Wilderness 101

By Ryan O’Dell

A founding race in the NUE National Ultra Endurance Race Series, The W101 has become known for its fast gravel roads balanced with healthy doses of rocky, technical single track. Located near State College, Pennsylvania, W101 is hosted and organized by Shenandoah Mountain Tours.

Wilderness 101 Racers earned NUE Race Series points. To receive a ranking and series rewards in the NUE Epic 100 mile series, racers four best completed races count.

NUE division winners receive an official NUE Champions Jersey courtesy of Voler, a share of a combined US$16,000 series cash purse, complimentary entry into all NUE National Series races in 2018, plus an all-expense paid trip in November to represent the NUE Race Series at the LaRuta de los Conquistadores, a three day stage race across Costa Rica, from the Pacific to the Caribbean considered one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world.

Women’s Open

Williams gets her second straight W at W101!

Carla Williams, Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team, earns her second straight victory at W101 to finish at 8:05:35, nearly ten minutes faster than her 2016 winning time of 8:15.

“I was super excited to be back racing at W101 this year. It’s always great to see Chris Scott and events put on by Shenandoah Mountain Touring never disappoint. We camped out in Coburn, PA at the start/finish the night before the race, and I lay awake in the tent listening as thunderstorm after thunderstorm rolled through. I was wondering how hard wet rock and muddy single track would be. Luckily, the rain stopped just before the start, and we were off up the first climb out of town.

I stayed with the group of lead men through aid station 1, around mile 18. I was working hard not to get dropped as Chris Beck, who also happens to be my coach, set a super-fast pace at the front. I didn’t see any other female riders in that group so, after aid 1, I settled into my pace and focused on strong climbing and staying upright on the rocks. I think this is the first year I have actually had fun riding the rocks, trying to find the best line through them and taking risks I have been too hesitant to do in years past.

At the fourth aid station, I caught up to Dan Kotwicki, and we rode together for a while. It’s always such a relief seeing the railroad tunnel, and this was the first year I rode through it cleanly! Then it was just a few more miles on the road back to the finish where there was great food, great friends, and a great river to cool off in! Thanks so much to my sponsors: Joe’s Bike Shop, ESI grips, Maxxis Tires, Ridge Supply Socks and Huma gel. Next race for me is Crotched Mountain 100 in New Hampshire.”

Libbey Sheldon was Stoked to finish the “101” in 2nd place after taking her age group National Championship jersey last weekend at Snowshoe WV.

Libbey Sheldon, Crosshairs Cycling, who finished fourth last year, moved up to  second place on the podium at 8:47:28, nearly an hour faster than her 9:35:52 finish last season.

“Listening to the thunder and driving rain outside the van all night before the race, I was pretty sure that I’d made a mistake signing up for the W101, but somehow Chris Scott always seems to pull things off.  Fortunately for the racers, the rain let up around dawn and the day of the event was spectacular, with really nice temperatures for the middle of summer, and only a few wet spots.

Carla was her usual super-strong self, and I didn’t see her after the first few miles. I did get to ride with new friends, and got some really helpful motivation on the road sections from hammering dudes Rob Campbell, Jeff Plassman, Rich Straub and Zane Wenzel.

In a total rookie move, I didn’t refuel at aid station three and felt pretty exhausted around mile 60. Luckily, I got a bit of an energy boost (thanks, CarboRocket!) and was able keep pushing the pedals. Fisherman’s trail was a bit of a jolt at the end, but finishing an NUE always puts a smile on your face.

The course changes that Chris and the promoting team put in place this year were a nice update to this classic race, the volunteers were awesome as always, and I’m glad I made it out to Coburn!

Fourteen minutes back, Britt Mason, The Bike Lane, was third at 9:01:00 with Amanda Barry just over two minutes back at 9:02:37 for fourth place.

Tanguy and Beck go full gas into and station 4 to keep the gap growing on the chasers. The rough and steep Stillhouse Hollow climb looms in the distance.

Men’s Open

Tanguy Wins by Eleven Seconds!

2011 and 2013 NUE Race Series Champion, Christian Tanguy, RBS Cycling Team, narrowly missed the mark last year at the W101, finishing second by just one minute to race winner, Brian Schworm.  This year, Tanguy found himself a precious few seconds on the upside earning his own narrow win just ahead of Chris Beck at 6:48:30.

Just eleven seconds back, Chris Beck, Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team, took the second spot on the podium at 6:48:41.

“The week prior I won the national championship at Snowshoe (Masters) and I wanted to wear the new jersey.  I had good fitness for XC but I was obviously taking a chance at the 100 mile distance. My longest ride was less than three hours in all of 2017, so I was going to need to rely on my experience.

I set a steady pace early on to thin the group after noticing that the conversational pace was swelling the peloton. (2009 and 2010 NUE Race Series  Champion) Jeff Schalk would never let the group parade around for twenty miles, so I did my best imitation and tried to push hard all the way to three bridges where the breakaway usually forms.  Sure enough, a small group formed after the slippery wet sections and it was up to me to keep the pace high.

Eventually, Christian realized that I was climbing well and stayed close-by. I attacked the trail sections to make him work and that dropped everyone else. We charged ahead sharing the work until Aid 5 when I realized that I had to recover on his very fast wheel. His aerobars reminded me that he was there to win. I accepted second and we finished together.

Chris Beck, Conor Bell, Christian Tanguy and David Flaten lay it down on the 4th big climb of the day heading towards the Croyle Run descent.

He got away slightly when his bars fit through the bridge railings. It was a strange way to let him go, but that’s the beauty of these 100 mile races in my opinion. I was happy to wear the new jersey at the front of a NUE, even if I had to settle for second.

I’ll be training for CX for the rest of 2017 unless my buddies talk me into racing SM100. I think my fitness and the refresher I got at W101 might all allow for a good result in Stokesville.”

2016 W101 race winner, Brian Schworm, Think Green-Bicycle Face p/b SWORD, took third at 7:09:04. His narrow win here last year, by just one minute, launched Schworm into the lead for NUE Race Series Points that would ultimately come down to a showdown at the NUE Championship Race.

“2017 Wilderness 101 was not my best race but I’m happy with the final result. Rain the night before made parts of the course wet and slippery but race day weather conditions were great with cooler temperatures and a partly cloudy sky.

Things weren’t going my way for the first 65 but I finally started finding my groove in some rocky single track. I pushed my pace, perhaps too much, as I suffered a flat. I threw in a tube and continued on, moving up 10th overall to third by the end. It was a blast riding with friends Ian Spivack, Heath Thumel, and singlespeed extraordinaire Gordon Wadsworth for large portions of the race.

Congratulations to Christian Tanguy and Chris Beck who rode an extremely fast race battling for the top spot. Thanks again to my supportive wife Jennifer for all her help with my race, and to my team Think Green – Bicycle Face for their amazing support.  Up next is the Crotched Mountain 100 in New Hampshire followed soon by the Shenandoah 100 to finish up the NUE series for me.”

Three minutes later, David Flaten, US Air Force, took third at 7:12:37. Heath Thumel, Race Pace Bicycles/I9, matched last year’s performance finishing fourth at 7:13:18.

Gordon Wadsworth (Blue Ridge Cyclery / Pivot Cycles) wasting no time blasting to another victory on his singlespeed at the Wilderness 101. Photo Bob Popovich

Singlespeed:

Wadsworth gets his first NUE SS win of the season!

Three-time defending NUE Series SS Champion, Gordon Wadsworth, Blue Ridge Cyclery/Pivot Cycles, freed himself from the geared world in his first win in defense of his title at 7:13:19, sixth place overall.

Twenty-three minutes back, winner of the Hilly Billy Roubaix, Patrick Blair, Adventures for the Cure, was second at 7:36:01, to finish eleventh overall!

“I was riding an Open ONE+ hardtail with 36×20 gearing and had some big Maxxis Ardent 2.4 tires to chew up the rocky trails. It was one of the most enjoyable NUE races I have ever done because I just kept my own pace and never went super hard… sometimes at the end of a 100mi race I am so tired I just want it to be over but this one I paced well and finished feeling strong. Now I am super excited to train for and race Shenandoah 100 next… it’s going to be a blast!”

Five minutes later, third place went to Donald Powers, UPMC Pro Bikes, at 7:41:05, good enough for 12th overall in his first NUE Race this season. However, this wasn’t Powers first rodeo at the W101.

“My 101 race plan has been the same over the last couple years…hold the lead group’s pace up the opening climb and then wheel suck to aid station 1 about 19 miles in.

On the opening climb I set the pace up the hill and, after we crested the first climb, our lead group was about 20-25 racers with six of them being SS’ers.  Having done this race six times before, I knew the climb out of aid station one is where the true contenders of the men’s open race would start setting the real pace and attack. I was able to hold on until the top of the climb but lost contact on the grassy top. Only two SS’ers were able to hold on, eventual winner Gordon Wadsworth and Patrick Blair, who won Hilly Billy this year.

I descended the long bumpy jeep road by myself and on next gravel climb local SS’er, Matt Ferrari, bridged up and we rode together all the way through aid station three. On the climb out of aid 3, about 50 miles into the race, I dropped him and bridged up to a geared friend in Dave Parsons and rode the next long section of rocky single track together. On the next climb I dropped Dave and worked my way through beautiful trail to the rocky nastiness that is “No Name Trail” descent.

On a section of gravel after the descent, I saw Patrick Blair riding back toward me. He thought he was lost but I got him to turn around and guided him though a non-marked road split. I was a bit surprised I was as close to him as I was. He was less than a half a mile ahead of me when he turned around. We rode into aid 4 together and he dropped me on the difficult climb out of aid 4.

On the rocky descent after that climb, I lost my full bottle. That put me in a dark place for the next 15+ miles, considering I drank most of my other bottle on that climb. So I only drank one bottle from mile 68 through 89. I battled through some legs cramps and was able to get to aid 5 without giving up any more spots.

Dave Parsons got into aid 5, about thirty seconds after me, and told me to grab his wheel on the next section of rail trail. No chance I was going to be able to hold his wheel with the leg cramps I was experiencing so I told him to go on and I’d ride my own pace. My legs came back to life for the last twelve miles of the race and I held onto third place SS and 12th overall.  Overall, I couldn’t be happier with that result.”

Fifteen minutes later, Mike Montalbano, Race 4 Rescues, took fourth at 7:56:05 with Matt Ferrari, Stans NoTubes/Freeze Thaw Cycles, just three minutes back at 7:59:37 for fifth place. Ferrari’s time was twenty-four minutes faster than 2016.

Short course specialist David Flaten (US Air Force) with a laser focus towards his podium trajectory in his first NUE. David was one of the few riders who could handle the tempo of the leaders eventually placing 4th. Photo Bob Popovich

Masters 50+

Spaulding gets his first win in a NUE series event

Russell Spaulding, TFM_BC, crossed the line in 8:24:56 for a solid victory in the men’s masters division. This win puts Spaulding in second place in the NUE Series Points Standings, just behind NUE defending Champion, Jeff Clayton, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute. Spaulding placed fourth at Cohutta, sixth at Mohican, and fifth at Lumberjack journeying toward his first NUE Race win.

“What a long, strange trip this has been! I bought my first mountain bike 82 days before the 2013 Shenandoah 100. That was my very first mountain bike race. It took me 14 ½ hours to cross the line, and I told my sister “Never again!” Then in December of that same year, I was looking over the NUE series rankings and noticed my name in the 1,183 position. “How cool is that!” I was hooked and started planning what four races I would do in 2014.

It’s taken three plus years to get some cycling legs on me and gain some experience to be able to compete at this level. I had only done Wilderness one other time, back in 2014. So I called up a good friend of mine Zane Wenzel, Horst Engineering Cycling Team, and we went over the race. Zane gave me some great advice, and from there I was able to come up with a good race plan.

I’m a lucky man, and I could never have reached this goal without the help and support of so many people. I wish there was room to thank them all individually. However, there is one individual that has been there day in, day out, and that’s my sister Gretta. I could not have done this without her. She has traveled, supported, and volunteered at almost every NUE series event I have raced. Love you, Gretta!

We’re heading back to where it all began for me, the Shenandoah 100 in September. Race director Chris Scott puts on a “most excellent adventure!”

Seventeen minutes later, Joe Johnston, took second at 8:41:53.

Terry Blanchet, NAV – North American Velo, was third to finish at 9:00:26.

“Given the long day ahead, I resisted any temptation to bury myself as would have been required to remain anywhere near the front of the pack as it took its left turn into the opening climb out of Coburn. Instead, I settled into a more sustainable pace and gathering together with a Masters-heavy group including Jim Matthews, Jeff Stickle, and Tony Papandrea, among others, including my frequent northeastern regional competitor friend Keith Button and his NH carpooling buddy Richard Brown.

This group remained tight through the descent down through Decker Valley and the initial portions of the gradual climb up Crowfield, when one of the younger Open riders drifted off the front of our group. At first, this didn’t seem to draw any interest from anyone within the rest of our group, but eventually Keith, Richard and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and bridged up forming a faster four-person effort off the front of that group that grew a sizable gap taking us all the way through Aid Station#1.

At that point, Keith and Richard pulled up to grab a bottle refill, but I directly kept on solo up the Thickhead Mountain climb not wanting to lose the gap on the group that we’d built up. Not being as fearless a descender though, Jim and Jeff both rocketed by me down the subsequent Detweiler Run, during which at speed, I also managed to smack my upper lip into some massive bee that also stung me in the process. Fortunately, no anaphylactic reaction followed and I didn’t have to use the epi pen I carry with me these days, and as we transitioned to the next climb up Bear Meadows. There was Keith, joining back up with me, as we passed Jeff and continued on in pursuit of Jim, working hard together through the Aid Station#3 at mile fifty, although still unable to catch any glimpse of him.

The rain that fell the night before ceased completely just before race time and left us with some lower temperatures and humidity as well as the cover of some clouds. With my own thirst level not high, as a result I still had one of my three bottles still full from the start and was able continue on directly through Aid#3 while Keith had to pull over again and fill both of his two bottles.

The earlier entry into the Sassafrass singletrack and the couple passes I put in on other racers soon thereafter provided me with a good buffer to keep Keith behind me for the balance of the race. At the bottom of the subsequent PigPile rocky descent, I passed by none other than Jim Matthews who was pulled over to the side having suffered a bummer of a flat. Looking after-the-fact at our GPS ‘FlyBys’, I saw that, upon airing back up, Jim was gaining back ground fast, though apparently suffering another flat on the NoName descent, ending any further attempt to catch up, and instead limping in to Aid Station#4 at Mile66 and ‘pulling the plug’ on his race.

After having finally pulled over at Aid #4 to refill my three bottles, the entire rest of my ride was in “no man’s land”, not seeing any of my master’s competitors.  I began looking forward to my first ‘clean’ W101 ride in my six trips there so far. My previous race was flats-filled and four others found me with my pain-cave cross eyes downward, completely missing sufficiently-obvious arrows as I headed off-course, losing time and backtracking.

I was hoping that this time, it might even be good enough to perhaps finally get me ‘on a box’ at W101 for the first time, especially given that Jeff Clayton was instead off to the Breck100 to go head-to-head with Greg Golet. There were Wilderness masters regulars, Roger Masse and Mike Ramponi, who were not ‘in’ this time around.

Connor Bell (Rocktown Bicycles – Harrisonburg, VA) took a big dig 30 miles in on Three Bridges Trail and the ensuring Laurel Run Road climb. His move was the springboard that launched Chris Beck and Christian Tanguy off the front. Bell dangled in 3rd for 50 miles before falling like a rock out of the top 10 in the closing 20 miles.

My New York State neighbor, Joe Johnston was further up the course as it has been five years or so since I last was able to really ‘compete’ with him in any way. However, the thing that really caught me off-guard, having not studied the ‘pre-reg’ list beforehand, was that this youngster is now 50 and newly in our Masters field in his first NUE Epic appearance of the season.

It was also neither surprising that another newly-50, Russell Spaulding, was further up the course, having beaten me by small margins already at both Mohican and Lumberjack. The thing that WAS surprising is that he was able to increase this, previously, small margin over me to such an extent that he was able to beat Joe as well which, to me, is really REALLY impressive … congrats Russell on your first NUE win!

In the end, I’m glad. As it turned out, the balance of our field allowed me the third small box to join Russell and Joe on the Masters podium with their great rides, and also thank Keith Button for all the teamwork over the first half of the course and congratulate him as well on his very fine fourth place finish among the 25 Masters who took the start line that morning.

As for me, my next NUE Epic appearance will be up in New Hampshire, checking out the transition from the previous Hampshire 100 into the Crotched Mountain 100.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL RESULTS

NEXT: The NUE Race Series heads to Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming for the Pierre’s Hole 100 on August 6. Pierre’s Hole will host both the NUE Epic Series and the NUE Marathon Series offering both 100 mile and 100k options. Stay tuned right here for the latest news and reports.

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