Tanguy Opens Season with 2nd Place Finish at Cohutta

Roger Masse second in Masters.
CohuttaPrizes
April 25, 2015, Ducktown TN. National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series race #2 commenced with the Cohutta 100 in pouring rain and 50 degree temperatures in south eastern Tennessee this past weekend. The 2015 edition featured a different course from past editions that took racers over the Big Frog mountain and then west into the Cherokee Forest on undulating gravel roads near the Ocoee river. The new course was designed to be slightly gentler than the courses from recent years, but the pouring rain overnight and at the start all but wiped out hopes for faster times.
CohuttaMap
Rare Disease Cycling riders Christian Tanguy and Roger Masse suited up and braved the elements in their respective categories to try and notch some early season points.

Men’s Open

Despite the rain, the pace was brisk up the pavement towards the opening single track at the top of a one mile climb, as riders vied for position entering the woods. Dylan Johnson (Scott Pro Mountain Bike Team) set the pace up the first climb out the gate. Keck Baker (Cannondale/Carytown Bikes) jumped at the top to get the hole shot into the woods. RDC’s Christian Tanguy was in the lead group that included Baker, Johnson, Westley Richards (Clemmons Bicycle), single speeder Gordon Wadsworth (Blue Ridge Cyclery) and Brian Schworm (Think Green-Pedal the Planet), with several other top contenders. “Despite the rain, the trail was not too muddy and more amazingly I could see fine as I did not get much projections from the tires landing on my glasses thanks to a little fender on my fork” recalled Tanguy sighting lessons learned from the 2013 Cohutta race which opened in similarly rainy conditions.

Baker lost the lead briefly, but retook it on the “roots” section by the river just before the bridge ending the first loop of single track. By mile 15 the front group had solidified a gap. “I think at first it was about 8 of us and we started riding along pretty well together.” recalled Baker about the early elite selection. “All but Brian Shworm and a few others were unwilling to put in any work.”

Your top three overall (from left) Gordon Wadsworth 1st, Christian Tanguy 3rd, and Brian Schworm 2nd
Your top three overall (from left): Gordon Wadsworth 1st, Christian Tanguy 3rd, and Brian Schworm 2nd

The rain stopped an hour or two into the contest and Tanguy was in the mix. “I started to enjoy myself on the trails and the rain stopped. Wow, could it be that I could get the opportunity for a good ride?” wondered Tanguy. “I was in the lead group and feeling ok. I was bracing for the later hours in the race where each pedal stroke is accompanied by pain.”

Not much happened until mile 70, when Keck Baker accelerated. “I attacked and Dylan Johnson answered and bridged up to me and at this point we started to roll up a climb.” said Baker about his decision to shake things up. “I looked back and saw the group had shattered and there was a group in chase.”

Tanguy was one of those chasing riders playing it smart and conserving his matchbook. “I was really hurt and the legs did not wanted to spin any faster. I was so sure I would not see any of those guys” recalled Tanguy “I wished them well with a nice ‘Goodbye’. I was already satisfied with my effort.”

But Tanguy wasn’t finished just yet. Baker dropped back and started working with the two chasers Wadsworth and Richards letting Johnson go. Dylan Johnson, now in the lead, continued solo.

Soon Shworm caught the Baker/Richards/Wadsworth trio and immediately attacked. Only Wadsworth followed.

Mens Open Podium
1st Brian Schworm,
2nd Christian Tanguy (not pictured),
3rd Dylan Johnson,
4 Westley Richards,
5th Keck Baker,
6th Andrew Dillman,
7th Michael Simonson,
8th Nathaniel Cornelius
Photo credit SARAKRISTEN.COM

Soon after Tanguy caught the Baker/Richards group. “I was very surprised to reach back to some very tired riders. As usual for me during those 100 miles race, my heart was feeling fine but my legs were just quitting.” remembers the RDC rider. Tanguy rode through and Richards tried to follow.

Meanwhile at the front, Schworm and Wadsworth were together coming up the pavement to the finish. Wadsworth lead over the bridge and aggressively hit the final left hand turn after the bridge to set up the sprint. The sprint never happened. The aggressive turn opened up a slight gap and Schworm did not challenge. The overall went to Wadsworth.

Tanguy persevered finishing 2rd place in men’s open behind men’s open winner Brian Schworm and the remarkable performance by the 1st single speed racer Gordon Wadsworth who took the overall win. “It is an incredible result especially when in one race I double up on my mileage for the year. I hope the legs will hold a little longer during the Mohican 100 next month.” Tanguy reflected.

Johnson crossed in 4th and Richards in 5th after both were able to pass Baker on the last bit of single track fixing a flat. Baker, who had hoped for a top-3 after his win at True Grit, had to settle for 5th.

Open Women

Cohutta Open Womens Podium
1st Amanda Carey,
2nd Carla Williams,
3rd Linda Shin,
4th Simona Vincenciova,
5th Danielle Musto
Photo credit SARAKRISTEN.COM

Just as exciting as the men’s race, the top three open women were all within minutes of each other entering the final single track and the last nine miles of the race. Luca Sunscreen rider and NUE veteran Amanda Carey entered the single track first and used her abundant technical skills to enlarge her gap to the finish. “I’ve ridden behind her enough to know her technical riding is really solid.” recalled Rare Disease Cycling rider Roger Masse, referring to the large skill set of the Cohutta Women’s winner. Joe’s Bike Shop rider and up-and-coming star Carla Williams finished 2nd just ahead of a hard charging Linda Shin (Blacksmith Cycle). Hammer Nutrition rider Simona Vincenciova finished 4th and rounding out the top-5 was Grand Rapids Bicycle Company/Salsa rider Danielle Musto.

Single Speed

Cohutta SS Podium
1st Gordon Wadsworth,
2nd Brian Patton,
3rd Daniel Rapp,
4th peat henry,
5th Ernesto Marenchin
Photo credit SARAKRISTEN.COM

2014 NUE Single Speed champion and Blueridge Cyclery Rider Gordon Wadsworth continued his impressive assent in the cycling world by not only easily winning the single speed category, but also being the first rider OVERALL!
Winning an NUE race on a single speed against other elite riders on geared bikes is an impressive feat in NUE endurance racing, a feat that has only been accomplished two other times: once in 2013 by former Rare Disease Cycling rider Gerry Pflug at the Mohican 100 and that same year by legendary Kona Mountain Bike Team rider Barry Wicks when he outsprinted Christian Tanguy and Mike Simonson two years ago at Lumberjack.

Military Endurance rider Brian Patton tipped his hat as to his expected fitness level earlier in the season by finishing 1st overall in the non-elite wave at Monster Cross in Richmond… on his single speed. Patten finished an impressive 2nd place in the SS Cohutta contest. Dan Rapp (Team Noah Foundation) was 3rd, Peat Henry (Team Noah Foundation) 4th, and Pivot Cycles Ernesto Merenchin having to stop for a lengthy chain repair late in the race, rounded out the single speed podium in 5th.

Masters

Coming off an early season win at NUE #1 True Grit Epic, RDC’s Roger Masse etched a solid second place finish heeding the win to incoming Masters class freshman Jeff Clayton (Super Sport Athletic Wear) of Lizella GA. Clayton, who’s earned success as a solo rider in timed lap events in the 8-12 hour range and who has been on the podium for the Cohutta 100 sister event the Big Frog 65, has made a shift into the longer epic loop endurance racing of the NUE with this appearance and win at Cohutta. “I didn’t know who he was or if there were any Masters racers in front of me until the finish” declared Masse of the surprise win of the new arrival. “He’s obviously an experienced rider and this result is probably not a fluke”.

Other than David Jolin (Stark Velo) and 2013 Cohutta Masters winner Mark Drogalis (Toasted Head Racing), Masse was not sure of where the challenges would come. “But I knew they would come. They always do.” said the RDC rider and 2014 NUE Masters Series champion.

Masters podium (from Left): David Jolin 4th, Roger Masse 2nd, Jeff Clayton 1st, Tom Kruse 3rd, and Alan Miner 5th
Masters podium (from Left): David Jolin 4th, Roger Masse 2nd, Jeff Clayton 1st, Tom Kruse 3rd, and Alan Miner 5th
Photo credit SARAKRISTEN.COM

“Despite a solid warm-up the day before the race, I really felt weak at the start and pretty quickly started dropping behind the fairly large front group up the first climb.” recalled Masse. “I latched onto the chasing group for a while but was really hurting, as a result, my position in the single track was not so good.”

Masse settled in and rode tempo through the single track and Aid 1 trying to regroup. Soon Masse found himself riding in a small group that included fellow Masters rider Tom Kruse. The group was passed by Blackwater Bikes rider Daniel McPeake and Masse latched on leaving Kruse behind. “I rode with McPeake through Aid 4 until we encountered Andy Rhodes” said Masse. “They started attacking each other on the climbs and I didn’t want to and really couldn’t match those efforts for long.”

Masse crossed the line at 8:28 and was surprised to find that Super Sport Athletic Wear rider Jeff Clayton had won the category in an impressive 8:11. “Jeff Clayton won fair-and-square. Hat’s off to him. I admit to not knowing who he was until after it was over or that there were any Masters racers in front of me, but that’s the beauty of Masters… new freshman every year can be a surprise. I certainly know who he is now!” said Masse. “Congrats to all racers who were brave enough to show up in challenging conditions and welcome to the Masters incoming class!”

Full results here.

Strong weekend for RDC at US Cup, Singlespeed-A-Palooza, Dirty 40 Rasputitsa, Rattling Enduro, Bakers Dozen

Rare Disease Cycling had another busy and successful weekend slaying international competition at the US Cup in California and taking several wins on the East Coast in events ranging from Single Speed XC to enduro.

Oberman charging on the Bonelli Park US Cup course. Photo: Johnny Mueller / Sho-Air Cycling Group

US Cup Round #3: Bonelli Park

Picking up were he left off, Cole Oberman returned to racing in California with a pair of strong finishes at round 3 of the USA Cycling US Cup. Oberman finished in 24th place in the UCI HC level cross country and 7th in Sunday’s short track event. “I’m happy to continue to have progressively better finishes in such top notch fields. I’ve got a little more work to do between now and the opening World Cups but I’m feel like I’m on track to have a great season”.

Oberman suffers on a steep climb. Photo: Johnny Mueller / Sho-Air Cycling Group

Recapping the weekend Oberman stated, “The XC went great for me. I had a great jump off the line and rode most of the race in the top 15. I slid back a bit on the last lap but it’s a huge confidence booster to be riding in the same group as top World Cup riders. Sunday’s short track was a little disappointing as I was in a position to win and took myself out with a stupid crash. Still, I chased back onto the group and finished 7th in the sprint. So again, it’s a huge confidence booster to know I’m so fit. I’m really looking forward to Sea Otter and The Whiskey Off-Road in the next couple of weeks”.

 

Harding on the top step in her season opener.
 

Singlespeed-A-Palooza

Kathleen Harding kicked off her comeback season with a win at this past weekends Singlespeed-A-Palooza. SSAP held this year in Montgomery, NY is one of the largest and longest running singlespeed mountain bike events in the East Coast. The event is also a fundraiser for the local Heart Strings Charity.

Harding summarizing her weekend, “SSAP is always a fun way to kick off the season. Two of us took off from the start and led the race down the first gravel road. After we got to the woods I pulled away and was able to maintain the lead through the end of the race”. 

Yeager on her way to a gritty victory.
 

Dirty 40 Rasputitsa

Also held on Saturday in East Burke, VT was the Dirty 40 Rasputitsa gravel road race. Team rider Selene Yeager was on hand looking for a new adventure and the top step of the podium.

“I’d been looking forward to this one for months, since I’ve never done it and was looking for new adventure. I certainly found new adventure! Winter hasn’t gotten the memo that spring is here up there! The race, which is 40 miles of mostly “Vermont cobbles” (stuttery dirt roads) and mud also included a 2.8 mile non-winter maintenance road that as advertised, had not been plowed. Welcome to a snowy 5K in the middle of a bike race! I was having a very good day and was in the lead at that point. But I knew Lyne Bessette is an amazing runner with I believe a sub-3 hour marathon, so I knew if I wanted to keep my lead I’d better run! My feet are still battered and blistered, but pulled off a very happy win”.

  

Rattling Enduro

Changing gears from gravel road racing to enduro mountain biking, Selene Yeager made her way down to Lykens, PA for Sunday’s Rattling Enduro. A master of all disciplines, Yeager was able to take her second victory of the weekend.

 “The next day I lined up at Rattling Enduro in Lykens, PA, which included 3 long timed enduro segments. I was still pretty tired, but now the sun was shining and it was pushing 70 degrees and there was no snow! So I was just happy to pedal hard and have fun. Pulled out the win on the day for a really satisfying weekend”.

Leesburg Bakers Dozen Relay

Cheryl Sornson was back in action this past weekend as one third of the winning team known as “Churtle’s Sublime Tillmination”. The team completed 19 laps winning by a margin of over 1 hour.

Sornson described the race as, “13 hours of pure 38 – 42 minute intervals of all out effort.  Putting our strong man (MIKE) out on the starting lap proved to be the key to our lead that we kept all day.  The rest of the day our team consistently put out fast consistent lap times.  Mike and I in the 37-38 range and Jenn hammering a solid 42.  We each did a night lap which slowed a bit, but otherwise we crushed ourselves each lap. By the end we were tired and completely loopy, but the day was beautiful and the crowd was super cool.  A great day in the books for sure”. 

  

Greene County Road Race

Stephanie Swan was also on the podium this past weekend taking the win at the Greene County Road Race. Swan won the women’s division and was also an impressive 8th place overall.


Barry Roubaix 2015

barry icon

Barry-Roubaix, in it’s sixth year, is quickly becoming a spring gravel road race classic. It’s a 100km course, rolling hills, often windy, a few short, hard climbs. The weather is a toss-up: in the four years I’ve done it I’ve seen sheet ice to dry roads, 15 degrees to 60 degrees. This year, it was 20 degrees at the start, warmed up to 30. The roads were dry and the sky was blue, so it felt like ideal racing conditions for a spring event in Michigan.

Returning from a victory in 2014, winning by a two-second margin over MacKenzie Woodring of Foundry Cycling, my goal was clear: to defend my title against multiple-time Barry-Roubaix champion Woodring – and also 2015 Worlds Cyclocross Team Member Crystal Anthony – participating in this race for the first time.

At the beginning of the race, Crystal Anthony rode by with a friendly “hello”. I trust her wheel and know her strength well, having finished behind her twice at the Hilly Billy Roubaix– so I was happy to ride behind her. Riders in our 200+ field vied for position, and crowded me in as a car passed, and I lost her wheel. This lack of assertion cost me.

Shortly thereafter, the pace really got going. After the third roller, our field was strung out double, then single-file. A gap formed about 10 riders ahead, and I hung on to the wheel in front of me. The gap widened, and it was clear: I was on the wrong side of a crucial split.

Riders surge up a dirt hill. Photo credit - Barry Roubaix facebook page.
Riders surge up a dirt hill. Photo credit – Barry Roubaix facebook page.

I found myself in a pack with about 20 riders, including four women: Kae Takeshita, Verdigris-Village CX, Kathryn Cumming, Cyclocross Magazine, Vicki Munnings, WAS Labs Cycling, and Victoria Steen, Lady Gnar Shredders. Victoria was quite active in the front of the pack, with Kae lingering in the middle. Kathryn and I were riding toward the back, and although we didn’t know each other, we quickly became race “co-conspirators” – discussing the pace and the other women in our pack, and who might be ahead of us. We estimated at least two riders – Crystal and McKenzie – were up the road.

The pack hummed along at a good clip when we turned into Sager Road, about 20 miles into the race. Sager is a rutted four-wheeler road with a few small rocks and some sand in sections. There was also a sink hole with ice on it. I passed Kae early on, after encouraging her to push through up a riser. That was the last I saw of her in the race. There were three crashes on the uneven road, which I did not get caught in.  However, many riders hesitated to pedal through the lumps and bumps, simply coasting. I encouraged them to pedal, “Pedal”! What I should have done was find a way to ride through them. When I got to the end of Sager, the strongest members of the pack were about 10 bike lengths up the road. I put my head down and chased, which was a bad decision, because some stragglers had reassembled, were chasing hard, and I was so gassed out by the time they passed me that they rode me off their wheels.

Sager Road at Barry Roubaix, courtesy of their facebook page.
Sager Road at Barry Roubaix, courtesy of their facebook page.

I spent the next five miles chasing that group into the wind. The pack in my sights, I simply could not bridge – despite numerous full-out sprints (and recoveries).  In a lucky twist, the pack was slowed down behind a few cars at a left hand turn, and I was finally able to latch back on. I was hoping to be the only woman to make it this far with the group, but I found Victoria and Kathryn mixed into the pack after I caught on.

The rest of the race was relatively uneventful. Victoria got dropped at an uphill feed zone. A mystery woman who was further up the road from our pack (and who would have finished 3rd or 4th) got a flat – Kathryn and I passed her as she repaired it. Kathryn fell off our group about 10 miles from the finish, and I rode over the finish line with the pack, finishing fourth behind MacKenzie, Anthony, and Kelli Richter (PSIMET Racing) who was, unbeknownst to me, three minutes ahead.

The podium, and me in 4th. Photo credit to Crystal Anthony.
The podium, and me in 4th. Photo credit to Crystal Anthony.

Fourth – I was hoping for top three, but an (extended) podium finish is still gratifying. More importantly, this race has set that fire in me to be more assertive, even aggressive. A little hesitation at the beginning of the race can cost all. Sometimes I need a race like this to remind me how important that is. My next race is Amish Country Roubaix in Ohio – and I just might play the start a little differently.

One highlight of the event, unrelated to cycling, is that promoter Rick Plite asked me to come on stage after awards and sing a song with the band. How so? Over the course of the last year, I’ve been posting to youtube and facebook silly videos of myself singing. I’ve also done some more formal recordings with family friend Richard Franklin, who is a concert guitarist. My postings must have set the idea in Rick’s head to have me sing, and I was thrilled! In the midst of the training and racing, it’s easy to let other hobbies fall by the wayside. Here I was combining two things I love to do.

Singing on the stage at the after-party.
Singing on the stage at the after-party.

I chose “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, popularized by Mama Cass – because I’ve been singing that song since childhood and I knew that regardless what state I was in after a 60 mile race, I’d remember the words.  It wasn’t a perfect rendition, but I must give the band, Sweet Japonic, great credit for a superb accompaniment – considering we had not practiced once together. So in that regard, despite a race that didn’t quite go my way – the event did, pardon the pun, end on a good note.

Special thank you to promoter Rick Plite, all the volunteers and timers, the town of Hastings and surrounding areas for their warm welcome. Hearty congratulations to all finishers and especially those who made it on the podium. I can’t wait to see what weather holds for Barry 2016!

Swan 4th at Michigan’s Barry Roubaix

Rare Disease Cycling rider Stephanie Swan rides to a 4th place finish at Michigan’s “Killer Gravel Road Race”.

BarryRoubaixLogo

March 28, 2015. Hastings, MI. With nearly 3000 entrants for 2015, the Barry Roubaix is described by promotor Rick Plight as: “The largest gravel road race in the world”. Like the classic it’s named after, Barry-Roubaix tests riders against 80% rolling ravel roads, pavement, rocks, sand, mud, and a mile of rough double track. This early season event, marks the start of the racing season in Michigan, where snow and ice on the course are not uncommon at this time of year.

There are three race distances to challenge riders of all abilities. The 24 mile “chiller” has 1200 feet of climbing. The 36 mile “thriller” climbs 2200 feet. But the marquis event and the most challenging is the “killer” 62 mile course with 3600 feet of climbing.

RDC's Stephanie Swan (left) celebrates with the open women
RDC’s Stephanie Swan (left) celebrates with the open women

This race is fast. A successful racer must be able to navigate fast cornering on loose surface and be at or near threshold the entire race. The cutoff for racers reaching the 2nd aid station at mile 42 requires an average speed of nearly 15mph! The leaders will average considerably more.

Last year’s open women’s winner and Rare Disease Cycling rider Stephanie Swan returned to defend her 2014 title against multiple-time Barry-Roubaix champion McKenzie Woodring (Foundry Cycling), and 2015 USA World Cyclocross Team member Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing). Fresh off her win just four weeks ago at Monster Cross, Stephanie was ready to test her mettle against a larger field and more seasoned competitors.

The podium with Stephanie Swan in 4th. Photo credit to Crystal Anthony.
The open women’s podium with Swan (left) in 4th. Photo credit to Crystal Anthony.

The 200 rider combined women’s, Masters 40+, and single speed field started fast and quickly strung out into single file. Swan found herself on the wrong side of a crucial separation early on. “After the third roller, our field was strung out double, then single-file. A gap formed about 10 riders ahead, and I hung on to the wheel in front of me. The gap widened, and it was clear: I was on the wrong side of a crucial split.” said Swan about the early selection. “McKenzie, Crystal, and Kelli (Richter) were on the other side of the gap.” remembered Swan. In the end all three women that made the lead group crossed the line in separate splinter groups off the original lead pack, but the early speed differences in speed between the lead and chase groups created an early time gap that would not be overcome.

Swan chased hard, but as a member of the chasing group, she had to work harder than she’d hoped in the early portions of the contest. In the end, Swan earned 4th place, behind winner Woodring, 2nd place finisher Anthony, and just 3 minutes behind 3rd place finisher and Chicago Series Cyclocross favorite Kelli Richter (PSIMET Racing). 5th place went to Kae Takeshita (Verdigris-Village CX).

With her 4th place at Barry Roubaix and her win at Monster Cross, Stephanie Swan is off to a strong early season start with two UltraCross podium appearances in a month.

RDC continues successful US Cup campaign at the Fontana City National!

Oberman on the podium again at the Fontana City National US CUP.
Oberman on the podium again at the Fontana City National US CUP.

Rare Disease Cycling continued it’s successful start to the season with another podium finish in the short track cross country at the Fontana City National, round 2 of the USA Cycling US Cup presented by Sho Air Cycling Group. Sunday’s short track brought a close to a weekend that saw solid finishes for both Sornson and Oberman in the UCI HC cross country event on Saturday.

Oberman on the technical xc descent at Fontana. [Photo: Phillip Beckman / PBCreative.com]
Oberman on the technical xc descent at Fontana.
[Photo: Phillip Beckman / PBCreative.com]
Elite Men

Oberman again finished out the weekend with a podium finish in Sunday’s short track race. “It was great to prove that my success last weekend wasn’t a fluke. I had a solid start but the more technical course at Fontana caused a bunch of crashes early on in the short track. I got caught behind a couple of these and it was a lot of work to get back towards the sharp end of the race. In the end I made up enough ground to find myself on the podium again”.

Jumping from 10th position to 5th in the closing laps of the race, Oberman eventually led out and out sprinted current USA short track national champion Stephen Ettinger (Sho-Air). ” Going into the last lap, I attacked our group and led it out into the finish straight. I just stayed on it full gas and in the end it was enough. I’m totally stoked to make the podium 2 weeks in a row. Definitely in good company!”.

Saturday’s UCI HC cross country event also went well for Oberman. He finished 28th overall, 7th among the Americans in a truly international, world cup caliber field. “The start at Fontana is always a struggle, the ground is loose and immediately off the line there are a series of tight turns. There’s just no way to move up and you inevitably lose some time on the leaders as things sort out, especially starting on the 7th row”.

Still Oberman rode a steady race, working with other riders to try to get to the front. “The course at Fontana really suits me, its technical and also has a single, long climb on the course. I rode the first couple of laps with a couple of the other Americans, Spencer Paxson (Kona) and Mitch Hoke (The Pro’s Closet), we made some good progress together but eventually I was just rolling a little better on the climb and ended up by myself. I tried to stay on pace for the final 3 laps and made up a few more positions. I know I can do better than 28th but it’s only my 2nd xc race of the year and I’m super happy to see some solid improvement over last week”.

 

Elite Women

 

Sornson on her way to a top-20 finish among the world class women's field. [Photo: Kenny Wehn/Stan's No Tubes]
Sornson on her way to a top-20 finish among the world class women’s field.
[Photo: Kenny Wehn/Stan’s No Tubes]
Cheryl Sornson continued to have a stellar opening to her season by placing 20th in the women’s UCI HC cross country event. Sornson drew on her endurance background to ride a consistent race, finishing strong and reeling in competitors until the last lap. Following an equally impressive result at last weeks race in Bonelli, Sornson now finds herself sitting 15th place overall in USAC US Cup series. Not to bad for someone that claims she, “only went to California to get in some good training”!

Sornson also raced the short track on Sunday. Again working the race into the middle of a larger workout, she battled back form a rough start to finish with the lead group in 13th place.

 

US Cup action continues on April 12th with round #3, live from Bonelli Park in San Dimas, CA.

Oberman anchors Bonelli Park US Cup weekend with Short Track podium.


Cole Oberman finished out a weekend of solid performances by RDC with a huge 2nd place finish in Sunday’s short track cross country event at the USAC US Cup series opener in San Dimas, California. With 22 nations represented, Rare Disease Cycling riders proved yet again that they are capable of performing at a top international level. 

 Elite Men 

 “Coming into this weekend I knew I was on some killer form”, said Oberman after Sunday’s short track cross country event. “I finished 29th in the the cross country on Saturday and given the quality of the field it’s not terrible but I was shooting for a much better finish. In the end I think this gave me a little more motivation to lay it out there in the short track”.  

Oberman bid his time riding mid pack for the first half of the highly tactical race waiting for the ideal moment to launch an attack. “They called the preme lap late in the race and so I knew this was the perfect opportunity to go for it. As soon as everyone sat up after the preme sprint I launched it off the front. I bridged up to Sergio Mantecon (Trek Factory) and we just drilled it together for the next 4-5 laps. He (Mantecon) jumped with one to go and opened a little gap on me. I was dying in the last couple of corners and just barely held off Todd Wells (Specialized)”.

 ” I would have loved to have won but in the end I’m so stoked to take 2nd in front of such a high quality field. For me it was really a confirmation that I belong at this level and that all the hardwork I did with my coaches Jeremiah Bishop and Mike Shultz is paying off”. 

 Elite Women 

Sornson on course at Bonelli. photo: Kenny Wehn

 Cheryl Sornson kicked the weekend off for RDC with a solid 16th place finish in a women’s Cross Country field that contained Olympic medalists and the current XC world champion. Even more impressive is that the Bonelli Park US Cup race was Sornson’s season debute, having had no oppertunities for tune-up races due to a particularly harsh winter on the East coast. 

 “Being in straight up winter on the east coast, it was a shock to the system in many ways to come out here. It was first race of the season for me and LA was experiencing a record high heat wave for this time of year”. 

However, Sornson adapted quickly, “I stuck it out for a 16th place finish.  I am super happy with that result among such a talented and big field of women”.  

Sornson also competed in Sundays short track event (placing 20th), using it as part of a larger workout as she builds fitness for the Kenda Cup East series which opens later this spring. “Being that I am escaping PA weather and using this week as a training week, I jumped into the short track race mid training ride and threw down as best as I could.  Not sure how that race ended up, but it felt good to bust out my lungs, heart and legs!”. 

Cheryl and Cole will be back in action next weekend for round #2 of the US Cup in Fontana, California.

RDC opens 2015 NUE Series with a Win

Roger Masse triumphant in Masters race.

March 14, 2015, Santa Clara, Utah. The 2015 National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series began it’s seven month, thirteen race journey across two countries with the True Grit Epic in the desert of south western Utah. By the series finals at the September Fools Gold in Georga, the series will crown four champions for this grueling 100-mile mountain bike race format: Men’s and Women’s open, Single Speed, and Masters. TrueGritLogo600x158 With six east-coast and six west-coast events, the 2015 series has more balance rather than the slight east-coast bias that has been present in recent years. New for 2015 is the first ever non-US NUE event: the Ricon Challenge in Costa Rica. Racers are scored on their best four finishes with all ties being broken at the final race.

True Grit is a difficult race by many measures. The terrain is technical and challenging. There is roughly 12 thousand feet of climbing. The race date is early spring when many northern racers are still digging out from winter. The weather is hot and there are no trees for shelter on the 88 mile course.

Rare Disease Cycling rider and 2014 NUE Masters Series champion Roger Masse began his 2015 endurance campaign with a bang, taking the win over California rider Greg Golet (Team Chico) and third place rider David Jolin (Stark Velo) in the Masters race.

True Grit Masters Podium with (from left) John Lauck, Greg Golet, Roger Masse, and David Jolin
True Grit Masters Podium with (from left) John Lauck, Greg Golet, Roger Masse, and David Jolin

Golet started strong, dropping Masse on the early climbing of lap one of the two lap race. “I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or lack of a full recovery from my last weekend’s race at Monster Cross, but I felt like I wasn’t really running on all cylinders.” said Masse about his early efforts. “(Sonya) Looney and (Gordon) Wadsworth were setting a brisk pace for the second wave start that I could not match for very long.”

Masse soon fell victim also to fellow Masters competitor Greg Golet who rode strong during the early climbing. “I watched Greg slowly disappear off the front for what seemed like an eternity.” recalled Masse about the initial Masters class ordering. “I ended up settling in, riding first in front of then behind the 2nd place women Amanda Carey, who was riding the techie sections with the confidence of a local.” said Masse about his first trip through the more technical parts of the course.

“I didn’t see Greg again till just before the beginning of the Barrel Rolls section near the end of the first lap.” remembered Masse. “He was riding pretty slowly so I just rode on by and managed a decent gap and pushed it further through the features till he was out of sight.”

But the drama was not over. As Masse settled in for the 2nd lap climbing with a couple of open guys, the more relaxed pace allowed Golet to catch back on. He wasn’t going away without a fight. “As he went by I grabbed his wheel and we rode together for the tail end of the early climbing.” remembered Masse about the catch. “It was harder than I wanted to go at that point, but I couldn’t let him go again.”

Golet and Masse were still together near the start of the most technical part of the course on lap 2. “I attacked him at the start of Barrel Ride trail and using my newly acquired local-line knowledge from riding with Amanda on the first lap, I rode the big Waterfall drops and got a decent gap.” said Masse. “I kept the pressure on by riding a clean and faster pass of the Zen loop and with that, the final lead with a winning gap was mine.”

Masse picked up his last feed in the Checkpoint at the bottom of Zen where he caught single speed rider Dan Rapp. “Dan and I rode together for most of the rest of the race.” said Masse. “We must have passed (eventual Women’s winner) Sonya Looney in the feed. We were both surprised when she came by us at mile 65 with authority.”

Despite a big fade in the final 15 miles, Masse was able to hang onto the lead for the Masters win.

Post race DirtWire.tv interview with Roger Masse
Post race DirtWire.tv interview with Roger Masse
Dirtwire.tv highlights of the 2015 True Grit Epic
Dirtwire.tv highlights of the 2015 True Grit Epic

Full results here.

Full DirtWire.tv post-race coverage here.

Monster Cross 2015

logoAfter being postponed from the original race date of February 22, due to ice and snow on the course, the re-scheduled Monster Cross gravel/dirt road race took place on March 8, 2015, at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, VA. After a winter of heavy snow and cold temperatures, we were greeting with a warm, sunny day of around 60 degrees. This 50-mile race consisted of two loops on rolling dirt roads – and I’ve been told it’s a fast course – however the road surfaces were water-logged, with a sticky kind of mud that slowed everyone down.

 The men’s and women’s elite group started as one, and we swooped together through the asphalt turns leading to the first trail. Once on the trail, the women riders fell off the elite men’s pace one by one. Teammate Selene Yeager held on to the lead group the longest. I trailed behind in second and Erin Silliman-Wittwer was close behind in 3rd.  I sat up a bit to ride with Erin. What I had in mind was to trade pace and ride with her, but it was my best to sit on her wheel. After a few miles, I fell off her tempo, so I resigned myself to riding a smart race within my limits, and focused on not falling back any further.

 Soon, the single speed men (who, with the rest of the competitors, had a staggered start), came whizzing past me. My heart sunk as I could not hold their pace for very long. Small groups passed me, I stuck with them for a while, got dropped, and finally settled in with a nice group of about seven riders on mountain and cyclocross bikes. (I was riding my Specialized Carve with a rigid fork.) We stayed together until the finish of the first loop, at which point the group dispersed, with some of the riders stopping at team tents.

The gently winding trails of Pocahontas State Park, Chesterfield, VA.
The gently winding trails of Pocahontas State Park, Chesterfield, VA.

 I headed into the second loop with a rider who looked smooth and set a nice pace – so I followed his lines and appreciated having someone to ride with. After a few miles, I told him he had a very smooth pedaling style and after chatting a bit, he admitted that he was a multiple time national cyclocross champion Fred Wittwer. He was also Erin’s father-in-law. I told him that Erin was in second place.

 And speaking of Erin – at about that point in our conversation, we both spotted Erin up the road! We inched our way closer to her and caught her around 15 miles from the finish, where she stopped briefly at a water station. Fred called out and asked how she was, and from her unenthusiastic reply, it sounded like I might have a chance of getting away and maintaining my lead. On the other hand, I feared that Fred would sit up and pace her to the finish line – as any good Father-in-law would do – so I quickened my pace and tried to get a nice gap.

 And then who should come along but Paul Mica. Paul is a road racer from Alexandria with DC Velo who carpooled to the race with Roger Masse; I had met Paul at the starting line. Mica had the misfortune of breaking a chain four miles into the race, so after repairing his chain (which is not a quick repair), he had decided to just “ride it in”. As Paul rode by, I did my best to match his pace, and in doing so, maintained my time gap on Erin. Paul’s cooperative attitude and riding really boosted my spirits.

 When I crossed the line, I figured I was in second place and was very happy with this result – for my first race of the year. To my dismay, I soon found out that my teammate Selene, who had been leading, had gone off course and did not finish. So – that put me in first place: I had won Monster Cross!

 After the race, I returned to my car, got changed into some street-clothes, and headed back to the finish line, where Lee’s Famous Chicken and Strips was catering the event and the Friends of Pocahontas State Park were serving Center of the Universe beer. First things first – I went to find my Monster Cross pint glass provided to all participants. I went up to the first cyclist I saw who had a beer glass, and asked him where he got the glass. He replied -those men over there by the boxes are handing out the glasses, but they are only for the athletes. I said, “I’m an athlete!” He told me that since I’m an athlete, maybe they’d sell me one….

 And that is the lucky story of my 2015 Monster Cross!

Congratulations to teammates Cole Oberman and Roger Masse on their successes this weekend! Special thank yous to race promoter Mark Junkerman who endured the whims of mother nature and prevailed to finally hold the race, and to the most-hospitable Ann Hardy and Chip Atkins for hosting our group of four Pittsburgh racers for the weekend.

Women's Elite Podium
Women’s Elite Podium
My Monster Cross medal.
My Monster Cross medal.

Single at Monster Cross

MonsterCrossStartMark Junkerman and the folks from run-ride-race supported by Groundforce IT do an incredible job with this early event. Held in Pocahontas State Park just south of Richmond, the 48 mile Monster loop is where the action is at. Not really a mountain bike race nor really a cross race, Monster Cross walks that fine line of UltraCross the long distance moderately techie, mostly-dirt-or-gravel fast paced brand of racing. The timing for this race makes it the first competition of the year for me and an opportunity to test out early season fitness. I signed up for the Single Speed mountain bike category, cause I love racing the Single Speed and most of the rest of the year I’m racing a geared mountain bike AND I have an awesome Specialized Carbon Stumpjumper Single Speed with a Chisel rigid fork that weighs 17 pounds that is perfect for UltraCross.

I raced the Single Speed Mountain Bike category at the 2014 Monster Cross and was very fortunate to win against the 2014 National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) Single Speed champion and arguably the best endurance single speeder in the country, Gordon Wadsworth. How, you might ask is that possible? Well, at last year’s event, only minutes into the race Gordon’s furious pace had force an elite selection that I did not make. But as luck would have it, he suffered a chain tensioning problem that forced him off the bike for a lengthy repair. Gordon chased valiantly after the repair catching the entire single speed field except for yours truly.

I’m certain Gordon is waiting for the right moment to exact his revenge and I thought the 2015 edition would be the place… but a conflict with the new rescheduled date kept him away.

My job was not going to be much easier as also entered in Single Speed mountain bike was Toasted Head Racing’s Mike Montalbano, who has won both the Mohican 100 and the Shenandoah Mountain 100 on single speed… but he too sat out this year’s Monster Cross with a conflict.

So with two of the best single speeders in the country not in attendance, the door was open. I drove down to Richmond from DC with my frequent winter training buddy, DC Velo rider Paul Mica. Paul is super-strong and has great mountain bike skills. With a solid ride, he could be on the podium in the pro-elite category in which he was entered.

MonsterCrossSSMTBPodium2
I lined up right at the front of the huge 2nd wave for the start. Bang! Two minutes after the pros, we were off. As soon as the pace vehicle waved us on, a 10-20 rider front group quickly formed. Within 10 minutes it was down to about 8 riders that included single speeders Igor “Piki” Danko and Brian Patton. Both were riding very strong.

We soon caught and passed my Rare Disease Cycling and eventual pro women’s winner Stephanie Swan who was digging deep… but she was not in the lead at that point. I got gapped once on the first lap due to Brian’s strong effort up the long soft climb on the southern loop section but was able to close it back down on the descent. By now the group was 4 or 5.

Soon after we passed eventual 2nd place pro women’s finisher Erin Wittwer and finally we caught up with last year’s pro women’s winner and my RDC teammate Selene Yeager who was able to latch on our group and ride with us for half a lap or so. Selene later got off course and was forced to abandon. Bummer!

By the second lap, Piki finally started to appear tired and was dangling off the back. Finally! Brian smelled blood and upped the pace and Piki was dropped. This time I was sure to stay with him. By the time we got to the southern section again for the 2nd lap, it was just Brian and I (two single speeders) leading the non-pro wave. Wow! We got held up at the road crossing by police due to car traffic and a 3rd rider (eventual Mens CX winner) David Sellars was able to catch us. I got caught between David and Brian when we were allowed to proceed and David allowed a gap to open up… Brian astutely noticed and promptly drilled it. He was taking his shot. By the time I got around David, Brian had a solid lead. I chased but could not catch the now leader of the non-pro wave and ultimately had to settle for 2nd overall in the non-pro wave by 30 seconds, but because Brian was on a cross bike, I was able to capture the win in the Single Speed MTB category again!

Unfortunately for Paul, an early snapped chain and the subsequent lengthy repair took him out of contention. Next time my friend.

But the race of the day was the sprint finish between my RDC teammate Cole Oberman and legendary Pro Mountain Biker and Topeak/Ergon rider Jeremiah Bishop where Cole missed the win by the width of a MTB tire 😮 Well done sir!

I’m super pleased with my result and even more with my early season fitness.

Next up, the NUE opener True Grit in Utah next weekend!

Full results here.

Rare Disease Cycling kicks things off at Monster Cross 2015!

 

11050738_10102718128206223_1377283481725740420_n (1)Swan wins pro women. Oberman second in pro men’s sprint finish. Masse wins single speed.

Team RDC kicked off the race season in Richmond, Virginia at Monster Cross 2015. The traditional East Coast opener, Monster Cross is a fast, technical and tactical race that tests not only riders fitness but also their mental sharpness. After 50 miles of sandy fire-roads made muddy by a wet winter, it was clear that the team has been putting in the hard work over the last few months. RDC had an impressive first performance of the year with Stephanie Swan and Roger Masse taking the win in their respective categories and Cole Oberman narrowly missing the victory in the pro mens field.

Womens Pro/Open

With a combined womens and mens elite field making for a chaotic start, Stephanie Swan found herself riding in 3rd position early on (trailing Erin Silliman-Wittwer and RDC teammate Selene Yeagar). “About 10 miles in, I found a nice, small group to work with, and finished the first lap with them. Going into the second lap, my group dispersed and I found a lone rider to pace with: coincidentally – Erin’s father-in-law, Fred Wittwer. We rode together for about five miles. Eventually we came upon Erin at 15 miles to go”.

Swan takes the win!
Swan takes the win!

Taking advantage of Silliman-Wittwer’s decision to pit at in the closing miles of the race, Swan pushed on. “I crossed the line about five minutes ahead of Erin for what I thought was second place”. Unfortunately RDC’s Selene Yeager, who had ridden the entire race with a commanding lead, veered off-course during the second half of the race and was eventually being forced to abandon. This left the victory in the hands of teammate Swan who was happy to kick off the year on a high note. “I’m very happy to start the season with this result, and look forward to the rest of 2015!”

Men’s Pro/Open

Oberman takes a close second at Monster Cross 2015.
Oberman takes a close second at Monster Cross 2015.

In what Monster Cross race director Mark Junkermann described as “the closest finish ever”, RDC cross country racer Cole Oberman took 2nd place behind East Coast legend, Jeremiah Bishop (Topeak-Ergon). “In the end I think I just waited a second to long to start my sprint. I think he got me by about a tire width”. To get to that point Oberman had stayed active throughout the race making sure to stay in the front group.

“I forced what ended up being the decisive move with about 10miles to go”. Taking advantage of his familiarity with wet east coast conditions, Oberman “(I) attacked in a particularly muddy/sloppy sector of the course. I had noticed on the first lap that the group really split up through this section and figured that it would be the best place to get some separation “.

In the end only Bishop was able to match Oberman’s pace. After repeated attacks from each rider in the closing miles, the race came down to a thrilling sprint finish with Oberman missing out by the smallest of margins. “I would have loved to have taken the win but I’ve got absolutely no shame in losing to a legend like JB. Most importantly I’ve confirmed that all the hard work I’ve put in over the last 4 months has paid off and that I’m heading into the big US Cup XC races in California with some really solid fitness”.

Single Speed

MaSSe takes the single speed victory.
MaSSe takes the single speed victory.

NUE Masters ace Roger Masse rounded out a solid opening weekend for Rare Disease Cycling by taking the win in the Single Speed Mountain Bike category. Starting in the massive 2nd wave Masse put an early focus on the crucial task of making the front group. “As soon as the pace vehicle waved us on, a 10-20 rider front group quickly formed. Within 10 minutes it was down to about 8 riders that included fellow single speeders Piki Danko and Brian Patton”.

After helping to force a brisk pace the group dwindled even further by the second half of the race. “By the time we got to the southern section again for the 2nd lap, it was just Brian and I (two single speeders) leading the non-pro wave”. Despite being held up by traffic at a road crossing, Masse managed to hang on, taking the win the the Single Speed MTB category and finished up 2nd overall in the non-pro wave.

“I’m super pleased with the result and my early season fitness” said Masse as he prepares to head to Utah for the True Grit Epic, this years NUE series opener.

Full results here.
 

Rare Disease Cycling powers into its 6th season!

Cole Oberman finishing out a top-10 at USA MTB Nationals.
Cole Oberman finishing out a top-10 ride at USA Nationals.

Rare Disease Cycling (formerly Team CF) powers into its 6th season with a more focused squad of elite racers and an even stronger resolve to continue the fight against rare genetic diseases. RDC is aimed at raising awareness and ultimately research funds to combat the spectrum of rare genetic diseases including cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia and more.

The East Coast based American team relies heavily on the results of its racers to further its mission and has been a dominant force in nearly every discipline of off-road cycling. Throughout its five-year history, RDC has taken hundreds of elite podium spots, most notably winning the National Ultra Endurance Series eight times, the Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race on three occasions and the Brasil Ride Stage Race in 2013.

Selene Yeager at the finish of the 2014 Shenandoah 100 NUE.

For 2015, the squad has been pared down to eight elite riders who will tackle one of the busiest and most diverse race schedules in North America. “Our aim is to put riders on the podium every single weekend throughout the season” says Cole Oberman, Team Manager and XC rider. Oberman will be joined by returning team members Cheryl Sornson, Nikki Thiemann and Kathleen Harding to take on the USA Cycling US Cup and ProXCT calendars, Mountain Bike National Championships, and the North American UCI Cyclocross calendar amongst a slew of one day events.

Christian Tanguy returns to a full race schedule for 2015!
Christian Tanguy returns to a full race schedule for 2015!

On the endurance side, former NUE series champion Christian Tanguy will be captaining the veteran RDC squad. Tanguy, who will target an overall series victory again in 2015 is joined by masters NUE champion Roger Masse, Ultra CX specialist Stephanie Swan and endurance racing expert Selene Yeager. Beyond the NUE series, the endurance team will tackle everything from mountain bike stage races to gravel road races and fat bike marathons.

“A crucial component of Rare Disease Cycling’s success is the team’s ability to not just raise awareness but significant money for research”, says team director and founder Dr. James Wilson. “The primary way in which we do this is through the Million Dollar Bike Ride (MDBR), in which RDC partners with existing advocacy/research groups and helps each group to raise money. These funds are in turn distributed directly into research grants aimed at finding a cure or treatment options for a variety of rare genetic diseases.” The MDBR, held in Philadelphia, PA was an overwhelming success in 2014 raising over $1.4m. The ride will be returning in 2015 with plans to expand to additional cities in 2016.

The official RDC kit. Made by DNA Cycling for the 2015 season.
The official 2015 RDC kit, made by DNA Cycling.

For 2015, Rare Disease Cycling continues on with long-time bicycle and component sponsor, Specialized. The team will ride the brands top-shelf S-Works bicycles as well as Specialized components and accessories. Also continuing with team is custom clothing supplier DNA Cycling and Philadelphia area bike shop and logistical sponsor Bicycle Therapy.

New to the program for this season are ESI Grips and GU Energy Labs. “GU Energy Labs is a company of athletes who apply heart and science to create a complete system of nutritional products to help athletes hydrate, energize, and recover,” says GU Marketing Manager Yuri Hauswald. “We are proud to be the Official Nutrition Supplier for Rare Disease Cycling, helping their athletes to not only succeed on race day but to further a vital charitable mission.”

Third Time’s the Charm

NikkiCXNatsI’ve had a goal for winning the Masters Race at Cyclocross nationals ever since I finished on the podium in 2010. After finishing third last year, I came into this season focused on winning this year. While the juggling act of 1.5 jobs, two kids, and training has proved difficult this season, thanks to coach Ben Ollett, I was able to get in some top quality training in preparation for the North Carolina Grand Prix and then again in preparation for Nationals. I knew after two solid results at the NCGP that I was in good form, and that if I could keep it together and stay healthy, I could make a run at the top step in Austin.

When I awoke on race morning, it was misting and a balmy 38 degrees. We headed to the course and I picked my lines on a course that was slightly damp but not super muddy. Full of nerves, I headed to the line focused on one thing – getting myself across the finish line before everyone else. NikkiCXNatsCloseup1024x1024My plan was to ride a conservative first lap and gauge what was happening and then attack at the barriers. To my surprise, we were informed they’d shortened the course and removed the barriers, just before we were staged. The whistle blew and I clearly had a lot of adrenaline, as I got the hole-shot and established a small gap. We hit the off camber section, and none of the lines I’d ridden during my pre ride worked, since the course was muddier. I found myself dismounting and running sections I’d had no trouble riding earlier. I panicked momentarily as we headed for the first set of steps. I still had a gap. I pounded up each set of steps as fast as I could. I love to run so I decided to use the steps as a place to attack. NikkiCXNatsFinish I came through the start finish with a gap of about 8 seconds and feeling strong. I rode the second lap with more composure than the first, attacking the straights, finding better lines on the off-camber areas, and sprinting up each set of steps. I came through the finish and saw three to go, still feeling good. I started to wonder if this dream I’ve had was going to become a reality. I headed into the third lap still feeling good, again riding the off camber sections even better than the last lap. As I went past the pit, they yelled that I had a 15 second gap – “No mistakes , keep it together, “ I thought. As I headed into the off-camber hill just before the last descent before the finish, my bike slid out, and I crashed. As fast as I could get up, my gap decreased, and as we headed into 2 to go, the gap was down to 8 seconds. I panicked, got angry, and dropped the hammer. I focused on riding smoothly, on crushing the steps, and staying focused. As we headed into the final lap, I could see I’d increased the gap to around 15 seconds again. I thought, “9 more minutes of suffering and this is yours.” As I headed past the pits for the second time, I could see my gap was bigger, and knew I just had to ride smooth and I’d have the win. I came through the last off-camber section elated, and smiling. All I had to do was make it down the hill, and onto the pavement. Evidentally when I crossed the finish line, I gave the best post-up of the day… I was elated to capture the win, and incredibly excited to have my wife and sons there to be a part of it. The smile on my face sums up the sheer joy I felt as I finished.

Nikki Thiemann exults after crossing the line for the win in the Women's 35-39 category at USAC CX Nationals - Photo © Cyclocross Magazine
Nikki Thiemann exults after crossing the line for the win in the Women’s 35-39 category at USAC CX Nationals – Photo © Cyclocross Magazine

As I look back on the race now… I still can’t stop smiling. I feel incredibly honored to be a part of the Philly cycling community, and am so thankful for all of the texts, posts, and calls I’ve gotten… it’s left me blushing! While I’m looking forward to a little time off the bike and some quality time with my family, I’m already looking forward to next season and to setting some big goals for mountain bike season!
NikkiCXNatsPodium
Thanks go out to Cyclocross Magazine, a publication worth subscribing to, for the finish line photo – Nikki will be in the next issue.

End of the Season Update / 2015 Announcements

It’s been a long while since I’ve made an update and there’s lots to catch up on/announce! 2014 was by far the best season of my career. I took my first professional win by sticking a  solo move on stage 5 of the Transylvania Epic, I stood on my first ProXCT podium at the Catamount Classic and finished inside the top-10 at USA Pro XC National Championships.

 Transylvania Epic
Tussey Ridge – TSE Stage 6
Before I get into the late season recap there are a few things that I’ve been itching to make public! Firstly, I am extremely excited to announce that I will be working Jeremiah Bishop and Mike Shultz as my coaches/trainers for the 2015 season and beyond. Over the course of the Transylvania Epic I had the opportunity to get to know Jeremiah and I was immediately impressed with his scientific approach to training and blue collar work ethic. 

Mike brings to the table not only a second mind but a fantastic focus on MTB specific strength training and athletic conditioning. I’ve set some ambitious goals for my cycling career and being fortunate enough to have the support and insight of Jeremiah and Mike gives me the confidence to go after those goals with a hammer!
2014 gave me a taste of success on the national level, and I am aiming to be a consistent domestic podium threat in 2015. In addition, I am equal parts excited, nervous, and proud to announce that I am going to make a run at both the USA National Team for the 2015 XC World Championships as well as the 2016 Olympic Long Team. 
In order to make it happen I’m going to have to prove a lot in a very short amount of time. I’ll give it everything I’ve got and whether I make it or not, 2015 is going to be a wild ride!

USAC MTB National Championships

Now, to quickly recap the fall! After the summer mountain bike season wrapped up I switched into CX gear. I spent a good chunk of the early fall playing in the mud and standing on the podium. I was lucky enough to win two rounds of the MAC series as well as the PA State CX Championships.

CX Season in 10 Seconds

I ended the 2014 race season with an epic road trip to the Iceman Cometh MTB race in Traverse City, Michigan. While poor positioning and being caught behind early crashes meant I just missed the lead group, I managed to finish out my season with a solid 12th place finish at the largest mountain bike race in North America. Iceman was a muddy and wild good way to close out the calendar, I’m hoping to make it a tradition in the years to come!

Mudman Cometh?
After Iceman I finally gave myself a well deserved break from training/racing. Beer drinking, show going, donut eating and late night hangouts ensued. Rejuvenated, refreshed and somewhat repulsed my off-season dietary choices, I’ve since resumed training (harder than ever). Things officially kicked off last week with an awesome training camp at Raw Talent Ranch in WV. A short recap on that to come soon!

Pura Vida – Masse Wins at La Ruta

laruta st2e

Anyone you talk to about endurance mountain bike racing can tell you it’s hard. Racing for 4+ hours is tough. Doing it in the mountains boosts the challenge even higher. Mix in technical terrain and you can walk away from a race not just physically tired, but mentally smashed. The beauty is in it’s very grueling nature. But, while it is a difficult sport, most endurance racers would  reserve the strongest language for only a handful of races on the planet. One of those few is La Ruta, a race that has earned the title of the Hardest Mountain Bike Race in the World: La Ruta de Los Conquistadores.

The setting is Costa Rica and the course stretches across the whole country. The director spares no one in their design of this insanely tough 3 day stage race in the heart of the country. Rain forests, a volcano, mud bogs, bustling towns, multi-hour climbs, and even a few old and sketchy railroad bridges to make sure your fear is in check. La Ruta isn’t a part of the endurance mountain bike category of racing, it stands alone as its own genre. At 181 miles and over 25,000 feet of climbing in 3 days, it’s no wonder it draws international talent as one of the last races of the season.

 

laruta st1Representing Rare Disease Cycling at this year’s edition was none other than the 2014 NUE Masters Champion, Roger Masse. Having had a near perfect season with 5 wins and trips to the podium for every other race entered, Masse was hungry for the podium to continue the streak and end the year on a high note.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 1.30.53 PMWell versed in long races, having done six 100 mile races this year alone, Masse planned to follow his typical long course racing strategies. Carbo Rocket Half Evil for fuel, and an S-Works Specialized Stumpjumper as his weapon of choice. Given the extreme climbing on course, Masse opted to run his Specialized Chisel rigid fork up front; a small sacrifice for the benefit of getting his bikes weight down. Paired with Specialized Tires and SRAM’s super-light XX1 drivetrain, Masse’s rig was down to 19lbs.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 1.31.02 PM

laruta st3bThe first stage leaves nothing to imagination about what the flavor of La Ruta will be. With 13,000 feet of climbing over a mere 58 miles, the gradients are often laughable. Masse noted he was very happy that he chose a rigid fork as the reduced weight was noticeable. “The stage was brutal,” Masse recalled, “there was more mud than I have ever seen.” Costa Rica, a country with  traditionally very dry climate, has a distinct rainy season that brings daily downpours for a few months. La Ruta falls smack in the middle of that season.

The stage started fast and Masse put in a big effort to be near the front of affairs before they went through the tight and muddy single track sections. “It was all for nought because a group of us got off course for about 15 minutes before the single track. By the time we were back on course, we were behind a ton of traffic.” Not to be deterred though, Masse rallied, pushing hard up the final climbs to claw his way back into the lead, taking the win on the first day by 9 minutes in 6:44. “The crowds here are so enthusiastic!” Masse said. “They were even offering encouragement to me, a Gringo! I must have said “Gracias” 80 times today.”

laruta st3

laruta st3aStage 2 looked tame on paper at only 27 miles, but it was far from easy. Finishing in just over 4 hours, Masse described the stage well as he crossed the line, his first words being “Holy crap, that was hard.” Given the short distance, the climbs were compressed and steep. “The mud today was unlike anything I’ve seen,” Masse described. “The ground is hard clay with a thin layer of water that made it like ice skating. You couldn’t even walk on it.”

With heavy legs from stage 1 and sapped energy from the mud, Masse attacked the last climb as hard as he could. It was a paved road climb, but was so steep, that Masse noted his gratitude for his selection of the 30/42 setup to get him slowly up to the top. “Whenever there weren’t cars coming, I was riding a serpentine line, weaving up the hill. It was just that steep,” he relayed. That solid push from Masse on the day left him in a good position but a bit short for the stage win, coming in just 16 seconds down on first. Masse retained the GC lead going into the final stage, with a sizeable gap to second in the Masters 50-59 field.laruta jersey

laruta st2cThe final day of La Ruta is touted as the “easy day” which really means its harder than most single day endurance events. The course begins in the mountains and goes down to the coast which makes the profile look friendly, but its quite deceiving. The few climbs that make up the beginning are serious and only serve to soften up the legs for the final flat time-trial-style run in to the beach. Masse linked up with the 2014 NUE Single Speed Champion, Gordon Wadsworth, on the flats to push the pace on the final day.

They began working with a group of locals and were sharing the load, but each time Masse and Wadesworth stopped to grab bottles, they would lose their group. “We had to keep burning matches to catch back up to the locals who were taking feeds on the fly” Masse said. “Eventually I popped from all the accelerations and simply couldn’t latch back on.” No matter though, Masse came into the Caribbean town of Limon solo but strong as the 2014 La Ruta laruta podiumMasters 50-59 champion, holding an 11 minute margin over his next closest competitor to take the general classification win! Happy with his win despite his  exhaustion Masse said, “I’m so spent, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Having taken the top steps at Monster Cross, Mohican 100, Lumberjack 100, Shenandoah 100, Fools Gold 100, it only seems fitting that Masse capped the season with a win at La Ruta de Los Conquistadores. A perfect wrap to a perfect season.

Congratulations Roger!

 

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Winners never quit and quitters never win and you can't come home with a good story if you don't stay in the game

When the race leaves you dangling, keep on chasing.

(Photo by Beth Price Photography)

This past weekend, I packed my race bag one more time for a trip to Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan. Saturday was Founder’s Peak-to-Peak mountain bike race, the wrap of my mountain bike season. I’ve been excited about this race for months. For one, I’ve never been to Michigan and there’s no better way to see a place than by bike. It promised to give me an opportunity to race a type of terrain I don’t generally set wheels on: smooth, mostly flat and very fast. It also has a pretty generous purse: $1,000 for first place, $750 for second, $500 for third. I don’t race for money. But it does make it more exciting when there’s a healthy sum of cash on the line.

Of course all of this also left me a bit apprehensive. I knew nobody in the women’s field, though I’d heard of Mackenzie Woodring, a pilot for the US National Paralympic Cycling team and ‘cross racer, who’s won nearly every year. The pros were slated to do three laps on the 12-mile circuit that I’d heard described as a “drag race” through the trees. I wasn’t sure how much of a drag racer I was. But you don’t learn and grow if you don’t step into the unknown now and then. I just didn’t know how many unknowns I was in for…

It started with the bike. For a number of reasons, including cost, convenience, and logistics, I opted to set myself up with a bike through Einstein Cycles in Traverse City rather than pack and ship my own. I’d heard from a few sources, including the race promoter himself, that a full-suspension rig would be overkill, as many of the racers, including Mackenzie (who I was hoping to give a run for her money), go fully rigid. Well, in the six weeks between our initial communication and two days before start time, that bike was sold. You can’t blame a bike shop for selling a bike, of course. But now my options were, let’s say, limited. After a bit of handwringing by all parties involved, the owner set me up with one of his personal bikes, a sweet carbon Foundry with a 1 x10.

“Are you a good climber?” the mechanic on board asked as he recharged the Stan’s. “I am, why?” I said. “It’s got a 36 on the front,” he replied. I thought for a moment. Course mostly flat with one stoutish, but not long climb at the end? Better overgeared than undergeared. “No problem,” I replied, deciding it would be fine no matter what.

The next day I was scheduled for a “Ride with the Pros” at 4:00, where I’d take folks around for a lap of the course and chitchat about training and race prep and such. I was going to ride earlier, but the course wasn’t yet marked and by the time it was a cold rain had started to fall and it seemed foolish to go out and get wet twice in one afternoon.

So a bit before 4:00 I rolled over. A small group had gathered at registration, but decided they’d rather not get wet even once that day. That left just me and two hardy locals, a couple who were fairly new to the sport. She’d been riding less than a year after taking up mountain biking to quit smoking. I was happy to have company in the misery. We rolled out into the rain. The course was the most beginner friendly I’ve ever ridden—buttery smooth, twisty singletrack through brilliantly popping foliage. There was one little kicker somewhere in the middle and then a climb up and over the back of the ski mountain before you bombed down the front side and through the start/finish area. I spent most of the ride encouraging and coaching the woman who was angry with herself for smoking all those years, but was really making remarkable progress in a short amount of time.

My hope was to make this a shakedown ride to be sure everything was dialed in. But Michigan mud—at least this Michigan mud—is a unique blend of sand, silt, and other gritty earth substances that pretty much stop most moving parts from running smoothly. My gears seemed to be rubbing an awful lot, but barrel adjusting did nothing and I decided to leave well enough alone, till morning anyway.

I didn’t race until noon 30, so the next day at 10 a.m. after the first wave of racers were off, I headed over to the venue to have one of the mechanics tweak whatever needed tweaking. With some help of a few volunteers we lubed the chain and twisted the barrel adjuster until it ran a bit smoother and rubbed a bit less in the higher gears. After some last minute prep, I lined up and, realizing that I was in the wrong gear for the fast downhill start, lifted the back wheel to click and spin it into a harder gear. The timer started counting down. Thirty seconds. My plan was to stay with Mackenzie as long as possible or until I could maybe make a move.

The whistle blew and we were off…except I wasn’t really off. My chain started jumping madly on the cassette while the field sped off. It was sort of like a bad dream. But I was wide awake. I had tested the gears under pressure on the high end, but not the low end…and now the problem had shifted there. My heart sank as I muttered many bad words. I briefly considered pulling the plug, but then I remembered Iron Cross 2009 and Ironman 2008 and a few other races where I had mechanical problems early on, but still pulled out a good result. Problem-solve this. Find a gear, any gear and make it work.

So I did, sort of. But it was too late to catch Mackenzie who was now out of my sight. So I settled in with a small group that included two other women and hammered the working gear as hard as I could. After a few minutes I glanced back. No one in sight. But the troubles were not over. Going into a strand of trees I needed to shift if I wanted to stay in contact. Click. The chain skipped and dumped, I clipped a tree, and went down as they slipped away.

I got up, spun the chain into a working gear, and chased, chased, chased. I caught them again. I looked down and saw an empty space where my Garmin had been. The day just keeps getting better, I thought. Guess you’re racing 100% by feel today.

Staying in the game makes you stronger than throwing in the towel. (John Bullington Photography)

A few miles later we hit the only real technical stretch of the day, two mud bogs that, if you were careful, you could pick your way through, which is exactly what I did to get away while the others dismounted or got hung up in the mud. I charged hard to gain a gap and going into the final climb I had a small one. My legs burned a little up the steep pitches but I was glad for the big gearing because it forced me to climb faster than I might if I were to spin. Okay. You’ve got this. Just keep your head and crank, I thought as I sailed down the hill and into my second lap.

The chain started jumping again as I charged through the transition. I twisted the barrel, praying for a little relief. Then I looked up and saw that I’d hit a dead end at a putting green. Oh dear Lord you’ve gone off course. Somehow I’d missed a course marker and had taken the wrong path off the road. I turned around, realizing I must’ve now lost my second-place slot and saw riders on a path across the field where I should have been. I bushwhacked my way over and once again gave chase. I started passing people down a stuttery descent when—thunk. My chain came completely off the front ring and was dangling around the crank.

“Okay my race is over,” I say out loud to nobody, as I stopped, thinking the chain was broken. When I saw it wasn’t broken I honestly very briefly considered breaking it myself so I could stop the madness of this day. You’re so close to the start. Just call it, I thought. Then I imagined how disappointed Tad the race director, who was so excited I came, would be. I thought of Rebecca Rusch and that book I wrote with her, which talks about never, ever quitting. Reba wouldn’t quit. You’re not quitting. I put the chain back on and chased some more.

At that point, the bike mechanical gods must have decided that I’d passed my test because, though the shifting was still far from perfect, I could find at least five or six of the 10 gears where it ran pretty smoothly. The sun started to peek through the heavy clouds and I pedaled with everything I had. I passed two women and suspected that I was sitting in third. Be smooth. Be fast. I put a song in my head and wove through the trees, actually really enjoying the chase.

Unbelievably (or not), I made the same course error going into the final lap, but caught it and bushwhacked my way back before I’d gone too far astray. Pedal, pedal, pedal, hammer, hammer, hammer. The miles ticked off. And as I passed the marker for three to go, I saw a rider with a ponytail up the trail. Holy s***, you caught her. There was second place. I clicked into a harder, working gear and said, “Hey there…coming by on the left,” pushing with all I had, hoping she wouldn’t be able to jump on my wheel.

It worked. Going into the final climb of the day, I had a gap. You did it. I was thrilled. It wasn’t the race I expected and certainly not the race I wanted, but it was one that I’ll never forget, and probably one I’ll be able to draw from again…I just hope it’s not too soon.

Epilogue: The shifting snafu was the result of some problems with the limit screws. After some postrace TLC, the bike worked flawlessly and I was able to pilot it for the win at Crystal Cross the next morning. And a trail angel found my Garmin and is shipping it back. All’s well that ends well, as they say.

Iron Cross 2014

Iron Cross is a race that will melt you down. This is fitting since the race course skirts the Pine Grove Furnace State Park, location of a historic iron works from the late 1760’s after which the race is named. “North America’s Original Ultracross” traces a figure-8 around Michaux State Forest (Pennsylvania) and in its 12th year, it is the longest running in the American Ultracross Championship Series. The runners-up in that category, in a 3-way tie, are Southern Cross, Barry-Roubaix, and Gravel Grovel, all in their 6th year.

The Pine Grove Stack Furnance at Pine Grove Furnace State Park produced iron from around 1764 to 1895. Photo courtesy of www.cnyhiking.com
The Pine Grove Stack Furnace at Pine Grove Furnace State Park produced iron from around 1764 to 1895. Photo courtesy of www.cnyhiking.com

Although originally intended for cyclocross bikes, more mountain bikes are ridden every year at this race. The debate is heated and on-going as to bike choice. Flats plague racers at this course and mountain bike tires may hold up better than ‘cross tires, but on the other hand, the terrain is appropriate for a cyclocross bike, save a very few rocks and logs better tackled with a mountain bike. In ultracross, riders may use any bike they choose. In the one camp, “spirit-of-the-event” ‘crossers squint their eyes and look side-ways at the “best-tool-for the-job” mountain biker school. More and more ultracross races are won on mountain bikes, so hanging on to tradition for traditions’ sake may not get you to the top step. On the other hand, if you do win on a cyclocross bike, it will get you street cred’ and at this race – a cash payout to the first man and woman cyclocrosser. I rode my Specialized carbon disc Crux and felt it was the best choice for me – since I am roadie-origin and more comfortable on a road style set-up.

Riders make their way up a gravel road at Iron Cross. Photo courtesy of outdoorexperience.org
Riders make their way up a gravel road at Iron Cross. Photo courtesy of outdoorexperience.org

The 68-mile course provides lots of variety: some asphalt, a lot of gravel climbing, some gravel descents (which go by too fast before the next climb), a few single track sections, trails through grassy fields, some four-wheeler roads, a long, steep “run up”, and a few log obstacles. The course has such unique features that the title sponsor, Stan’s No Tubes, designed a wheel for, and named the wheel after this race. Stan’s awards a wheel set to the winner of each class.1

In the women’s race this year, (same as last year), RDC teammate Selene Yeager started as if launched from a canon – and rode ahead by herself within the first few miles. The follow pack was able to catch her on an asphalt descent (due to some cars slowing things down) but when we turned onto a gravel road, she worked her way out of sight again, and that was the last we saw of her… until she stood on the top step of the podium!

The “chase” consisted of last year’s winner Ruth Sherman (Corning No Tubes), Pathfinder of West Virginia’s Nicole Dorinzi, and me. In the first few miles of the race, Ruth turned into Lippencote trail (rocky single-track) ahead of Nicole and me, and got a slight lead. I got a gap on Nicole toward the bottom and then I saw a Rare Disease Cycling jersey and a friendly face whiz by – Andrew Dunlap! Andrew had flatted at the start and was catching riders quickly after his repair. He towed me back to Ruth’s group on the fast asphalt stretch after Lippencote, where gravel-race enthusiast Jayson Mahoney, known for his excellent race videos, was also to be found. Andrew paced me all the way to the extended run-up known as Wigwam and I was so grateful for his help. At that point in the race, Nicole was a minute or two behind.

Whether you push or shoulder your bike up Wigwam trail, either way it will sap you. Photo courtesy of outdoorexperience.org
Whether you push or shoulder your bike up Wigwam trail, either way it will sap you. Photo courtesy of outdoorexperience.org

I trudged up the rocky, steep Wigwam trail right behind Ruth, but she hopped on her bike a little faster at the top and surged hard. Her strong pedaling, combined with me going slightly off-course heading back to a gravel road – put just enough distance between us that I could not catch her. She was in and out of my sights until a little before the half-way mark.

It was a windy, lonely ride after getting dropped at the top of Wigwam, until a small group of men formed to work with on a flat section around 37 miles in. Leading the group was local Pittsburgh/Greensburg rider Jay Downs, who flew by and told me to jump on his wheel. Boy was I happy to see him!

At mile 42, I hit a mid-race slump and had to eat a bunch of fig newtons to bring myself back to life – as I watched our little group ride away. At this point, a woman in green and white came from out of nowhere and spun by at a good pace.

This was Katrina Dowidchuk (MidAtlantic Colavita) who was having an excellent climbing day. She went on to catch Ruth as well, who also admitted to having a mid-race slump. Luckily, I revived, but it was too late to catch up to either Ruth or Katrina. Ruth, a fighter to the bitter end, managed to drop Katrina on the final descent and pedaled up the final climb to second. Katrina was in sight of her, finishing third.

I must have hit something sharp on the last descent, a 4-wheeler trail, because I lost all but about 10 pounds of pressure in my rear tire, after which the Stan’s sealant plugged up the leak. After hearing from another rider that Nicole was only a couple minutes behind, I was hesitant to lose any time by stopping to pump up the tire. So, I nursed the rear wheel for the final five miles, riding off the saddle over bumps in an attempt to spare my rims, and rolled across the finish line as the fourth woman. Nicole finished close behind me in 5th.

Selene on the top step, flanked by Ruth Sherman in 2nd, Katrina Dowidchuk in 3rd, me in 4th, Nicole Dorinzi 5th, and Sally LaCour McClain in 6th.
Selene on the top step, flanked by Ruth Sherman in 2nd, Katrina Dowidchuk in 3rd, me in 4th, Nicole Dorinzi 5th, and Sally LaCour McClain in 6th.

Very happy to see Selene dominate the women’s field, she is riding really strong. Fun to ride again with ultracross companions Ruth and Nicole, and perhaps we have found a new gravel racer in Katrina, although she specializes in cyclocross. It was nice to see that I improved my gravel descending this year from last, and also very glad to finish strong (after totally bonking out last year and getting passed in the last three miles). Nevertheless, there is still lots of room for improvement. It’s races like these that keep me motivated through the dark, cold winter – so I will put in some cold-weather riding and get some frozen feet – with the goal of further improvement next year.

Thank you very much to RDC sponsors Specialized bicycles, DNA Cycling clothing, Pro Bikes shop, and Carbo Rocket race fuel. Thanks also to Mike Kuhn, promoter, all event staff and volunteers, the police directing traffic, and all Iron Cross sponsors including Stan’s, Foundry Cycles, Hammer Nutrition, World Cup Ski and Cycle, Plain Talking HR Consultancy, and A.E. Landes photography.

1 Bob Nunnink, Stan’s Sales and Marketing Manager states, “We have sponsored the Iron Cross event for many years and it was part of the inspiration for this wheel [the Iron Cross model]. We wanted to make a wheel that was as tough as Iron Cross and would hold a 700 x 35c tire better than our mountain bike rims. So the wheel is designed for cross and really excels at the long distance gravel (and Ultra Cross) events.”