NUE Tatanka Epic

Written by: Jen Toops

Tatanka Epic stop #5 on the 2018 NUE Race Series

On July 7, 2018, NUE racers headed to Sturgis, SD for the NUE Epic and Marathon races.  Previously a point-to-point race, the new 2018 course consisted of a loop format that started and finished in downtown Sturgis.

The start, finish and neutral aid station.  Photo credit: Randy Ericksen

The new course was made up of loops A, B, and C. Epic riders started at 7AM and completed all three loops, 90 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing. Marathon racers completed B and C loops, 40 miles and around 5,000 ft of climbing. There was also a Sprint loop that only completed the C loop.  The neutral aid station on Main Street also served as the start and finish for all races.  The volunteers helped make sure racers were safe and directed traffic at all intersections.

Photo credit: Randy Ericksen

Sturgis is located in western South Dakota and is home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally.  This area is also quickly becoming popular with mountain bikers. Racers rode on parts of the Centennial trail, which is located in the Black Hills mountain range.

Photo credit: Randy Ericksen

Trails winded through both prairies, cow pastures, and rocky forest single-track. Race day  conditions had temperatures pushing 100 degrees, exposed sunny climbs, fast flowing downhills, sand pits, steep switchbacks, and stunning mountainous views. Racers were also challenged with dodging the occasional fresh cow patty. There was a 50% DNF rate in the Epic race.

Men’s Open

David Krimstock WINS Epic men’s open

Men’s open podium: 1st David Krimstock, 2nd Josh Tostado, 3rd Dylan Johnson

After a long scorching hot day, David Krimstock takes the win in the men’s epic open with a time of 7:19:16.

“I was anxious and excited to race against Dylan and Josh at Tatanka. The two things on my mind going into the race were the high temps forecast and the foreign terrain. I usually get a solid preview of the course, but this time only managed to ride the final loop. I had confidence that my nutrition, namely First Endurance EFS Pro and my Pivot 429 SL would be advantages for me during the race.

Settling in as a group of two with Mark Kransz behind Dylan and Josh, we kept them in sight until we decided to work together to bring them back. Once we caught them, we rode as a group of 4 until Dylan and Josh missed a sharp left turn onto the Centennial trail. I yelled down to them, and when I saw Dylan register this, we waited for him to climb back up the road. He was unable to get Josh’s attention, so we decided to carry on.

On the single track, I felt really good following Dylan on the trail that he had ridden in the past versions of the race. After about 20 minutes, I decided I felt good enough to pick up the pace and took over the lead. Creating a gap, I felt good about my legs on the day, and my reading of the trail. As the day went on, the heat became overbearing and I was taking a refill of my 1.5 liter Camelbak vest and concentrated bottle of EFS pro, along with drinking a bottle or two of water at each aid. Climbing the pavement road at the start of lap 2, it must have been over 100 degrees. I started to unravel a bit, but carried on to the aid station at the top of a long descent. Refueling there, I started to feel the light at the end of the tunnel and the relief that always gives me in an NUE race. I focused on riding smooth, but as fast as possible- thinking mostly about the cold, air conditioned hotel room that awaited me after finishing. The final loop was an out of body experience of sorts- taking 20 minutes less than my pre ride the day before, but with the climbs seemingly dragging on forever. Crossing the finish line in first was a great feeling, but I still had a lot of concern for all the folks grinding out in the heat. It was certainly an epic day out there!

Josh Tostado. Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

Even after a wrong turn, Josh Tostado comes in second in the men’s epic open with a time of 7:41:56. After almost taking a DNF due to heat exhaustion, 2017 NUE epic champion, Dylan Johnson takes the third position with a time of 7:50:17.

Dylan Johnson. Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

Women’s Open

Conners takes second NUE win

Women’s Open podium: 1st Larissa Conners, 2nd Carey Lowery, 3rd Sonia Pond

Coming off a win at the Firecracker 50 just a couple days prior, Larissa Connors gets her second NUE win of the season coming in at 8:50:30. With this win it puts her in the lead for the series.

“That was one of the hardest days I’ve ever faced on the bike, just finishing felt like a huge victory. My body was still wrecked from racing the Firecracker 50 in Breck 2 days earlier, and the heat/humidity was a nice curve ball I did not expect even a little bit.

Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

For the first time in my ultra endurance career I let the men ride away right from the start and focused all my energy on pacing myself. Despite my best efforts to ride conservative, drink an absurd amount of GQ6 and water, and slam Clif gels every half hour I fell apart before the first lap was over and had serious doubts that I would even finish right around that strange and beautiful ravine filled with cows making birthing sounds.

On the B loop, after that damned road climb brought me to my knees, literally in that spring on the side of the road, there was a point where, convinced I had missed a turn, I stopped to play a solo game of Marco-Polo in hopes that someone would hear me and help me find the correct route. But like most of the race, my solitude rang loud and lonely in the black hills, forcing me to dig out my phone and pull up the map. Yep, all that lost elevation was correct, and just as I dreaded, I would have to climb out of this hole. Fortunately the descents on the second half of each lap were rippin’ fun, and the volunteers at the aid station on Veteran’s hill with the ice towels were like angels on both laps, taking care of my nutrition needs and helping me get my core temp back down to normal-ish.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

A front flat on the final descent of the B loop had me secretly stoked that I would get to drop out (from lack of carrying a tube, like an idiot), but with a shot of C02 the Orange Seal had me rolling again and I had no excuses to NOT start the C loop. It took literally every ounce of brainpower to get me through that last 13 miles, and I stopped more than once just to stand there in the shade of a glorious fir tree contemplating the meaning of life, if I was actually still living, and how I was going to get to the end of the race. Days later I’m still shocked I finished that race at all, but also kinda proud that despite the insane amount of pain in every corner of my body, the Felt Doctrine and I somehow stuck it out and made it to the finish, in first place of all things!”

With a time of 10:12:56, Carey Lowery rides away with second place in women’s epic.

“When I lined up at the start and the temperature was already 82 degrees, I knew I was going to be in for a beat down on the bike. After the neutral roll out, I let many a racer by on the first big climb of the day. “Slow is fast” is my mantra. Over the next 5 hours, I worked my way around the A loop. The Centennial Trail had just enough tech to keep me happy and with the beautiful vistas, I had a permagrin. After fishing out a rock that had wedged itself between my frame and chainring, I began the long arduous climb up to the BullDog aid station. At this point, I was holding second place and not knowing where third was, I did not stop to picnic. With a quick refill of my CamelBak, I was off for the blistering descent back into town. As I dropped in elevation, I felt the temperature rise; by the time I hit the hotter than Hades Gasline Trail climb, it was a real scorcher. I loved the rewarding descents of Peacekeeper and Main back into town. I stopped at my little mini oasis to wrap an ice filled pantyhose around my neck and down my jersey. I had sucked my CamelBak dry once again.

Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

The second lap, albeit shorter, was brutal. The exposed climb up Volnacker Canyon had me seeing stars. Had it not been for the melting ice in my pantyhose, I may have blown a gasket. Then onto more heinous climbing up Unnamed #1 and Unnamed #2 trails, which I quickly named Little Focker and Mother Focker. The Horse Trail was fresh 1/2 track and had it not been for the previous 60 miles, might have been a hoot to ride. Today was more like a death march: tight, off-camber, rocky, and pitchy, It took every ounce of my being to keep pushing forward. The climb up to BullDog the second time had me crying for my Mommy. I made it though, and repeated the process when I came through 3 1/2 hours ago. Heading down the steep rocky descent, I flatted. For once, I had a NASCAR-like fix and was back on the bike in 2 minutes. I went into autopilot for the remainder of this lap.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

Repeating my mini oasis stop, I was hoping that the race would be called after the second loop and I would not have to go out for the third loop. That was not the case. Having been in these low moments before, I knew it would soon pass. As I headed out for my final loop, I knew that I could not chase down Larissa; she is a beast! Not knowing where third was kept me pushing the pedals as hard as I could. As I was climbing up the Centennial Trail to the ridge, my driveside pedal was all wonky. Upon closer inspection, the aluminum insert into the carbon crankarm had come loose. Worried that I might completely lose the pedal, I babied it for the remainder of the 13 mile loop. Fortunately it held up under the stress and I was able to finish on the bike as opposed to running it in or go 1-legged.

With no expectations to finish on the podium, I was stoked with second! That was brutally fun!  Sponsors: Rescue Racing, Scott’s Bike Shop, Chamois Butt’r, Christopher Bean Coffee, Industry 9.

After winning the Tatanka Epic in 2017,  Sonia Pond comes in third place with a time of 11:12:27.

“This was my 3rd Tatanka Epic, though with the course change and heat I knew 2018 would be about finishing, ranking as my longest bike race of any discipline in addition to the massive course elevation.  The heat was already starting to build as I rolled up to the start.  The first climbs I forced myself to take it easy, allowing much of the field to pass and drop me, including many women.  I was thrilled when Chris and I settled into a rhythm together, making a few new friends during the gravel sections.  The temps were already sweltering and my mind was already wandering towards “will I be able to ride in this for 90 miles?”  A good moment to practice positive self-talk as I continued on.
Chris and I eventually parted ways around mile 35.  I saw a few MN friends again as I reached the Bulldog aide station!  The volunteers gave us encouraging words, cool drinks, and a chilled cloth for my neck.  I had been looking forward to ripping down Bulldog, and set off in pretty good spirits.  The next few hours were pretty uneventful, as I just kept moving, eating, and drinking.

Coming into town after the A-loop, I had a really hard time emotionally.  I was hot and my body was already hurting.  Perry Jewett and other friends gave me encouraging words as I cooled off, and I knew I had more in me despite wanting to stop.  Christina Spencer (a friend from MN who absolutely crushes all things bike, including a SS on this course!!) was setting off for the B-loop at the same time, so we were able to roll together.  I had no idea what was ahead.  As a part-time roadie in the summer, I thought “road section, oh yea, I can do that.”  The climb started just out of town, and did not let up for several miles.  My garmin blinked 107 degrees.  I tried to keep my heart rate in zone 3 as Christina moved ahead.  Several other cyclists had turned back and were flying back towards town, and I so wanted to join them.  My body and head felt like it had a fireball attached to it.  We finally made it to singletrack, but the sun, heat, and climbing continued.  Still no cramping so I just focused on breathing and positive self-talk.  If I could just make it to the Bulldog aide station…and I did!  The volunteers here were so, so uplifting (again!). I took the time to sit down and cool off in the shade.  This was the point when I knew I could finish.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

I set off for Bulldog #2, and clouds moved over to block the sun.  I leap-frogged with a few other racers once we crossed the highway.  A few cool raindrops fell and improved my spirits.  Rolling into town, all the volunteers clapped and smiled, and a huge party cheered as I came in!  They checked over my bike, filled up my water and food.  13 miles…I could do this.  I was set off with more cheers and an update that I had somehow moved up to 3rd place. I had serious doubts this was fact, but figured I better get moving just in case.  I saw a few more racers in here as the miles ticked by.  I resorted to pushing my bike up several climbs, but then the final 5 miles were surprisingly enjoyable.  My mind and body felt good, and I so looked forward to sharing a beer with Chris and friends!  Rolling across the finish was a thrill, perhaps my greatest cycling achievement yet.  All in all this event was top-notch.  The volunteers make Tatanka what it is, and even after all the suffering and tears, we will probably be back for more.  Next year looking forward to putting Lumberjack and Mohican on the calendar.”

Singlespeed

Shaklee repeats at Tatanka

Men’s Singlespeed: 1st Ben Shaklee, 2nd Trevor Rockwell, 3rd Kip Biese

Ben Shaklee wins the Tatanka single-speed epic for the second year in a row, coming in at 8:08:54.

“I lined up with only 2 other Single-Speeders in the Epic race; Kip Biese and Trevor Rockwell. I recognized Kip’s name from many past NUE top results, and knew this was Trevor’s home turf with a win in 2016. With the limited SS field I was also looking for good placement in the overall. Trevor and I were each on 34×20 gearing, while Kip was running 34×19.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

After the neutral roll out I settled into 5th place through the doubletrack climbing and was later passed by 2 geared riders on the flat & downhill gravel roads. At Aid 1 I was in 8th, with a quick stop to fill bottles. I blew the L hand turn into the singletrack, adding a couple minutes off course, at which point Trevor and a few other riders jumped ahead. I passed them back in the singletrack and creek crossings before making the climb to Aid 2. I passed a number of riders in the climb to Aid 2, but they were mostly Marathon racers. Trevor caught me at Aid 2 and we left together, but I dropped him in the long singletrack descent and never saw him (or Kip) again. I rode very conservatively the rest of the race to avoid overheating, not getting passed, and not really knowing who was ahead of me. I finished in just under 8:09, good for 1st SS and 5th O/A.

Next NUE race for me is High Cascades 100. Sponsors: Jack’s Bicycle (Bellingham, WA) p/b Pivot Cycles & Stan’s NoTubes.”

With a Tatanka singlespeed win in 2016, Trevor Rockwell takes second place, coming in at 8:51:53.

Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

“Overall the race was a scorcher. Temps hovered around 103.  First 20 Miles felt great climbing out of Sturgis on open roads with a breeze to keep you cool. Dropping into the Centennial Trail the heat really picked up and so did the climbing.  The first aid station saw about 10 of us trying to cool down in anyway possible. After the aid at the top of Veteren’s Peak it was a blast rocking the down the Three Sisters and Bulldog descents. The open section on the BLM land was very fast but also one of the hottest spots on course as we were exposed to the sun the entire day. I was able to ride with Ben Shaklee the eventual winner of the single speed class for most of the first lap. He open some space coming into town and I never saw him again.

Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen

I suffered up the road climb with the eventual Women’s Champion, weaving all over the roadway from shoulder to shoulder just trying to get up and out of the heat!!  At this point in the race, I wrestled with the same demons that pretty much all of us did in trying to figure out weather to pull the plug of keep going. going through was seemed like the longest 13 or so miles I have ever ridden, I was able to fill my jersey with ice, bottles to and head back into town. By the time I hit town the second time, my legs had returned and off on lap 3 I went.  I was hoping to just finish at this point but coming up to the last climb, I saw Kip B. who had passed me earlier during the long Aid stop in the middle of lap 2.  I thought I might have a chance to catch him for 2nd so I rode as hard as I could up the last climb and once we hit the pavement I could see that Kip was right there. Immediately when I put a push to catch up he stood up and a boom cramps hit and it was game over for him less than a mile away from the finish. I was lucky enough to walk away with 2nd SS and 11th Overall. This course is never easy and always something to make it one of the hardest races on the NUE circuit.  Running the 34×20 gear ration was exactly right and only wished to have a little harder gear on the open fire road and gravel road sections.  Will always be back to the Black Hills for the awesome races put on out there, no matter what the forecast is, even the heat that is far to common.”

Kip Biese, gets the third podium position, missing second place by less than a minute, 8:52:48.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

Master’s 

Smith dominates the Master’s class

Master’s podium: 1st Carey Smith, 2nd Russell Spaulding, 3rd Tom Stritzinger

Cary Smith dominates the master’s class, winning with a time of 7:57:32, and taking the fourth overall position.

About an hour and a half back, Russell Spaulding takes second place, with a time of 9:27:12.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

Rounding out the master’s podium, Tom Stritzinger, came in third with a time of 9:58:54.

Photo Credit: Ryan O’dell

Final results click here

What’s next on the NUE series? Click here to register for the Epic series High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR.

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