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 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.
Williams repeats at Cohutta!!
NUE Race Series Champion, Carla Williams, Joe’s Bikes, returning to the Cherokee National Forest following her crushing win last year, nearly an hour ahead of her nearest competitor, appears to have had a rough go with the last stretches of this year’s race. She finished with a time of 6:50:52. Here are some excerpts from her blog:
“Sometimes races are not won on strong pedaling performances, but on pure grit, perseverance, and determination not to give up. That was certainly the case for me this past weekend at Cohutta. Maybe it was a crazy residency work schedule recently and constantly switching from working nights and days. Maybe it was not unloading enough from a tough training block prescribed by Coach Beck. Maybe it was simply the fact that I had an off day. Whatever the reason, Saturday’s race involved a lot of suffering, and I got lucky that I was able to pull off a win. If someone had challenged me especially late in the race, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to counter their attack. I’m not going to lie. I was feeling really tired on Friday night. But, Saturday morning rolled around and we biked over to the start line under the Kenda arch.
The start was fast, up the first road hill and into the first twenty miles of single track. It was also hot. Sweat was pouring off my face within the first twenty minutes of riding. I felt pretty good through the first single track and got a lead on the rest of the women’s field. Then, when we got to the 14 mile out and back jeep road, I was with a group of guys and decided to just sit in with them. I wanted to push, but my legs were already feeling too tired for only being 20-30 miles into the race.
The last twenty miles were a straight out suffer fest. The fatigue I was feeling at mile 20 felt it was doubling with every mile. I haven’t felt that bad in a bike race in a really long time. I wasn’t racing anymore. I was simply pedaling to finish, head down, slow spinning up the hills, just flat out focusing not to give up. There were parts of the last single-track section that were really fun, but then a steep kicker of a hill would pop around a corner and that brought all the misery back.
The result was a great one, but the racing was not, and I know I have way more to put out there on the course. I have another month of training, some technical racing at Pisgah, better tapering and then Mohican, where I am already looking forward to personal redemption!
Thanks so much to ESI grips, Maxxis Ties, Huma Gels, Ridge Supply Socks, Back Alley Bikes for getting my hardtail ready, Chris Beck for all the coaching, and Joe’s Bike Shop for all the support.”
Jenna Blandford came in second place with a time of 7:20:14.
Mari Chandler, Team Adventure Medical Kits, finished out the top three women’s spots with a time of 7:31:36.
Defending NUE Epic Open Champion, Dylan Johnson, Cameron MTB Racing, is off to a great start and leading the Men’s Open with a big repeat win at Cohutta! After finishing in second place at True Grit Epic, Johnson defended last year’s win with a time of 5:37:57.
“I suspected that the pace would be higher this year since the distance was shorter and this was indeed the case. I got into the first single track section in second and then, shortly after, I took the lead and tried to hold a high pace. Towards the end of the first single track, Schworm surged up one of the longer climbs leaving just me and Tanguy holding onto his wheel. The three of us continued onto the gravel, trading pulls until about twenty miles to go. I upped the pace a bit and managed to drop Tanguy. As we approached the final single track, I tried an attack on Schworm but couldn’t shake him. We entered the final single track together and I quickly took the lead and gave it everything I had. With only a couple of miles left, I had to fend off cramps but, luckily, I had a small gap at this point. I was probably lucky the race wasn’t a full 100 to be honest. I’m thrilled to be able to defend my Cohutta win from last year and am very pleased with my form right now. My next NUE races will likely be Mohican and Lumberjack.”
Brian Schworm, Think Green – Bicycle Face, who finished second overall in the NUE Epic Series and at Cohutta last year, is in great form and currently picking up where he left off last season, earning second at Cohutta finishing 5:41:26.
“Cohutta is always one of my favorite races. I love the fast, flowing trails and the long, steady climbs. I even came down during my spring break to check out the new section of trail and get a few days of good training under my belt. Well, as most know, the new section was not incorporated due to Forest Service regulations and the previous course from 2015-16 was also not permitted. We ended up racing the Big Frog course with an extra gravel road out and back to give an 80-85 mile race.
The race started with the usual big paved climb to the initial single track. I wanted a good position in the trail so I jumped to the front. Once I crested the top, there was a mad dash for the trail where I settled in fourth position. The pace was fast but manageable as we all rode together until Dylan Johnson opened a small gap. There was a small climb on the single track where I was able to move to second position and, with the following Sheep’s Hill Descent, bridge back to Dylan. The pace then slowed and we had pack of twelve or more headed down the Ocoee Old Copper Road trail.
Once we crossed the Ocoee and started up the Tanasi Bear Paw trail, the group started to break up. In fact, when we hit the Chestnut Trail, I pushed the pace again for the next upcoming single track and it was down to me, Dylan, and Christian Tanguy. We then rode together for the majority of the race, each taking turns pulling on the long gravel sections that followed.
Even though the race was shortened, it was still exhausting due to the relentless climbs and the unusually high temperatures. I was definitely feeling the effort and apparently it wasn’t just me. On the Big Frog climb at approximately the 60 mile mark, Christian dropped back a bit. Dylan and I continued to work together until the final gravel climb before the last single track. It was there that Dylan attacked and gained a small advantage. I held my own pace and was able to bridge back up near the top. However, as soon as Dylan and I hit the single track section, he attacked again. I attempted to chase but this definitely put me over my limit and he was then able to ride away.
After I regained my composure, I tried to keep my pace high, maybe even close the gap, but I never saw Dylan again until the finish. I was able to secure a second place finish behind Dylan. Overall it was a great race, it was awesome to see old friends at my first NUE Series race this season, and the new race director did a great job amid difficult circumstances. I need to thank my team Think Green – Bicycle Face for their continued support. I especially need to thank my amazing and supportive wife, Jennifer Schworm, for all that she does to support me in these efforts.
Up next is the USA Cycling Marathon Nationals in Arkansas on May 7 followed by the Mohican 100 on June 4. See you all there!”
2013 NUE Race Series Champion, Christian Tanguy, RBS Cycling team, was in great form early in the season with a finish time of 5:46:07.
Haddock makes a BIG statement with a BIG Win!
John Haddock, J. A. King MTB Team/Carbo Rocket, took third overall in the 2016 NUE Race Series Single Speed division last season. Following an eleventh place finish at Cohutta last year, Haddock proved he is a force to be reckoned with this season, winning Cohutta with a rock solid twenty-five minute lead in 6:04:52.
“Cohutta was, once again, a great race and awesome opportunity to connect with friends both old and new. As usual, things escalated quickly at the start and the initial climb was over before I knew it. I had a hunch that Jim Litzinger and I would be neck and neck early and sure enough, we were together entering the singletrack and in good position overall. Jim was absolutely crushing the trails and built small gap by Aid 1. Eventually, I bridged back up to him on the out-and-back and we held a solid pace in the company of geared friends. Our group kept pushing the pace on the way out to Aid 3 and I was fortunately able to stay with the group. However, at some point I looked back and my SS friend was nowhere to be seen. Now being hunted for the rest of the day, my goal was to keep a solid pace and stay on nutrition/hydration given the heat.
Heading back towards the finish, Lee Hauber and I shared efforts and kept each other motivated. Back on the single track, I kept peering over my shoulder while keeping on the hammer. One last look behind on the pavement and I was finally able to relax as Lee and I crossed the line and immediately crushed some Cokes, which I had been looking forward to since the gun went off. Congrats to Matt and Jim for their awesome competition and strong races! Thank to my team (J. A. King Mountain Bike Team), team sponsors, and Carbo Rocket for your support and commitment to our sport.”
New to the NUE Series, Matt Crawford, UPMC/Pro Bike + Run, took second place with a time of 6:29: 22. This was just his second single speed ultra-endurance race.
“I drove in from Pittsburgh with a big group of other races. I chose to run a light gear (34×40) which turned out to be a prudent decision in the latter part for the race. My main goal was to place myself in the first group going in to the woods. This put me in a good position for the rest of the race. The temperatures were hot, but my legs stayed relatively fresh going into the last single track section and I passed 4-5 single speeds in the last 20 miles of the race. My plans for this year include Mohican 100 and High Cascades 100.”
NUE Marathon Race Series SS Champion and last year’s Big Frog 65 winner, James Litzinger, Dirty Harry’s Elite Cycling, stepped up his miles entering the Cohutta 100 and finishing third single speed with a time of 6:30:11.
“A very hot Cohutta 100 was the first stop of the 2017 NUE series for The Syndicate Cycling p/b Pro Bikes + Run team. We hadn’t experienced anything like the warm weather that we had in Tennessee on race day training in Pittsburgh, PA. There is always a lot of excitement rolling into your first big race of the season and this one did not disappoint. I’m always eager to see where my fitness is and to see if I did the right kind of winter training following the plan set by Mike Schultz at Highland Training.
The race got off to a fast start up the 2.5 mile climb, with the leaders starting to gather at the front wanting to get into the fast and fun stretch of single track in good position. I was working my way to the front with SS race winner, John Haddock. I knew that if I could hang on his wheel that I would have a good chance of being up towards the front. John and I managed to get into the single track in really good position and had a few geared riders in front of us setting a blazing pace through all the banking turns and short climbs.
When we started the big climb after crossing the river I was able to put a little gap on John and some of the geared riders. To get this gap, I burnt a couple matches, which cost me later in the race. When we popped out onto a short road section, John was back on my wheel. I pulled away again in the single track, but knew the lead was minimal.
I stopped at aid station one to exchange a bottle and didn’t see John behind me. I was surprised and a little nervous that I went too hard again. I was cruising down the road and heard that SS hub come buzzing up behind me again and thought, “Damn, can’t shake him.” I tried to get away again on the first fire road climb and got excited when I caught up to my teammate, Anthony Grinnell, who was racing on a geared bike! Anthony helped pull me along, and for a moment I thought John was riding by himself, which would have given me a major advantage. Anthony and I made it to out and back for our wrist bands and on the way back saw John working with three geared riders. Advantage John! I knew it wouldn’t be long before he was able to catch us with the extra help.
When the group caught us, Anthony and I jumped on board and set a screaming pace! We continued to push the pace until aid station two where John stopped and we kept on rolling. I thought this would be a great opportunity to try to pull away again but John caught us by smashing the climb out of the aid station like a sledgehammer. At that point, I knew John was in serious shape and wanted to win this race just as bad as I did.
We rode together until about mile 45 or so where I decided to ease off and try to conserve some energy for the finish. I tried to keep a steady pace and ride my own race to the finish. The plan was working well when I caught up to a geared rider from our earlier group. He said that he was having some hydration/nutrition issues but was still riding very well. I felt pretty dialed in nutritionally at this point, using a few different Hammer products before and during the race. The Endurolytes really helped since it was about 85 and humid for the majority of the race. We rode up the final fire road climb together and thought it would be great to have some company on the last stretch of single track at the end of the race.
Again, the plan was going well until I had heard the dreaded hissing sound of air leaving my tire after a puncture on the sharp rocks. I quickly pulled off to the side of trail and reached in my tool pack for the tire plug. In the meantime, Anthony caught back up and offered his support sacrificing his own race as a few riders passed us. I put the plug in the tire as Anthony prepared the CO2 for a quick fill up. He used the CO2 cartridge like he was on the pit crew of NASCAR racer, Jimmy Johnson. After he pulled off the CO2, I still heard the sound of air coming out and after further inspection I noticed that I also had a pinch near the rim. So we put a tube in. This could have been on an episode of funniest home videos. Anthony aired up the tube and I started taking off the tire until I dropped the tire lever down the steep hill watching it roll as I tried to catch up to it. I ended up about twenty feet down and had to climb back up with tired legs. I’m finally fixed up so Anthony takes off to secure 10th place in the men’s open. Thanks for the help, “Brah!” It means a lot that a friend/teammate will sacrifice some places in the standings to help me out.
When I finally get back on the bike, I am out of the groove I was in and catch my pedal on a rock that sends me over the bars and to the ground. Before I knew what happened, I rolled down the same steep hill but with my bike this time. The hill was so steep that I had to use my bike as a cane to try and get back up. When I started riding again, I noticed that my vision was kind of off now with everything being blurry and seeing some stars. I figured I hit harder than I thought, and just went into survival mode now. I just wanted to finish the race without another mishap. Doing this cost me another place as local rider, Matt Crawford, came blowing by me on the wheel of a geared guy on their way to a great finish. Congratulations to John and Matt on a solid ride! As always, I want to thank my family and teammates for their support and especially to our sponsors for providing some great gear and helping with the lodging for the weekend.”
Clayton repeats with first W of the NUE season
Defending NUE Masters Champion, Jeff Clayton, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute, enjoyed back to back wins at Cohutta finishing in 6:30:13. In 2016, Clayton launched his Series title win at Cohutta. Is history destined to repeat?!
“I’ve been doing a fair amount of 2-5 hour races this year, mostly gravel grinders, instead of my usual diet of 6 and 12 hour races, so I wasn’t too bummed when I saw the news that the race would be 80 miles instead of 100. My teammate and buddy Van and I camped at Thunder Rock just a few minutes from the race start and enjoyed 20 miles of singletrack riding the day before the race….Always fun to enjoy the good stuff just going for a ride in case the race doesn’t go so great!
Roger Masse and a few other guys I know in the Master’s class were present at the start. My goal was to have a strong start and stay consistent. I was pleased to make the (rather large) front group into the singletrack. The out-and-back section of gravel road added this year was pretty tough and gave me the opportunity to gauge my progress against Roger. I looked to have about a five minute advantage after thirty or so miles. Because of the Cohutta course changes, the Big Frog racers were merging onto the rest of the course at about the same time. This made it easier to find people going the right pace to ride with. I was able to slightly increase my lead on Roger by the finish, but he rode well finishing just a few minutes back-I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of him yet!”
Two-time NUE Masters Champion (2014 and 2015), Roger Masse, Rare Disease Cycling/ Keswick, displayed his great form this season, with a close finish, just eight minutes back at 6:38:54 placing second.
Chris Abston, Racing Greyhounds, took third with a time of 7:05:23. Abston is new-ish to NUE. This was his first time racing Cohutta.
“Well, since this is only my fourth NUE race (completed three races last year) I am in uncharted territory. This is my first year doing this race. I am a converted Cat 2 roadie and this is my first year in a dedicated NUE series of races. I am from Michigan so the only way we get any elevation training is to travel down south. Since this was my first race of the year and I am not in peak season form, I just wanted to make sure I had enough energy to get through the race.
We pre-rode the course on Thursday and Friday so I knew about the big climb at the beginning. As the race started, I was with the lead group up the first climb. As we approached the top, I felt I may be going a bit harder than I would like so I dialed it back a bit and tried to settle in at my own pace. The rest was pretty much uneventful. Since I am a converted roadie, the gravel sections are my strength versus the single track so I obviously liked that part. I chose to ride my hardtail bike but when I hit the last eleven miles of single track, my body was looking for my full suspension. That last part of single track was pretty brutal and the cramps were creeping in causing quite a bit of discomfort. I was very pleased to see the dam and race off to the finish. I was very happy with my result and looking forward to the rest of the year. My next race will be the Mohican 100 followed by Lumberjack 100. I am still trying to figure out the fourth race at this point. I race for the RACING GREYHOUNDS and supported by Cycle to Fitness bike shop in Livonia Mi.”
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.