Mohican 100, Christian Tanguy, Open Men, 4th place, 7h13min28s

For the first time this year, I was traveling to the race with my family. It was great to have them with me although it requires a little more preparation. The drive was pleasant and we made it on time to pick up the registration package and chill out at the hotel.

 The morning of the race, the temperatures were comfortable and I did not have goose bumps like at Cohutta. Anyway, with the steep climb right from the get go, I guess it was impossible to feel cold. Although I did not attempt to reach the top of the climb first in order to win the $200 prime, I made sure I was well placed before entering the first stretch of single track.

 Shortly after, a group of 5 was created: Josh Tostado, Mike Simonson, Jeff Schalk, my teammate Brandon Draugelis and I. Having already a small gap on the pursuers, I thought that the speed will go down a little bit however Josh Tostado was on a mission and accelerated even more.

 Brandon made the jump to Josh while Mike, Jeff and I were wondering if it was reasonable to ride at that speed with still 95 miles to go. A while later, Josh and Brandon were completely out of sight and it took several miles of fun single track to reach back to those two. It was not because they slowed down; it is because we put the hammer down. That intense effort had us gasping for more air.

 By aid station 1, our group of five had reformed and the pace was a little more manageable. Still Josh was riding incredibly hard and before we knew it we were already by aid station 2. By now, my stomach was already giving me some telltale signs that something was off but I still was riding strong.

 I had a very smooth feed at the aid station #3 but started to felt sleepy in addition to an increased stomach ache. Once the single track section after aid #3 was over, I turned to Brandon and told him that I was not feeling best and will probably not be able to follow the pace anymore however I did my best to take my rotation at the front when we were trading pulls.

 Then, I saw the terrifying ultra steep double track climb. Josh was the first crack shortly followed by Brandon. My legs were spinning smoothly while my stomach was really hurting. I reached the top of the hill along with Jeff and Mike but as soon as the dirt road became flat, I could not accelerate fast enough I got drop then.

 When I finally reached the buggy trail, I was riding really slowly. I knew that I was losing tons of time to Mike and Jeff on this flatter section. Just like Lumberjack 100 last year, my stomach felt like a balloon, filled with liquid and tremendous desire to stop and take a 3 hour nap in the shade.

 It was just a matter of time and it happened just before aid station 4, Brandon caught back to me. He encouraged me to follow his wheel. I was really torn apart by such a proposal. On one hand I was really thankful to ride in good company and not alone anymore, on the other hand, his speed was higher than the pace I could barely manage.

 My teammate Brandon was very good to me, by not accelerating too fast and by announcing difficulties and turns ahead. Those were necessary actions, as my entire focus was devoted to follow Brandon’s wheel and I would have probably hit a tree or made the wrong turn if I had been on my own.

 With about 86 miles completed, Brandon told me that I should hold tough and that the race was only 96 miles long not the full 100 miles. It was a nice mind trick as I was counting the miles down to put an end to my misery. Mile 96 came and went and we were still in the middle of the last 10 miles of single track.

 What a relief to reach the finish line. A huge thanks to Brandon to motivate me and keep me in the race for the last 30+ miles! The Lumberjack 100 is in 2 weeks I hope I figure out what went wrong and try to adjust.

Syllamo’s Revenge 125k, Christian Tanguy, Open Men, 1st place, 6h10m19s

It was going to be the first time that I set foot in Arkansas and I was really wondering what kind of challenges was ahead of me. 

First, I was not looking forward to the 15 hour drive. Fortunately, I was able to share the drive with two fellow Michigan riders from the Trek/Rochester Bike Shop team. It was a pleasure to travel with them although I felt a little embarrassed when on Thursday night I swallowed an entire 2 person pizza by myself and still felt hungry when my friends could barely finish their personal ones.

Second, the course description mentioned a lot of really rough trails that sometimes requires dismounting the bike. In addition, at some locations, the trail goes over some large stone slabs which are as slippery as ice when wet.

 Everybody knows I am not the most skillful rider; however, over the years, I have been able to ride more and more technical trails. In addition, this year I am ridding a S-Works Stumpjumper 29er which is super efficient and yet comfortable enough for the long haul thanks to carefully shaped stays.

 First in the menu was a quite steep dirt road. The battle was hot on the climb. Jeff Schalk was controlling the lead with authority and would accelerate each time a rider was nearing his rear wheel. Despite the cooler temps at the start, I was already sweating but my S-Works was riding great and I made it to the tail end of the lead group (Jeff Schalk, Chris Peariso, Brandon Draugelis, a Tomac racer and I)

 At the first tight curve, I barely made the turn….? What is going on? I felt really good and the bike was feeling remarkably comfortable. Sure enough, my rear tire was seriously deflated. Before the race, I switched my S-Works Renegade with some Control Fast Trak tires. Knowing how robust the tires are, I was confident that if the leak was stopped by the sealant, I could ride for a prolonged time without much air.

 The single track trail is the roughest at the beginning and get smoother as we go. It was actually an advantage to have all the extra comfort and traction resulting from the low tire pressure. There were a few spots I thought I would not be able to ride but surprisingly I cleared them and did not dismount the bike as much as the trail description was suggesting.

 The Tomac racer was having difficulties following the pace in the uphill sections and dropped off pretty much at the same time where Chris Peariso suffered from some drive train issues. It left just two Team CF racers (Brandon Draugelis and I) chasing the Trek competitor (Jeff Schalk). Jeff must not have been such at ease as both Brandon and I challenged him earlier this season.

 After approx. 2 hours, we blasted thru aid station #1 such that I did not considered stopping and pumping more air to my rear tire. I patiently waited aid station #2, where I knew Jeff and Brandon would stop. I thought I would be using a floor pump to quickly refill my tire; however they did not have any. I then reached for my mini pump and after 100 strokes I was ready to leave the aid station.

 As I was pumping, I was contemplating the bottle of chain lube on the table; wondering if I should take the extra few seconds to apply some or not. I decided for the later, as my drive train was still running smoothly despite riding thru multiple muddy water paddles and small creeks. A big thanks to Art (my fellow racer from Michigan) for the extra care on my bike!

 After a short while, the three of us were riding together again. We rapidly reached the “Stairway to Heaven” which apparently brought some bad luck to Brandon. He suffered a flat tire, leaving Jeff and I in the lead.

 Reaching the “Bad Branch” section, Jeff took advantage of the fast flowing single trails to place some attacks. I managed to cover them all and was wondering how it will all play out as Jeff and I seemed just as strong. The only place I could think of placing an attack was in the beginning of the second loop where there is a wider trail going uphill.

 I did my best try t0 pass Jeff, but he accelerated as well such that I never could get in front of him. I prepared for a long battle until the finish line but Jeff’s chain fall on the ground putting an end to our battle for the lead.

 When reaching the “Bad Branch” loop again, I was having a blast and ripped thru this section with a big smile, but not as big as when I reached aid station #5 because it is only downhill to the finish where I arrived over 10 minutes ahead of Jeff.

 My teammates were right when they convinced me last year that I would beneficiate riding a 29er bike, especially a super light and incredibly efficient one. My Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29er could be renamed “Rockjumper” as it was extremely fast in riding over all the large stones and rock slabs. My tire selection was right on and overall the equipment performed flawlessly.

 

My teammates, Cheryl (2nd place overall women) and Brandon (3rd place overall men) had a good laugh watching me turning red as I struggled lifting the 50lbs stone award over my head…

Cohutta 100, Christian Tanguy, Open Men, 1st place, 6h27min49s

Like every year, the first 100 mile race contains a lot of unknowns: Will I be able to complete 100 miles? Is my new bike properly set-up such I don’t get knee pain? Will the pace be blistering fast right from the beginning? Etc.

Fortunately, some factors were well determined: I had the fastest bike (Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works 29er) and I have been following Chris Eatough 12-week program leading to Cohutta 100. The temperature will rise to 80°F so I decided to go without arm warmers or wind jacket. Obviously, I could not wait for the race to start as I was shivering at the line.

The climb on the pavement was done without any surges and provided a progressive warm-up for the legs. However, my upper body still felt really cold, even more so when we reached the downhill leading to the entrance of the single track.

Like always, I let a bunch of racers pass me as the course narrows from a wide paved road to a 3 foot wide single track. No need to take any risks, there are still 97 miles to make any kind of attacks. I am just surprised some riders are still fighting for position.

I was satisfied with my 12th position and could see the leader when the tree coverage was limited. Half hour into the race, I realized that the cold temperature had my hands completely numb. My fingers were holding firmly the handlebar however it was taking 5s to release my thumb every time I needed to shift.

As we reached back to the Ocoee White Water Center, my hands were hurting which was a good sign; they were warming up. The single tracks leading to aid station #1 were completed rapidly under the direction of Chris Peariso; it felt even a little too fast for my liking.

Once our group of seven riders reached the dirt roads, the pace was high each time we reached a climb but on the flats we would ride at a friendly speed. Everybody was tense and trying to brace for the “real” start of the race where there are no longer any periods of calm and relaxed riding speeds. It happened when a 8th rider joined the lead group: the next 75 miles will be painful…

Mike Simonson was really aggressive and would accelerate each time we neared the top of the climb. On one of the smaller climbs leading to the main ascend of the day, I decided to start tight the screw a little more by setting a higher speed at the base of the mountain. Our group started to whistle down. However I don’t know when and where exactly the other riders were being dropped as I was too busy focusing on Mike and Jeff’s wheels to worry what was happening behind.

By aid station #3, the lead group was 4 strong: Mike Simonson, Jeff Schalk, Chris Beck and I. Each one of us had to stop except for Mike who had his bottles handed off. He immediately had a 30s gap. I guess he also increased the pace to make us chase harder. It worked well. I was nearing my maxing output but was still 10s behind. Surprisingly, Jeff and Chris were lagging 20s behind me.

We merely were at the half way point; I did not want to completely red line my legs just to catch up with Mike but I managed to regain 1s here and there such that when Mike got a flat tire in the longest downhill I was only 5s behind. He did not even have time to come to a stop that I already went by him.

The rest of the downhill was pretty uneventful; just got to be really careful on those curves as some of the roads have been recently covered with gravel. I was riding by myself for 10 minutes; yet nobody was bridging back. I imagined that Mike would have fixed his tire in record time and he would team up with Jeff in hot pursuit back to me.

Could I really keep everybody at bay for the next 45 miles? To my advantage, I knew that my teammate Chris Beck would not help anybody chasing me down. The flats and rollers after aid station #4 really took a toll on my legs but every time I would look back, I could not see anybody.

Until aid station #5, I was expecting the chasers to catch me, but with aid station #5, the road goes up again, meaning that it would be a little easier to maintain a gap or even padded the time buffer. For some reasons, when I reached the single track, I started to ride out of my skin. I hammered the single track like I only rode 5 miles prior to reach this section of the course.

Reality settled really quickly when I reached the top of the mountain. I could feel that I indeed rode for 90+ miles. The light weight of the bike along with the big wheels made the single track portion enjoyable even with very tired legs.

Incredibly, I rode almost 50 miles by myself! I haven’t mentioned nutrition because it went without a hitch: Infinit makes it easy to keep well fed and hydrated: all you need is drink one bottle an hour to get all the electrolytes and calories to keep on going.

I am delighted Cheryl and Chris could also obtain a podium finish; both arriving in 2nd place. What a fantastic weekend!

Tailwind Racing, Pontiac Lake TT, Christian Tanguy, Elite Men, 1st place

Finally, the conditions were gathered for a fun race weekend: the
temperatures were acceptable (almost warm) and it was not raining
although it rained the night before. To be honest, I was a little
anxious to compete at Pontiac Lake TT. It has been years since I
participated to this race but over everything else I have not been
competing since November last year nor riding with anybody else. I
spent the entire winter in the comfort of the basement, spinning on
the trainer few times a week.

For this time trial, the riders were leaving one at the time, every 30
seconds. I was the 19th rider on the trail, giving me plenty “rabbits”
to chase. Of course, the legs hurt right from the beginning, but I
smiled all the way: trail riding in shorts is way better than spinning
on the trainer without going anywhere.

The trail at Pontiac starts with a nice flowing single track. I was
really having a blast getting familiar with trail riding again and
leaning in the curves. Most of the trails were tacky from the rain the
night before but in spots, it was greasy and very slippery. I made
sure I approached those areas with reduced speed. Goal number one: not
getting hurt especially on racing season opener.

My breathing was laborious but I managed to notify the rider in front
of me that I was going to pass him. He was in the process of passing
his “30 seconds” man such that I passed 2 competitors at once. Only
minutes later, I overtook two other racers. At that point, I completed
about one half of the first lap that meant that there was still 1.5
lap to go.

Although I did not pass anybody during the 2nd half of the first lap,
I knew I had a good rhythm especially when I powered my way up a
slippery off camber steep uphill trail.

Starting my last lap, I became a little more concerned falling on one
of the muddy spots. Although the trail was drying up, I reduced my
speed further down. I did not fall on the first lap and I was not
going to fall on my last lap!

I started to peek four to five racers at the start of the 2nd lap.
Thanks to their courtesy, I made a safe pass each time. The rest of
the course was just a struggle to keep the speed up with the legs
screaming to stop the violent effort. Like always, the sight of the
finish line was a relief.

No fall, nice trails, some great competition = perfect Easter weekend.