Ryan O’Dell and Shana Biese
NUE Race Series #2 rolled out of the Ocoee Whitewater center on April 29 and into the Cherokee National Forest, located near Ducktown, TN. Races included the Big Frog 65 on the NUE Marathon circuit and the Cohutta 100, on the NUE Epic 100 mile Series. In addition, the Old Copper 20 mile offered new ultra-racers an abbreviated version of the big race.
The buzz at this year’s race centered around last minute course changes, the result of Forestry forbidding race organizers from using traditional gravel road routes that had been used for many years. Adding insult to injury, organizers were only given one day notice to make all of the necessary changes. The result was a shortening of the 100 mile race course to just over 80 miles. However, with race day temperatures that topped out at just over eighty degrees, many racers expressed relief that the course wasn’t the full advertised one hundred miles. Although the 100 mile course was shorter, Race Director Justin Mace, reported that it included added elevation this year.
Toops gets her first NUE Big Frog 65 win!
The defending Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Race Series Champion, Jen Toops, Paradise Garage Racing/Pearl Izumi/Honey Stinger/100%, earned her first win in the NUE Race Series at The Big Frog 65! A novice level racer just two years ago, Toops finished 6:05:32, following an eight place finish at the True Grit series opener.
“I lined up on the start line toward the front group, started the long road climb ending up second going into the single track, and found myself in a group of about five guys. The leader was already out of sight and we were going at a comfortable pace so I settled in. When I hit the fire roads, I really pushed it on the downhill and felt like I was just surviving on the climbs. The heat was really getting to everyone and I stopped at most aid stations to dump water on myself to cool off.
When I hit the last single track, I pushed as hard as I could, still hoping I could catch the leader. With about five miles left I caught sight of her, making the pass on a rocky uphill, and kept pushing the pace until the finish. Big frog 65 was a tough one but sometimes the races that push your limits are the best ones! I will see everyone at the Mohican 100k!
Four minutes later, Annajean Dallaire, Papa John’s Racing Team, hung on for second place finishing with a time of 6:09:52. Seven minutes later, Sara Caylor, took third at 6:16:59.
Baring wins Men’s Open!
Elliott Baring, Pivot Endurance MTB, won the Men’s Open with a time of 4:45:23.
Seven minutes later, last year’s race winner, Andrew Dillman, Think Green, took second in 4:52:09.
“Wow. That was harder than last year! A lot has changed in the past year, my fitness being one of them. A year ago I had been training hard for my last year of racing Collegiate Road Nationals for Marian University and was in pretty decent shape by the time Big Frog rolled around. Since graduating college, however, cycling has taken somewhat of a backseat, but I still decided to make the journey down to Big Frog since I’ve enjoyed the race so much over the last few years.
I was able to hang with the leaders pretty comfortably until about the fifty mile mark and that’s when my lack of endurance began to make itself known. That last portion of single track felt SO much longer than the years before, but it made me feel better when I found out that there were four miles added. Despite being attacked by a bear and dragged into the pain cave, I somehow managed to hang onto second place and secure a spot on the podium.
I am super glad my team, Think Green Toyota of Lexington, and the guys Nate Cornelius and Clay Green convinced me to make the trip down. I was reminded of how much I enjoy this race and its atmosphere. My favorite part of the whole event is the prayer right before the start. As I race my bike I want the cry of my heart to always be, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for man.” (Colossians 3:23). Thanks to the Big Frog event for hosting such a great race, can’t wait for next year!”
John Petrylak, Scott Pro MTB Team and Bike Factory, came in third with a time of 4:58:26.
“I arrived in Ducktown after dark and met up with most of Cameron race team at their cabin for the weekend. After I woke up Friday and got a glimpse of the AMAZING view out of the front door, I knew it was going to be an unforgettable weekend regardless of the race result. I did my usual pre-ride of the first ten miles or so of the start and beginning single track on Friday to wake up the legs and stoke the fires. I slammed down a mug of coffee with breakfast after our 4:00am wake-up call on race day and headed to the start. I had the unusual experience of watching and cheering as my friends took off for the Cohutta100.
Before I knew it, we were lined up and ready to roll. Then it was go time. I had a really good feeling in my legs after the first couple of pedal strokes so I kept pushing and still felt great. Before I knew it I was leading my first NUE marathon race up the long road climb.
After about five minutes the lead group was down to only about 10 riders so I started to soft pedal a little and catch a quick breath before we hit the single track.
I remained in the top five or so for the first bit of single track trail. Gordon Wordsworth and Elliot started to get away so I surged down the short paved descent; Andrew Dillman quickly joined me and hit the next section of trail right in front of me. After a big long effort on the trail next to the river we could see the leader’s right in front of us.
Just after the long bridge over the river, I made contact with them and then I did something really counterproductive to effective racing. Up the short steep single track, I caught my pedal on a root that stuck out of the ground like a lasso. Now, any other time this would have been a minor inconvenience. However, at the exact perfect moment, I had just started my surge forward to catch on to the leaders just fifteen feet up the trail. All of the force trying to go up the hill sent me over the bars when my pedal hooked the root. When I landed, my second water bottle flew out of my jersey and down a cliff never to be seen again. And just like that, I was all alone.
I regrouped, remounted, and charged up and on, linking up with some 100 mile riders coming off the out and back after AS1. I kept climbing as hard as I could and descended like a mad man. Finally, after an hour of all out riding, I caught the lead group of Gordon, Elliot, Andrew and the first chase group doing the 100 mile race a few feet up the road after AS 3. Once I caught them, Mr. Wadsworth put out a few nice attacks that left me dangling off the group. Rats!!!
I had burned a few too many matches to counter the attacks, so I decided to settle into my manageable pace up the climbs in hopes of the lead group fading a little in the final miles. No fading what-so-ever happened from this elite group of riders so I continued on towards the finish, topped a bottle off at AS 5, and headed for home.
The last miles of single track lasted for what seemed like days; I knew this could be my first NUE podium and I just wanted to see that finish line banner. I rode carefully but as quickly as my worn out legs would allow me. Then, finally, there it was, the last section of pavement before the finish. I tucked in and headed to the finish; checking over my shoulder about every eight seconds to make sure I wasn’t going to be caught from behind. As I crossed the finish line, I was greeted with one on my favorite finisher prizes; a really nice quality coffee mug. After a really tough race at True Grit I was very pleased with a third at the Big Frog 65 and look to build on this for the rest of the series.”
Wadsworth Crushes the Big Frog 65 first overall!
Following back to back series wins in the NUE Overall Epic Series Single speed division, the Defending NUE Series Champion, Gordon Wadsworth, Blue Ridge Cyclery/Pivot Cycles, made his 2017 NUE debut by crushing it, taking first place in Singlespeed AND with the overall best time at The Big Frog 65 in 4:45:38.
“My goals this season are all about the fun. After the course change was announced mid-week before the Cohutta this year Big Frog represented a fast paced good time on some of my favorite trails. My goals were to race hard at the front all day and I did that. I was lucky to race with one of my best friends and fellow Pivot Cycles athlete Elliot Baring. He and I are Pisgah Stage Race duo teammates and have a great relationship for trail shredding.
After he went early in the game, I chased on and helped put down some of the watts that got him the open win, and me the SS win. I love the East TN trails and my Pivot Cycles LES with Industry Nine wheels tuned by Blue Ridge Cyclery! It was perfect for it as is proven by the LES going 1,2 for the day!”
Jason Betz came in second with a time of 5:34:08.
Sixteen minutes later, Eli Orth, Queen City Wheels, finished third with a time of 5:50:19.
First Race of the Season Proves to be a good one for Burrill
Scott Burrill, team Bikeman.com, came out with a strong start to his 2017 season getting his first win at 5:39:02.
“The Big Frog 65 was my first NUE race of the 2017 series and only my second NUE race ever. This was also the first race I have ever traveled by plane to attend so I had a few things to learn about bike packing and transport but it all worked out just fine. I arrived two days before the race so I was able to scope the initial climb and single track out ahead of time.
I started the race at a manageable pace for the first climb watching the open guys tear away but being careful to space myself ahead of others before entering the singletrack. During the first fifteen miles or so of single track, I got log jammed behind some slower riders so I had to rely on them to allow me and some others to pass whenever possible. I ended up passing quite a bit over the course of the race which is how I like to roll.
Being a Master, I was on the lookout for the “M” on other racer’s calves; and did pass three or so others in the first twenty miles but I never saw another “M” after that. Not knowing whether there were other masters ahead, I raced the rest of the race with internal speed limits set trying to avoid the inevitable cramping which did crop its ugly head around mile 47. From there on it became cramp management riding to the end.
I worked with a group of guys on a lot of the Forest Roads and met some great guys from South America. I traded positions with the lead Single Speed guys for a while too and picked up a 100 miler on the flat road on the backside. The last ten miles of single track was pretty much survival mode for me, defend position, don’t crash, don’t take a wrong turn. It all worked out and when I finally emerged at Thunder Rock Campground area, I knew I had made it. The climb back up to the Whitewater Center went fast and I had no one in sight in front or behind me, a great finish area to come back to for sure.
Overall, an amazing race with the incredibly smooth single track, challenging dirt road climbs, and overall a fantastic mix of terrain and conditions. The temps in the 80’s were a bit much for this Mainer coming from temps in the 40’s but it was nice. A dip in the Ocoee was a must afterward! Sunday, I couldn’t help but go back and ride more of the killer Brush Creek single track before I flew out!”
Sixteen minutes later, Chris Ready, Velo Sports Racing team, came in second place with a time of 5:55:06. Eleven minutes later, Chris Steven Torrence, Racing Greyhounds, finished third with a time of 6:06:49.
WHATS NEXT: Join NUE Race Series for race #3 in Loudonville, Ohio on June 3rd for the 15th Annual Mohican MTB 100! Top series contenders have already committed to Mohican, now the largest attended race in the NUE Race Series limited to the first 700 racers along with the largest series cash purse at $10,000US.