NUE High Cascades 100
Written by: Ryan O’Dell, Shana Biese
At 5:30AM, Racer’s gathered at Bachelor Village, near Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon in anticipation of one of the most popular races in the NUE Race Series. The town of Bend is a top destination for mountain bikers thanks to hundreds of miles of primo singletrack trails that can be accessed directly from downtown connecting to other nearby towns including the town of Sisters.
The Ninth Annual High Cascades 100 marked the midway point of the fourteen race National Ultra Endurance MTB Race Series where NUE series hopefuls had just one final opportunity to lead their respective divisions earning a mid-season comp entry to compete in the Volcano 100, the first NUE race held outside of the USA near Liberia, Costa Rica.
Deschutes Brewery, www.deschutesbrewery.com, one of the top rated craft breweries in the US, was on site at the finish line serving up draft brews. Sagebrush Cycles of Bend, www.sagebrushcycles.net, in addition to offering mechanical services on the race course at every aid station, also offered racers a place to ship their bikes that included getting the bikes race ready and inspected before the race.
Williams wins her first HC100, leads NUE Race Series!
Defending NUE Race Series Champion, Carla Williams, Joes Bike Shop Racing Team, won her third straight NUE Series race taking the top spot on the podium at High Cascades with a time of 8:42:26. Williams is one race away from a perfect score following wins at both Cohutta 100 and Mohican MTB100.
“This was my first time racing High Cascades and I really had no idea what to expect. I kept things pretty conservative to start and pulled into the first aid station at 25 miles with Kaydee Raths. I skipped the aid station and, from there, rode the rest of the race in front of the women’s field trying to keep a consistent pace, but still keeping a little in reserve until the end, since I wasn’t sure how hard the last climbs or singletrack would be. The plan worked out pretty well!
The trails were super fun and flowy and very sandy and dusty if you happened to be riding behind someone. I forgot my sunglasses and vision out of my left eye was completely blurry for the last twenty miles from all the dust which made seeing and riding the last singletrack miles pretty challenging. The event overall was super well organized, great volunteers and aid stations, and overall a very fun event! My next race will be W101 in Pennsylvania.”
Thrity-three minutes later, Olivia Dillon, Velocio, racing her first NUE of 2017, came in second place with a time of 9:15:51. Sixteen minutes later, Liza Hartlaub, GU Energy Labs, came in third with a time of 9:41:18.
“High Cascades 100 for me was a sort of bucket list race. I have never raced anything close to 100 miles on a mountain bike so I had low expectations for myself. My goal was simply to “have fun” and complete the distance in good spirits.
My lovely boyfriend was at the aid stations providing support and letting me know that I was in fifth place- at mile 24 as well as mile 40. I hit a low point mentally around mile 55 right at the start of the big climb up Mrazek. I just kind of chugged along feeling very blah. I stopped to ask for water from some lovely volunteers and they told me fourth place was just ahead and they thought I could probably catch her. Suddenly, I found that extra gear in my legs and that’s when I started racing- around mile 70. I made the pass around mile 76. A few miles later- I saw third place! I made the pass and didn’t look back.”
Jones narrowly wins a tight race with defending NUE Series Champ!
Professional road racer, Christopher Jones, Healthcare United, came in first place with a time of 7:24:44 following an epic battle with the NUE defending Champion.
“High Cascades is about as much of a home race as one can get for me; the start is right out my door, we race on trails that I ride every time I going on a mountain bike ride and the finish is at the Athletic Club of Bend where my son is learning to swim this summer. This makes HC100 about as easy as a mountain bike race can get for a pro roadie such as myself, which is not easy at all!
This year’s edition of the HC100 had the deepest talent pool that I have seen in the past few years of the race and it showed at the front of the race with multiple lead changes. My personal race was saved when I stopped at mile 68 to ward off a bonk with some old fashion junk food that I had purchased at the gas station the night before. My win came as a surprise to many because roadies can’t ride the dirt, right?
Thank you to race director Mike Ripley, COTA, and all of the volunteers who continue to make this one of the most enjoyable races I compete in all season. I am already looking forward to next season and returning on my singlespeed.”
Three minutes later, NUE defending champion, Dylan Johnson, Cameron Mountain Bike Racing, finished second at 7:27:03. Johnson continues to dominate the Men’s Open category this year including three wins and three second place finishes, holding a solid lead overall in the NUE Men’s Open category.
“This year was my first time doing High Cascades so I didn’t know what to expect. After pre riding parts off the course, I was pleased with how fun and flowy the single track was and I was excited to race.
The race started out with a decent two track climb in which a small front group formed. As the race progressed I found myself at the front with Chris Jones. On the final long climb of the race I managed to distance myself from Chris but I misjudged the amount of fuel I would need between aid stations. I reached into my pocket and had nothing left. I got to the last aid station before the bonk came on, shoveled gels and coke into my mouth but, at that point, it was too late. Shortly after, Chris caught me, and I held on for second.”
Twenty-one minutes later, Steven Mills, New West Medical, took third with a time of 7:48:13. Earlier this season, Mills won the NUE season opener at the True Grit Epic in the Single Speed category. Mills placed second overall last year in the NUE Series single speed division.
Legend and local resident, Marcel Russenburger, a three-time Tour de France rider and professional from 1982-1990, finished his first his first High Cascades 100 along with his daughter, Sophie Russenburger.
Two in a row for Shaklee!
After winning first at Tatanka, Ben Shaklee, Jack’s Bicycle Center/ Homegrown Racing, won the HC100 Single Speed race with a time of 8:06:06. Shaklee moves up to fifth place overall in NUE Single Speed division.
“I rode with a small chase group of open riders on the opening fire roads, somewhere in the top 10-12 until about mile thirty. At that point, I began gradually dropping them primarily on the singletrack descents. At mile 52 aid, I was reported in eighth overall, about five minutes back from the leaders. From there, I rode solo to the finish, occasionally trading places with a couple Open riders through aid station.
At mile 52 aid I was reported in 8th overall, about 5 min back from leaders. From there I rode solo to the finish, occasionally trading places with a couple open riders through the aid station. I passed and dropped a couple more open riders shortly after Aid 5 and was able to open enough gap to hold them off on the five mile false flat paved downhill to the finish running a 34×19 gearing, same as second and third Singlespeed.”
Thirteen minutes later, NUE defending SS Champion, James Litzinger, Syndicate Cycling p/b Pro Bike + Run, took second with a time of 8:19:00. Litzinger is currently first place overall in the NUE Single Speed Standings.
“I don’t know where I start with this amazing race and adventure with family and friends. There were four families that headed out to race the High Cascades 100 from the greater Pittsburgh area. We made plans to see what the west coast had to offer last summer and it surely didn’t disappoint! We enjoyed amazing hikes, riding, swimming, racing, and foods!
We headed to the start line for the early 5:30 a.m. start. It was a beautiful Oregon morning with very comfortable temperatures knowing that it would warm up quite a bit in the afternoon. My teammate and friend, Anthony Grinnell, was making his Single Speed debut at High Cascades. Knowing that he is a super strong rider with consistent top 10 finishes in the men’s open, I wanted to ride the whole race with him. I knew that it would be awesome to have the company of a teammate throughout the race.
There was a mellow neutral start that happened to be quite refreshing for a single speeder. I didn’t need to spin my butt off and burn a bunch of matches trying to keep up with the geared riders. After about nine miles, we began our climb up the first sandy, dusty climb! I was informed of all of the dust from local PA rider, Rege Ricketts, who was out at the High Cascades last year so I was prepared with my handkerchief to keep the heavy dust out of my lungs. That was great advice!
Anthony caught up to me at the top of this climb with a reassuring, “Hey Brah!” Instantly, I knew that this would be a great day on the bike and it sure was! We descended down through the banked turns, whoops, and amazing flow of the Tiddlywinks trail. Before I knew it, we were at aid station 1. I was all good on my wife’s delicious peanut butter ball and Hammer Electrolytes so I just stopped for a top off on one of my bottles. Anthony had a camelback so he just stopped for a little food and then we were on to the next long climb with a few rollers sprinkled in for fun. In no time at all, we were already at aid 2 then 3.
They say time flies when you’re having fun! This was one of those times. We decided to skip aid 3 and get water at the next water aid station shortly after the climb. There was a nice young lady chilling in the back of a truck who had us supplied with the water we needed. The aid stations were very well staffed and organized and I was very thankful!
After aid 3, I knew that there was really only going to be one more big climb then it was just going to be some super fun single track down to the finish. At this point, we thought we were sitting in 3rd and 4th SS and feeling pretty good. We decided to keep our steady pace up the final climb and then push out the single track. We caught up to the 2nd place Single speeder around mile 74. We were feeling really good at this point and kept on pushing the pace because it was so much fun!
Coming out of a shady fast turn I didn’t see a small rock garden until the last minute. My front tire cleared but my rear tire didn’t sending me airborne over the bars and hard onto my head and shoulder. I tried to hurry up and collect my bottles trying not to lose too much time. When I got back onto the bike, I first noticed that my saddle was on about a 45 degree angle from the fall. Anthony kept asking if I could ride with it like that and I said yeah but after a half mile or so I knew that I would need to stop and fix it to have the strong finish we needed. Anthony and I stopped and I struggled to get my multitool out of my back pocket with my sore shoulder. Eventually, I was able to get my saddle squared up but in the meantime the Singlespeeders and two geared guys that we passed early passed us.
We didn’t want that SS rider to get on the road finish with the geared guys and knew that if he could hang with them on the road he would be really difficult to catch. So, we put in a hard effort and managed to close the gap quickly then just rode their wheel to a spot where the trail came out near the road and they missed the sharp left hand turn to continue on the trail. Anthony and I were able to stay on our bikes and pass the trio at this point. We put in another good effort to finish out the trail knowing that we wanted to have as big of a lead as possible before hitting the road.
Two SS’ers on the road can work together but it wouldn’t compare to the help of a strong geared rider. Once we got onto the road, we were spinning our butts off and taking turns pulling and constantly looking over our shoulder. After about three miles of strong work, we spun by a geared rider who was not pushing as hard as us and we saw a rider coming up strong behind us. It was Giant racer, Erik Bee. He was amped for us! We said to him that we were hoping to hop on board to the finish. He gave us each a strong and confident fist bump then put on a killer pull to the finish!
It was great to be great be greeted by our cheering wives at the finish. This ranks up there as one of the greatest 100 milers that I’ve done being out in the beautiful country of the west coast and with my teammate, Anthony. My equipment performed perfectly! The Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire was the perfect tire to rail the single track at High Cascades and my Wolftooth components drive train was solid as usual!”
Anthony Grinnell, Syndicate Cycling p/b Pro Bike + Run, came in third place with a time of 8:19:00. This was Grinnel’s second NUE race this year. He previously raced Cohutta 100 in the Men’s Open category where he placed tenth.
“It had been five years since I last rode the trails in Bend and I forgot how incredibly fun they are. Mike Ripley did an amazing job organizing the race, the weather was great, and the aid stations were well spaced with friendly volunteers, all of which made for one of the most fun NUE races I’ve done to date.
My teammate, Jim Litzinger, and I kept it dialed back for the first forty miles, knowing this would be an eight- plus hour race and the temps were going to creep into the 90 degree range. That plan worked out well as we passed racer after racer in the last 60 miles. I was running 34×20 gearing with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. The Ralphs’ grip in those conditions was phenomenal and the gearing was perfect. Hammer Bars, water and bananas kept me fueled and feeling strong.
Jim and I passed the 2nd place SS rider, Mark Schafer, around mile 85. We were pulling away quickly until Jim had a really bad crash at mile 87, sending him over his bars at about 20mph. Jim is competing for points in the NUE series so it was important to get his bike straightened out and get him back up into the second spot. The three to four minutes we were stopped allowed Mark to pass us back. We were able to quickly catch back up around mile 90 and put a five minute gap back to fourth by the finish of the race.
Even with the crash, we were able to close the gap to the leader by about four minutes in the second half of the race. Overall, it was a great day. 100 milers are never easy, but this was one of the most enjoyable NUE races I’ve competed in.”
Greg Golet, Team Chico, upset NUE defending Masters Champion, Jeff Clayton’s, winning streak and came in first place with a time of 8:08:24. In 2016, the NUE Masters Title came down to the final race with Golet taking second place overall behind Clayton in the NUE Masters points race.
“I arrived in Bend motivated and ready to race. I did a long steep hike with my wife in Tahoe the weekend before, and finally wasn’t feeling sore anymore. The race had a mellow roll out for the first few miles which provided a chance to warm up and catch up with some friends, but this all changed as we approached the dirt.
I’m terrible at pack riding, and so ended up well back from the front, and breathing a lot of dust on the initial long climb. After a while, I passed my main competition that I knew about, Tonning, Clayton, and then my fellow Chico rider, Mike Castaldo, who I traveled to Bend with. This was my first NUE race with Mike, now 50, in my division. A couple of years back; he destroyed the course, beating me handily in the process. Also, at the start, I was told there was a new recruit to the Master’s class, a 50-year-old Bend champion triathlete that is “always first off the bike”. I had no idea where he was when I topped out on that first climb, but assumed he was well ahead.
I was glad when the pack thinned out a bit, and the dust wasn’t so heavy. I even found a group to work with on one of the dirt road sections. After a long pull leading up a mild incline, I moved to the back, but almost immediately the road veered left and down a steep loose hill. Duh! Suddenly I was choking on dust and fading off the back, but at least I didn’t crash. Tiddlywinks was also super dusty for me—and made more challenging by the alternating patches of sun and shade—but still fun.
After mile 40, I mostly rode on my own, only occasionally seeing other racers. I loved most of the course and was glad to ride terrain that was new to me. Favorite trails included Upper Whoops, Mrazek and Dinah Moo Humm. I also really enjoyed the South Fork climb with the tall forest, shade and flowing creek nearby. As I rode I kept thinking how I was so glad to be out there, a feeling made more intense by knowing that I not get the chance again.
After all the major climbs, it was time to be smooth and efficient. Blazing down the fire road to Aid C was sketchy with all the sand traps, but I arrived intact, quickly grabbed my small camelback and headed off. Then I realized just how thirsty I was. My pack was full of a concentrated mix of caffeinated sugary gels and electrolytes, but all I really wanted was water. I thought of those news stories about kids that drink too many energy drinks, and wondered what I was setting myself up for. But it turned all out fine.
The last climbs weren’t too bad. No dust on my second trip down Tiddlywinks, and all of Tyler’s bermed turns were really cool. However, by that time I was stiff and achy and so not able to pump through the turns the way I did earlier in the day (my arms are sore as I write this!). This worried me some because I knew I wasn’t going very fast, and feared I might be passed. But before long I hit the pavement and after riding it for a while looked back and saw I had no chasers. With no one in front of me that I could catch, I realized that my place was secured and just rode steadily finish. Once there, I was psyched for the wet towel, not so much the Coca-Cola.
Thanks to Mike and his crew for putting on a phenomenal event. This was my second win in the Series. I’m only doing four races before the finals, and the last two (Breck100 and Pierre’s Hole) are coming up fast. I can’t wait!!”
Twenty-two minutes later, defending NUE Masters Champion, Jeff Clayton, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute, placed second at 8:30:36. Clayton leads the NUE Masters Division with three straight wins at Cohutta, Mohican, and Lumberjack to go along with his first second place finish this year.
“This was my first time racing the High Cascades 100. I knew that it would be a very different experience from the century races I’ve been doing, higher altitude, drier air, different trail surface. That said, I was looking forward to the challenge! Arriving in Bend Wednesday prior was good…a chance to do a little altitude acclimation, get used to the dry air, see the absolute devotion that Bend folk (Bend-ites?) have for the outdoors and cycling specifically.
I did a 30-ish mile pre-ride Thursday to have some fun and see what I was in for. Dust and sand mixed with sharp lava rock. The scenery was great as was the flow of the trails, but man is the dust bad for the lungs, eyes and losing the front wheel in turns…I knew the race would be even more so. The dust of Thursday’s pre-ride took its toll on my immune system and Friday I felt drained, deciding to skip another pre-ride.
5:30 am start on Saturday. That is a record early race start for me! After a very casual paved portion, the dust flew when we dumped onto the dirt road. I felt good for about a minute and then started to hit the wall…allergies, altitude, inadequate conditioning? I don’t know! I hadn’t pre-ridden this part and didn’t know how bad/long it would be…too long! After dozens and dozens of racers passed me, including several masters’ racers, I finally had a long enough section to recover.
From there on out I progressively got better and started passing back most of those racers. My trends was to pass on anything going up and then, get caught back on technical downhills or really anything with sand in the corners…not east coast tread I am familiar with! Having my lovely wife there to give me splits, food/drink hand ups, and encouragement was invaluable.
Greg Golet was flying and it became evident that, barring a mishap or meltdown on his part, he had the race in the bag. I kept on the gas, because that’s just the way I race, and it paid off. As I rolled into aid 3, Jodi let me know second place was only two minutes ahead. Game on! I hit every climb with all I could give and, after about ten minutes, had reeled Wayne Tonning in. He probably didn’t know I was his competitor as he graciously let me pass, and I tried to surreptitiously pull away.
On the first downhill, I realized he was on to me as he asked to pass in a whoops section and I graciously let him. This set the tone for the rest of the race-he would rip the downhills, leaving me in his dust and I would reel him in on the uphills. He put a good gap on me in an extended technical downhill and rock garden area, and I figured that might be enough to give him an insurmountable gap. I wasn’t about to give up though and I did my best to negotiate the trail, knowing my big gears (34-9 top ratio) and Diesel engine might do the trick on the final pavement section, especially if there were any climbs.
I gave it my all, and a few minutes after turning onto the Cascades lake highway I saw Wayne’s green jersey far ahead. I could see I was making up ground and, as I approached, I surreptitiously got in his draft for several seconds and then attacked. I flew around a guy out on a road bike that probably did a double take as he was going pretty fast too! I got a good gap on Wayne and held on to sprint into second place. It was really fun, and painful, to have a cross country pace the last two hours, and for it to pay off! I’m probably crazy, but next NUE race is Breckenridge 100 in less than two weeks which should be interesting and very painful.”
One minute behind the defending champ,Wayne Tonning, rounded out Master’s by coming in third with a time of 8:31:05.
“The competition really heated up in the 50+ category this year. The race started fast and I had to go out quicker than I wanted in order to keep up with all of the Masters. Greg Golet was off the front immediately and he rides at a different level than the rest of us. I worked very hard and was clear of the other Master competitors by mile 25. Would I pay the price? Yes probably did.
Jeff Clayton, the NUE series leader, caught me on a climb around mile 80 and I had nothing. Fortunately, there was a technical single track descent over the next ten miles, on my home court, and I was able to gap Jeff by being more aggressive than I really wanted to. I was now again very motivated and worked the entire lower rolling single track section very hard to try and stay out of sight from Jeff. I hit the road with only five miles to go and Jeff nowhere to be seen. Just maybe I could hold him off. But, at this point, I really had nothing and Jeff flew by me with only a half mile to go. Jeff was the stronger man and deserved second place.
Eight 50+ guys finished in under nine hours, Greg was 8th overall, and four of us were within ten minutes second thru fifth. Fourth place was only three minutes behind me. The old guys keep getting faster. I am going to have to pick up my game for next year.
A great race, well organized, phenomenal single track (although the dry conditions had made it very soft in places), and Bend OR rocks. Did I mention the Fresh Squeezed IPA at the finish?!”
WHATS NEXT: The NUE Epic Race Series heads to Colorado and high elevation starting at 9000’ for the Breck 100 on July 29. On the same day, The Wilderness 101will test racers in State College, PA, home of the Nittany Lions.