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What do four Costa Ricans from LaRuta, rigid hardtailed women, The Pfluginator and a rodent, the SiMonster, a Wunderkid, a Ferrari, a refugee, and a US Olympic hopeful all have in common?
The seventh annual Kenda National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series Opener at the Trailhead Bicycle Company Cohutta 100, held at the Ocoee whitewater center near Ducktown, Tennessee, host of the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition. The first of an expanded twelve-race mountain bike series this year, the Cohutta 100 witnessed nearly 400 racers as they rolled out from under a Giant Kenda Tire, hoping to capture one of four national titles or simply to endure to finish a challenging race boasting more than 13,000 feet of vertical elevation within the Cherokee National Forest.
Dry and Mild temperatures greeted racers this year, although it became warm in the afternoon with temperatures reaching the mid-eighties. Many racers agreed that this year’s course changes were an improvement, although most agreed it was also more difficult than previous years, thanks to miles of additional singletrack.
NUE Women’s Open:
According to race winner and 2008 NUE Series champion Cheryl Sornsen, Team CF, who finished 8:31:21, “Things worked for me today, particularly my body. I’ve had a great winter and spring of training and it paid off. The race start was fast and got a little sketchy, however, Amanda and I were able to stay on each other’s wheel. It wasn’t until the singletrack ended and we popped out onto the road that I was able to gap her.
I was more efficient and faster on the climbs today. The rest of the race I worked hard to stay away. It was a much harder race than last year and it was tough to stay focused and strong on the climbs but I found the willpower. This was the fourth time I raced Cohutta. Three second places, so it was a goal to win it today. I am super excited to start the NUE season with a win.”
According to the two-time defending women’s open champion, Amanda Carey, Kenda/Felt, who finished second 8:44:50, “Cheryl and I battled back and forth for the first hour but I immediately knew something was up. My heart rate was sky high, no power, and Cheryl was riding really, really well. She had a fantastic day. She dropped me like a hot potato about an hour and twenty minutes in on the first significant climb and there was nothing I could do about it.”
Kristin Gavin of Team Cystic Fibrosis, finished third 8:59:30. His response after the race was, “It hurt. This was my first hundred miler so I really eased into it and stuck to my priorities, monitoring my heart rate, keeping my pace, paying really close attention to my nutrition and my training paid off.” When asked about her choice in nutrition, Gavin added “Hammer Nutrition and this thing called water.” She also noted that she is working with 2007 NUE Men’s Open Champion, Chis Eatough using one of his specially designed training plans. Eatough won each of the four races he entered, earning a perfect score.
NUE men’s open:
In the men’s open division it was a US Olympic hopeful taking the spotlight with an impressive win over the reigning NUE men’s open champion, Christian Tanguy, TeamCF.org, who lives in Rochester, Michigan.
According to 36-year-old Jeremiah Bishop, Cannondale, of Harrisonburg, VA who blistered the newly designed course in 7:01:07, “That was an awesome, awesome race! I had a breakthrough ride, making a break on a huge climb about a mile before aid station five.”
Bishop, Tanguy and Michael Simonson (Trek/RBS), known by his friends and some competitors as the SiMonster, were together until just before aid five when Bishop put the hammer down. Bishop claimed he would like to do more of the NUE races this year, however he is maintaining his focus while awaiting a decision by the Olympic Selection Committee about who will be the two US Olympic representatives.
Tanguy finished second, just over four minutes behind Bishop, with Kevin Carter (Gripped Racing) from College Park, MD placing third. According to Carter, “These guys are bulletproof. You can’t make any mistakes! I got a flat on one of the river crossings early in the race and had to stop and air it up a few times. Then I got to spend an hour and a half chasing the lead pack.
“Jeremiah was just drilling the pace, punishing them mercilessly, and killing me in the process because I was trying to get back with them. Simonson blew up first and I passed him.
“Later on, I railed a rock on that last creek crossing and the hole was so big, my tire plug wouldn’t fill it. It was such a big hole that when I first tagged it and spun the wheel around to try to get the Stan’s to fill it, it just pooped out all the Stan’s onto the ground in a giant white puddle” (laughing).
“So I filled it up with the CA Glue and that didn’t hold it either, and then the tube clogged, so I just ripped the top off and poured probably a half ounce of CA all over my tire and hub, smacked a patch on the whole thing, and got it all over my gloves (laughing). It would only hold like eight psi. I was terrified I was going to get caught from behind but it was very frustrating so I stopped a couple times to pump it up and it finally held.”
Michael Simonson, Trek/RBS, of Oxford, MI finished fourth 7:30:36.70. An accomplished racer from the east coast, Justin Lindine, Redline, of New Salem, MA captured fifth 7:35:13.88, Cary Smith, team CF, of Jackson, WY sixth 7:38:59.33 and Alexander Sanchez, La Ruta De Los Conquistadores, of San Jose, UNK seventh 7:51:49.94.
At age 17, the youngest rider was Dylan Johnson, Scott RC Mountain, from McLean, VA who finished 21st 8:16:48.36 returning to Cohutta following a brutal crash last year that earned him a trip to the ER.
NUE singlespeed open:
Two-time NUE singlespeed champion Gerald Pflug, Salsa/SPK/Pao Bikes reported, “Early on, Matt Ferrari was riding with me. He was riding well and climbing really well! There was a group of maybe seven of us that went into checkpoint two.
“Matt stopped there but my stuff was at check point three. Nobody else stopped so I stayed with that fast group and when I looked back he took a little bit longer break than he should have because then I never saw him again at that point. It was just a matter of ridin’ with the geared guys and trying to keep my speed up.”
“The Pluginator,” who will be 44 this year, finished well enough on a 34/20 to take singlespeed and garner 14th overall among geared riders in 8:02:20. However, when asked whether it was all smooth sailin’, Pflug recalled what he described as a “disgusting” story involving a small furry, bushytailed rodent stating “this was the first time in my life that this has ever happened.”
“On this far singletrack, I was ridin’ with this guy named Kyle (27 year old Kyle Taylor, Bikers Choice, Nashville, TN) and we must have scared a squirrel or somethin’ and he crapped and it landed right on my face,” he continued, laughing. “When it hit my face I was like wuh? what? And then I started smellin’ it and I thought, ‘that smells like s@#!,’ as I was trying to wipe it off with my gloves. It was all over the place! It was the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me on a ride.”
Dwayne Goscinski of Crystal City, MO finished second 8:12:24 on a 32/17 in his first ever NUE win. “I started pretty far back and didn’t see the Pflug,” he said. “I passed a lot of guys out there and asked a couple guys and they said there ain’t a lot of people ahead. I ran into another singlespeeder (Matt Ferrari) at about mile 70 who said, ‘only Gerry’s ahead, but you can’t catch Gerry.’ I am hoping to do the series this year. I am registered for Syllamo’s and Lumberjack and hoping to do Fools Gold.”
When asked about his motivation out there, Goscinski, clearly emotional about discussing it, said, “I just want to say that this ride was for my son Noah who passed away on July 7 of last year after spending ten weeks at Children’s hospital following heart surgery. One of them was about ten hours long and he survived 23 days in that mode which is a miracle. He is in heaven now and so I am riding for the Noah Foundation.” For more information visit Dwaynegblogspot.com under chasing Noah.
Matthew Ferrari, Hubcap-Freeze Thaw Cycles, took third 8:23:84, Jason Pruitt, Peoples Brewing, LAS, Hodson Bay, of Lafayette, IN fourth 8:41:12.14, Robin Oscar, Motor Mile Racing, Signal Mountain,TN fifth 8:43:42.55. Kelly Klett, Trips for Kids-Triangle/Grassroots Bikes, 8:48:51 and Watts Dixon, Revolution Cycles/Revolting Cogs, 8:52:42 rounded out sixth and seventh place.
The next Kenda NUE Series race takes place at Syllamos Revenge in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Mountain View, Arkansas, on Saturday, May 19. Check Singletrack.com for more gear and trail analysis before the race.