Beneath towering bluffs and blue skies near the Blanchard Springs Caverns of Mountain View, Arkansas, Syllamo took his revenge on several riders found sporting shiny new red tattoos, not so delicately inscribed by the native limestone.
Unplanned and misguided rock encounters would change race day fortunes for several riders, including NUE men’s open champion, Christian Tanguy, Team CF, Saturday as the Kenda National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series, swerved into its second sold out stop this season.
Syllamo’s Revenge, presented by Hammer Nutrition, with 50 mile and 125k distances, takes place on the Syllamo (pronounced sil-lah-moe) mountain bike trail, a series of interconnecting loops offering mountain bike enthusiast’s fifty miles of trail, most of it singletrack.
Comfortable morning temperatures gradually became unusually hot temperatures by midday, forcing many racers to refocus their attention on hydration or suffer defeat by attrition in the hands of the elements.
Additionally, hot and dry conditions made portions of the trail very different than last year, when overnight rains caused Don Lovelance Jr., from Tulsa, OK, to describe the mud on the native slickrock, as “like riding on Teflon.”
Riders were up against loose gravel, razor rocks, and even some exceptional overgrowth that could tear at the soft flesh of unsuspecting riders, causing some finishers, including winner Amanda Carey, Kenda/Felt, to arrive looking as if they had just escaped from a scrape with Freddy Krueger.
The Ozark Mountains of Syllamo’s set the stage for a race that is truly as much as man versus nature, as it is man versus man.
Redeeming her loss to 2009 NUE champion, Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) just two weeks ago, two-time NUE women’s open champion, Carey had a clean race with no flats and proved that she was still in champion form, not only taking the women’s podium at 7:10:47 but placing 12th overall among both men and women.
Brenda Simril of Chattagnooga, TN placed fourth last year in 8:07:03 but improved her time and standing this year taking second place 7:47:47. She commented, “It was so hot! That was definitely the biggest challenge. I felt great, super strong all the way coming into the red loop connector the first time and then I started redlining, overheating really badly.
“I knew it was going to be hot so I carried my camelback all day and then I kept a bottle so that I could use it to pour water all over my head. I started doing that as much as I could and kind of limped my way into aid three. At three, I filled my camelback all the way up, dumped a couple bottles over my head so I kind of started to recover through the red loop and then the same thing happened my second time through.
“I caught Cheryl pretty early, before aid one, but the whole time I was waiting for her to come blastin’ out from behind me. Early on, I was riding with Andrea Wilson (Outdoors) and Kathleen Harding (Team CF/Elite Team CF) until the really technical descent on the yellow loop, before aid one, and got ahead of them there. I was looking over my shoulder and riding like a scalded cat for the rest of the race.”
Coming off a big victory at Cohutta, Sornson took the brunt of Syllamo’s revenge early in the race, yet somehow managed to capture third place, rolling up on a torn up Specialized Fast Track Control tire complete with a sidewall blown out and patched on one side and another major sidewall tear, bubbled out, ready to blow on the other side.
“Oh my goodness, the first downhill it was like, “psssssssshhh” and I was like, Oh God,” said Sornson. “I think it was a sidewall, then my tube was pinched or something, but a Guardian trail racer gave me their tube and air.” Unlike USA Cycling rules that prohibit racer’s from offering assistance to other racers, NUE Series rules allow racers to assist one another.
Sornson continued, “It was forty minutes time lost and I was dead last by this point. The second flat resulted from a rock that hit my nipple, tearing it off of my tube. I fixed that thanks to a teammate at aid station one who gave me her tube. I picked up more tubes at aid two, then I got a third flat when the patch on my sidewall from the first flat flipped off. ‘Psssssshhhh’ again. I didn’t even realize there was a tear on the other side as well that was ready to blow.
“Fortunately, I had a tube, but someone had to help me get air in it because it was a Wal-Mart 29″ tube that I had just bought last night and the nozzle was super short so I couldn’t get my CO2 on it. They helped me pump it up but it really didn’t have much air in it so at the next aid station they put some gorilla tape and another tube patch on it. They put a lot of air in it, like 30-40 pounds. I was bouncing everywhere but I felt more confident. I wanted to catch Brenda, knew I couldn’t catch Amanda, but felt strong and people were so nice, and friendly and helpful, so I’m psyched.”
Kathleen Harding completed her first ever NUE Series race, grabbing fourth place in 8:25:06. When asked what she attributed her win to she replied, “I have had some awesome training, awesome coaching, and great support by Team CF. I really tried to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration, watch the clock, making sure I was taking in the right amount, and mostly avoiding the briers (laughing).” Harding’s next race will be the Mohican MTB100 June 2.
Rounding out the top five — and on a singlespeed, no less — Andrea Wilson finished 8:51:18.
In the Women’s fifty mile race, Roxanne Fagen took the top spot.
Last Season, in the Men’s Open division it was Christian Tanguy (TeamCF.org) taking the top spot at Syallamo’s, setting the bar at 6:10:19, and going 2-0 to start the NUE season following a win over three-time NUE Champion, Jeff Schalk, Trek, at The Cohutta 100.
Fast forward to 2012, Tangy has proven that he is still in champion form, capturing second at the Cohutta 100, less than five minutes behind US Olympic Hopeful, Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale). However, Syallamo struck hard Saturday when Tanguy lost it in a loose gravel section, catapulted over the bars and into the rocks, early in the race.
According to Tanguy, who lives in Rochester, Michigan, “It was about two miles before aid station two and nothing super technical, I just ate it on some root or stone that I didn’t see. In a split second, I knew I was going to go over the bar and I see this big stone. I was going face down into the stone and I thought, ‘I am going to really hurt my jaw.’ Afterward, I was really glad that I didn’t really break anything in my face but then I noticed a sharp pain, looked down, and there was quite a bit of blood coming out of a puncture wound in my leg.
“I was in the second position. Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) was in first and my teammate Brandon Draugelis was just behind me when he stopped and asked me if I was all right. It hurt really bad but I knew this was not a life threatening injury so I told him not to worry about me. I pretty much walked to aid station two. I knew it was really close. Until the point I crashed, I was feeling really strong.”
At the hospital, Tanguy reported that, “The doc just cleaned up the wound, administering a tetanus shot along with a few x-rays to insure there was no debris left in the flesh.” Tanguy says the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan will be about redemption.
The ONLY racer to finish under six hours, in 5:59:40 and taking his first national win, Edsall, whose previous best NUE Series finish was a top three at the Fool’s Gold 100 last year, said, “I felt pretty good today. Brandon, myself, Christian and Rob Spreng were riding together, then, about thirty minutes in, Rob flatted. It sounded like he tore a sidewall so he was pretty much out of it. It was a technical section and it’s pretty easy to flat here. It’s one of the big things you gotta be careful of. Make sure you pick durable tires.
“I used the Kenda Kozmik Lite tubes, the new SCT version that is a new sealant-compatible tire. It’s got a little better sidewall and a little heavier. It’s about eighty to one hundred grams heavier than a normal tire but for this course, it absolutely paid off. I had no flats.
“Christian took a crash on a downhill and Brandon was behind him and got stuck a little bit. I didn’t necessarily pick up the pace, but I didn’t really slow down either and I got a small gap.
From there, I knew the climbs past aid two and picked the pace up a bit.”
Edsall is planning on racing at the High Cascades 100 in Oregon July 21, possibly the Pierre’s Hole 100 on August 4 and would like to do the Lumberjack 100.
Draugelis added, “I was feelin’ pretty good until that fourth aid station. That’s when the heat really started comin’ on. The gap was maybe ten minutes at that time and I was thinking, ‘it’s hot out, I’m suffering’ but still keeping the pace high, nice and steady and see what happens.
“I was using Hammer Perpetuem and grabbed a handful of endurolytes at the last aid station. I had no idea how far the next guy was so I was lookin’ over my shoulder every five minutes. There are so many fast guys here.” In fact, Draugelis did hold on resulting in his best NUE Series finish ever taking second place in 6:19:15. Draugelis is planning to compete at Mohican and Lumberjack
Rob Spreng (Dirty Harry’s) from Butler, PA took third 6:34:27, “Everything was going pretty good. I was ridin’ with Drew, Brandon and Christian until I had a pretty bad flat about an hour in, before Christian’s crash. I sliced a sidewall and my inflator head didn’t work so I had to wait until someone was gracious enough to give me one. I want to thank that guy! Because of him, I was able to finish.
“I saw Christian at Aid two where he said he was done and I was running in fourth place until, sometime before aid three, I think, on a climb, I looked up and saw Chris Peariso, Adventure 212/Specialized, and I think he was struggling with the heat a little bit at the time.” Peariso, from Amherst, WI, reportedly took a handful of electrolytes and not only survived but hung on for fourth place, 6:39:49. Teammate, Ryan Krayer rolled in 6:46:55 and Ernesto Marenchin, Pivot
Cycles, from Stow, OH rounded out sixth place one second later.
Kevin Carter, Gripped Racing, who tore the mounts off his aluminum seatpost, leaving sharp jagged edges, provided some insight into what happened to the SiMonster, Michael Simonson, RBS MTB Team, who ultimately finished tenth. “He is from the planet Krypton, he is superman, but his kryptonite appears to be named Kevin Carter because I was trolling along with my little pig sticker trying not to get stabbed when Simonson catches me.
“We were going back and forth for a minute, he was showing me some sympathy for my broken seatpost and I must have distracted him because as we entered a rock garden, one of these elusive Syllamo’s granite snakes jumped out and grabbed his wheel so fast I didn’t even know what happened. He was kind of lookin’ my way when it grabbed the bike right out from under him and he slammed down hard with kind of a grunt and ooof.
“He didn’t say anything for minute and I thought he had gotten seriously hurt! It was the same thing that had happened at the Shenandoah 100 where he past me about two minutes before his big crash there!”
At the Shenandoah 100 last year, Simonson was air lifted to the nearest hospital with serious injuries but made a complete recovery from the most serious injury of the season.
Two-time NUE singlespeed champion Gerald Pflug, SALSA/NoTubes/Top Gear, took his second straight NUE Series victory in 2012, completing the 125k race course in just 6:35:17, more than a half hour faster than last year (7:06:32), then capped it off by taking fourth place overall.
However, he may be looking over his shoulder more this season as NUE newcomer, Ron Harding, Trestle Bridge Racing, from Coatesville, PA proved he’s hard enough to hang with the Pflug.
Afterward, the “Pfluginator” had this to say. “Up into the first climb, Ron went into the singletrack first. I got by him a few miles in but he was on my wheel until maybe between checkpoints four and five, where there was this one climb in the sun. They had done some tree removal there and I was able to get a gap. Heading into the checkpoint five, I thought my gap was bigger than it was. I was just leaving checkpoint five when I saw Ron comin’ back in and I thought, ‘oh my gosh, we’re gonna be havin’ a drag race to the finish!’ so I just, like, stayed on the gas from checkpoint five to the finish and managed to keep the lead.”
When asked about what contributed to his improvement over last year, Pflug replied, “Awesome course compared to last year. It was completely different and for the better. Last year, on a singlespeed, you couldn’t ride a lot of it because the rocks were so slick. This year, I was able to ride a lot more of the second section that I couldn’t ride last year. I drank a lot of water today and I know that helped because I knew that heat was gonna be a factor.”
Relaxing under the cool shade of a huge tree nearby, 33-year-old NUE singlespeed newbie, Harding, who placed second less than three minutes behind Pflug, was asked about what he was doing before entering the NUE Series.
“I’ve raced mostly cross country up in the Mid-Atlantic Region. I’ve done a couple of endurance events but nothing in the NUE Series and this was definitely the hardest effort. It wasn’t as much climbing as I thought it would be. I heard it would be a lot more climbing, a lot more rocks, but it was definitely a lot of fun and it was great riding with someone. We were about halfway through and I was like, ‘It’s a good thing we’re not in no man’s land ‘cuz this could be brutal!'” he said, laughing. “Then, after aid five, I never saw him again.”
Evan Plews, Ibis Cycles/Real Racing, from Salem, OR, grabbed the third spot on the podium 6:40:33, just two minutes behind Harding. Duane Goscinski, Team Noah Foundation, 7:14:23 from Crystal City, MO and Jason Pruitt, LAS, 7:37:25, from Lafayette, IN rounded out fourth and fifth places. Goscinski commented, “I took two large flasks of Hammer Gel and about three bottles of Heed and three bottles of water, no food, and that was it. It works so I stick with it. Besides last year, I had done the fifty mile for the five previous years where I had ten flats, broke a frame, and destroyed a wheel.”
On June 2, the series shifts to the Buckeye State in Loudonville, Ohio for the ninth annual Kenda Mohican 100 mile and 100km races. Another record turnout of 600+ is expected this year along the remote single-loop course that spans the four counties collectively referred to as “Mohican Country.” Racers can register through Friday, June 1, however registration is filling up fast so racers are encouraged to register soon for best pricing. Visit mohican.net for more information.