Roger Masse second in Masters.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.