NUE Wilderness 101

Written by: Jen Toops

Photos by: Dave Seasholtz

On July 20th, 2019, Shenandoah Mountain Tours held the Wilderness 101 and Marathon races in Coburn, PA. The Wilderness 101 is part of the NUE National Ultra Endurance Race Series and is know for its East coast rocky singletrack, and rolling gravel roads. It was a scorcher with sunny skies and temps reaching almost 100 degrees F. Camping was included with registration in Coburn Park which is also the race start making for an easy race morning and celebration at the finish line

Women’s Open

Toops gets Top Step

2018 NUE Marathon champion, Jen Toops, Pearl Izumi/Pivot MTB race team, takes the top step in a time of 9:13:12.

Women’s Open podium: 1st Jen Toops, 2nd Julia Thumel, 3rd Lindsey Carpenter, 4th Rebecca Lewandowski, 5th Karen Talley

“After an unexpected need to fly back to Ohio (literally booked the flight Wed and flew home Thursday), I found myself racing Wilderness 101 instead of High Cascades. My mom agreed to make the 5 hour journey to Coburn, PA and spend the weekend camping at the race start.

My plan was to keep a steady pace on the first climb knowing it was going to be a long hot day. Julia quickly passed me at the beginning of the climb. I was feeling good so I held her wheel for a bit. About halfway up I felt warmed up and ready to race, so I made my move. I worked hard to latch onto the group ahead by the top of the start climb. Working in a small group we watch some gravel miles tick by. The pace of this group was a wee bit too fast and I found myself off the back.

It soon turned to singletrack and I felt at home. Having raced TSE this spring I felt confident on the PA rocks and kept a steady pace. After a few updates from fellow racers I knew I had a little cushion and focused on pacing, hydration and nutrition. It’s hard to eat when it’s 90F so I stuck with CarboRocket, plain Water, Honey Stinger gels and bananas. I wore a pack for hydration and carried a bottle of water on my bike primarily used to spray on myself to cool down on the long exposed gravel climbs.

Jen Toops trying to navigate the PA rocks

On the NoName descent I made a rookie mistake. I thought I heard someone bombing the descent behind me and I took a quick peek over my shoulder. There was no one there but my front wheel hit a rock weird and I found myself over the bars before I even knew what was happening. My left hand instantly throbbed as I landed on my left palm of my hand. It took everything to finish the last part of the descent holding tight with my right hand and hovering the bars with my left hand. I stopped took some Ibuprofen and thought about a DNF. Then I realized it would most likely take longer or be just as painful to find my way back rather than finishing the last 35 or so miles.

After riding with one hand for about an hour the Ibuprofen kicked in and I could at least hold the bars. On the Still house climb my shifting starting giving me fits and I had to stop and check it a few times but couldn’t find anything wrong. A little more down the trail I was standing and pedaling and my crank stopped completely. Turns out my thru axel was loose and had wiggled halfway out and my wheel was basically falling off. Must of came loose when I crashed. I’m lucky I got it fixed fairly quick and didn’t have a major mechanical or crash.With about 15 miles left I kept a steady/safe pace knowing the cool River was waiting at the finish line!”


Julia Thumel, Race Pace Bicycles, takes second crossing the finish in 9:55:59. With this race she is now in third in the NUE Epic series. Lindsey Carpenter, Salsa Cycles, takes the third spot on the podium 10:18:34.

Men’s Open

Bishop gets first NUE win for 2019

Men’s Open Podium: 1st Jeremiah Bishop, 2nd Dylan Johnson, 3rd Matt Acker, 4th Bobby Lea, 5th Gordon Wadsworth

It was a close race in the Men’s Open class. In the end it was Jeremiah Bishop, Canyon Bicycles/Ergon, who took the win in an impressive 7:08:53. This was Bishop’s first NUE win for 2019. Less than a minute back, the 2019 NUE series leader, Dylan Johnson, FBS Racing, finished second in 7:09:37. Only two second back, Matt Acker, Salsa Cycles finished in 7:09:39.

Singlespeed

Klose wins first W101

Singlespeed podium: 1st James Klose, 2nd Eli Orth, 3rd Scott Rath, 4th Matt Ferrari, 5th Donovan Neal

James Klose, SECT NEMBA/Wayfarer Bicycle gets first W101 win in a time of 7:50:03. Taking second and leading the NUE singlespeed division was, Eli Orth, Team Hungry crossing the line in 8:30:52.

“Wilderness 101 was my 4th NUE epic distance race of the year. Going in I knew it was going to be a tough race with the predicted temps and humidity. The heat index was upwards of 110 degrees! Keeping that in mind i set my own pace early and watched the lead group pull away which also included a couple of my competitors in the single speed class. I went into the day wanting to just stay hydrated and fueled and stay at a consistent good pace. After settling in I decided to pick up the pace a little after aid station 2. Not long after aid 2 I caught Dahn Pahrs. I was up to 2nd place and Dahn let me know first wasn’t too far ahead. While standing at aid 3 drinking coke and grabbing some snacks i turn around to see Dahn roll up. On the gravel climb and through single track Dahn and I were close together with Dahn pulling back ahead again in the single track temporarily until he got a flat. As i roll up and ask if he needs anything he lets me know he’s okay and I roll by picking up the pace even more hoping to gap him enough that i keep him from catching me again. After that I didn’t see Dahn again (later learned he dropped out somewhere after aid 4) and didn’t see any other single speeders the rest of the race. It was a brutal hot day where I felt like i was cooking from inside out. It was especially hard on climbs like Stillhouse where I was grinding up them struggling both physically and mentally. It was great once again to race with Michael Gottfried a good portion towards the end along with Roger Masse. We pushed each other and chatted keeping our sanity on this tough day.Overall I was very happy with the results as Wilderness always has a strong SS field. It was great racing on the rocks in Pa for the second time this year!My gearing of choice for the race was 34×20. Next up is Shenandoah and Marji Gesick. I’d like to thank everyone that has supported and motivated me this year. Especially my wife who has been very supportive to my busy schedule this year. Thanks to my team.. Team Hungry and Absolute Black. Also thanks to Nox Composites for quickly getting me everything i needed for my wheel build  in time for Wilderness on short notice.”

Scott Rath, Cadre Racing took the third podium spot in a time of 8:57:25.

“Heading into the Wilderness 101, my only goal was to hopefully take some of the fitness I picked up at The Trans-sylvania Epic and turn that into a sub 9 hour finish. Seeing the forecast, I wasn’t sure that would be possible. The first 30 miles had me burning matches on my 34X20 gearing trying to stay latched on to trains knowing that if I fell off the back, I’d be working twice as hard by myself. During the second half of the race, I started picking off fellow single speeders and when I passed Don Powers walking up the infamous Stillhouse Hollow Rd climb due to not being able to keep food down, he let me know that there were a few more single speeders just up ahead, and that was just the motivation I needed to keep the pedals mashing. Despite the debilitating heat, I worked my way past two single speeders up and over Stillhouse. I kept checking my Garmin and it seemed like a sub 9 hour wasn’t going to be possible but then a super long stretch of gravel had me descending and descending some more. I buzzed past a fresh off Lyme Disease, Matt Ferrari and closer to a possible sub 9 hour finish. I put my head down, grabbed my fork crowns, and pedaled the mostly flat finish always checking over my shoulder. I found my way back to Coburn Park and crossed the line at 8:57and found out I snagged 3rd place. I’m still in disbelief. I’m hoping to get to the Shenandoah 100 if my schedule allows it.”

Masters

Masse celebrates first 2019 NUE win

Masters podium: 1st Roger Masse, 2nd Hank McCullough, 3rd Jed Prentice, 4th Joe Johnston, 5th Tom Stritzinger

Roger Masse, Stokesville/SMT/Stans/TREK takes the Masters win with a time of 8:30:42. Second place was, Hank McCullough, Team Trappe Door, finishing in 8:52:07.

“I had big question marks going into this year’s W101 having not been to the race since 2015 and for that matter no NUE events since 2017, only participating in one.  The passing years have me moving to the “seasoned” end of the masters 50+ division with little intel on those who have just moved in from the open bracket.  Although I have been to W101 three times we just don’t have rocks like this down in SC and my trail work has been limited this year. Fortunately supporting Trappe Door’s road squad through the spring racing season combined with big miles at the Allegheny Mountain Loop 400 bikepacking race in late April had me ready for a long day…which it definitely was with a scorching heat wave upon us.  
To be honest my main reason for coming this year was to catch up with NUE masters regulars Mark Drogalis and W101 icon Jim Matthews, whom I have not seen for several year due to moves, and life’s changing priorities.  I intentionally set low expectations regarding the race itself with a focus on fun.   Ride sensibly and don’t get too far into the red zone and that is how it went.   I would like to say I could give a play by play but I can’t remember the names of all the climbs and trails.   A measured start had me alone after the first climb but I clawed at least a dozen back on the rolling fire roads including Jed Prentice who was in good form coming from a strong finish at the BC Bike Race.   Jed was climbing a bit stronger and definitely making it through the rough stuff quicker, but I sensed that he might be going a bit hard so I just stayed back 200m and settled into my own pace.  My strategy paid off after RS 3, as Jed admitted after that he blew before the ending two climbs.   I figured Roger Masse, a winner on numerous occasions, was well ahead but if I had pushed a little harder and avoided a few course miscues due to mental fatigue at the end perhaps his winning margin would have been smaller?   Cursing Fisherman’s, or really myself for having crappy skills through the boulders,  I sensed that a solid finish was at hand, my best NUE result to date and the satisfaction in knowing that even this old goat can still have a good day. ”

Jed Prentice, Team Bike Doctor crossed the finish line at 8:55:45.

“I was happy to make the podium. Let’s just say that 7 days of recovery after the BC Bike Race was not enough! (I finished third in the 50+ GC at BCBR). I thought the Wilderness 101 was a week later on 7/27, until I got the pre-race brief. My race bike was on its way back from BC so I had to prep my son’s bike (an old race bike of mine from a few years ago). I was tired and racing an old bike but hoping things would work out. 
I didn’t feel so great on the first climb and was dropped early by Roger and Joe Johnston. I resigned myself to maintaining a steady pace and hoping to catch them later if they cracked. I caught some riders and felt ok until about mile 50, then blew up at mile 60 or so, on the way up to Beautiful Trail. After aid 4, on the way up Stillhouse Hollow, the lights went out and I had to stop and collect myself for a minute while several riders passed me. After struggling up the climb, I passed Joe Johnston as he was cooling off in the creek at the bottom of the descent. Thinking I was maybe in second, I was motivated to salvage something so I suffered to the finish. It turned out that the guy who passed me before aid 5 was also in the Masters race; I could see him on the rail trail near the finish but couldn’t bring him back, so I ended up third. It wasn’t pretty but I survived it.”

Click here for full Wilderness 101 results

Next up on the 2019 NUE Epic series is Pierre’s Hole in Alta, WY August 3rd, 2019

NUE Wilderness Marathon

Written by: Jen Toops

Photo credit: Dave Seasholtz

On July 20th, 2019, Shenandoah Mountain Tours held the Wilderness 101 and Marathon races in Coburn, PA. The Wilderness 101 is part of the NUE National Ultra Endurance Race Series and is know for its East coast rocky singletrack, and rolling gravel roads. It was a scorcher with sunny skies and temps reaching almost 100 degrees F. Camping was included with registration in Coburn Park which is also the race start making for an easy race morning and celebration at the finish line.

Men’s Open

Schwarm Takes Wilderness Marathon win

Brian Schwarm, Think Green-Bicycle Face p/b Sword, wins the Men’s Open in a time of 5:40:48. With this win Schwarm leads the NUE Marathon series.

“The Wilderness 101K is one of my favorite races for many reasons. That area of Pennsylvania is breathtaking, the trip to get there (through Cumberland, Maryland) is extremely scenic, and of course the race course is marvelous with the big climbs and rocky singletrack. However, the main topic of discussion among all the racers was the heat. It was hot!

The race started as usual heading out of Coburn and up the Siglerville-Millheim gravel climb. Erik Neilson, Josh Kunz (on a singlespeed), and I rode mostly together until the ridge where Josh bid us farewell and Erik and I took off with our gears. We rode the following gravel sections together, often chatting, and enjoying the slight overcast before things started heating up (both figuratively and literally). 

Once Erik and I hit the trail sections the effort intensified. This was due to the trail itself but also we were catching some 101 mile racers once the courses linked back up. They provided extra motivation to keep going fast. So Erik and I were catching riders and railing the trails. We continued this until the Stillhouse Hollow Climb just past Aid Station 4 where I was able to slide away on the climb. From that point on I was riding by myself but I was running scared since Erik is such a strong racer. I kept an eye behind but was able to roll in for the win. 

Thanks to my amazing wife Jennifer for her continued support. I am very fortunate that she is often willing to travel with me, meet me at aid stations, and take care of me at the finish! In addition, thanks to my team Think Green – Bicycle Face and other sponsors SWORD, ESI grips, Native Eyewear, Maxxis Tires, and Specialized Bikes. Next on the agenda is the Shenandoah 100K over Labor Day weekend for my final stop in the NUE Marathon series.”

Marathon men’s open podium: 1st Brian Schworm, 2nd Erik Nielson, 3rd Thad Paunovich

Taking second place was, Erik Nielson, SouthPaw Cycles, Industry Nine/Giant, finishing in 5:56:54. In third place was, Thad Paunovich, coming in at 7:02:21

Women’s Open

Sheldon gets TOP STEP

Getting her first NUE win of 2019, Elizabeth Sheldon, Cxhairs Devo: Trek, wins the women’s marathon race in, 6:44:12.

“The Wilderness 101 marathon was a real challenge this year!  I’ve done the full distance a few times previously, but was hoping to spend a bit less time in the saddle (and a bit less time recovering after!). Race day started great, with cool-ish temperatures, a bit of overcast and even some breeze when the 100-milers started at 7 a.m.  The marathon racers roll out at 9, which makes sense for the logistics, but had us nervously waiting as the late-July temps started to creep up. Once we got underway, Bryna Blanchard and I were together for the early road climbing sections, but I was riding by myself or with small groups by the time we were at the first singletrack.  At the start of the singletrack, we were sharing the course with the 100-milers after their longer start loop, so there was more company. Aid Station 1 was up to Davidson standards (thanks!). 
After the aid station, the humidity went up and my recollection gets a bit foggier.  The rocks were much greasier, and the heat kicked up a notch, and by the time I got through the second aid station and on to the Stillhouse Hollow climb I was definitely feeling the effort. The kind souls handing out ice bags at Sand Mountain parking lot saved me and after more pedaling I was ecstatic to see the Stan’s finish arch in Coburn. Many good stories from the finish area (including from my husband, brother-in-law and nephew who all rode that day), but my favorite was from my son Jonah who broke his fork at the top of Stillhouse, rode back down, and then finished the full 100 mile course on a borrowed bike.
Thanks to Chris Scott and all the volunteers for a great day on the bike.”

1st Elizabeth Sheldon, 2nd Bryna Blanchard, 3rd Brittany Spangler

About 7 minutes back, Bryna Blanchard, BMB Racing, finished second in a time of 6:51:37. Brittany Spangler, Sacred Cycle, finished third, 7:34:34.

Singlespeed

In the single speed class, Josh Kunz, Knobby Side Down, takes the win in a time of 7:13:45. Jason Zollinger finished second crossing the line at 9:53:06.

Masters

Getting his first NUE win of the season, Carroll Thumel, LRC, wins the Masters division with a time of 9:13:34. Taking the second step, Dan Mock, finished in 9:29:06.

“The 2019 Wilderness 101k can be summarized in just one word, HOT! The prediction for 93 degree temps, prompted me to create a new, one of a kind, Garmin screen with just two stats, temp and mileage. I could feel my head exploding as I watched the degrees tick higher. The 80 plus mile course does have much needed relief, if you take advantage of a dip in one of the extremely cold creeks, well worth the time penalty. Special thanks to Chris Scott for supplying lots of ice at the aid stations. It may not sound like a big deal, but that ice and the many creeks along the way, kept me going.
My usual Tortoise (that’s me) and the Hare race strategy proved to find me on the podium for third place. I’ll take it! Chris has a way of making them tough, so congratulations to ALL who finished. Surviving the heat, extra distance and hours of climbing, is more than most 50/60 year old’s could ever dream of accomplishing. Next on the bucket list, good times at Shenandoah.”

Coming in third was, Richard Hultstrom, with a time of 9:55:47.

Click Here for full results

Next up on the NUE Marathon series is Pierre’s Hole August 3rd in Alta, WY

Breck Epic – Stage 5

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

Vaunted Wheeler Stage takes racers into rarefied air along Tenmile Range

Swenson, Nash stay perfect while Mejia moves into third overall 

 By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: Keegan Swenson and Katerina Nash remained undefeated this week, both winning the Wheeler Stage by comfortable margins (28 seconds for Swenson, a whopping 4:33 for Nash). It sounds redundant, but they were never threatened on the 24-mile stage, which crests 12,400 feet three times and gains 5,544 vertical feet. The UCI Elite names behind them, however, were a different story. Colombia’s Luis Mejia marked Swenson (whose winning time was 2:36:33) for much of the day and leaped from sixth to third overall. He needed 1:34 to pass Arizona’s rising star Nash Dory, 21, who placed third on the day but conceded 2:53 to Mejia. With Russell Finsterwald looking solidly entrenched in second overall, Mejia’s advantage sits at 1:09 over Dory going into the final stage. 

In the women’s race, Nash (3:23:16) and Hannah Finchamp again swept the top two spots, but the big surprise was Laetitia Roux snagging third after starting the day in eighth overall. Roux, a French ski mountaineering racer who won the World Cup overall title eight times before retiring last year, capitalized on the rugged terrain to make the biggest jump by a women’s racer all week. She finished two minutes back of Finchamp.

BIKE COUNT: With help from SRAM’s staff, we checked bike and component specs and brands before today’s start. Some interesting trends shone through. Nearly half the field (44 percent) is using seat dropper posts, for starters. Among the 28 bike brands in action, one in four racers is on Specialized, while 13 percent are riding Santa Cruz. The rest of the top eight broke down as follows: Scott (10 percent), Yeti (9 percent), Trek (8 percent), Pivot (6 percent), Niner (4 percent), and Rocky Mountain (3 percent). 

Fox is the suspension of choice for 55 percent of the field, while 38 percent of riders are on RockShox. SRAM dominates the drivetrain category over Shimano (76 percent to 21), while Shimano led the way in pedals (49 percent to Crank Brothers’ 21) and brakes, edging SRAM (48 percent to 46). Amazingly, only three people are using front derailleurs this week.

WHEE-LER, WHEE-LER!: The theater never gets old on Wheeler Pass. Thursday an eight-pack of Summit Endurance Academy rippers donned white hazmat onesies and handed out bacon, candy, and bourbon (OK, maybe their parents handed out the liquor since this is a public forum, but let’s just say the adolescents were integral recruiters).

‘You want some whiskey, bro?” a 13-year-old boy asked a racer as he crested the 12,408-foot pass. 

“Nah, I’m drunk enough as it is, man,” replied the racer. 

The kid moved down the trail. “Hey dude, you want some liquid speed?”

This guy declined, too, but he did accept two strips of bacon. “I’m gonna stash this in my burrito,” he said, pulling off the trail. “I’m so sick of all this gel-y food.”

“I love you all!” someone yelled while pedaling away. 

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: I asked this in various ways and at various locations along the Wheeler Trail between Peak 10 and the pass. Some excerpts:

“Good. I thought it’d be harder.”

“Terrible.”

“Emotional, incredible, on top of the world.”

“I’m seeing Elvis, man.”

“I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little loose today. My wits are about me, but only tangentially.”

“I don’t feel much.”

“Oh, excited, man.”

“Incredible,” said a man walking up the trail in his socks. “Blisters. I should’ve done this three miles ago.”

“I wanna see how YOU feel.” [Woman hugs me for a while.]

[Man takes a swig of bourbon] “Well, I’m Canadian, so this makes me feel normal. The bacon’ll round it out. All I really need now is a donut.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: On my way back to civilization, I ran into Dawn Whaley. She is racing this week in place of her husband, Marland, who registered for the race but died of cardiac arrest on June 27. Whaley gave me a hug, tears welling up in her eyes, then introduced me to her two riding buddies at the back of the pack. “This race has changed my life,” she said.

Breck Epic – Stage 4

Race’s longest stage incites drama in men’s field, but yields same result

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

Davoust, Nadell break away but fall short; Nash and Swenson increase GC leads as international field marvels at terrain 

 By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: Things got interesting in Wednesday’s Stage 4—for a while. Durango, Colorado, roommates Stephan Davoust (ninth overall) and Henry Nadell (12th) launched an attack on overall leader Keegan Swenson and the men’s elite field 10 miles in. Davoust, who won the Downieville Classic All Mountain World Championship the week before, flatted twice Tuesday and lost 24 minutes; he was intent on reclaiming some time and possibly stealing a stage. He and Nadell built their lead to 3 minutes, 15 seconds by the halfway point, and Swenson was content to let them go. But Luis Mejia of Colombia was not on board, and he attacked his fellow chasers in pursuit of the lead duo. Swenson matched Mejia’s attacks, which resulted in them passing the breakaway at the top of the 2,000-foot climb out of Keystone Gulch. “I was keen to just chill today, take it easy,” said Swenson, who rides for Stan’s/Pivot. “If those guys could hold the gap, good for them—I was kind of hoping they would. But I didn’t want to let [Mejia] go.”

Swenson then took over, as he has all week. He put 53 seconds into Mejia and coasted to his fourth win in four days in 3:11:39—building his GC lead to 11:01 over Russell Finsterwald, who took seventh Wednesday. Brevard College cycling coach Cypress Gorry claimed his first podium of the week, 16 seconds back of Mejia, while Nash Dory held on to third place overall. There are now four riders within 1:44 of the final GC podium spot.

The women’s race also felt familiar. Clif Pro teammates Katerina Nash and Hannah Finchamp rode together for most of the day before Nash pulled away, staying perfect on the week and inching closer to the overall title. She finished in 3:54:43 to beat Finchamp by 1:27 and increase her GC lead to 7:16. Evelyn Dong took third in 4:00:34.

WOOOOOOO!: With racers from 25 countries here, the international finish-line flavor has been rich. Languages, accents, and eyes as wide as pinecones permeate the race. Much of their conversation has centered on the local trail network and how diverse it is, so we were interested in how it compares with their hometown terrain.

“These trails are totally different from my country,” said Ajay Pandrit Chhetri, 31, a five-time national champion from Nepal. “We ride on quite wide trail, not narrow one, but I’m getting used to it day by day. It’s quite fun. In Nepal we can ride anywhere, from 500 feet elevation to 18,000 feet. But not like this—not technical singletrack.”

“You never get tired of it,” said Laetitia Roux, 34, of Sauvines Le Lac, France. Roux is a 17-time world champion in ski mountaineering who retired from the World Cup last year and now dabbles in mountain bike racing. “In France and Europe right now, the organizers don’t want to accept much risk, so they take the easy way down to avoid crashes. It’s so nice to see that we can have these super technical trails here. French Pass was awesome. It was just like, wooooooo!”

“This feels like home, like I’m in the Rockies in Canada,” said three-time 24-hour world champion Cory Wallace, who lives in Jasper, Alberta. “Even if you’re not flying, it’s still going to be a great week on the bike. Whereas if you’re not flying at a lot of races, it’s not that sweet.”

Cat 1 30-plus racer Mathias Purtschert of Ecuador usually rides fire roads. He lives at 9,200 feet in La Sierra, surrounded by volcanoes. “We’re not used to riding trails,” he said. “But they’re really amazing; good turns and jumps and berms. It’s very, very technical. I have to focus the whole time going downhill. You can’t recover on these descents.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: While sitting on a bench in a meadow halfway up Vomit Hill on Wednesday, a long procession of very fast cyclists grinded past me. It was still relatively early in the stage, so heads were down. The 41-mile Aqueduct Stage is a moving day—a good one to make up time or distance oneself from challengers. So I was surprised when Thibaut Level pulled off the trail and came over to sit down. “I’m sick,” he said. “Forget the race.” Level, a journalist from Lyon, France, who is writing about each stage, said he hadn’t taken enough time to enjoy his surroundings this week, and he wanted to make up for that. So he sat down on the bench, opened up his pack, and took out a waffle. Then he spent 10 minutes admiring the view as all the people he is faster than passed him. He couldn’t have cared less. 

Breck Epic- Stage 3

Racers tackle wild queen stage around 13,370-foot Mount Guyot

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

 Swenson, Nash build GC leads as race crosses Continental Divide twice

By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: It was déjà vu at the front of the field, as Keegan Swenson and Katerina Nash continue to separate themselves from their challengers. Both won their third straight stage in the grueling, 39-mile circumnavigation of Mount Guyot on Tuesday – the race’s queen stage. Swenson rode with Russell Finsterwald and Luis Mejia for much of it, with Nash Dory joining the group at various points. Finsterwald fell off on the climb up to the Great Flume, about 29 miles in, and Swenson dropped Mejia—who’d been attacking most of the day—on the final descent into French Gulch thanks to his flow-trail prowess. He put 42 seconds into Mejia over the last three miles, with Finsterwald taking third and Dory fourth. Swenson now leads the GC standings by 6:30 over Finsterwald. Dory moved into third overall.

Nash found herself chasing 2015 champion Evelyn Dong early in the stage. Dong, who started the day in fourth overall, was the only woman to clean the punishing French Pass ascent to 12,046 feet. She led Nash by 90 seconds and Hannah Finchamp by more than three minutes then. But Nash remained patient and eventually passed Dong on the Colorado Trail descent from Georgia Pass, riding alone for the next 17 miles. Nash beat Finchamp by 2:47 and Dong by 5:04, and leads the GC by 5:50 over Finchamp going into the second half of the week. Dong now sits in third. “This race is tricky,” said Nash, the 2017 runner-up. “The altitude is very challenging, but so far I have an appetite and can sleep, so I’m getting my recovery. That’s been big.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: Today this question was posed to the latter half of the field as they climbed French Pass, a spectacular saddle between 13,370-foot Mount Guyot and 13,684-foot Bald Mountain that doubles as the Continental Divide. 

How do you feel?

“Torn. It’s beautiful. It’s brutal.”

“Sin aire!” [Translation: airless]

“Wonky. With a slight bit of clueginess.”

“Pretty lucky to be here, to be honest.”

“Super medium!”

“Well, not as good as my wife and kids at the beach. I’m missing a family vacation to be here.”

“That’s a hard question.”

I’m feeling like in paradise!”

“Not bad for a guy from Ohio.”

“Just good enough.”

“Feel me.”

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS: During Monday’s second stage on the Colorado Trail, Joseph Rosentel, 50, a first-time Epic entrant from Michigan, suffered through what he called “the hardest mental day I’ve ever had on a bike, in more than 30 years of riding.” He flatted four times and rode the final 10 miles on a rear tire with 10 psi, losing more than two hours to drop from fifth to 15th in his division. So when his seat snapped off in a crash 15 miles into Tuesday’s stage, he stood there in disbelief. Then he put his saddle in his jersey pocket and began what he figured would be a demoralizing ride to Aid Station 2 and the end of his race. 

Soon afterward, he bumped into another racer who had crashed and dislocated his ankle, eventually requiring a medevac. “After I made sure he was OK, I was like, ‘Oh, hey, can I use your seat?’ He said sure. So I took the seat off his bike and put it on mine,” Rosentel said after finishing the stage. “I can’t remember his name—I was cross eyed at the time. But it’s the only way I would’ve been able to finish. Just unbelievable kindness.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Rosentel wasn’t alone in his run of bad luck. Justin Holle of Denver was in the midst of a stellar stage when he endured “a cascading waterfall of turmoil” at mile 32. He broke a spoke, sending his derailleur and chain into his wheel and bending the derailleur beyond repair. Then his tire started hissing. He was resigned to coast home gearless on the flat, at which point he heard a crunch and looked down to find his carbon seat tube broken in half. He walked the last seven miles of the course. “It was so calamitous that I could only laugh and enjoy my hike,” Holle, 36, said at the finish. He was smiling. 

Breck Epic- Stage 2

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesyof Liam Doran
SWENSON, NASH BUILD LEADS WITH STAGE 2 VICTORIES
Perennially radical Colorado Trail course delivers with perfect dirt, fast descents”and a few wayward spills
By Devon O’Neil
GC TAKEAWAY: Halfway through the Colorado Trail stage Monday, it appeared Katerina Nash was cementing herself as untouchable. She led Hannah Finchamp by more than two minutes, a gap that had grown steadily since the morning’s sunny start in downtown Breckenridge. But Finchamp, who, at 23, is 18 years younger than the three-time Olympian Nash, slowly started reeling in her Clif Pro teammate. By the time they finished, Finchamp had only lost 24 seconds on the day and likely saved any hope she has of upsetting the favorite later this week. She’s 3 minutes, 3 seconds down.
“I know Katerina is an incredible descender, one of the best in the world. So if I want to be close to her, I know I have to bury myself on the climbs, which is what I did today,” Finchamp said. Nash, meanwhile, took the day in stride. “You’ve got to think about the six-day race,” she said. “I rode my pace. But it was getting long at the end — I was losing a little mojo. I was happy to see the finish.”
Keegan Swenson had no such issues. The Stan’s/Pivot rider and reigning XC national champion won his second straight stage comfortably ahead of Russell Finsterwald and Ryan Standish, Swenson’s roommate in Heber City, Utah. Swenson bided his time until the last climb, when he opened a gap and took 1 minute, 43 seconds by the finish—despite a wayward dog nipping at his heels en route. He now leads by 4 minutes, 26 seconds. “Keegan has definitely shown that he’s the strongest guy here,” Finsterwald said. Luis Mejia of Colombia, who took third yesterday, overcame an early flat tire to catch Swenson late in the stage, then flatted again. He lost 16 minutes. Standish moved into third overall.
EVEN PROS CRASH: The most entertaining chatter after the race centered on a surprising number of crashes by top competitors.
“Dude, I went down like a bag of rocks,” said Standish, who nicked a tree stump with two miles to go. “Over the bars, instantly.”
“I took a wrong line and wheelied into a tree,” said Nash. 
Cory Wallace, the reigning 24-hour world champion who sits in 11th place overall, clipped a pedal and flew off the trail. “You just kind of lay there, like, is anything broken? My wheel was still kind of crooked for the last descent.”
Stephan Davoust, arguably the best downhiller in the field, had his arm wrapped in a bandage from his own bar-twisting wreck. “I had to hike down to get my bike in the bushes, then take 10 seconds to make sure my body was OK and orient myself,” he said. “It was one of those where you don’t really know how or what happened.”
BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Speaking of crashes, among the bloodied knees and shins and elbows was a bloody face. Tim Peeters, a 43-year-old online strategist from Leuven, Belgium, caught his bar on a tree and soared 10 feet downhill into a ditch while riding the ZL Trail. “You know how time slows down in an accident?” he said. “I saw all these sharp rocks coming at me head first, and I was like, I’m gonna break my face.”
He escaped major injury but laid there with his bike on top of him until Jeff Carter, an internal medicine doctor from Boulder, hiked down to help. Carter picked up the bike and got them both back on the trail. When they met again at the finish, Peeters thanked Carter once more. “No problem, man,” said Carter. “I’m just out here braaping it up, getting my suburban dad on.” 
Peeters didn’t seem to mind all his red leaks. Or even notice them. “Without a doubt,” he beamed, “today was the best day of riding of my life. I remember seeing one of the race videos last year and a guy from Ecuador said, “This is like Disneyland! That’s what I felt like today.” 
Breck Epic
Photo Courtesyof Liam Doran

Breck Epic Stage 2: Swenson, Nash build leads with Stage 2 victories

Perennially radical Colorado Trail course delivers with perfect dirt, fast descents”and a few wayward spills

By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: Halfway through the Colorado Trail stage Monday, it appeared Katerina Nash was cementing herself as untouchable. She led Hannah Finchamp by more than two minutes, a gap that had grown steadily since the morning’s sunny start in downtown Breckenridge. But Finchamp, who, at 23, is 18 years younger than the three-time Olympian Nash, slowly started reeling in her Clif Pro teammate. By the time they finished, Finchamp had only lost 24 seconds on the day and likely saved any hope she has of upsetting the favorite later this week. She’s 3 minutes, 3 seconds down.

“I know Katerina is an incredible descender, one of the best in the world. So if I want to be close to her, I know I have to bury myself on the climbs, which is what I did today,” Finchamp said. Nash, meanwhile, took the day in stride. “You’ve got to think about the six-day race,” she said. “I rode my pace. But it was getting long at the end — I was losing a little mojo. I was happy to see the finish.”

Keegan Swenson had no such issues. The Stan’s/Pivot rider and reigning XC national champion won his second straight stage comfortably ahead of Russell Finsterwald and Ryan Standish, Swenson’s roommate in Heber City, Utah. Swenson bided his time until the last climb, when he opened a gap and took 1 minute, 43 seconds by the finish—despite a wayward dog nipping at his heels en route. He now leads by 4 minutes, 26 seconds. “Keegan has definitely shown that he’s the strongest guy here,” Finsterwald said. Luis Mejia of Colombia, who took third yesterday, overcame an early flat tire to catch Swenson late in the stage, then flatted again. He lost 16 minutes. Standish moved into third overall.

EVEN PROS CRASH: The most entertaining chatter after the race centered on a surprising number of crashes by top competitors.

“Dude, I went down like a bag of rocks,” said Standish, who nicked a tree stump with two miles to go. “Over the bars, instantly.”

“I took a wrong line and wheelied into a tree,” said Nash. 

Cory Wallace, the reigning 24-hour world champion who sits in 11th place overall, clipped a pedal and flew off the trail. “You just kind of lay there, like, is anything broken? My wheel was still kind of crooked for the last descent.”

Stephan Davoust, arguably the best downhiller in the field, had his arm wrapped in a bandage from his own bar-twisting wreck. “I had to hike down to get my bike in the bushes, then take 10 seconds to make sure my body was OK and orient myself,” he said. “It was one of those where you don’t really know how or what happened.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Speaking of crashes, among the bloodied knees and shins and elbows was a bloody face. Tim Peeters, a 43-year-old online strategist from Leuven, Belgium, caught his bar on a tree and soared 10 feet downhill into a ditch while riding the ZL Trail. “You know how time slows down in an accident?” he said. “I saw all these sharp rocks coming at me head first, and I was like, I’m gonna break my face.”

He escaped major injury but laid there with his bike on top of him until Jeff Carter, an internal medicine doctor from Boulder, hiked down to help. Carter picked up the bike and got them both back on the trail. When they met again at the finish, Peeters thanked Carter once more. “No problem, man,” said Carter. “I’m just out here braaping it up, getting my suburban dad on.” 

Peeters didn’t seem to mind all his red leaks. Or even notice them. “Without a doubt,” he beamed, “today was the best day of riding of my life. I remember seeing one of the race videos last year and a guy from Ecuador said, “This is like Disneyland! That’s what I felt like today.”

Click Here for full results

Stage One – Breck Epic 2019

Breck Epic
Photo courtesy of Liam Doran

Chilling rain storm tests hungry field in Stage 1 of the Breck Epic in Colorado
By Devon O’Neil

Keegan Swenson made a dominant statement in Sunday’s rain-hammered Stage 1 of the Breck Epic. The 25-year-old national XC champion, who cracked the World Cup top 20 this summer, made his move on the grueling and extra greasy Little French climb. Early leader Geoff Kabush had fallen off the pace (then flatted, fading to 20th), and Swenson turned a 10-second gap over Colombian stage-race veteran Luis Mejia and U.S. marathon champion Russell Finsterwald into a 2-minute, 42-second advantage by the finish. 

“I realized I was slowly gapping those guys, so I just twisted the throttle a little more,” said Swenson, a first-time Epic competitor who is using the race to earn points toward a potential 2020 Olympic birth. He finished the 36-mile stage in 2:41:51, with Finsterwald three seconds ahead of Mejia.

Breck Epic
Photo courtesy of Liam Doran

On the women’s side, Katerina Nash also spoke loudly, beating the field by 2 minutes, 39 seconds to win in 3:23:40. She passed the early leader and 2015 Epic champion Evelyn Dong near the second aid station and fought through the pelting raindrops to expand her lead. “I lost my hands, so I couldn’t shift or operate my dropper post,” she said with mud caked in her hair at the finish. “The weather really turned crazy.” Her CLIF Pro Team-mate Hannah Finchamp took second, while Dong suffered through the chilly precipitation to place fifth, losing 14 minutes and appearing hypothermic at the finish.

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: Expect this to be a recurring feature of our recaps. Today we asked the question at the top of Little French. Not everyone answered, understandably. Here’s a smattering from those who did. 

HOW DO YOU FEEL?
Absolutely fantastic. Honestly? No.
Relaxed.
Mediocre.
Wet.
I’m so stoked to be out here, shredding gnar.
Oh man. I don’t know how much I have left in me.
Like a hundred dollars. Maybe 125.
Like a hundred bucks.The guy in front of you said 125. Oh. He’s feeling better than me.
Very moist. But we’re more than halfway.
Old.
Floaty.
Somebody stole all the oxygen.
Eh, about how I should, I think

Breck Epic
Photo courtesy of Liam Doran

RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS: On Saturday afternoon, Ecuadorean racer Jorge Brito decided he wanted to try racing a single speed, a category that doesn’t exist where he lives. The only problem? He wouldn’t have time to convert his bike before Sunday’s start. He was cleared to swap categories as long as he removed his shifter, but when perennial Singlespeed contender Dahn Pahrs saw he’d finished second to a racer with a full cassette, he protested. It was determined that Brito’s setup did not allow him to use multiple gears, even if it ran counter to Singlespeed tradition, and race director Mike McCormack informed Pahrs the results would stand. “Don’t feel bad,” a disappointed Pahrs said. “He’s faster than me. He deserves to win.

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Just finishing can sound like a cliche in mountain bike races, but today it ranked as a stout achievement. To see racers stagger and shake like vibrators at the finish, with drool hanging off their noses and chins, struggling to stay upright, their faces blasted by mud, strangers hugging them to keep them warm well, that’s what it’s about sometimes.

TransRockies Tinhorn Creek Stage 7

Travis Hauck finishes with partner Nick Gould, left, and Mathieu Belanger-Barrette
John Gibson Photography
The Tinhorn Creek TransRockies Stage Seven broke cool and clear in the quiet town of Crowsnest Pass as riders prepared to take on the final epic ride into Fernie. A late evening thunderstorm complete with double rainbows had tucked riders into their tents for the night, and they would need the rest for what was to be the most challenging yet rewarding stage of the entire week. After traversing a power line road, the main climb of the day began in earnest up to the high point for the day some 1900 meters from were they started. Panoramic views greeted riders as they punched through into the Fernie trail system and down the 1000 meter decent of Porky Blue. A short lap on the new flow trail Contra and then into FloWRKR had riders hooting and hollering as they rolled across the final finish line and the end of an amazing week of mountain biking across the Rockies.
Double rainbow over Transrockies tent village
John Gibson Photography
Zoe Roy traveled to TransRockies this year at the very last minute, getting the invite just four days before this years event. She had never done a mountain bike race before, but stayed strong all week and finished solidly on the podium with her partner Barry Wicks in the Open Mixed category. Here’s what she had to say about the week, as told to Barry:

“It is pretty amazing what the human body can do. Before this race, any one of these days would have totally cratered me, but there is something about doing back to back days that tricks your mind into keeping going. It’s pretty great to experience that.

My favourite part of the week was that we started way over there, and finished here, and we rode our bikes the entire way. It feels like no time at all and also an eternity has passed all at the same time. 

It’s going to be strange to not have to get up and ride my bike tomorrow. I feel like there will be a bit of a depression in the next few days as the body and mind readjust back into the real world and I have to think about more than just riding my bike and having snacks all day.

I was so impressed with everyone out there doing the race. It was a very hard physical and mental challenge, and everyone performed so well. It was very cool to watch that process for everyone.”
Vincent Lombardi and partner Maxime Nguyen
John Gibson Photography
TransRockies Classic goes on hiatus for a year in 2020, but Singletrack 6 is on the docket and is sure to be an amazing single track experience for anyone looking to spend some quality time out in the woods getting rad on their bikes and winning at life. See you on the trails!

Full Results HERE.

TransRockies ProGold Stage 6

The ProGold Stage Six of the TransRockies Classic took riders from Elkford, BC, across the Continental Divide and up to the finish at Crowsnest Pass. After a mellow start, today’s stage saw riders turn up Deadmans Pass and crest over the Divide and even briefly into Alberta. Summiting the final climb, riders were treated to stunning views of Crowsnest Mountain before a final flowing singletrack descent down to the finish line.
Mathieu Belanger-Barrette
John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto
Magda Mihura, an Argentinian currently living is Sao Paulo, Brazil, signed up for the TransRockies only ten days before the start. She arrived early to visit Banff, then hitched a ride with some of the race crew down to the start line in Panorama. Here’s what she had to say about her TransRockies experience, as told to Barry Wicks:

“I did the Cape Epic race earlier this year with a friend from Brazil. It was pretty fun, so I decided to do some more traveling to ride my bike. I did a small tour type of trip to Guatemala, but then I saw TransRockies and thought if there were something like 200 people there, I was sure to find some people to ride with. I’ve never traveled by myself before, so flying up here and doing the race alone was kind of scary. It has been an amazing week though. Everyone is so friendly and hanging out and talking all the time and I feel very welcomed. I am happy I came here.

Back home I am just a mom type of person, and some people find it strange that I go do this kind of stuff, but to me it feels very good to do things that maybe not a lot of mom type people would do.”
Nick Gould leads partner Travis Hauck and solo leader Mathieu Belanger-Barrette
John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto