Pflug earns NUE Series 3rd in both open men and single speed.
September 20, 2014. Dahlonega, GA. The small north Georgia town that nobody can pronounce ( “Dah-lahn- e-ga” ), famous for being the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush and for being the heart of Georgia wine country, was once again the final destination for racers competing in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series. The Fools Gold 100, the mountain bike race named after a brassy yellow mineral (usually pyrite) that can be mistaken for gold, starts and ends at the beautiful Montaluce Winery. The 92 mile course opens with one long gravel road climb and some ridgeline gravel, followed by a fast gravel descent. Much of the singletrack is newly re-constructed and flowy, with an assortment of fast gradual climbs to short grunts. In the end, riders climb 12,000 feet. The weather was perfect, dry and mostly overcast with a high in the seventies.
For 2014, the Fools Gold occupied the final and tie breaking event in a 13 race year for the NUE series. It’s the Fools Gold that would determine the 2014 series winners for each of the four NUE categories: Open Men, Open Women, Single Speed, and Masters. Riders are scored on their best 4 races. Four wins that include a win at the Fools Gold guarantee racers a series championship. Along with a shared cash purse and free entries to all 2015 NUE races, each NUE series winner is also awarded an all expenses paid trip to La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a three day mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica on November 6-8.
Winning this year’s Fools Gold and the NUE series in the Open Men’s division was Sho-Air Cannondale rider Jeremiah Bishop. “I am super excited to land the NUE over all series for a second time.” exclaimed Bishop who, in addition to doing La Ruta, is planning on participating in the Munga, a 620 mile unsupported mountain bike race across the continent of Africa that boasts a million dollars in prize money to be shared among winners.
“The race was hard from the start and Tinker (Juarez) took off in search of his own pace at the top of winding stair pass” remembers Bishop about the early separation from his Sho-Air teammate soon after the climbing started in earnest. “I was tired from a huge week of training for the Million Dollar Munga. Because of this I had to play it safe and use the large group to save some energy.”
On the last big climb of the race when everyone was tired and slowing down, Bishop made his move. “It took several attacks to get separation and initially, Keck Baker brought me back with Tinker hot on his wheel.” recalled Bishop about the final race-deciding selection. It was not until the 3rd attempt that Bishop was able to gain meaningful separation. “I (finally) got full power down I was glad to get a gap!” said Bishop recalling that pivotal moment. “I pushed hard and got a solid lead but suffered a bit because I had lost a bottle in the last hour.”
“Its been a fantastic adventure at every race and it’s always super cool to start with all the amateur riders in one big group, you don’t get that at the Pro XC’s.” Bishop reminisced when asked about his thoughts on the NUE and the 2014 NUE Series. “This weekend is my Alpine Loop Gran Fondo so there will be a special toast to the win in the National Ultra Endurance 100 Series.”
Splitting his NUE Series race time between both the Open and Single Speed categories, Rare Disease Cycling rider Gerry Pflug grabbed the fifth and final Fools Gold Open Men’s podium spot earning himself NUE series podium finishes (3rd place series finishes) in BOTH Open Men and Single Speed, an accomplishment that has never been achieved before.
“With having third place locked-up in the singlespeed class for the 2014 NUE Series, I decided to race in the open category at the Fool’s Gold 100 to do my best at securing a second podium position in the series.” explained Pflug about the decision to race in the Open for the Fools Gold. “I had a blast racing on the flowing single track trails and the perfect hero dirt that made up the awesome Fool’s Gold race course.”
“Racing in both the Open and Single Speed classes this year made 2014 an exciting endurance race season for me and it felt great to do well in each category.” reflected Pflug on the 2014 NUE season.
Rare Disease Cycling rider Rob Spreng capped off an impressive endurance mountain bike season with a seventh place finish in the Open Men at the Fools Gold. Rob was well positioned for a top-five NUE series placing but was forced to abandon the Shenandoah Mountain 100, one of his four planned races.
“The pace started high on the first climb. I stayed with the lead group for about 30 minutes but soon fell off and a chase group formed.” remembers Spreng about the early throw down. Spreng, Pflug, (single speeder) AJ Linnell and a two other Single Speed riders finished out the first climb together. “I got away from that group on the first long gravel descent. Gerry was the only one of the group to bridge back to me.” recounted Spreng.
Pflug was first out of Aid2 at the bottom of Bull Mountain. “I did bridge back but he took off again on the Bull Mountain climb. I ended up passing him a while later as he was pulled over for a minute. He eventually rode back to me and pulled on a climb again.” Spreng remembered of the back-and-forth with his friend and teammate. “I would see Gerry off and on for the next couple hours, but never really did ride with him again. I spent the rest of the day cruising through the GA clay alone.”
The Open Men’s podium for the 2014 Fools Gold had Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) finishing first, teammate David Tinker Juarez (Sho-Air/Cannondale) second, Brian Schworm (Pedal Power) third, Keck Becker forth, and Gerry Pflug (Rare Disease Cycling) in fifth.
Due to the birth of his second child, 2013 NUE Series Champion and this years Mohican 100 and Lumberjack 100 winner Christian Tanguy had an abbreviated 2014 racing season. He did not have enough races to compete for the series championship.
No one was going to take away the NUE series title for Open Women from Motor Mile Racing’s Brenda Simril. Simril, who had competed in eight series races, and had locked up the title before the Fools Gold even started. Simril’s effort was good enough for 2nd on the day, but the win went to long time Baltimore native and recent Chapel Hill North Carolina transplant Carla Williams. William’s sent a clear message to the woman and 2014 NUE Series champion who had beaten her twice in the early races of the 2014 NUE series. “I can win too.”
“I started out at a strong pace with Tom Haines (Design Physics / Coqui ). We looked down at our watches after what felt like 30 mins of riding, and were surprised to see that we had been racing for 2 hours already. That was a good feeling!” recalls Williams about the early parts of the race. Williams, a gifted climber, was rewarded by the layout of the Fools Gold course. “I felt like this was a course I could really attack. The singletrack sections which usually make me nervous were fast and smooth without too many rocks or roots to slow me down. The climbing definitely added up by the end, but the individual climbs were shorter compared to some of the other NUE races, and I felt I could charge up them without burning too many matches.” said Williams about her strategy.
“Before the race, I was thinking that I have just one last long slog before I can start racing my cx bike and the fall fun really starts. But during the race, I was having such a good time that I’m sad I have to wait until April of next year to do this again.” reflected Williams on her final (and best) 2014 endurance achievement.
The 2014 Fools Gold Open Women’s podium had Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team) finishing first, Brenda Simril (Motor mile racing) second, Rachel Millsop (Vikings) third, Anne Pike (Blue Ridge Cyclery p/b Reynolds GM/Suburu) fourth, and Jennifer Moos (Pink Siren Sports / Z Bike Shop) fifth.
Multi-time NUE Series winner and Rare Disease Cycling rider Cheryl Sornson won the 2014 True Grit Epic but then changed her focus to shorter Cross Country distance events. Leadville 100 podium finisher and 2014 Shenandoah Mountain 100 winner and Rare Disease Cycling rider Selene Yeager did not have enough races for a 2014 series contention.
In the Single Speed division, only A.J. Linnell (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles/American Classic), could keep Blue Ridge Cyclery Racing rider Gordon Wadsworth from his first NUE series title. Wadsworth came into the Fools Gold with 4 wins, but Linnell, who had beaten Wadsworth in the Pierre’s Hole 100, could spoil the party with a win at Fools Gold by virtue of the tie break rule. But it wasn’t to be, the Roanoke VA rider dominated from the start and rode with the geared bike leaders for most of the early racing to secure his first ever NUE series title.
When asked if the Fools Gold represented a peak performance for 2014, Gordon responded “Peak? Sort of hard to tell. I think I just forced myself to keep riding extremely hard because that was the safe thing to do strategically.”
“AJ may be strong, and he is, but NO ONE can bridge up to a group of Tinker, JB, Keck and Brian Schworm. So the sooner I got them moving and the longer I stayed with them the better.” elaborated Wadsworth on the early decision to ride with the geared leaders. “I ended up staying with them a lot longer than I had though I might.”
“I dont know if I could Identify a peak during this season. I think I felt the best at Shenandoah. I know Lumberjack was a good early season peak for me. I think I managed to have two solid peaks this year between those two races.”
The single speed podium ended up with Gordon Wadsworth (Blue Ridge Cyclery Racing) finishing 1st, AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles/American Classic) second, Bob Moss (Farnsworth Bikes/Crank Arm Brewery) third, Dwayne Goscinski (Team Noah Foundation) fourth, and Ernest Marenchin (pivot cycles) fifth.
Rare Disease Cycling rider Roger Masse came into the Fools Gold with three prior wins, but could have been defeated for the NUE Series Masters title in an upset by 2013 Masters Series winner Marland Whaley.
“I came into the Fools Gold with the full weight of the series championship on my shoulders. I was in the lead but could loose the series in a tie break if Marland Whaley were to win.” explained Masse about the contest for the title. “I saw that he was entered and so I had to show up to force a showdown. I’ve been racing well during the last month and so liked my chances.”
North Carolina native Alex Hawkins (Back Alley Bikes), who had defeated Masse at this year’s Cohutta 100 was also signed up. “I figured I would have my hands full.” recounts Masse. “I lined up on the front row and was 2nd wheel to the rider who took the hole shot. I remained in the top-5 for the first 8 miles or so until the sustained climbing began and the strong riders tested one another while establishing a very high pace. Within ten minutes of climbing, near the Army Ranger station and the cooler drop, the lead group of about twenty had ridden through me. There were a lot of watts being thrown down!”
Alone for a bit, Masse soon connected with Toasted Head rider Mike Montalbano who had decided to not try and match the pace being set by the early leaders. “I rode on Mike’s wheel till just shy of the top of the lap 1 Bull’s Run climb. He was keeping a lid on his early pace but he dropped me there.” recalls Masse of his early alliance. “Mike’s is a good wheel to have and I know we were making good time even though his effort was probably only 80%”
“I felt good and rode solidly through the bottom of Bull’s Run for lap 2 and Aid5 but started losing my A-game.” recalls Masse. “I learned I had a comfortable lead and I had missed Aid Station 1 and had fallen behind on my fluids. I was content to throttle down and cruise the final twenty miles in for the win!”.
“I’m really looking forward to Iron Cross on Single Speed and the LaRuta 3 day stage race in Costa Rica.” exclaimed Masse when asked what’s next. “Gordon and I are going to room together. It will be the experience of a lifetime representing the U.S. and the NUE in Central America!”
Masse’s win at Fools Gold gave the Bethesda Maryland native 4 NUE wins on the year and the series title. In the end, even though Hawkins and Whaley were entered, they did not start. The final Masters results for the Fools Gold were Roger Masse (Rare Disease Cycling) in first, Anthony Hergert (Reality Bikes Ambassador Team) second, Mark Drogalis (Toasted Head Racing) third, Monte Hewett (peachtree bikes) fourth, and David Jolin (Stark Velo) fifth.