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.”

Rare Disease Cycling Decorates Podium In Salute To Final Michaux Iron Cross

in the Open Men at Iron Cross
Jeremiah Bishop in 1st, RDC’s Cole Oberman 2nd, David Flatten 3rd, Justin Lowe 4th, Aaron Snyder 5th, Brian Patten 6th, Calvin Hoops 7th, Francis Cuddy 8th in the Open Men at Iron Cross

Yeager wins women. Oberman second overall. Pflug second single speed.

October 5, 2014. Michaux, PA. Quite likely the final edition of this event at the Michaux State Forest venue, the twelfth running of the Iron Cross Race did not disappoint. Part of the American UltraCross Series, the original high-speed gravel road/mountain-bike-light format of racing covers 68 miles consisting of gravel road, dirt road, pavement, run ups, and short stretches of relatively tame mountain bike trail. Promoter Mike Kuhn and his crew at the Outdoor Experience, have been incredible stewards of this event for many years. “The park is just too popular now.” said Kuhn referring to the increase in usage the Michaux State Forest has undergone in recent years. “We have to look at different venues for 2015”.

Rare Disease Cycling riders showed up in force to contest three of the four divisions of racing. In the end, five podium positions were earned, far exceeding earnings of any other team.

Senior Men Under 40

The race was won by long time Iron Cross participant Jeremiah Bishop (Alpine Loop Grand Fondo). “I was there for the early editions and I love the mash up of drop bars vs flat bars.” reminisced Bishop following the race. “So much fun to have the drafting and the run up.” Bishop said referring to the steep 10 minute Wigwam hike-a-bike that is one of the iconic features of the race. “Its a wacky event but challenging and has that Michaux vibe that kicked off my racing career. Its an honor to win this race especially after the Mini Munga on SDS.”  concluded Bishop referring to his heavy training load in preparation for the Million Dollar Munga in December.

Second place and first man on a cyclocross bike, Rare Disease Cycling rider Cole Oberman prompted a pivotal attack attempting to achieve an small elite group at the front. “I sat in for the early part of the race, just making sure I wasn’t caught out on any potentially decisive course features. Around the 15 mile mark I made my move.” recalled Oberman about the early setup for his attack. “I went to the front and forced the pace as we approached the infamous Wigwam run up. I kept the pace hard as I quickly stepped my way up the 10 minute incline. I managed to open a one minute gap on the rest of the field.”

“I eased the pace a bit and let Jeremiah Bishop (Alpine Loop Grand Fondo) and David Flaten (Giant Mid-Atlantic) come up to me. We quickly went to work trading pulls and extended our lead.” described Oberman of the moments following Wigwam.

“Eventually Jeremiah, riding a mountain bike, launched an attack in a single-track section.” said Oberman describing the technical section leading up to the Larry’s Tavern “Aid” station. “I chased as hard as possible but my Crux was no match for (Jeremiah riding a mountain bike in) the semi-technical trail. Dave and I chased for the rest of the race, eventually battling for second on the climb to the finish.” Oberman won that battle.

“Iron Cross is one of my favorite late season races. It’s beautiful, gritty and just plain hard. I’m more than stoked to come home with a solid 2nd place!”

Third place finisher David Flatten (Giant Mid-Atlantic) describes the Wigwam selection that whittled the front group to three. “The cool thing about racing with Cole and JB is that we train and race each other all year. We know our strengths and weaknesses. I put in a dig before the last rideable climb before the field leading to the long run up. Cole and Jeremiah quickly responded and when I looked over my shoulder it was just the 3 of us. Cole encouraged us to put in a solid dig leading to the run up to create separation. Cole looked like the road runner, his feet were moving so fast. He was taking quick light steps all the way to the top and was out of sight in a short amount of time. Jeremiah and I made contact going up the next run up as we were able to ride halfway up it with out mountain bikes. That was the selection, and we never saw anyone again.”

RDC’s Andrew Dunlap experienced a flat tire not 500 yards into the prolog and eventually ended up briefly working with teammate Selene Yeager on his way to a 21st place finish.

The Open Men’s top-8 consisted of Jeremiah Bishop in 1st, RDC’s Cole Oberman 2nd, David Flatten 3rd, Justin Lowe 4th, Aaron Snyder 5th,  Brian Patten 6th, Calvin Hoops 7th, and Francis Cuddy in 8th.

Open Women

RDC's Selene Yeager in 1st, Ruth Sherman in 2nd, Katrina Dowidchuk 3rd, RDC's Stephanie Swan 4th, and Nicole Dorinzi 5th in the Open Women at Iron Cross
RDC’s Selene Yeager in 1st, Ruth Sherman in 2nd, Katrina Dowidchuk 3rd, RDC’s Stephanie Swan 4th, and Nicole Dorinzi 5th in the Open Women at Iron Cross

Top honors went to Rare Disease Cycling rider Selene Yeager. Her Iron Cross win, combined with her season opening win at Monster Cross, framed an incredible season of success on both the cross and mountain bike with two UltraCross bookend wins. “I knew there was a pretty strong field and that I’m in good form.” Yeager recalled about her chances. “I really wanted the win so I just went from it from the gun. I actually nearly vomited and it was COLD!” said Yeager referring to the 38 degree starting temperature. “This year, they stared us nearly 10 minutes behind the men so it took me 10 miles to find some dudes to work with while the chase women were working together to reel me in. But I managed to stay away.” remembers Yeager. “I never looked back. So hard tho, that last 10 miles….”

Finishing forth, Rare Disease Cycling teammate Stephanie Swan remains in the mix for a high UltraCross Series finish for 2014. Early in the race, last year’s winner Ruth Sherman (Corning No Tubes), Pathfinder of West Virginia’s Nicole Dorinzi, and Swan formed the Selene chase group. “Ruth turned into Lippencote trail ahead of Nicole and me and got a slight lead.” recalled Swan about the first single track test. “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 of the race and was catching riders quickly. “He towed me back to Ruth’s group on the fast asphalt stretch after Lippencote and paced me all the way to the extended rocky (Wigwam) hike-a-bike section.” recalled Swan of the temporary alliance. “I trudged up the steep trail right behind Ruth, but she hopped on her bike a little faster at the top. The little gap she got, combined with me going slightly off-course heading back onto the gravel road, put just enough distance between us that I could not catch her. She was in my sights until around mile 30 of the 68 mile race.”

Read Stephanie’s full race report here.

RDC’s Mary Boone finished 22nd among the women.

The Open Women’s top-5 consisted of RDC’s Selene Yeager in 1st, Ruth Sherman in 2nd, Katrina Dowidchuk 3rd, RDC’s Stephanie Swan 4th, and Nicole Dorinzi 5th.

Senior Men Over 40

Garth
Garth Prosser is first, George Ganoung 2nd, Nathan Goates 3rd, Stephan Kincaid 4th, Rob Campbell 5th and Dean Smith 6th in the Senior Men Over 40 at Iron Cross

Specialized SRAM rider Garth Prosser made his usual strong Iron Cross appearance by winning the 40+ division and going toe-to-toe in an exciting sprint finish with single speed winner Mike Montalbano. Montalbano won the sprint. Second place went to George Ganoung a multi-time Iron Cross veteran. Nathan Goates was third, Stephan Kincaid forth, and Rob Campbell finished fifth rounding out the top-five.

Single Speed

Past Shenandoah Mountain 100 and Mohican 100 winner in single speed, Toasted Head rider Mike Montalbano showed the Iron Cross field of strong single speed riders that he is still a force to content with in this unusual discipline.

“After playing it super conservative at Shenandoah and Fools Gold, I was ready to throw down at Iron Cross.” recalled Montalbano about his relatively conservative pace he started with during his final two hundred-mile mountain bike races. “I was amped at the start and found myself with a 100 yard gap on the entire field after the prolog loop. Knowing there was a really long downhill to recover on shortly after, I wasn’t worried.” recalled Montalbano about the start.

Montalbano was soon joined by the large front group. A bit of climbing came next followed by the Lippencote trail. “I knew Gerry Pflug had done this race last year. Besides a few people telling me what to expect, I had no clue what was coming up, so when Pflug surged I followed.” remembered Montalbano about the first single track section. “I passed as many as I could because to sit behind someone might mean missing a good wheel on the roads to follow.”

in the single speed at Iron Cross
The Iron Cross single speed podium consisted of Mike Montalbano in 1st, RDC’s Gerry Pflug 2nd, Ethan Frey 3rd, RDC’s Roger Masse 4th, and Alan Royek in 5th

After a few miles on the road section between Lippencote and Wigwam, Montalbano attacked. “I was able to get a small gap on Gerry and held it till the run up on Wigwam. Here I gassed it knowing I could open the lead a bit on the steep run up.” said Montalbano of the separation from the Rare Disease Cycling rider and 5-time NUE single speed champion Pflug. “I made it a point all day to make sure, that if I’m not riding it I’m running, no walking. The rest of the day I continued to push but with an eye over my shoulder. You can’t count a multi time NUE champion out. I never came unglued and even caught quite a few more on the run in to the finish, sprinting it out with Garth Prosser for 5th overall. I had fun on the course and am saddened to hear this is the last Iron Cross at this venue. I’d definitely come back.”

Rare Disease Cycling rider Gerry Pflug finished a tough day in the saddle as the second place single speeder.

“I always look forward to doing Iron Cross. It’s a fun late season endurance race to do and also an important stop on the American Ultra Cross Racing Series.” said Pflug about the race. “After my string of bad luck at the race last year with having two flat tires, I decided to race on my single speed mtb this year, instead of a cross bike. Unfortunately, I had another type of bad luck occur during the race when I was involved in a crash, after being hit by another rider. I suffered some deep road rash and had some hip pain from the crash, but managed to keep pushing hard and finish as the second placed single speed rider. The winner of the single speed race, Mike Montalbano, had an excellent ride and I’m sure he would still taken the win even without my crash. It was a tough day of racing, but still fun to do nevertheless.”

RDC’s Roger Masse, fresh off his 2014 NUE Series win in the Masters division racing geared bikes, contested Iron Cross on his Specialized single speed mountain bike. “I really like racing the single speed. It’s such a different riding experience.” said Masse about his choice of racing category. “I knew with Monty and Gerry in the mix, unless either of them had a major problem, I was racing for 3rd” recalled Masse about his chances. “I was, however, also concerned about Joe’s Bike Shop rider Ethan Frey.”

“My fitness is good right now, so I decided to run harder gearing than I have in past editions.” said Masse about his 36×17 gear choice which was functionally the same as Montalbano’s winning combination of 34×16. “I was able to ride all the same sections as last year… they were just harder.”

By the halfway point, Masse, as he had hoped was in 4th position behind Montalbano, Pflug, and Frey. “I thought it was over, but my luck changed when I passed Ethan on the mid point of the final climb just as he was finishing up a flat tire change.” recalled Masse of the late contest for single speed third. “It’s a hard climb and I was already near my limit. Ethan caught me after 3 or 4 minutes and made his move on one of the steeper pitches. I had no response and had to settle for 4th by 30 seconds.”

The single speed podium consisted of Mike Montalbano in 1st, RDC’s Gerry Pflug 2nd, Ethan Frey 3rd, RDC’s Roger Masse 4th, and Alan Royek in 5th.

Full results here.

Kickin Off Cross in Style

Cyclocross season officially kicked-off on Saturday in West Pennsylginia with the first race of the Appalachian Bicycle Race Association (ABRA) Cyclocross series in Point Marion, PA. Always a fast and, according the JR Petsko (race series Director), the ‘easiest’ course of the series, we got the season started with 14 Cat 4 women racing it out.

MaryBooneKickoffRunup

Spending my Tuesday nights at Frick Worlds (aka CX practice in Pittsburgh) focusing on my starts and barriers, I got a good position out of the start line – check! However, a wheel hang-up with a  fellow competitor coming into the first little uphill push put me at the back less than a minute into the race – time to get into fight back mode!

Podium_KickoffMaryBoone

With the next few laps spent picking off ladies one at a time, I fought back to the 5th spot and had my CX arch nemesis (and one pretty awesome lady) Melanie Marra of Pathfinder of WV to catch.  With each turn, I felt myself pulling her in a little closer and finally caught her wheel on the back side of the course.  With the next Cat 4 racer, Alice Vernon also of Pathfinder of WV, in my sights for the rest of the race, I couldn’t quite catch her wheel and finished it out in 4th place – word!

What an awesome way to kick-off the season!  I watched fellow RDC team mates Gerry Pflug and Stephanie both podium as well, spent the sunny afternoon with some amazing racers and friends, and kicked out the cobwebs with some cleaned up technique and fresh legs for the season…

Happy Racing all!

Masse wins Fools Gold Masters, captures NUE Series Title

Pflug earns NUE Series 3rd in both open men and single speed.

September 20, 2014. Dahlonega, GA. The small north Georgia town that nobody can pronounce ( “Dah-lahn- e-ga” ), famous for being the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush and for being the heart of Georgia wine country, was once again the final destination for racers competing in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series. The Fools Gold 100, the mountain bike race named after a brassy yellow mineral (usually pyrite) that can be mistaken for gold, starts and ends at the beautiful Montaluce Winery. The 92 mile course opens with one long gravel road climb and some ridgeline gravel, followed by a fast gravel descent. Much of the singletrack is newly re-constructed and flowy, with an assortment of fast gradual climbs to short grunts. In the end, riders climb 12,000 feet. The weather was perfect, dry and mostly overcast with a high in the seventies.

JB
Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) finished first, teammate David Tinker Juarez (Sho-Air/Cannondale) was second, Brian Schworm (Pedal Power) third, Keck Becker forth, and Gerry Pflug (Rare Disease Cycling) was fifth in the 2014 Fools Gold 100

For 2014, the Fools Gold occupied the final and tie breaking event in a 13 race year for the NUE series. It’s the Fools Gold that would determine the 2014 series winners for each of the four NUE categories: Open Men, Open Women, Single Speed, and Masters. Riders are scored on their best 4 races. Four wins that include a win at the Fools Gold guarantee racers a series championship. Along with a shared cash purse and free entries to all 2015 NUE races, each NUE series winner is also awarded an all expenses paid trip to La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a three day mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica on November 6-8.

Open Men

Winning this year’s Fools Gold and the NUE series in the Open Men’s division was Sho-Air Cannondale rider Jeremiah Bishop. “I am super excited to land the NUE over all series for a second time.” exclaimed Bishop who, in addition to doing La Ruta, is planning on participating in the Munga, a 620 mile unsupported mountain bike race across the continent of Africa that boasts a million dollars in prize money to be shared among winners.

RDC's Rob Spreng at mile 70, one minute behind Gerry Pflug
RDC’s Rob Spreng at mile 70, one minute behind Gerry Pflug

“The race was hard from the start and Tinker (Juarez) took off in search of his own pace at the top of winding stair pass” remembers Bishop about the early separation from his Sho-Air teammate soon after the climbing started in earnest. “I was tired from a huge week of training for the Million Dollar Munga. Because of this I had to play it safe and use the large group to save some energy.”

On the last big climb of the race when everyone was tired and slowing down, Bishop made his move. “It took several attacks to get separation and initially, Keck Baker brought me back with Tinker hot on his wheel.” recalled Bishop about the final race-deciding selection. It was not until the 3rd attempt that Bishop was able to gain meaningful separation. “I (finally) got full power down I was glad to get a gap!” said Bishop recalling that pivotal moment. “I pushed hard and got a solid lead but suffered a bit because I had lost a bottle in the last hour.”

“Its been a fantastic adventure at every race and it’s always super cool to start with all the amateur riders in one big group, you don’t get that at the Pro XC’s.” Bishop reminisced when asked about his thoughts on the NUE and the 2014 NUE Series. “This weekend is my Alpine Loop Gran Fondo so there will be a special toast to the win in the National Ultra Endurance 100 Series.”

Splitting his NUE Series race time between both the Open and Single Speed categories, Rare Disease Cycling rider Gerry Pflug grabbed the fifth and final Fools Gold Open Men’s podium spot earning himself NUE series podium finishes (3rd place series finishes) in BOTH Open Men and Single Speed, an accomplishment that has never been achieved before.

“With having third place locked-up in the singlespeed class for the 2014 NUE Series, I decided to race in the open category at the Fool’s Gold 100 to do my best at securing a second podium position in the series.” explained Pflug about the decision to race in the Open for the Fools Gold. “I had a blast racing on the flowing single track trails and the perfect hero dirt that made up the awesome Fool’s Gold race course.”

“Racing in both the Open and Single Speed classes this year made 2014 an exciting endurance race season for me and it felt great to do well in each category.” reflected Pflug on the 2014 NUE season.

Rare Disease Cycling rider Rob Spreng capped off an impressive endurance mountain bike season with a seventh place finish in the Open Men at the Fools Gold. Rob was well positioned for a top-five NUE series placing but was forced to abandon the Shenandoah Mountain 100, one of his four planned races.

“The pace started high on the first climb. I stayed with the lead group for about 30 minutes but soon fell off and a chase group formed.” remembers Spreng about the early throw down. Spreng, Pflug, (single speeder) AJ Linnell and a two other Single Speed riders finished out the first climb together. “I got away from that group on the first long gravel descent. Gerry was the only one of the group to bridge back to me.” recounted Spreng.

Pflug was first out of Aid2 at the bottom of Bull Mountain. “I did bridge back but he took off again on the Bull Mountain climb. I ended up passing him a while later as he was pulled over for a minute. He eventually rode back to me and pulled on a climb again.” Spreng remembered of the back-and-forth with his friend and teammate. “I would see Gerry off and on for the next couple hours, but never really did ride with him again. I spent the rest of the day cruising through the GA clay alone.”

The Open Men’s podium for the 2014 Fools Gold had Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) finishing first, teammate David Tinker Juarez (Sho-Air/Cannondale) second, Brian Schworm (Pedal Power) third, Keck Becker forth, and Gerry Pflug (Rare Disease Cycling) in fifth.

the Fools Gold 100
Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team) finished first, Brenda Simril (Motor mile racing) second, Rachel Millsop (Vikings) third, Anne Pike (Blue Ridge Cyclery p/b Reynolds GM/Suburu) fourth, and Jennifer Moos (Pink Siren Sports / Z Bike Shop) was fifth in the Open Women at the Fools Gold 100

Due to the birth of his second child, 2013 NUE Series Champion and this years Mohican 100 and Lumberjack 100 winner Christian Tanguy had an abbreviated 2014 racing season. He did not have enough races to compete for the series championship.

Open Women

No one was going to take away the NUE series title for Open Women from Motor Mile Racing’s Brenda Simril. Simril, who had competed in eight series races, and had locked up the title before the Fools Gold even started. Simril’s effort was good enough for 2nd on the day, but the win went to long time Baltimore native and recent Chapel Hill North Carolina transplant Carla Williams. William’s sent a clear message to the woman and 2014 NUE Series champion who had beaten her twice in the early races of the 2014 NUE series. “I can win too.”

Open Women's winner Carla Williams at the finish of the Fools Gold 100
Open Women’s winner Carla Williams at the finish of the Fools Gold 100

“I started out at a strong pace with Tom Haines (Design Physics / Coqui ). We looked down at our watches after what felt like 30 mins of riding, and were surprised to see that we had been racing for 2 hours already. That was a good feeling!” recalls Williams about the early parts of the race. Williams, a gifted climber, was rewarded by the layout of the Fools Gold course. “I felt like this was a course I could really attack. The singletrack sections which usually make me nervous were fast and smooth without too many rocks or roots to slow me down. The climbing definitely added up by the end, but the individual climbs were shorter compared to some of the other NUE races, and I felt I could charge up them without burning too many matches.” said Williams about her strategy.

“Before the race, I was thinking that I have just one last long slog before I can start racing my cx bike and the fall fun really starts. But during the race, I was having such a good time that I’m sad I have to wait until April of next year to do this again.” reflected Williams on her final (and best) 2014 endurance achievement.

The 2014 Fools Gold Open Women’s podium had Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team) finishing first, Brenda Simril (Motor mile racing) second, Rachel Millsop (Vikings) third, Anne Pike (Blue Ridge Cyclery p/b Reynolds GM/Suburu) fourth, and Jennifer Moos (Pink Siren Sports / Z Bike Shop) fifth.

Multi-time NUE Series winner and Rare Disease Cycling rider Cheryl Sornson won the 2014 True Grit Epic but then changed her focus to shorter Cross Country distance events. Leadville 100 podium finisher and 2014 Shenandoah Mountain 100 winner and Rare Disease Cycling rider Selene Yeager did not have enough races for a 2014 series contention.

in the Single Speed division of the 2014 Fools Gold
Gordon Wadsworth (Blue Ridge Cyclery Racing) is 1st, AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles/American Classic) second, Bob Moss (Farnsworth Bikes/Crank Arm Brewery) third, Dwayne Goscinski (Team Noah Foundation) fourth and Ernest Marenchin (pivot cycles) fifth in the Single Speed division of the 2014 Fools Gold

Single Speed

In the Single Speed division, only A.J. Linnell (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles/American Classic), could keep Blue Ridge Cyclery Racing rider Gordon Wadsworth from his first NUE series title. Wadsworth came into the Fools Gold with 4 wins, but Linnell, who had beaten Wadsworth in the Pierre’s Hole 100, could spoil the party with a win at Fools Gold by virtue of the tie break rule. But it wasn’t to be, the Roanoke VA rider dominated from the start and rode with the geared bike leaders for most of the early racing to secure his first ever NUE series title.

When asked if the Fools Gold represented a peak performance for 2014, Gordon responded “Peak? Sort of hard to tell. I think I just forced myself to keep riding extremely hard because that was the safe thing to do strategically.”

“AJ may be strong, and he is, but NO ONE can bridge up to a group of Tinker, JB, Keck and Brian Schworm. So the sooner I got them moving and the longer I stayed with them the better.” elaborated Wadsworth on the early decision to ride with the geared leaders. “I ended up staying with them a lot longer than I had though I might.”

“I dont know if I could Identify a peak during this season. I think I felt the best at Shenandoah. I know Lumberjack was a good early season peak for me. I think I managed to have two solid peaks this year between those two races.”

The single speed podium ended up with Gordon Wadsworth (Blue Ridge Cyclery Racing) finishing 1st, AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles/American Classic) second, Bob Moss (Farnsworth Bikes/Crank Arm Brewery) third, Dwayne Goscinski (Team Noah Foundation) fourth, and Ernest Marenchin (pivot cycles) fifth.

Masters

Masters division at the Fools Gold 100
Roger Masse (Rare Disease Cycling) wins, Anthony Hergert (Reality Bikes Ambassador Team) is second, Mark Drogalis (Toasted Head Racing) third, Monte Hewett (peachtree bikes) fourth, and David Jolin (Stark Velo) fifth in the Masters division at the Fools Gold 100

Rare Disease Cycling rider Roger Masse came into the Fools Gold with three prior wins, but could have been defeated for the NUE Series Masters title in an upset by 2013 Masters Series winner Marland Whaley.

“I came into the Fools Gold with the full weight of the series championship on my shoulders. I was in the lead but could loose the series in a tie break if Marland Whaley were to win.” explained Masse about the contest for the title. “I saw that he was entered and so I had to show up to force a showdown. I’ve been racing well during the last month and so liked my chances.”

North Carolina native Alex Hawkins (Back Alley Bikes), who had defeated Masse at this year’s Cohutta 100 was also signed up. “I figured I would have my hands full.” recounts Masse. “I lined up on the front row and was 2nd wheel to the rider who took the hole shot. I remained in the top-5 for the first 8 miles or so until the sustained climbing began and the strong riders tested one another while establishing a very high pace. Within ten minutes of climbing, near the Army Ranger station and the cooler drop, the lead group of about twenty had ridden through me. There were a lot of watts being thrown down!”

With a solid lead at mile 70, RDC's Roger Masse is all smiles as he picks up some fluids
With a solid lead at mile 70, RDC’s Roger Masse is all smiles as he picks up some fluids

Alone for a bit, Masse soon connected with Toasted Head rider Mike Montalbano who had decided to not try and match the pace being set by the early leaders. “I rode on Mike’s wheel till just shy of the top of the lap 1 Bull’s Run climb. He was keeping a lid on his early pace but he dropped me there.” recalls Masse of his early alliance. “Mike’s is a good wheel to have and I know we were making good time even though his effort was probably only 80%”

“I felt good and rode solidly through the bottom of Bull’s Run for lap 2 and Aid5 but started losing my A-game.” recalls Masse. “I learned I had a comfortable lead and I had missed Aid Station 1 and had fallen behind on my fluids. I was content to throttle down and cruise the final twenty miles in for the win!”.

“I’m really looking forward to Iron Cross on Single Speed and the LaRuta 3 day stage race in Costa Rica.” exclaimed Masse when asked what’s next. “Gordon and I are going to room together. It will be the experience of a lifetime representing the U.S. and the NUE in Central America!”

Masse’s win at Fools Gold gave the Bethesda Maryland native 4 NUE wins on the year and the series title. In the end, even though Hawkins and Whaley were entered, they did not start. The final Masters results for the Fools Gold were Roger Masse (Rare Disease Cycling) in first, Anthony Hergert (Reality Bikes Ambassador Team) second, Mark Drogalis (Toasted Head Racing) third, Monte Hewett (peachtree bikes) fourth, and David Jolin (Stark Velo) fifth.

CyclingNews.com coverage and results here. Final NUE standings here. Thom Parsons post race dirtwire.tv video summary and interviews here.

You Will Be Rewarded

To get through the middle of a tough ride, sometimes you need to focus on the finish.

Racer nerves in the sunrise. Everyone searching for their own rewards – Photo by Jade Wexler

It was 4:15 a.m.—an hour I really don’t enjoy. And once again, I was staring at the clock with a bucketful of butterflies swarming in my belly. The race starts in about 2 hours, I thought, with growing feelings of doom and dread. Time to get up.

Dave was still dead to the world, though he too would be racing 100 miles at the somewhat legendary Shenandoah Mountain 100 today. I was jealous of his current state of oblivion as I padded about the room, firing up the cheap hotel room coffee pot and boiling water for my morning bowl of race day fuel, some too sugary instant oats, raisins, and nut butter, topped with a finish of Greek yogurt. I’m extra miserable this morning because I’d actually really like to win today. And I know what that means—keeping focused and racing smart for 8 to 9 hours. It’s a long day ahead, with many unknowns.

For one, I’d never been to Shenandoah. So though I’d ridden about 5 miles of the start the day before, the other 95 miles were a complete unknown. I’d heard it was a great course—the best of the series many said. I knew there were big climbs and equally big descents. But what any of that looked like, I had no idea. I’d also been thrown a curve ball earlier in the week in the form of a stomach virus that had flattened me Thursday and lingered into Friday. I took extra good care of myself and felt fully recovered by Saturday, but it hadn’t bolstered my confidence.

As I sat spooning down my peachy oats, I ruminated on a few conversations I’d had with friend and accomplished 100 mile racer Vicki Barclay. “The course suits you. Lots of big climbs and the most amazing descents that will just keep you going. Make sure you have plenty of fluids at Aid Station 2, feed yourself well up to Aid Station 5—the climb is not over there—and use your stamina. You’ve got this!”

You’ve got this. In my heart I believed I could do it. At that moment, however, I was still struggling to find my mojo. Why? Why am I doing this? My mind searched for answers as Dave, now up, began kitting up and packing the car. Because you’ll be rewarded, I thought with sudden, brightening clarity. I visualized the bunch start with so many friendly faces; pictured myself chasing and charging; saw myself climbing strong and sweeping the descents, and the finish, the incomparable feeling of finishing—maybe winning—a race of that size. I felt a little lighter and happier inside. You’ve got this. I kitted up and headed out to the car.

It was still dark as we pulled into the venue at 5:40. Racers were already warming up. I had no lights and no desire to ride around in the dark. So I just did one little charge up the camp road to fire up the engines and called it good. Then I mulled over a race strategy as I stuffed my pockets and checked my tires. Both Vicki and my teammate Cheryl had suggested I stick with the lead women early on, then maybe make a move after Aid Station 4 on the big “Death” climb, which all said and done is 20-some miles long. Sounded reasonable. I could see how I felt and not burn too many matches early on a day that gets harder as it goes along.

That strategy lasted about 12 minutes. After a neutral start down the sketchy camp road, the lead vehicle pulled off and the race was off in earnest up the first dirt road climb. One of the race favorites, Laura Hamm (Moonstompers), charged ahead pretty much immediately. I got on her wheel and started thinking. I’d heard she was fast on the descents. The conditions were dry and sketchy—not my favorite for descending. I was totally new to the place. If I stuck with her wheel I might end up chasing out of my element much of the day. I felt like I could probably climb a bit faster without going into the red. You will be rewarded, I thought, and made an early pass. After a few minutes, I glanced back. No women in my immediate view. I revised my game plan to climb my heart out on the big climbs and let it rip on the descents where I felt comfortable, but be conservative when I didn’t. I’d also push myself to try to catch a group on the roads, where I often find myself alone and lose time.

Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say. I had blissfully good climbing legs, which is essential when you’re staring down nearly 13,000 feet of elevation on the day. Many of the descents were the longest, swoopiest, and most fun I’ve ever set wheels on. So I just let it rip, feeling calm and confident on those. On others, where my bike slipped over layers of pea gravel and chunky loose rocks, I would lose some nerve and dial it down a notch to stay where I felt comfortably in control. On the roads? Though I found some really nice company and a wheel or two to follow for short stretches, for the most part I was where I often find myself, Nomansland. I could see groups ahead, but just couldn’t catch them. This is where you always lose time, I chastised myself, pushing on in the wind.

Fortunately the climbs outnumbered the flats and most of them were thoroughly enjoyable. I remembered Vicki’s words and fed myself well up the longest climb of the day, feeling pretty good when I hit Aid Station 5 at about mile 75. I chugged a small cup of Coke, grabbed a quarter of a PB&J and dug in to finish the climb. Just make it to the last aid station, then one hour to go. You will be rewarded.

Shortly thereafter the day threatened to go a little sideways. I had opted to not tape the course profile on my top tube because, well, for no good reason. I felt like being all Zen about the day or something that sounded smart at the time, but I would regret that decision about 90 miles into the day. So, anyway, in my mind I thought the race was going to be considerably easier once I summitted the “big climb.” I was wrong.

It started with a gnarly, loose, fairly steep and endlessly long descent. As the rocks kicked up and my wheels washed to and fro, I started to unravel. Just get to the bottom. Chin up. Stay loose. Let the bike roll. ACK!!! Brakes! NO BRAKES! For the love of God, make this be over. I was talking to myself out loud like a mad woman, occasionally pulling over to let some faster guys go through, trying to stay on their wheels. Stay calm. Stay with them…. Then I came into a particularly steep drop into a hard right hand turn and I saw a bike lying on the ground by a tree with no rider in sight.

Oh that’s bad. I slowed to a crawl around the bend. The rider was on the other side of the trail, standing up, but clearly shaken. I stopped. “Are you okay?” I asked, looking back at his bike to make a mental note of his race number. “Yeah, yeah. I’m okay,” his mouth said, but I wasn’t convinced. “Are you really okay? Or adrenaline-fueled okay?” I asked again. “Do you need me to tell the aid station you need help?” Now here is where I confess that the racer in me started wigging out a bit. Minutes were ticking off. I knew I had a lead, but I was getting nervous. I had to be 100% sure this man was okay before I left, but I was also realizing it could mean sacrificing my race. You gotta do what you gotta do. I paused a little more, as he kept assuring me, more convincingly now, that he was really okay as he got back on his bike. “I’m going to tell them to check on you at the next aid station,” I called back as we rode on. (I did see the fallen rider back at camp at the end of the day. He was indeed really okay.)

After what felt like another hour, but was probably 10 minutes, I was finally done with the descent and at the final aid station. I grabbed a couple of fresh bottles and a few fig cookies. One more little climb to go…Or so I thought. Why they call that middle climb the “Death Climb,” when they put a godforsaken endless ladder to the sky at about mile 90 is beyond me. Why I didn’t know this race ended with this godforsaken ladder to the sky is beyond me. But well, it was there and I was not mentally prepared for it.

I can’t remember the name of the climb, but I called it many, many names every time I rounded a bend thinking it was the top only to see riders bent over their bars or worse, pushing their bikes, on another steep pitch. You need food. I thought, as I started to get nauseous and vapory in the high mid-afternoon heat and humidity. I don’t want food. I want to be done. I bargained with myself to choke down just a little bite. You will be rewarded. I was. I felt ever so slightly better as I pushed on. I had no idea how close the other women were to me. But I desperately didn’t want to be caught this close to the line.

I can’t even remember when it ended. But eventually it did. I felt the energy of the riders around me pick up. We must be close to the end. I thought. And indeed we were. A few more unremarkable miles ticked off and then I saw it—a tent! We were coming into camp! I could hear a loudspeaker. It’s the finish! The finish is right there.

Elation is an understatement for how I felt as I rolled into the open field where I could hear the people cheering my name. I had done it. I’d chalked up my first NUE win at the Shenandoah 100. It was surreal and wonderful and yes, beyond any shadow of a doubt, very, very rewarding.

Yeager and Masse Earn Wins at Shenandoah Mountain 100

Pflug second in single speed. Kelly rides to the race from Philly and finishes 14th.

RDC's Selene Yeager is 1st, Laura Hamm 2nd, Kaysee Armstrong 3rd, Trish Koerber 4th and Carla Williams 5th in the Women's category at SM100
RDC’s Selene Yeager is 1st, Laura Hamm 2nd, Kaysee Armstrong 3rd, Trish Koerber 4th and Carla Williams 5th in the Women’s category at SM100

August 31, 2014. The penultimate race of the 2014 National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series, the Shenandoah Mountain 100, has long been the best attended and most popular race of the series. With 12,500 feet of climbing and many long, loose, rocky descents, the SM100 demands a lot and only rewards riders who can present their climbing A-game for the entire day and who are comfortable pushing the limits of sliding tires on high-speed descents filled with marbles. While the course is epic, the festival-like atmosphere provided all weekend long by Chris Scott and the folks at Shenandoah Mountain Touring, provides the perfect backdrop for spending a bit of non-race time with friends and competitors reflecting on a great season and celebrating the sport that brings us together.

Selene Yeager is rolling in the lead in the 2014 SM100.
Selene Yeager is rolling in the lead in the 2014 SM100.

Rare Disease Cycling riders earned three podium positions, this with 500+ riders on the starting line and enormous competition in every category. Selene Yeager and Roger Masse each came away with victories in their respective Women’s and Masters categories as Gerry Pflug raced on single speed to a 2nd place finish.

Women.

Yeager, who competing in her first Shenandoah 100 this year had zero idea what to expect. “I’d heard it was a great course—the best of the series many said. I knew there were big climbs and equally big descents.” said Yeager. “I really didn’t know much else but that I was in for a long, challenging, and hopefully very rewarding, fun day.”

Yeager planned to stick with the leaders, women who had raced and done well there in the past, to feel things out. “I wanted to see how I felt and not burn too many matches early on in what I’d heard is a day that gets harder as it goes.” remembers Yeager about her planned strategy. On the first dirt climb, however, that strategy was tossed to the wind…

Selene Yeager excited to finish and win the 2014 SM100.
Selene Yeager excited to finish and win the 2014 SM100.

“One of the race favorites Laura Hamm (Moonstompers) came around pretty much immediately.” recalls Yeager. “I got on her wheel and started thinking. I’d heard she was fast on the descents. It was dry and sketchy—not my favorite descending conditions. And I was totally new to the place. If I stuck with her wheel I might end up chasing out of my element all day. I felt like I could probably climb a bit faster, so I made an early pass and didn’t look back, making a revised game plan to climb my heart out and let it rip on the descents where I felt comfortable, but be conservative when I didn’t.”

Selene Yeager’s revised plan worked. She ended up with her first NUE win at the 2014 Shenandoah Mountain 100. “I didn’t let myself believe it or celebrate until I saw the tents leading into camp and heard the cheers of the crowd.” recalled an excited Yeager about the finish. “I still really can’t believe it. It’s a very proud, happy way to wrap up the main season. Shenandoah is a special—very hard—race. It means a lot to me to now be part of its history.”

Read Selene’s full blog post about here experience here.

Masters.

If Selene Yeager’s win was the result of a line-of-scrimmage audible, seven-time SM100 participant and 2012 SM100 Masters winner Roger Masse had some strategy revisions of his own. “I’ve never had a complete race here.” lamented Masse about past editions. “I always seem to loose my A-game during the Soul Crusher climb”. referring to the long 20 mile stretch of climbing between mile 60 and 80. “I know the course and never drink enough, so this year I left my GPS in the car and rode with a CamelBak for most of the day” said Masse on his strategy change for the 2014 edition.

RDC's Roger Masse wins, Henry Loving is 2nd, Alex Watkins 3rd, Anthony Hergert 4th, Mike Ramponi 5th, Thierry Blanchet 6th and Mike Boyes 7th in the Masters division of the 2014 SM100.
RDC’s Roger Masse wins, Henry Loving is 2nd, Alex Watkins 3rd, Anthony Hergert 4th, Mike Ramponi 5th, Thierry Blanchet 6th and Mike Boyes 7th in the Masters division of the 2014 SM100.

“My main rivals, or so I thought, were Jim Matthews and Alex Watkins. I managed to get a gap on Jim and Alex going up the steep Lynn trail climb at about mile 20.” recalls Masse about the start. Jim Matthews was far from finished as he used his impressive descending skills off of Wolf Ridge to bridge back up to Masse. The two remained together till about half way up the first Hankey climb until Matthews got some separation. “He was attacking and has some impressive threshold power. Just like at the Wilderness 101, I didn’t want to go that hard to stay with him so he got a gap.”

RDC's Roger Masse and Toasted Head's Jim Mayuric relish the finish of the 2014 SM100.
RDC’s Roger Masse and Toasted Head’s Jim Mayuric relish the finish of the 2014 SM100.

But Matthews must have stopped for fluids after the Dowells Draft descent, as Masse was able to regain contact on the road section after aid3 (Rt 250). “We were working together well in a rotating pace line with about 8 guys going up 250” recalls Masse. “I knew what was next and was able to get into the single track first for the technical Bridge Hollow climb and this time I got the gap. I pushed my advantage and my lead stuck through the Braileys descent and aid4.” said Masse who thought he was finally the front runner.

But Masse was not in the lead. “I got in a good group of 6 out of aid4 to start the Soul Crusher section containing Jed Prentice, Kyle Lawrence and two strong climbers one of which was Chris Tries.” remembers Masse. “Once we turned off of North River onto Pitt Rd where the real climbing begins, the two climbers jumped ahead, but I could see that Chris had gapped the other guy and was riding away. Just before aid5 I caught the other guy, and after a short conversation, I realized he was Masters rider Henry Loving!” said Masse about the realization that his race was just beginning. “I made sure he knew I was racing Masters as well and that I thought we were in the lead… Oh yeah, It was on! I got out of aid 5 before him and with a big surge of adrenaline just drilled it to the top of Chestnut and really pulled out all of the stops on the long, loose rocky descent. I didn’t stop at aid6 and just gave it everything I had up Hankey 2 and held on for the win!”

Single Speed.

Gordon Wadsworth is 1st, RDC's Gerry Pflug 2nd, Ernesto Marenchin 3rd, Dan Rapp 4th, Donald Powers 5th, Dennis Baldwin 6th, Dwayne Goscinski 7th, Watts Dixon 8th, Todd Ace 9th and Peat Henry is 10th in the Single Speed division of the 2014 SM100
Gordon Wadsworth is 1st, RDC’s Gerry Pflug 2nd, Ernesto Marenchin 3rd, Dan Rapp 4th, Donald Powers 5th, Dennis Baldwin 6th, Dwayne Goscinski (not pictured) 7th, Watts Dixon 8th, Todd Ace 9th and Peat Henry is 10th in the Single Speed division of the 2014 SM100

RDC’s Gerry Pflug has made no secret that his goal for 2014 is to stand on BOTH the Open and Single Speed series podiums at the Fools Gold, the final race in the 2014 NUE series. Gerry inched his way closer to that goal by earning second place to Gordon Wadsworth (Blue Ridge Cyclery) at this year’s SM100. Gordon had an amazing day, setting a new course single speed record 7:45:57 earning 7th place overall.

My goal going into the Shenandoah Mtn 100 was to take the singlespeed win and set-up a showdown between Gordon Wadsworth, AJ Linnell and myself for the overall SS series win at the Fool’s Gold 100.” explained Gerry about his plans, but Wadsworth was too strong for Pflug to challenge him for the win at this years SM100, so Pflug called his own line-of-scrimage audible. “Knowing a second place finish at Shenandoah would give me a lock on taking third place overall in the series, I began riding a steady and more conservative pace during the race to protect my lead over the other SS racers.” recalls Pflug about his revised strategy. “I had a blast doing the SM100 this past weekend and scored a big bonus towards the end of the race when I saw a black bear and her two cubs while descending down Chestnut Ridge. With a lock on third place in the SS division, I will now be racing Fool’s Gold in the open class for a chance to stand on both the SS and open class NUE Series podiums.”

Open Men.

The day was ruled by local Sho-Air Cannondale rider Jeremiah Bishop who rode to the event and re-rode several difficult sections of the difficult course as training for The Munga, a 1000K race across South Africa. Technical riding master Sam Koerber finished 2nd.

RDC’s Rob Spreng made it to Aid Station 4, where he was forced to withdraw due to illness.

RDC riders Gerry Pflug and Jesse Kelly moments after completing the 2014 SM100
RDC riders Gerry Pflug and Jesse Kelly moments after completing the 2014 SM100

RDC’s Jesse Kelly competed in this year’s SM100 after riding his bike to the venue in Stokesville, VA from his home in Philadelphia. His finishing time of 8:09 was good enough for 15th in the open men. “Thanks to being fed all day Saturday by everyone around the campground I was feeling pretty good considering the long ride down and 3 nights sleeping on the ground.” recalled Kelly about his adventure. “I went for a pre-ride with Mike Montabano and though I was sore at first within a few minutes I felt pretty good.”

Jeremiah Bishop is 1st, Sam Koerber 2nd, Brian Schworm 3rd, Keck Baker 4th and Cameron Cogburn is 5th in the Open Men of the 2014 SM100.
Jeremiah Bishop is 1st, Sam Koerber 2nd, Brian Schworm 3rd, Keck Baker 4th and Cameron Cogburn is 5th in the Open Men of the 2014 SM100.

“I felt pretty strong from the get-go but figured I’d eventually fall apart. Fortunately I didn’t and was able to ride strong from start to finish.” remembers Kelly about his ride. “There were moments of course, but thanks to being able to stock up at each aid station with the help of many incredible volunteers I just kept feeding and drinking. I ended up having the race of my life, riding single track as good as ever, and feeling like I was climbing really well. I also got lucky on many sections of road where I ended up with two more more riders to work together.”

“I especially enjoyed the company during the race of Garth Prosser, Dan Rapp, John Petrylak, teammate Gerry Pflug, and the most incredible downhill skilled riders, David Reid and Chad Davis. Considering the caliber it’s probably my best race to date.” reflected Kelly. “I don’t think the ride to Stokesville helped, but it didn’t hinder the race either.”

Full results here. DirtWire.tv coverage here. Race promoter Chris Scott’s Dirtwire.tv race report here. CyclingNews.com coverage here.

Dirty 40 2014

Brilliant greens paint the mountains and fields of Vermont.
Brilliant greens paint the mountains and fields of Vermont.

Vermont is gorgeous. My first race trip to New England took me to Derby, VT – so close to Canada I got a global roaming alert on my phone. Vibrant green rolling hills, welcoming mountains thick with dark green trees, small towns with old wooden houses. The area is truly magical. Sparse traffic, no billboards on the highway make even driving a meditative experience.

Derby’s  Dirty 40, the 5th race of seven in this year’s American Ultracross Championship Series, leads riders through 70 miles of rolling dirt roads. There’s one extended climb, a lot of smaller kickers, a few fun fast descents, and around 5,600 feet of climbing. The roads are hard packed and smooth with occasional sand in the corners and small gravel here and there.

At the Dirty 40, riders have different ideas on the best tool for the job. This year, about 25% of racers chose road bikes, the rest cyclocross bikes with a few mountain bikes thrown in. Tires ranged from 25mm road tires to some medium sized mountain bike tires. I rode my Specialized Crux carbon disc cyclocross bike with 40mm Clement Xplors, which have a beefy file tread. In retrospect, 35mm tires with a minimal file pattern might have been more appropriate.

QuebecbordVT_1
Derby, Vermont is very close to Canada.

And on to the race:

400 starters, including 40 women, are led out neutral two miles by a very slow tractor. When the race begins, it’s fast and single file within the first half mile. The first ten miles are a blur, as I hang on to the rider in front of me. Over the following ten miles, the life blood is sucked out of me.

Mile ten:

I get dropped from my group, chase back on into the wind, riders in front surge, I’m dropped again, sandy riser and I catch back on as riders with road tires walk. Another surge, dropped, catch back on a downhill as riders on road bikes descend tentatively. Repeat for ten miles: fall off, fight back on, dangle on like a tooth that’s about to fall out. Because I expected the pack to settle in. Eventually. But they do not.

A tractor leads out the race.
A tractor leads out the race.

Boom. 20 miles into a 70-miles race my legs give out. I soft pedal. Riders pass me, I try to jump on, legs are jelly. Eventually, a small group with one woman pass me and I grab on.

I hang by a thread for the next 50 miles. Had dug myself into a hole in the first part of the race, hit bedrock, and there was no climbing out. Meanwhile, the woman who had caught me, Julie Wright (Ride Studio Cafe Expedition Team) pedals along like she is on a comfortable touring ride.

Thank goodness for drafting – I hide from the wind like it is poison gas. Meanwhile, Julie and other riders lead a chase that gobbles up riders until we are about 15 strong. Thank goodness for my high-volume tires. Just when I am at a point of profound weakness, a sandy descent allows me to point my bike downhill, gain ground on Julie (who is riding 25mm road tires) and soft pedal until she catches back.

A small group of riders make their way down a gravel road at the Dirty 40.
A small group of riders make their way down a gravel road at the Dirty 40.

With about 20 miles to go, my spirits lift as I see friend Brian Rogers (who had sat up from the lead group, recovering from 12 days solid gravel riding). He’s content to cruise along with us in the last part of the race. And then along comes Hilly Billy Roubaix race companion Scott Bond, catching us from behind. Scott Bond had paced me to the finish in the last 20 miles of the Hilly Billy Roubaix last June. Two allies! Nevertheless, my legs are still incapable of putting pressure on the pedals.

About 60 miles in, on a steady climb, I get separated from our medium-sized group of riders. Thankfully, Julie is also back from the group. Brian and Scott drop back to urge me on. Brian leads me down a descent and we gain significant distance on Julie. She is out of sight. Brian and Scott say it’s go-time. But my legs fail me yet again. …And then a yellow helmet appears in the distance. Julie is catching us. We drop her downhill three times (due to our high volume tires on sandy roads, compared to her road tires), yet three times she fights her way back. Was she not getting tired yet?!

On a short, steep climb three miles from the finish, I drop my chain. Rider error completely. Julie powers away. Scott says, “If you have any sprint left, now would be when to use it!” Standing up on my pedals, my legs crumble beneath me. Julie is out of sight. A descent into town, then a short riser. One last burst? It feels like squeezing a tube of toothpaste you should have thrown away days ago. (Nothing left.) Crossed the line 39 seconds back from Julie. Neither of us knew it at the time, but we were racing for the win.

On the second step at Dirty 40. I was so disoriented I pulled the wrong clean jersey out of my bag.
On the second step at Dirty 40. I was so disoriented I pulled the wrong clean jersey out of my bag.

The Dirty 40 was hard to race, and harder to lose! It’s easy to ask “What if I hadn’t gone out so hard? Or dropped my chain?” but Julie was the stronger rider of the day. I only made it as far as I did by hiding, drafting, and descending well. After getting decisively dropped on raging gravel descents by friendly rival Ruth Sherman, both days at the Dirty Double gravel stage race last May – I have to celebrate my improvement. I’m hoping the confidence I picked up on the descents at the Dirty 40 will help me on the loose gravel at the next stop on the Ultracross Series – Iron Cross on October 4th!

* Congratulations to RDC teammate Mary Boone who finished 19th in the open women category. Also, big thanks and congratulations to our Vermont hosts Rebecca and George Michael Lowe, who were 1st and 3rd in their respective single speed categories.

End Note: The Dirty 40 was named to describe the original course, which was 60 miles long, 40 miles on dirt roads. For 2014, the race was 70 miles, 55 miles on dirt.

Appalachia Visited, 2014

Appalachia Visited, put on by JR Petsko (abraracing.com) and his tireless team of officials and volunteers, is a nice way to close out the road racing season. The race is 60 miles up and down the Cheat River Valley around Rowlesburg, WV – 25 minutes from the Maryland border. Rowlesburg, population ~600, is an extremely cycling-friendly town, and also hosts the Mountain State Dirty Double gravel stage race in May and the Appalachia Time Trial Championships in September. The Rowlesburg area offers challenging climbs, fast, twisty descents, and a number of rolling, country roads in the valley.

Aerial view of Rowlesburg, courtesy of WV Dept. of Commerce
Aerial view of Rowlesburg, courtesy of WV Dept. of Commerce

Our combined pack of masters men 40+ and women was over 50 riders strong. We stuck together as we started out on the gently rolling valley road. However, a climb about 10 miles in practically split the group in two.

The next big split would come around mile 20, at the base of the highest peak of the day. The same as at the Mount Davis race two weeks ago, a small group including Gunnar Shogren, Frankie Ross, and seven other riders kept a snappy, steady pace up the climb and rode away from the remaining members of the pack, including the women’s group and about 10 men, with others scattered across the landscape behind.  Gunnar would go on to win the 50+ category, followed by Brian McAndrews of Wayne, PA and Henry Swinty from Fort Wayne, IN.  The 40+ race was won by Grayson Church of DC, followed by John Nelmes of Virginia. Nathan Goates of Shippensburg, PA, edged out Ross for third. After getting dropped and sprinting back on a few times, out of breath and with no benefit of a draft going uphill, I watched, disappointed, as the lead group pulled away.

However, it was pleasant to have a large group to work with for the rest of the race. Our pack would break up on the climbs, but come together again on the roads in the valley. I was glad to at least be among the strongest climbers in this group, so I did not have to fight to catch back on further in the race.

The rolling country roads along the Cheat River allowed riders to regroup after getting separated on the climbs. Photo courtesy of WV Dept. of Commerce.
The rolling country roads along the Cheat River allowed riders to regroup after getting separated on the climbs. Photo courtesy of WV Dept. of Commerce.

The last climb, about three miles long, at around mile 48, is followed by an equally long descent with twisty U-turns, 9% grade, and a rolling seven miles to the finish. Defending women’s champion Michele Sherer, Team BMC Bike Stop of Warrenton, VA, set a steady pace at the base of the climb that was just fast enough for her, me, and Stokely Samuel of Bowie, Maryland to pull away from the group. Thanks to the turns in the road, we were soon out of sight, which can be an advantage in a race. However, the disadvantage was that we did not know how far back the other riders were. Michele was concerned about the pack catching us on the flats after the descent, which had happened a few other times in the race. So, she was glad to have Stokely and me along to work with. I sensed she lessened her pace a hair in order to keep us all together. We crested the hill in a group, descended pretty tight together, and then began a hurricane paceline to keep the other riders away – including Nicole Dorinzi and Melissa Hiller, who were close behind and would finish 3rd and 4th. I had just enough left to get off my saddle for a sprint in the last 200 meters, and rolled over the line slightly ahead of Michele, same second.

Rowlesburg was a good warm-up for the Dirty 40, a 60-mile gravel race next Saturday, August 30 in Derby, Vermont. A number of riders from “West Pennsylginia” will be making the trek north including RDC teammate Mary Boone, and Nicole Dorinzi of Morgantown. It will be nice to have some familiar faces in the pack! I am glad to have had good hilly road races in Appalachia Visited and the Mount Davis Challenge – to prepare for the hard climbs of northern Vermont.

Michelle Scherer (2nd) and Nicole Dorinzi (3rd) sometimes get the better of me on a hill, but today was a good climbing day for me.
Michelle Scherer (2nd) and Nicole Dorinzi (3rd) sometimes get the better of me on a hill, but today was a good climbing day for me.

Yeager Soars at Fair Hill

Oberman 2nd in XC Open Men. Harding, Thiemann go two, three in XC Open Women.

RDC's Selene Yeager on her way to victory at Fair Hill Classic
RDC’s Selene Yeager guides her Specialized Epic on her way to Endurance race victory at Fair Hill Classic

RDC's Selene Yeager wins the Women's endurance race at Fair Hill Classic
RDC’s Selene Yeager wins the Women’s endurance race at Fair Hill Classic

August 23, 2014. The fact that vacations are concluding and school is starting signals that not only is summer over, but so too is Mid Atlantic Super Series (MASS) racing for 2014. In one last final salute, over five hundred and fifty racers showed up this past weekend at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Fairhill MD to give it one last go at earning MASS series points in both Cross Country and Endurance events. Hosted by Trail Spinners, the Fair Hill Classic has long been a popular race due in part to the long 23 mile loop format and fun twisty fast trail. For 2014, endurance race participants were treated to one giant 40 mile loop, a remarkable feat, considering the relatively small land mass of the Fair Hill park. Rare Disease Cycling riders Selene Yeager, Cole Oberman, Kathleen Harding, Nikki Thiemann, Jesse Kelly, Andrew Dunlap and Shane Pasley threw their hats in the ring, and in what has become a habit for Rare Disease Cycling, podium appearances were made.

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Leading the way for Rare Disease Cycling was Selene Yeager who came away with the win for the Open Endurance women. Normally endurance racers do two a short prolog followed by two 23 mile laps. This year’s edition featured a single 40 mile loop. It’s a long race and a lot can go wrong. Yeager, who’s never really ridden to her full capabilities at the Fair Hill endurance event, finally put together a performance to be proud of. “I love riding at Fair Hill and have always done fairly well at the early XC race there.” recounted Yeager following her win. “But the endurance race has been a bit of a nemesis for me. I generally manage to pull out a good result, but not without a fair amount of misery. I’ve botched my nutrition. I’ve botched my hydration. I’ve gotten dizzy on that Crackhead Bob trail. I’ve made bad passes and almost taken out my own teammates. This was the first time I managed to put together a good day start to finish. I also felt monstrously good. Maybe it was Leadville sinking in or having all that wonderful oxygen to breathe, but I was able to finish as strong if not stronger than I started.”

RDC's Cole Oberman digs deep in the Cat 1 / Pro Open Men's race at Fair Hill Classic
RDC’s Cole Oberman digs deep in the Cat 1 / Pro Open Men’s race at Fair Hill Classic – Photo credit PJFreemenPhotograpy.com

Yeager’s winning time of 3:25 had a comfortable margin over second place and was good enough for 11th overall in the Endurance distance. Katrina Dowidchuk (Mid Atlantic Colavita Women’s Team) finished 2nd, Jennifer Tillman (Joe’s Bike Shop) 3rd, Missy Nash (Toasted Head Racing) was 4th, and rounding out the podium was Joanne Abbruzzesi (Bike Line).

NoTubes Vicki Barclay is 1st, RDC's Kathleen Harding 2nd, RDC's Nikki Thiemann 3rd in the Cat 1 / Pro Open Women at Fair Hill Classic.
NoTubes Vicki Barclay is 1st, RDC’s Kathleen Harding 2nd, RDC’s Nikki Thiemann 3rd in the Cat 1 / Pro Open Women at Fair Hill Classic.

In the men’s Cat1 / Pro Open event, RDC’s Cole Oberman finished 20 seconds behind winner Cameron Dodge (PURE ENERGY / SCOTT BICYCLES). “After a long and painful start drag, I led the group into the woods.” describes Oberman of the start of the Cat1 / Pro Open Men’s race. “My forte at the front quickly came to an end as I smashed my front wheel into a hole in the bottom of the first stream crossing. After ejecting onto the far shore and collecting myself, I began the chase back to the front group.”

Oberman remade contact and sat in to recover behind Aaron Snyder (STAN’S NOTUBES TRANSSYLVANIA EPIC ELITE MTB TEAM) and Cameron Dodge. “I let Cam set the pace for the first half of the race and tried to recover the best I could.” recalls Oberman. “With about 40 minutes remaining I went to the front and began hitting both the climbs and descent as hard as possible in hopes that I would force an error. In the end it wasn’t to be, I bobbled in the last section of single track and gave Cameron a 20 second gap which he held to the line.”

Dodge finished first, Oberman 2nd, and Aaron Snyder squeaked out 3rd just ahead of Andrew Freye.

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RDC’s Nikki Thieman (#535) smiles as Trail Spinners Ricardo Gomez prepares the Cat 1 / Pro Open Women for the start of the Fair Hill Classic – Photo credit PJFreemenPhotography.com

“All in all it was a great way to end the XC mountain bike season.” said an excited Oberman at the finish. “Now its time for some cyclocross!”

RDC’s Jesse Kelly finished 12 in the Cat 1 / Pro Open event, 10 minutes back. RDC Philly Regional rider Shane Pasley finished 23rd.

In the women’s Cat 1 / Pro Open event, RDC’s Kathleen Harding and Nikki Thiemann finished second and third respectively behind NoTubes Elite Women’s team racer Vicki Barclay.

RDC DC regional rider Andrew Dunlap finished 12th in the Open Endurance Men.

Full results here. PJFreemanPhotograpy.com event photos here. Ty Long NoFilmPhotography photos here.

Variety & The Hampshire 100

I decided to change things up for the Hampshire 100 and race in the singlespeed class, instead of racing my geared bike in the open class.  Not racing my singlespeed since the Cohutta 100 has been an interesting change for me, but I’ve got to admit that I felt more at home racing on a SS bike again.  In addition to my change back to a SS bike, the 2014 edition of the Hampshire 100 had some of its own changes in store for the racers this year.

I’ve done the Hampshire 100 the past two years and it is always a hard 100 mile race, but the new course layout made this race even tougher than it was in previous years.  Most of the 100 mile racers had finishing times about an hour slower than previous years.  The slower times were due to a few issues including: the removal of about 10 miles of rail-to-trail, the addition of some very freshly cut trail, and the course receiving over 3 inches of rain a couple of days before the event.

At the beginning of the race, Dan Rapp was able to get into the single track a head of me and put a little time between himself and the rest of the SS field.   I was eventually able to catch him after exiting the first section of new trail with the help of another singlespeed racer, Will Crissman.  From that point, the three of us worked together until we were caught by a group of geared riders that also contained singlespeed rider Ernesto Marenchin.  This occurred at the end of a long rail-to-trail section and before heading up a steep and loose climb about 20 miles into the race.

Upon getting caught by this group, Dan Rapp and I increased the pace by running and fast-walking up the climb and only Crissman followed.  The next split in the singlespeed race came on the powerline climb, which was mostly another hike-a-bike section.  On this part of the course, Crissman was not able to run/walk as fast as us up the hill and he fell from the pace Dan and I were setting.  From that point, Dan and I rode together at a fairly steady pace until the aid station at around mile 50.  I was able to leave the aid station a bit quicker than he was, which gave me an opportunity to put distance between my fast singlespeeding competitor and friend.

I was certain Dan was going to bridge back up to me, so I kept my speed high as possible, which quickly moved me past three other open class riders and into fourth place overall.  I never saw any other singlespeed racers after leaving Dan and managed to hold-on to my lead for the rest of the race to take the win.  After doing the past five NUE Series Races on a geared bike, it felt good to be back on a singlespeed again.  It has been said that variety is the spice of life and this has certainly been true for my 2014 NUE Series race season!

It always feels good to give a victory salute!

Even though the course was much tougher and finishing times were significantly slower than previous years, it was still a fun race and definitely interesting to ride.  The cool thing about doing these 100 mile NUE Series Races is that each course is a little different and has its own feel.  They have different ways of making a rider suffer: some with long climbs, others with high altitude, and others with soft, freshly cut trail, like at the Hampshire 100.  The challenge is to do your best at the race no matter how the conditions happen to be.

I can’t end this post without saying a big thank you to the race promoter, Randi Whitney, and all her help for making the Hampshire 100 run so smoothly and be a great 100 mile race experience!  To see how awesome this race was, check out The Hampshire 100 Video by Thom Parsons of Dirtwire.tv.

Happy Trails… Gerry