Johnson and Pond Win in South Dakota
Written by: Ryan O’Dell, Shana Biese
On July 8, The NUE Race Series headed to Sturgis, South Dakota, home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally, and now increasingly becoming known as a mountain bike destination.
Tatanka, the Lakota word for Buffalo, is the only point to point race in the NUE Series. At 6am, racers began gathering beneath the shadow of USA National Landmark Mount Rushmore.
Beneath the magnificence of mammoth rock sculptures representing four of our nation’s greatest presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, NUE Marathon racer’s rolled out at High Noon, down a short section of pavement connecting them to the Centennial Trail along an 50k course that includes gnarly single track and fast, smooth cruising trail winding all the way to Sturgis. The town of Sturgis is nestled at the base of the northern Black Hills in extreme western South Dakota.
For a second straight year, temperatures reached an unseasonable high of 97 degrees, tempered by low humidity and, at times and in places, cool breezes throughout the day. Tatanka also included an 85 mile race that is stop #5 in the NUE Epic Race Series and a fifteen mile Sprint distance for first timers that included many kids. Racers must complete at least four NUE races to qualify for series awards that includes cash, prizes and a mid-season travel award, complimentary entry into the Volcano 100 in Costa Rica on September 2.
Quarq offered race fans live online tracking again this year and Strider Bikes, located in nearby Rapid City, set up a skills park, offering kids as young as 2-3 years old an opportunity to test their bike skills. In addition to food and beverage stands, racers were treated to local craft brews courtesy of Crow Peak Brewing and The Knuckle Brewpub of Sturgis.
Pond moves up for the WIN at Tatanka
Sonia Pond, Freewheel Bike, was first at 11:15:36 in her first NUE race this season following her sixth place finish at Tatanka last year.
“This was my second year back for the Tatanka Epic. Between the picturesque start line at Mt. Rushmore, the outstanding volunteers at each aide station, and the unreal scenery of the Black Hills, I seemed to have forgotten the physical and mental pain that comes with this race.
I hung with the peloton during the road section, staying close to my brother Joe and boyfriend Chris before we dove into the singletrack. I scanned the lead pack multiple times searching for another woman. When I didn’t see one, I knew I had to play this adventure on the safe side so I could reach my goal of a finish.
The rock fields of Samelius left me far behind my friends and family, but my smile returned once we returned to the miles of flowy singletrack and lush creek beds. I stayed on top of my nutrition and hydration, and wouldn’t let myself get frustrated as I pushed my bike up what seemed like miles of hike-a-bike. As long as I was moving, I was racing. My wonderful SAG and the caring volunteers at each station kept me pushing through the pain. I was thrilled to cross the finish line under twelve hours and to find out I was the first place female…that feeling is unreal.
I am looking forward to trying the Lumberjack and Marji Gesick in the upcoming seasons. Thank you NUE for creating a series where mountain bikers can test their limits in true endurance trail riding!”
Heather Heynen, was second with a time of 12:07:52.
“My race went better than I expected. This race, with its length and its technical aspects, was unprecedented for me. I’ve never done anything like it. I did do the 110 mile Gold Rush Gravel Grinder Race last month which helped me figure out a little bit on how to fuel for long endurance races and I’ve done a handful of 50 mile mountain bike races. But obviously this race was much more time in the saddle, your whole body is beat up so much more, and it was so hot!
I knew the very technical and hike-a-bike section (Samelius about mile 9, I think) would at least be taken care of in the beginning of the race but that section is so tough even with really fresh legs. Hiking up Talus with my mountain bike over my shoulder was an interesting challenge.
I felt strong until about mile 36 (the third aid station) where my legs started to feel somewhat fatigued. I focused a lot on drinking enough water and fueling often. By the last aid station at Elk Creek, my legs were feeling very heavy. I was walking short steep sections but was still able to ride the longer, more gradual inclines. At this point, I found myself going slower than usual on the technical downhills as my core and upper body were fatiguing. I didn’t want to make any major mistakes!
I had no idea that there was still a big climb out of Alkali Creek (about 7 miles left to the finish). If I had known, I’m not sure what would have happened! Climbing those dusty switchbacks in the sun was tough and the idea of making me throw up so my stomach would feel better entered my mind often at this point. This was the section I was also praying a lot and maybe saw dancing jackalopes on the side of the trail. A couple of riders, Josh B. and Perry J., rode by me and sent some positive vibes and high fives to keep grinding it out. So I did. And somehow finished with a time I was very happy with!”
Johnson leads NUE Series with win at Tatanka!
NUE defending Champion, Dylan Johnson, Cameron MTB Racing, chalked up another victory in his bid to repeat as the undisputed NUE Series Champion. Johnson has raced every NUE Epic Series race this season and continues to lead the series with the win at Tatanka in 7:46:43.
Thirty-two minutes behind the NUE defending champion, Jonathon Modig, The Adrenalin Project, took second place with a time of, 8:18:06. This was his first NUE race this season.
Just two minutes later, Johnsons teammate, Michael Smart, Cameron Racing, took third place with a finish time of 8:20:41.
Shaklee dominates the SS placing second place overall!
Ben Shaklee, Jacks Bicycle Center Homegrown Racing, won the Singlespeed division at 8:06:07, second overall and more than one hour ahead of his nearest competitor!
“I had a great time at NUE Tatanka Epic! I spotted Trevor Rockwell as the likely competition, looking to defend his 2016 win. Trevor and I were among the top 8-10 going into the first singletrack sections a couple miles in. I felt the pace was rather relaxed and could see Dylan out front in the lead. I gradually got around the other riders in the chase group and worked my way up to Dylan. John Modig was not too far behind me.
Dylan, John, and I pretty much rode with or in sight of one another through the first two aid stations; sans a couple minor off-course detours (it was hard to see trail markings with the morning sun in our eyes!). John pitted for a bit longer at aid two while Dylan and I rolled out together. I gradually lost contact with Dylan through the climbs between aids 2 and 3. I would see him in the high meadow switchbacks but lose time on the rocky climbs.
34×19 gearing would have been fine for the elevation profile were it not so loose and rocky on the climbs. By mid-race, I was starting to feel the heat and the 5000′ elevation, and worked to maintain a comfortable tempo to the finish at 8:06, good for 1st SS and 2nd O/A, about twenty minutes behind Dylan. I had to pit a bit longer at aids than anticipated, both due to mechanical (loosening crank) and the heat (especially at aid 5).
As punishing as the loose climbs were on SS, I loved the rocky, rowdy descents. Later on, I spoke with Trevor, who said the heat got the best of him and he was lucky to finish. It was definitely a tough day on the bike! Next up for me is HC 100 in Bend, OR on July 15!”
Tyler Huber, Larson’ Cyclery, BCBC, took second with a time of 9:07:06. This was the first NUE race of the season for Huber.
2016 Tatanka SS winner, Trevor Rockwell, Central Plains Cycling/Two Wheeler Dealer Sioux Falls, finished third at 9:24:05. This was Rockwell’s first NUE race of the season.
Hertsens commands the Masters for the W
Sten Hertsens, CarboRocket, took first place with a time of 9:59:49, nearly an hour ahead of his nearest competitor! Including his third place finish at True Grit and second place finish at Mohican, Hertsens victory moves him up to second overall in the NUE Series Masters Standings wedged between two formidable racers including defending NUE Masters Champion, Jeff Clayton, and Roger Masse, two-time NUE Masters Champion.
“What a place to start from; Mt. Rushmore! It was a beautifully peaceful morning that was going to turn into a day of battling crashes, routing and HEAT.
Shortly after the start, I had a slow moving spill of the trail, ending with my bike on top of me and a sore wrist. Thanks to the racer who pulled the bike off of me, allowing me to climb back to the trail. I was able to deal with the wrist issue and continue on but had a couple of routing issues. Luckily, there was a racer with GPS helping me both times.
At about the 40th mile, I went down on a corner that had some loose dirt on the outside corner. It hurt! While lying on the ground trying to get my foot unclipped, I was thinking my race was over. My wrist felt bad. I also hurt my ribs but, both issues weren’t bad enough to keep me from continuing. I stopped at aid station 4 and regrouped a little.
Then, off I went, only to miss a turn shortly after leaving. I was looking up the road on a left had curve and missed the trail on the right. I continued up the hill and, coming upon some Logging equipment, I went passed the equipment and then realized I was off course. I turned around and found the turn I missed.
Throughout the day, I was trying to hydrate (CarboRocket) and fuel (HoneyStinger) myself often. The HEAT was getting intense and hydration was needed. Coming upon the fast flowing section that was just before the Highway was a relief.
I was thinking I was almost there, and then, I was sent into more single track and climbs. My mind wasn’t ready for this, nor my body. This was a tough period in the race and the heat was beating down. I got through that and was relieved to see the bike path. I didn’t go through the tunnel and turn left, I turned right thinking I was correct. WRONG, I was heading in the wrong direction. I went for a good distance before getting back on track.
When I finally reached the finish, I was done. It was a great course that was a real challenge. This race was one that had me digging deep to finish. If you’re thinking of challenging yourself with a course that has great features throughout, try the Tatanka Epic. It will CHALLENGE! Thanks to everyone who made it happen. Good Job! Next stop, Pierre’s Hole. See you there.”
Alan Miner, Banks Bikes, was next, taking second at 10:45:19. “This is my third year doing Tatanka100 Point to Point so I had some idea on what the course offers in the way of terrain, heat, trails support, elements etc.
I decided this year to start off a little faster than in past years, letting the knowledge take over and hoping to find a comfort level that I could sustain. I knew that there would be faster riders who started out slower wanting to pass as the race progressed so that was ok but I was surprised to also found riders to pass as well as, I am sure, they took off to hard and succumbed to the heat and terrain of The Centennial Trail #89.
I think I held a firm pace for me most of the race and played the old safe card of mountain bike endurance racing “Ride the Easy Parts Hard and the Hard Parts Easy”. It was nice to cross under the highway knowing the end was near but there were some course changes that spiced things up a bit. I was very happy to see the finish and to have a solid safe race.
A special thank you to all the aid station staff (children to mature adults and everyone in between), they were phenomenal, and they really went above and beyond what is expected. Pretty cool to see a group of what I assume was Boy Scouts offering encouragement and “High 5s” in a remote part of the course!
Next up for me, I think, will be Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire and then go west to Big Bear Grizzly in California
John Bulmane, took third with a time of 13:47:20.
WHATS NEXT: Two great races, two outstanding venues! July 15
NUE Marathon Race Series: Carrabassett 100 at beautiful Sugar Loaf Ski Area located in northern Maine.
NUE Epic 100 Mile Race Series: Heads to Bend, Oregon, home of scenic Mount Bachelor and the High Cascades 100!