loops that had been featured on day one of the Epic; first the Willams Lake singletrack, and then the apple orchards. Early on, Cody LaCosta dominated the men's race, building up a 15 minute lead by the halfway point. Disaster struck for LaCosta on the Williams Lake section though when he snapped his derailleur hanger. Though he was able to eventually make his way to a bike shop for a new hanger, he eventually dropped out of the race. That left Wayne Tice and Terry Blanchet to battle it out for the win. Ultimately Tice took the win, 8 minutes ahead of Blanchet. On the women's side, Ann Marie Hunt looked strong from the start, and was she cruised to the win in a time of 10:38.
While there were issues with the course marking on Saturday, resulting in some riders getting lost, things seem to have been corrected by Sunday, and the 100 mile race reportedly concluded without incident.
Post race racers enjoyed a barbecue and beer from the local Gilded Otter Brewery.
At least 23 landowners came together to allow the race to pass through their property. Much of the course is only legal to ride on race day, making it a unique experience for locals and out of town racers alike.
Wildcat 100 Men:
1. Wayne Tice 8:11
2. Terry Nlanchet 8:19
3. Aaron Anaya 9:05
Wildcat 100 Women:
1. Ann Marie Hunt 10:38
2. Anne Fallows
Wildcat Epic Men:
1. Roger Foco 6:55
2. Mike Montalbano 7:09
Wildcat Epic Women:
1. Whitney Hedberg 10:05
2. Megan Wiseman 10:11