Ryan O’Dell, Shana Biese
On June 17, The NUE Race Series returned to Wellston, Michigan, the site of one of the original NUE 100-Mile Mountain bike races. The Lumberjack race course is located within the Manistee National forest which is just under a million acres of solid hardwood forest. The 33 mile loop is 90% singletrack with hard packed sandy soil and rolling hills that challenge racers with close to 3,000 feet of climbing per lap.
Following an early downpour in the morning before the race, many outside of Michigan learned just how well the sandy singletrack in Michigan holds up to moisture.
Edwards gets her first win this year
Chase Edwards, Flagstaff Bike Revolution, came in first place with a time of 7:32:37. Edwards is currently in third place overall this year for the NUE Epic Series, having also raced at True Grit where she came in fifth place.
“I rolled up to the start line a little worried about the quantity of mead I’d consumed the night before (I’d gone mead tasting at the St. Ambrose Meadery and tap room not far from the Lumberjack course!), and I was also feeling jet lagged from the long flight from Arizona. My dad lives in this part of Michigan, and he insisted on taking photos of me at the start line as I glanced around nervously scoping the competition. I didn’t recognize any of the women, but I was impressed with the quantity of them! There were more women registered than any of the other NUE races I’ve done.
I’d heard the bottle that the bottleneck at the start of the race was going to be bad, but it was way worse than I had imagined. I was frustrated with myself for not being more aggressive at the start. Jenna Blannford got in front of me at the beginning of the first lap and I remember thinking, “I hope my groggy brain is up for a fight!” I took it easy on the first lap because I wanted to get into the groove of this course and warmup up to this style of riding – in the Southwest, we don’t have a lot of tight trees and twisty/turny singletrack like the Lumberjack has to offer.
I managed to drop Jenna and most of the guys I was riding with on the steepest hill on the course toward the end of the first lap. Most people walked this climb, but I rode it each lap and happily insisted to the guys I passed that this was my one strength on the Midwest singletrack! My cornering around the tight trees improved each lap, I did a pretty good job eating and drinking during the race (this was a big improvement over last year – last year I was convinced eating and drinking was impossible on this course!), and my legs put out consistently high watts on the punchy climbs.
My highlight of the race was pulling a pack of five or six hilarious and good natured dudes on the long rolling section on the backside of the course. I started to tear up behind my sun glasses when my dad – who used to be my Nordic skiing and running coach when I was a kid – met me at the finish line. I grew up running and cross-country skiing in this part of Michigan (but had never ridden a bike here until last summer!). The Lumberjack is a really well organized and fun race, and I hope to be back next summer! The next NUE race for me will be Breckenridge 100.”
Dori Leib, Wolverine Sports, in her first NUE race of this year, came in second place 8:03:08.
Also making her 2017 NUE debut, Mireille Montminy Lambert, took the third spot on the podium with a time of 8:07:39.
Johnson gets his second NUE Race victory at Lumberjack!
Defending 2016 NUE Champion, Dylan Johnson, Cameron MTB Racing, leads the NUE Men’s Open division for the 2017 Season. Following his first win at Cohutta plus second place finishes at both True Grit and Mohican; Johnson completed his fourth race with a “W” and the coveted Axe Trophy at 6:35:07.
“When I woke up the morning of the race it was pouring rain and I began to mentally prepare myself for a long wet day. As to be expected the start was a sprint for position. I found myself leading the opening section and about halfway through the first of three laps a clear front group of seven riders had formed. That group slowly dwindled down over the next two hours and, by the start of the last lap, only Brian and I remained.
On the flat course I knew getting away from a strong rider like Brian would be difficult but I had a plan. Five miles from the finish there are three steep climbs back to back. Each one lasts less than a minute but I thought that maybe if I gave 100 percent on all three I’d have a chance of breaking away. I managed to make the separation and with 5 miles left there was nothing to do but stay hard on the gas. I crossed the finish line to a crowd of people cheering and congratulating me. I’d never seen so many spectators at the end of an NUE and it really made this win special. Michigan locals know how to support their racers.”
Johnson plans to compete at both the upcoming Tatanka 100 on July 8 and The High Cascades 100 on July 15.
2016 Lumberjack 100 race winner, Brian Schworm, Think Green- Bicycle, from Morehead, KY finished second with a time of 6:36:07. Schworm currently stands in third place overall for this NUE Race season.
“The Lumberjack 100 is one of my favorite races with the fast, twisty singletrack and the short, steep climbs. This year, however, I was concerned about the weather forecast; storms were being called for before and during the race. Sure enough, I woke up on race day to hard rains. Fortunately, the rain subsided as my wife and I headed to the course.
With the rain at bay, the race started with the usual mad dash down the paved road and funneled into the tight singletrack. I was able to get a good position and settled into the fourth spot, once we hit the trails. Surprisingly, the trails were in good condition considering the rain we just received. Apparently, the sandy trails in this area can handle moisture very well.
A lead group quickly established consisting of me, Dylan Johnson, Christian Tanguy, Daniel Yankus, Ron Caitlin, Mike Simonson, and Matt Acker in the 100 Open, as well as, Jorden Wakeley racing in the singlespeed category. We rode the first lap together at a brisk pace with nothing eventful occurring, that is, until we reached the aid station at the end of the lap. I was in-and-out relatively quickly, thanks to the support from my wife Jennifer, but apparently, Christian was suffering from a mechanical issue and was sidelined for a good five to ten minutes. With the exception of Christian and his mechanical, the majority of us grouped back together with Ron setting a blistering pace.
The first half of lap two was again somewhat uneventful; that is, until I decided to not pay attention to the trail and instead focuses on my Garmin. I drifted off the trail and caught a tree with my shoulder. Before I even realized what had happened, I was over the bars and lying on the ground. I was more embarrassed than anything else but I gave my bike a quick look-over and jumped back on. Ironically, this seemed to be the catalyst that broke our group apart. Jorden stopped to air up a slow-leaking tire, Daniel stopped at the following aid station for a drink, and Ron drifted back off Dylan’s pace up the next climb. Despite my crash, I was able to catch back up with Dylan and we rode together completing lap two.
The third and final lap was a bit chaotic. Dylan and I were catching many lapped riders while still pressing the pace. We went back and forth throughout the lap until the final series of climbs. I hit the hills hard but Dylan was unfazed. He then attacked at the base of what was probably the largest climb. I hung in there for a while but knew I was in trouble. Unfortunately, a stick lodged itself in my rear wheel at this point and took a few spokes with it. This sealed the deal for the race. I needed to stop to remove the stick and Dylan was off. In fact, his lead continued to grow as we approached the finish line. In the end, Dylan took the victory and I came across the line almost one minute down. Behind us was a fast charging Matt and Christian, both who apparently had fantastic last laps to finish third and fourth.
Now it’s time for a little recovery and then revamp for my next NUE event, the Wilderness 101 in PA on July 29!”
At 6:42:50, Matt Aker rolled in just two seconds ahead of the former NUE Champion, Christian Tanguy, Rbs/trek, who claimed fourth at 6:42:52. Six minutes later, Daniel Yankus, Athletic Mentors/Greenware USA, from Milford, MI took fifth at 6:48:52 with Tanguy’s teammate, Ronald Caitlin, Rbs Trek Cycling, arriving sixth in the Men’s Open, just one minute behind SS Race winner, Jorden Wakeley, to finish 6:52:50. These seven racers all finished at sub seven hours.
Wakeley takes first place in his first NUE of the Season
Known as “The Giant from Grayling”, Jorden Wakeley, M22/Northbound Outfitters, overcame a leaking rear tire and pulled off the win with a time of 6:51:56, sixth overall, and the only SS racer to go sub seven on the day!
“I rode with the lead group of four including Dylan Johnson and Brian Schworm for the first fifty miles before having to stop and fix a slow leaking rear tire. Ron Catlin put in a big effort on the start of the second lap, I was able to hang, and knew my gap over the second SS’er had to be pretty solid. I rode the majority of the last thirty miles solo using a 36×18 gear on a fully rigid 29er. The next races I am planning for are Wilderness 101 and Marji Gesick.”
As the first finisher on a rigid SS, Wakely received a Lauf Fork of his choice. Lauf is awarding a new fork for the first fully rigid SS Racer at each NUE Race this season. http://laufforks.com/
In his first NUE Race this season, Andrew Fader, Bloomington Cycle, took second place with a time of 7:00:25.
Following his second place finish at the Shenandoah 100 last season, Collin Snyder, Athletic Mentors, made his 2017 NUE debut at Lumberjack, finishing third with a time of 7:14:27.
Clayton’s wins Back to Back at Lumberjack!
Following his 7:04:11 win last year at Lumberjack, the Defending NUE Masters Champion, Jeff Clayton, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute, claimed his third straight NUE Series win, including Cohutta and Mohican. This year, Clayton finished twenty-one minutes over his nearest SS competitor, to finish 7:15:48 and remains undefeated in his bid to repeat for the NUE Race Series Masters title.
“I was very excited to have the company of my lovely and very supportive wife, Jodi. We traveled way up to Big M in Michigan all the way from middle Georgia. Michigan scenery and temperatures are great, but the bugs rival everywhere I’ve been except maybe Alaska!
I had a nice hard pre-ride with two of the fastest NUE racers out there-Dylan Johnson and Brian Schworm. They were just cruising up the hills and I was at race pace. With Jodi set up to pit for me, I knew I’d have great intel on race splits vs. my rivals and quick hand ups. The start was fairly tame and I was very happy with my position until about ten minutes in when a stick jammed into my wheel. About fifteen racers went by while I extracted it, luckily no damage.
I had fun moving back up in the order, especially when I lucked into being on the wheel of a fast guy on a cross bike on the longest road section-he motored! The first lap was pretty smooth, and starting lap two, I was with two strong guys that really ramped up the pace every climb as we caught and passed groups of racers. I was surprised to then drop them on the sandy road after the tower hike-a-bike before catching another group just before the aid station with a couple of fast singlespeeders in it, including my race pace buddy, James Litzinger.
That pace wasn’t going to cut it and I found myself with just James and another singlespeeder, here we go again! I actually dropped them too but, about ten minutes into the third lap; here they came with another guy. They were in a heated battle for third and it was all I could do to hang on…until I couldn’t.
I was starting to see stars and the legs just weren’t putting out the power, a “bonk” from not enough energy (candy corn being my favorite). Letting off the pace to eat and a good stop at the aid station and I started to feel fast again. Nobody caught me and I actually caught James and one other singlespeeder…good!
With only five miles left, I decided to go all out to see what I could do (and what they would do)…and they took the bait! I was going so hard on the last few hills I got tunnel vision, but I held them off. Always good to race to the very finish! Thanks to no crashes, pacing fairly well (minus the lap 3 bonk), and my fabulous race assistant wife, I took the masters win and another lumberjack 100 axe trophy.”
Racing in his first NUE this year, Terry Sensiba, Founders Racing, came in second with a time of 7:36:57.
Christopher Abston, Racing Greyhounds, is currently ranked second in the NUE Series point race. Abston solidified his standing at Lumberjack with a third place finish of 7:42:09.
“This was my second year at Lumberjack. The goal was to place in the top three seeing I had a third place finish at Cohutta 100 and fourth at Mohican 100. I was lined up near the front at the start of the race and I saw my main competitor a few riders ahead. As the race started I tried to stay as close as I could to him and, after the first few miles, I noticed that he was having a mechanical issue and so I made a move to pass him.
After about five miles into the race, I was wondering if he had to drop out of the race or is he fast approaching. Well that question was answered a few moments later. While I was on the double track, he and another guy blew by our group like we were standing still. I was going to attempt to jump on his wheel but I did not want to blow myself up so I was content to stay where I was.
As I started the second lap, I noticed a gentleman that looked like he would be in the Masters 50+ group and he seemed to be riding pretty strong. I did not know this gentleman (later found out it was Jack Klein) but I attempted to drop him three times but two of the times he ended up catching me about ten minutes after I dropped him during that second lap. As we went through the pit area on the third lap, I had a slight gap on him but I was trying to stay controlled so I had some in the tank for a strong finish.
Once I hit the double track, I noticed a group was fast approaching me so I decided to use some of my past experience as a road racer and to sit up and jump on their wheels. I ended up riding on Jack Klein’s wheel for the next fifteen miles until I had to stop to relieve myself and thought that my race was over. I gave a good effort to see if I could catch back up and, after a few minutes, I was able to get back on his wheel and rest for a bit. With about twelve miles to go, I decided to see if I could drop him again and hold him off this time till the finish. Fortunately, the effort paid off and I cruised in for a third place finish.”
WHATS NEXT: The NUE 100 Mile Epic Series and Marathon Series will head west to Sturgis, South Dakota for the Tatanka 100 on July 8th. As of July 16, Race Leaders in both the NUE Epic and Marathon Race Series will earn a comp entry into the NUE Volcano 100 in Liberia, Costa Rica. Volcano is the first NUE Race to be held outside the USA and, with 600 already registered, may also become the largest as well. For more information, visit www.nuemtb.com