Cohutta 100
Ducktown, Tenn., April 26

Begin at the Ocoee Whitewater Center in Tennessee and head south for 100 miles through some of the most beautifully remote fire roads and singletrack in the Southeast. From Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest through the Cohutta Wilderness in Georgia and back, the course has a 40/60 ratio of singletrack to gravel roads, making it a great race for skilled riders just beginning to race 100-milers. trailheadoutdoors.org

The Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic
State College, Penn., May 25-31

How would you like to take off life for a week and go mountain biking in the scenic mountains of central Pennsylvania? Sound too good to be true? If you’re prepared to take on the country’s longest mountain bike stage race, then this dream can be a reality. Every year, hundreds of cyclists gather to take on the trails for a good cause. The event serves as the annual fundraiser for the non-profit The Outdoor Experience Organization, a program whose goal is to better serve and improve upon the trails in Pennsylvania. tsepic.com

Iron Mountain 100K
Damascus, Va., June 29

An up-and-coming race that is sure to gain attention for its difficulty is this 54-miler, based out of Trail Town, U.S.A. The Iron Mountain Trail is known for its big drops and long smooth sections. Pair that up with some Forest Service road connectors to climb and technical track that’s rooty, rocky, and steep, and that about sums up the race. With only 8,500 feet of elevation change, this race is often mistaken as “easier” than some of the other big events, but give it a try and let that very first climb make the decision for you. mtntouring.com

Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (ORAMM)
Old Fort, N.C., July 20

At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina stands as the tallest peak east of the Mississippi. This 63-mile off-road route will literally feel like an assault on the mountain, climbing 11,000 feet and weaving in and out of North Carolina’s Forest Service roads and singletrack. Try to beat the 4:33-hour time record for the ORAMM, set in 2012 by pro rider Jeremiah Bishop. blueridgeadventures.net/oramm

The Wilderness 101
Coburn, Penn., July 26

Often cited as the original East Coast epic, this dirty century (+1) has it all: 10,000 feet of elevation gain, jagged rocks and roots clogging the harrowing descents, cold creek crossings, windy singletrack, and loose gravel fire roads. Yet this adventurous undertaking attracts cyclists from every walk of life, whether it’s the weekend warrior with the goal of simply finishing or the road century rider looking for a different challenge. Before and after the race, the laid back camp scene is always bustling with mingling racers who enjoy the opportunity to meet new people, eat, drink, and be merry. mtntouring.com

Bringing the Heat

Former Trek/Volkswagen pro-rider Sue Haywood knows the Shenandoah Mountain 100 like the back of her hand. One of a number of top cyclists who reside in Harrisonburg, Va., Haywood typically joins the mountain biking community every year in Stokesville for the SM100.

“It’s on the bucket list of cool experiences for any avid cyclist or fitness junkie,” Haywood says, making reference not just to the race itself but the atmosphere in general. “If we could capture all the watts and energy flowing at the race we could easily power the town of Stokesville!”

Although Haywood has stood atop the podium at the SM100 a number of times and even set a course record in 2007, placing not just first in the women’s division but 8th overall, she still remembers how difficult her first SM100 experience was.

“I had never done that kind of distance on a mountain bike,” Haywood says. “Spending almost 11 hours on the bike, climbing big mountains and not really knowing how to fuel and hydrate made it epic.”

Haywood pushed on and finished, inspired by her fellow riders and the race volunteers’ supportive attitudes. Although Haywood has raced around the world, she says there is a certain vibe about the SM100 that, combined with the challenge of the course, keeps her coming back for more.

“Right after it’s done, I say never again and then I realize that riding my bike all day with other like-minded people is exactly what I want to do,” she says. “Good fitness is essential for this race, but honestly training to be tough mentally is more important.”

Haywood’s other favorite regional races include Revenge of the Rattlesnake in Davis, W.Va., and the Massanutten HooHa in Keezletown, Va.

Best of the Rest

Snake Creek Gap Time Trials
Dalton, Ga., Feb. 1, March 1 • snake.nwgasorba.org

Dragon’s Tale
New Castle, Va., April 6 • mtntouring.com

Big Frog 65
Ocoee Whitewater Center, Tenn., April 26 • trailheadoutdoors.org

Blankets Creek Cross Country Race
Canton, Ga., May 10 • mountaingoatadventures.com

Karl’s Kaleidoscope Mountain Bike Race
Marion, Va., May 17 • active.com

Pisgah 111K
Brevard, N.C., May  • pisgahprouctions.com

Bump N’ Grind
Oak Mountain State Park, Ala., May 31–June 1 • bumpngrindrace.com

Massanutten Hoo-Ha
Massanutten Resort, Va., June 7–8 • massresort.com

Gran Fondo Alleghany Highlands
Covington, Va., July 12 • sport-vista.com

Six Hour Race to Sunset
Canton, Ga., August 9 • mountaingoatadventures.com

Shenandoah Mountain 100
Stokesville, Va., August 31 • mtntouring.com

Chomolungma Challenge
Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va., August • snowshoemtn.com/bike

Fontana Dam Jam
Fontana Dam, N.C., August • goneriding.com

Pisgah Stage Race
Brevard, N.C., September • blueridgeadventures.net

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