NUE- Marji Gesick 100k

NUE Series 2021-Marji Gesick 50 mile

September 18, 2021

Written by: @Jentoops

The Marji Gesick is a point-to-point endurance race located on the upper peninsula of Michigan. It starts in Marquette and ends in downtown Ishpeming. The one-hundred mile and fifty mile mountain bike races are part of the National Ultra Endurance Series. There is also a one-hundred mile run, fifty mile run and one-hundred mile duathlon option. It’s quickly gaining popularity as one of the toughest endurance races in the United States and sells out in less than twenty four hours. This GPS required race is self supported, and racers are required to collect tokens at random checkpoints along the course.

Race director Todd Poquette collecting tokens from finishers. Photo credit: Ryan Stephens

The course was designed by Danny Hill and made to push riders to their absolute limits. The one-hundred milers having around twelve-thousand vertical feet of climbing, and the fifty milers around seven-thousand.  In both courses, racers have to navigate through sand, roots, rocks, off camber climbs, drops, jump lines and technical descents, all while saving enough energy to get through the grueling last fifteen miles.

Photo credit: Ryan Stephens

Racers in the one-hundred mile course finishing under twelve hours for mountain biking, under twenty-eight hours for runners and under twenty-two hours for duathlon, will earn the coveted belt buckle handmade by blacksmith Gordon Gearhart.

Marji Awards hand forged by Gordon Gearhart. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Women’s open- Lowery gets the top step

No stranger to the Marji Gesick races, Carey Lowery of Tennessee, won with a time of 8:14:19. “The 50 started in Marquette at the Ore Dock.  The first two miles were flat, paved, and faster thanI wanted to go so early into the race so I let the front go and settled into a comfortably hard pace.  After climbing Marquette Mountain, I settled into a rhythm of attacking the climbs, recovering on the flats, and finding my flow state on the descents.  I had no idea how many women were ahead of me, but I thought maybe 2 or 3.  I did not chase them, but let my legs and lungs dictate my efforts.  I have done enough of these endurance events to know to be consistent and conserve.  I felt great heading into Jackson Park, where I stopped to grab my hydration pack. I caught Kim Heintz a little ways after the first stop in Jackson.  I elected to keep my GPS screen on the breadcrumb trail and not watch “the numbers.”  I raced more by feel and knew how far I was by distinct landmarks.  I rolled back into Jackson Park, rewarded myself with an ice cold Coke, refilled my nutrition and fluids, and headed back out for the last 15.  I had pre ridden this two days before, so it was comforting to know just how far (both time-wise and distance) I had to go.  As I approached the rock slab hike a bike, I cried out, “My favorite section!,” which helped to stoke the fires for the final miles.  I did not pass any other women.  The last bit of single track was a real bugger, as the fatigue monster was riding piggyback.  I was all smiles going up Jasper Knob, as I was smelling the barn now.  I rolled through the finish line in 8:14, not knowing how I placed.  It wasn’t until after I had gotten cleaned up and changed 15 minutes later that I realized I had taken the win.  That was just icing on a wonderfully delicious Marji Gesick cake! Sponsors:  Rescue Racing, Scott’s Bikes, Industry 9, Chamois Butt’r, Christopher Bean Coffee, Trucker Co”

Women’s 50 mile podium: 1st Carey Lowery, 2nd Amy Schultz, 3rd Kim Heintz

About thirteen minutes back, Amy Schultz from Wisconsin, took second in 8:27:09. “This was my first time racing Marji Gesick 50, my longest mountain bike event ever, and honestly my longest bike ride ever (road, gravel, or mtb!). The longest I had ridden my mtb prior to Marji Gesick was about 5 hours for a non-race ride. I do put in a significant amount of volume on bikes throughout the year, but typically focus on shorter XCO races (such as the WORS series in Wisconsin) and cyclocross races. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I would have fun as I love technical singletrack. And I was right, I just loved the course. It suited me well. I started out near the back at ~200 of 240 racers. I was worried about going out too hard and not pacing myself. So I thought this was a good idea. However, when I reached the first climb, a gravel road, and a lot of people were walking already or riding pretty slowly, I realized I should maybe change my strategy. I decided to push the effort a bit to get ahead of as many people as I could before the first stretch of single track, Off Grade, a black rated uphill. However, I didn’t quite get ahead of enough people. I ended up behind a train of ~30-40 people on the singletrack. It was painful to walk and not rip that stretch at the speed I wanted. But, it allowed me to chat with some local riders, something I never get to do in shorter, hard-effort races. I met Trent and Luke and we eventually hit some double track, passed the rest of the group, and rode the iron ore trail to Ishpeming together. Luke didn’t stop at the checkpoint and I lost track of Trent, but it was so nice having them to ride with! I stopped at the drop bags to eat and refill. I was pretty strict about eating something every 30 min and drinking 1 liter an hour. I caught the wheel of Dan in the next techy section. He asked if I wanted to pass, but I decided it was probably a good strategy to stay with people. Time went by fast when I followed a wheel and chatted, also, when I went solo I tended to go too hard up hills and I was worried about bonking. I really enjoyed loved riding with Dan. He was a good technical rider and I rode some steeper parts I probably would not have otherwise. I eventually passed him and caught a few more wheels. The next guy I rode with told me I was only about 30 min from first place female, and I thought, “no way! I started in the way back and was so slow through the first 12 miles of single track” I decided I couldn’t and shouldn’t push the pace though. I should just ride a comfortable pace. I still had a lot of miles left – about half the race left. At the second pass through Jackson park to get my drop bag for the last time, about mile 40, the lady working there told me the 1st place woman just left the stop 5 min ago. I couldn’t believe I had potentially made up some time.  I sort of wanted to try to catch her, but I was tired and knew I had a long way. I also just wanted to eat and refuel in the moment. Furthermore, I was convinced I was maybe disqualified as I had not seen any checkpoints with tokens, which are needed when you cross the finish line. I carried on and decided I would stop at all remaining aid stations (I had skipped all up until then, except the Jackson Park drop bag stops). I stopped and had brownies, cookies, licorice and even stopped at the beach aid station and took a shot of whiskey with the crew there! I think it was the pick-me-up I needed, because after that stop, I had a second wind and some fast segments on the last single track stretches. Thank you aid station volunteers!  I think next time I will start near the front next time, but who knows, maybe it will help me pace and not fade towards the end! OTherwise, I wouldn’t change much. I really enjoyed the vibe and energy from the volunteers, staff, and riders. I would do Marji again, but would also like to try the Cascades 100 (I used to live out on Mt Hood, Oregon), or Mohican 100. Thanks to Neff Cycle Service (Sponsor and bike shop) and Josh McKinney (friend) for ensuring I have a mountain bike that works well and that I love to ride!”

Women’s open finisher Kim Rudd with masters finisher Diana Munger

Taking the third step on the podium, Kim Heintz from Illinois, finished in 9:17:47. “This year’s Marji 50 was my third time racing it and my first race in exactly two years. The last time I raced was this same race in 2019.I went into this race not knowing what to expect, I was hoping for a top 3 finish. I’ve spent most of this year focused on shorter, harder efforts and also out of practice with racing. The previous two times, I had just come off of racing Leadville, so I had everything dialed.I was assigned bib #666, and normally you’d think you’ve been dealt the worst luck every, but in the Marji, it’s kind of like winning the lottery. That’s their brand – and it definitely got a lot of attention! I was hoping it’d bring some good luck for the day!When we started, we were on a paved path for a couple of miles, and then we took a turn away from Lake Superior and started climbing. It was a long and sometimes steep climb. I saw that I was in second place and worked hard to try to keep 1st in my line of sight.  For most of the first hour or so, I figured I was only about 45 seconds back.  However, I think my lack of practice in racing the last couple of years got the best of me and I think I went out too hard.I didn’t realize it for a couple of hours but then it kind of hit me.I came into Jackson Park the first time, where I had my drop bag, about 6 minutes faster than my best time there. I was still feeling good but about an hour later, I could feel my legs starting to seize up a bit and cramp. My heart rate wouldn’t come down, and that’s when I realized I had gone out too hard. I slowed things down quite a bit for the next hour or two and got a little bit of positive talk from my friend Bryan who was out there with me and tried to get my heart rate under control and to also get my legs to stop seizing up.During this time, several other women had passed me, and I assumed my run for the podium was over. So, I just spent the rest of the race enjoying the super technical trails, fun descents, and insane climbs.

It was an absolutely picture-perfect fall day in the Upper Penninsula, and what a great way to spend it!You’re supposed to pick up hidden tokens along the race course as you go. Usually these are just randomly placed throughout the course. I never saw any this time but just as we did the final climb up, which is always an out and back, I saw the first one.  I kept going up and saw another one and then another.  In total, there were 4 tokens to pick up on this short, steep section.From there, I headed to the finish line, crossing in 9:17. One of the race directors, Todd, came up to me to congratulate me. And I said I’d hoped to have done the 666 number justice by taking a podium spot but I thought I was in 5th or 6th. He said “are you sure about that?” and pulled out his phone to show me I finished 3rd.I was in disbelief and overjoyed! I didn’t know it at the time, but the tokens each had a word on them – and they spelled out “Finish What You Start”.  How fitting for the type of day I had.Marji is such a cool race. Extremely hard and makes you feel all sorts of emotions, but such a satisfying and rewarding experience. Sponsors: PSIMET Racing and Roots Racing”

A couple minutes back, Kim Rudd of Minnesota, took fourth place in 9:21:34. Finished in fifth was, April Beard of Wisconsin, in 9:42:06.

After texting #quitter in 2019, Ella (pictured left), came back more determined than ever and finished the 50 mile course in 23 hours. She is only 13! Photo credit: Ella Clement’s mom.

Men’s Open

Getting his first NUE win of 2021, Anthony Grinnell of Pennsylvania, won with a time of 6:04:30. “I travelled to Michigan’s UP with my teammate Jim Litzinger with one goal in mind- to get Litz another single speed win so he could wrap up the championship.  The race started off at a very reasonable pace on the opening flat 2 to 3 miles.  This was the best possible scenario, allowing Litz to stay on my wheel until we got to the opening climb.  As we started up the first climb, a few overly ambitious riders got aggressive.  I looked down at my Garmin and was pushing over 400 watts as I watched several riders gap Jim and I on the climb.  Two of them blew up before the first climb was even finished, leaving one racer out ahead of us.  Even though we’d never done the Marji race, we heard all the rumors of tough, grindy single track and new better than to overdo it in the early stages of the race.  Single speed or not, Litz is one of the best technical single track riders I know.  All I had to do is pull him through the early flat gravel and paved sections and then follow his wheel as he lit up the single track.  We caught a glimpse of the leader just prior to the second stop at Jackson Park about 40 miles in and I could tell he was hurting.  With 20 miles of mostly super fun, grinder, old school single track left, Jim and I felt right at home and knew we had two wins in the bag, barring any flats or mechanicals.  We ended up pulling a 40 minute gap for Jim to seal up the Single Speed Marathon Championship and for me to take the Men’s Open win.  I’ve done a lot of NUE races, but this is one of my favorites now.  What an awesome event with an excellent course and an unbelievable crew who organizes it all.  If you haven’t done this race, you need to.  Huge thanks to Pirelli tires for taking a massive beating and not even thinking about flatting.  As always, Flow Formulas kept my energy up and legs feeling strong throughout the race.  I’d also like to thank Shorkey Auto Group, Pro Bike & Run, KOO Eyewear, KASK helmets, Extreme Nano Chain Lube, Starlight Apparel, Industry Nine, Wolf Tooth Components, ESI Grips, and Horizon Orthopedics.”

Forty-five minutes back, John Burmeister of Michigan, took second in 6:45:05. “The morning of the race was no different than many other races I have participated in.  I was anxious to start and the nerves were firing.  Being my first Marji event there were a few unknowns that helped fuel the anxiety.  I had heard many stories from previous racers about how grueling the course can be.  Especially near the end..  I had put in a fair amount of training this summer, had a handful of successful races this season, and did some pre-rides of the 2019 course.  I was feeling hopeful to be in the mix for a podium position. With so many names unknown to me I wasn’t sure who the competition would be.  My plan for the start of the race was to go out with a moderately hard effort to see who would give chase.  At the gun we rolled out fairly quick but the pace quickly slowed with no attacks being made for the lead position.  My next plan was to put in a good effort on the first real climb.  We hit the Mt. Marquette road climb and the group quickly broke up. I made it up and over solo and continued on to the first “checkpoint”, Jackson Mine park, with a 5+ minute lead on the 2nd and 3rd position riders. My pace felt good and I felt like I was going to be able to maintain it going forward.Having ridden most of the course I knew things would slow a bit once we got on the RAMBA trails.  With my lead I figured I would save some energy on the climbs and make up time on the descents.  Slowly but surely, I started to get the sense that a rider may being closing in on me.  On occasion I could hear what I thought was another rider somewhere in the woods.  Sure enough the 2nd and 3rd place riders caught up to me just before our return to Jackson Park.  We all stopped for feeds and I was first to leave the park heading for the finish. The other 2 racers caught up to me fairly quickly.  Seeing how well they were still moving along I told them they were looking good and let them by without any hesitation.  At about mile 52 I was starting to feel some real fatigue.  I decided I was going to ride the rest of the race for 3rd and I was OK with that. Things started to get dicey shortly after.. My legs were feeling fine but the rest of my body and mind were suffering.  For the remainder of the race there was a lot of walking on stuff I would normally ride.  (There really is “no free trail” out there. Even the descents make you work!)  At this point I was having lots of self-thought and contemplation about the choices I had made.  The typical thoughts and conversations one has with themselves when they’re deep into a grueling event! I just kept telling myself to “keep moving forward”, and that is what I did.At the end of the race, I finished in 3rd place but ultimately was more pleased with just finishing the event.  It was more than just a race but also a challenge of overcoming physical and mental limits .  There are always things we could have done differently when thinking back on our choices but at the end of the day I can say the outcome would have been the same.  The 1st and 2nd place finishers absolutely crushed it!  Hats off to the 2 of them for an exceptional race and kudos to everyone else who completed the race and to those who simply attempted it.  Easily one of the hardest events I have ever participated in.Thank you to all of the event coordinators, “trail angels”, and my support crew.”

John Burmeister. Photo credit: Rob Meendering

Taking third was, Rick Hatfield of Michigan, with a time of 6:50:59. “I had been looking forward to Marji all year. My wife and I traveled “up-north” several times from the Ann Arbor, MI area to pre-ride some of the course. She had raced Marji in 2019 so I had an idea what to expect. My J-Tree Teammates and I rode the few miles to the starting line from the place we had been staying at in town. The weather was perfect, low/mid 50’s and bright sunshine. At the start its always the same thing, everyone looking around squaring up their competition while trying to look calm while the race jitters set in. I do a final check of my bike feeling pretty confident that Wheels in Motion bike shop had my set up correct on my Trek Top Fuel right. The race starts and it’s a pretty chill start. I stay with the top 5 leaders on the road when we hit the first big climb, Marquette Mountain. The lead rider decides to put in a big effort, the rest of us look at each other decide not to chase. I crest the mountain and enter the trail in 4th place. I am caught by the 5th place rider and we work together pacing to Jackson Park for the first aid station. My wife was my pit crew for the day and had me in and out of aid station faster than a Nascar pit stop. I dropped off my 2 bottles of infinit and grabbed camel bak pre-filled with infinit which worked well. From there is was back and fourth working with the 5th place rider. We eventually caught the third place rider, but I got separated when I second guessed a turn onto a road. At about 45 miles in we hit Jackson Park for the final leg. The 5th place rider and I leave the aid station and begin working together again. With about 10 miles to go the 5th place rider begins to have stomach and cramping issues. He pulls to the side of the trail and lets me lead. At this point I see him start to fall back a little, so I decide to burn one of my last matches and push hard to gap him. The trail is not forgiving whatsoever, you are hit with hill after hill. You think, alright this is the last climb and you are hit with another. With 5 miles to go am I am getting really worried I hadn’t seen any tokens. I pass a few of the 100 mile runners and ask if they had seen any and said no. With about a ½ mile to go the final climb has all the tokens with about 50 yards apart. At the last token is mannequin of Todd holding the last token with his middle finger out – I laughed and rode into the finish. I loved this race! I thought for sure I would get lost with all the twisty turns and on-off-on again trails but it was pretty well marked. The chunky, rooty hilly terrain is not like any other NUE race I have done in the past and Marquette is such a great town to hang out afterwards.”

Taking fourth place was, Paul Fox from Michigan, with a time of 7:02:19. About ten minutes back was, Jason Kloptowsky of Illinois, with a time of 7:12:04.

Singlespeed- Litzinger with the WIN

Placing second overall and taking the singlespeed win by over two hours, James Litzinger of Pennsylvania finished in 6:04:31. ” My first time to the UP did not disappoint.  I really wasn’t sure what to think about the Marji Gesick after reading race reports, watching race video, course reviews, and talking to the few who have earned the coveted buckle.  My gathering was that it was a load of single track that will slow down your average speed and wind you through the punchy climbs of the forest.  I have enjoyed this type of race in the past so I was all set to go.  It started at the Marina in Marquette, at a casual pace, before climbing up a freshly graded climb at 10-12% grade for about 7 minutes.  This is when the race started and there was a flyer of the front, my teammate and friend Anthony Grinnell said he is either a rocket or he will fade back to us.  Anthony and I decided to make it a day by using each other to pace ourselves.  Anthony pulled and worked on the flats and double track then I would jump in the front navigating the fun single track.  These races are so fun but they are even better when you get to have your friend there with you to push you!  Our race was uneventful until I spotted the leader at the top of one of the punchy climbs.  From there Anthony and I reeled him in around mile 38 or so.  From there we kept our pace, while enjoying the trails, which lead us to the finish just over the 6 hour mark.  It was a blast to  The Specialized Epic was the perfect race bike that Pro Bike+Run keeps in tip, top shape for the grueling demands this race has.  Flow formula in the bottles was once again top notch considering fueling was difficult to come by with the rough trails.  Thanks to Jim Shorkey Auto Group and Dr. Bryan Hooks for their support of the Syndicate to make these trips possible.”

Litzinger takes the singlespeed 50 mile win.

Coming all the way from Utah, Benjamin Modic, takes second place in 8:35:28. “After moving from Grand Rapids and living in Salt Lake City for the past 6 years, I had an itch that only the Marji Gesick could scratch. My journey back to Michigan reconnected to me with old friends, introduced me to new ones, and allowed me to ride the trails where my passion for cycling began 12 years ago. This was my first time ever doing a race on a singlespeed, so I felt like to 50-mile race would be enough of a lesson for me. For gearing advise, I turned to community pages, discussing it with previous finishers. There is no perfect gear on a singlespeed so you can’t overthink it. I went with 30×20. I knew the start of the race and paths in between Marquette and Negaunee would be a high cadence punishment, but it made more sense once I got to the good stuff. I felt strong up until the last 10 miles of the race. Shortly after the suicide hill ski jumps, I found myself walking more and more. The last few miles gave me inspiration and overwhelming joy hit me at the finish line. I love this sport. Thanks to all my friends and my family for making this trip so memorable, especially my dad (pictured below) for helping crew for this race and all the previous races while I lived in Michigan. I will be back at some point to try the 100-miler… and I’ll be bringing the singlespeed!”

Ben Modic taking second place.

Taking the last podium spot, Dan Packer of Michigan, finished in 9:47:56. “I was surprised to come in 3rd out of the single speeders.  I rode with my City Bike Shop brother who unfortunately had to text #quitter a few years ago, so the goal was that we get him to the finish.  It was such an awesome day, we were both thrilled to just keep crankin.  I rolled a 30:20 gearing on my mulletted, slacked-out RSD Middlechild.  It was perfect for a long, slow day of spinning pedals through the endless steep, rocky, rooty, ribbons of singletrack.  I can’t thank/blame Todd and Danny enough for the effort they put into these events. Kept the rubber side down (for the most part)!”

Fourth place went to, Samuel Haglund of Michigan, crossing the line in 10:05:51. About an hour back, Cory Christener of Michigan, finished in 11:06:41.

Women’s Masters

First place in the women’s masters category went to, Martha Flynn of Minnesota, with a finish time of 10:09:36.

Taking the second podium spot was, Diana Munger of Minnesota, crossing the finish line in 12:51:30. “High time for some seriously #unfinished business in the Munger household. But first- let’s backtrack – to almost 5 years ago. Our intrepid gang of friends with a peculiar taste for masochistic epic adventures convinced us to sign up for a crazy new race in da UP. Completely self supported, hills upon more hills, upon more more hills, ridiculously hard old school singletrack – what the hell were we thinking? Blame Danny. Blame Todd. What does that even mean?! Well, we trained hard together and were ready to conquer. But alas, the best laid plans of mice and men. My husband, John, suffered a horrible crash with less than a month to go. So we forged on without him. Marji 2017 was a brutal year. Heat, humidity, and endless climbs, mosquitoes and flies. That is, racers dropping like flies left and right. Incredibly, my friends and I all managed to finish. Such relief and happiness to be done but mixed with a twinge of sadness that John couldn’t be there with us to share. Next time, we all wanted him along for the ride. Flash forward four years to the present. John’s injury was slow to heal and his mountain bike mojo took even longer to return. Pandemic and just life in general also slowed our return.Same gang -ready to try it all once more. Miraculously, we were able to snag coveted race entries- ‘cause now, of course, it seems like everyone who’s anybody wants to do Marji. But even after all this finagling, my beloved spouse waffled endlessly and and dragged his feet about biking.Race time drew near. Emails were flying in.  ‘Are you in or out?’ was the question from the race director.I posed this query over and over again to my husband.
‘Maybe’ was the reply. The date to transfer to the shorter race came and went. Wifely nagging was of no avail, yet a single word from a buddy sealed the deal- just two weeks before the race. Too late for Marji camps at this point. With just 14 days to go, a high intensity training plan was instituted. Not easy to accomplish in the flatlands of Minneapolis, but somehow he managed.Race morning dawned spectacularly. Not sure why, but I actually thought it would be easier this time round- maybe because it was about 35 degrees cooler. Sheer hubris. It was much worse, of course – way more gnarly singletrack, sheer drops, hills (mountains?) that never ended. So many more rocks and roots than I remembered- where had they all come from? Lots more runners and bikers. Spectacular views and fall colors popping helped to ease the pain a bit. Not to mention a course that was so well marked, I actually started wondering why I had spent so many hours trying to load the gpx file on to my Wahoo. And at the heart of it all-  still the same race. The same camaraderie and good will out on the trails. Every racer was super friendly- all working towards the same goal- to finish. Every volunteer I talked to had a Marji story they were eager to share. Was I actually hallucinating when I glimpsed the Marji mannequin giving me the finger on the very last climb? How very apropos. The last 5 miles seemed truly endless and somewhat terrifying as night fell. Not quite believing I was finally at the finish with my friends cheering me on. And not long afterwards, my husband also triumphantly crossing the line. How could he possibly ride 100 plus to my 60 plus miles and finish so embarrassing and so damn close to me?! But never mind, we were finally able to experience the legend that is Marji, together (well, sort of, anyway).The very nice race official lady who asked for this report told me to be sure to include my sponsors. Sorry to report that no one wants to sponsor me.  But I do happen to have oodles of amazingly supportive friends and family who nicely look the other way and sweetly pretend that I’m not just a little bit unhinged when I tell them that I worked so dang hard for just four wooden tokens. Blame Danny. Blame Todd. Thank Danny. Thank Todd, and thank all those awesome volunteers and the incredible community who make this ridiculous and over the top race possible.And by the way, both my husband and I had a marvelous time. As I knew he would.Marji Gesick 2021- check.Mission accomplished.”

Diana Munger all smiles at the finish line.

Rounding out the podium and taking third was, Dawn Steinmann of Wisconsin in 14:11:51.

Men’s Masters

50 Mile masters podium: 1st Jeff Adamcik, 2nd Todd Mcfadden, 3rd Dave Jolin. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Taking the win in the masters division was, Jeff Adamcik of Michigan with a finish time of 7:49:06. “It was nice to finally come into a race this year where I felt my left knee was up to the task. I rode most of the race with Dorel Stoia, who at the time was the current points leader. We were tracking with each other until we got to the aid station.  He was always faster than me at the aid station and both times I had some work to do to catch up.  On the last leg of the race I was starting to feel it, only to come out to a small lake where “ Danny “ and his crew were enjoying themselves. One of them asked “why are you smiling?”   I asked “could you share some of your pop?”  The response was that they had diet and by my reaction they knew I wasn’t excited about that. I needed some sugar.  Shortly after I heard, “what about a beer”.  Heck ya!  I felt I was back in my college days slamming down a BlackRocks Pilsner.  Next up, was the Suicide Hill climb.  Definitely energize by the beer … I caught sight of Dorel.  However, he stayed ahead of me and I was losing sight of him in the last few miles.  I came to the finish, thinking I was #2, but to my surprise I was declared the winner.  Dorel missed the last hill climb, thus, the tokens.  Thanks to Kevin Geminder at Bicycle HQ for getting my bike ready and the transfer registration!  Also thanks to Mike and Angi Golisek for housing me for the weekend and cheering me on throughout the race.”

Finishing seven minutes back, Todd Mcfadden took second place in 7:56:07. Taking third was, Dave Jolin of Ohio crossing the line in 7:57:43.

Dave Jolin from Ohio takes 3rd in 50 mile masters. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Fourth place was, Roger Lundsten of Wisconsin, in 8:15:45 and fifth went to James Kauth of Minnesota, with a finish time of 8:32:47.

For full results CLICK HERE

Pictures from the race can be found here: Rob Meendering and Ryan Stephens

Mark your calendars. Registration for the 2022 Marji Gesick is October 15th.

NUE- Marji Gesick 100 Mile

NUE Series 2021-Marji Gesick 100 mile

September 18, 2021

Written by: @Jentoops

The Marji Gesick is a point-to-point endurance race located on the upper peninsula of Michigan. It starts in Marquette and ends in downtown Ishpeming. The one-hundred mile and fifty mile mountain bike races are part of the National Ultra Endurance Series. There is also a one-hundred mile run, fifty mile run and one-hundred mile duathlon option. It’s quickly gaining popularity as one of the toughest endurance races in the United States and sells out in less than twenty four hours. This GPS required race is self supported, and racers are required to collect tokens at random checkpoints along the course.

Racers navigating the Top of the World. Photo credit: Ryan Stephens

The course was designed by Danny Hill and made to push riders to their absolute limits. The one-hundred milers having around twelve-thousand vertical feet of climbing, and the fifty milers around seven-thousand.  In both courses, racers have to navigate through sand, roots, rocks, off camber climbs, drops, jump lines and technical descents, all while saving enough energy to get through the grueling last fifteen miles.

Celebrating at the finish line. Photo credit: Rob Meendering

Racers in the one-hundred mile course finishing under twelve hours for mountain biking, under twenty-eight hours for runners and under twenty-two hours for duathlon, will earn the coveted belt buckle handmade by blacksmith Gordon Gearhart.

Women’s Open- Toops secures NUE overall win

Former NUE Marathon series winner, Jen Toops from Ohio, took the win in 12:58:22. With this win she secures the overall female Epic NUE title. ” I have a love/hate relationship with this race. How can a race so fun, hurt so bad? After completing the 50 mile Marji twice I decided it was time to conquer the 100. Although it would be awesome to get the buckle, I had one goal. To finish the race. As long as I finished I’d lock up the NUE epic overall win for the season. The start of the race was very busy and reminded me of the La Ruta de los conquistadors. Instead of a helicopter roll out we had an electric guitar national anthem, beautiful paint horse, lemans start and fire works. Just before the start, I got to meet fellow Pivot Cycles rider, Kaityln Boyle, who came all the way from ID for a chance at the buckle. After the lemans start I had no idea what place I was going into the woods. Did it matter? No. A very long day awaited. Even though I had my GPS, I still managed to blow by turns, start up the wrong trails and got turned around a lot at the beginning. Once we were on the single track I was having so much fun and was finding my rhythm. This is the part I love about Marji!

Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Just before the Jackson Park I caught up with Kaityln Boyle. We rode most of the sandy snowmobile trails and bike path together chatting it up! A welcomed mental break. The first loop out of the park I felt amazing and really was having fun on the tech singletrack. This loop went on forever! I was so focused on riding I didn’t eat enough on this loop. That was my downfall of the race and paid for it on the way to the finish. I stopped back at the park to get a back up charger and lights. This is when I saw Kaityln Boyle had DNF due to pain from a pre-ride crash. Kaityln and my support Heidi encouraged me I still might be a buckle contender. I had 15 miles to do a little over 2 hours. Feeling confident I continued to push the pace. After about an hour of riding I did the math in my head and realized a buckle was not in the cards today. My riding started to get sloppy, the fatigue had set in and I was in survival mode. I forgot how hard the last sections of trail were with non-stop punchy climbs, hike-a-bikes and just shenanigans. The last 30 minutes were torture, I wanted to lay down on the side of the trail. I wanted real food. I turned my lights on and navigated those roots and rocks walking what I normally could ride during the daylight. Jasper knob was such a rewarding sight to see on the GPS. The last hike a bike! I walked to the top collected my tokens and gave fake Todd a high five and headed in to the finish. My whole body hurt like it never has with any other race. I laid in the van post race for a couple hours before I could even function. Marji is by far the hardest hundred I have ever completed. I love it but hate it. I’m proud of my effort and learned a lot. Will I be back? You bet and next year I will have a different goal in mind! Calling all Ladies….lets go get this BUCKLE. Thank you Danny and Todd for an amazing event as always! Bike: Pivot Mach 4SL size XS. Sponsors: Pearl Izumi, Pivot cycles, Ergon, Fox, Lazer, Honeystinger, Carborocket, SCC, Stans, Maxxis.” Special thanks to Heidi for the race support!

“That was hard.” Video by: Ryan Odell

Nicky Ruszkowski of New York, took second place with a time of 16:27:54. “Marji Gesick 2021 was my second attempt at this race. In 2019 I dropped out at around mile 85 and so I certainly came at this with unfinished business. I love riding the more technical trails and Marji certainly has plenty of those. The gnarly, rocky descents in this race play to my strengths and are so much fun to ride. I think the cooler temperatures on race day were actually a little deceiving and I don’t think I was alone in underestimating the amount of fluids needed to stay hydrated. Overall this is a phenomenal race and I was delighted to come in second behind Jen.”

About fourteen minutes back from second place, Jessica Nankman of Pennsylvania, finished third with a time of 16:42:44. “For years I have heard about this race with upwards to 70% non-finisher race called Marji Gesick and decided it was time to see what it is all about. I typically race ultra endurance events, 24 hour mountain bike races, thus was looking forward to another way to test my physical and mental fortitude. With my long-distance background I was confident in my ability to cover the miles and being that I live in Eastern Pennsylvania I felt strong about my technical skills, the thing I was most concerned about was the logistics of the race.  I was concerned about the self-supported aspect, it took extensive planning and contemplating on my part about how to carry the hydration, nutrition, and gear needed. Rumors about “trail angels”, volunteers who set-up aid stations along the course, were true and they helped immensely with rider needs .  Another part of the race that takes pre-planning is the point to point factor. Just being my husband (who was also racing) and myself making the trip to Marji, we had no outside help. We opted to stay in the campground located at race start, which made for a very relaxed pre-race morning but we wondered how to get back afterwards.  A friendly volunteer drove us from the finish back to our campsite post-finish.As for the course it’s self…it was a challenging and tough 105 miles.  There were many miles of smiles; fun single track, rewarding rock gardens, flowing berms, and air-time inducing jump lines. But there were even more miles of tough trail that caused much suffering.  Near vertical ups and downs, soul-sucking sand, and sketchy washouts induced a fair amount of walking.  To add to the physical and mental challenge many of the last few miles were ridden in the dark.  Thank goodness for the great cheering and support of the spectators and volunteers along with many friendly fellow racers that kept me going strong.I have never experienced a race like this. Marji Gesick truly is as advertised, it one tough event not to be taken lightly. But the achievement of reaching the finish line, and being on the podium, is an accomplishment that will never be forgotten.Sponsors to please be included in the review: Liv Cycling USA Ambassador, Lupine Lights, Saucon Valley Bikes.”

Nankman pre-riding part of the Marji Gesick course

Taking fourth place was Jenny Acker from Michigan with a time of 17:48:38. Finishing fifth was Christina Peek from Michigan crossing the line in 20:51:19.

Men’s Open Acker takes back-to-back Marji wins

Men’s open podium: 1st Matt Acker, 2nd Kurt Refsnider, 3rd Chad Cannon. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

The 2019 Marji Gesick winner, Matt Acker of Michigan, gets back-to-back Marji wins with a time of 10:36:55.

Just four minutes back, ultra endurance racer, Kurt Refsnider of Arizona, finished second in 10:41:38 “I made the decision to fly up from Arizona for the race just a few days before the race, so eveIrything was a very last-minute affair for me. But I had heard story after story about how technically challenging the Marji is, and that’s hands-down my favorite kind of riding. And I’m so glad I made the trip – it’s been a while since I’ve ridden a race course that was as difficult and fun as the Marji Gesick 100! I had the pleasure of riding with local legend Matt Acker for most of the race, and following his wheel for so many miles sure helped me ride efficiently (especially as I tried to keep him in sight on the longer descents). 100 milers are a bit on the short end of the races I typically do, and my legs started to fade in the final miles after trying to ride fast for 10,000+ feet of punchy climbing. Matt gradually disappeared ahead of me, and I just tried to hold it together after mile 90.I also am especially impressed by how the race organizers have created an incredibly demanding event in which riders openly embrace (and come for) that challenge. Most races with a course of this style would have relatively small fields, but the organizers have created a welcoming and empowering atmosphere around the race that’s truly one-of-a-kind.”

Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Taking third place, Chad Cannon of Wisconsin, finished in 11:34:32. Ryan Goemans of Wisconsin finished fourth in 11:39:28 and Ben Senkerik of Wisconsin took fifth place with a time of 11:43:37.

SinglespeedHolle takes overall NUE SS win

Singlespeed podium- 1st Justin Holle, 2nd Anthony Toops, 3rd Eli Orth. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Justin Holle of Colorado wins the singlespeed division and takes 4th overall with at time of 11:39:15. With this win he has secured the overall Epic NUE singlespeed title and went undefeated this year. “Bike: 34×19 gearing on Norco Revolver HT. The overwhelming sentiment leading into Marji seemed the same from every source, ‘good luck’.  Having never quit a race I didn’t understand the high DNF rate or the fear expressed by such sources. And then…after missing my 4th turn only to see the arrow placement AFTER the turn did I realize these racers quit because, damn, that course just presses your buttons! I jumped out early with fellow Singlespeeders Mark Kransz and Scott Quiring, jockeying 1st to 3rd. Just as I passed the hilltop bagpiper I put in a gap and thought I’d race off the front. No sooner did I see myself careening over the handlebars into a pile of rocks, giving up my position. Through mile 39 we danced positions and at that Aid Station I made haste and passed through without support. Alone until mile 65 Aid at Jackson Park I learned this “race” was more an “adventure”. Staying on course demanded full awareness so race efforts sat second wheel.On the loop from Jackson Park that Singlespeed Monster: Anthony Toops closed in behind me. I guess this IS a race! More friend than foe, we chatted and grunted through the loop keeping tabs on our pace for that coveted sub-12 buckle. Back through the Jackson Park aid we knew we had enough time to finish under 12 barring any issues. We hung together, alternating position, riding, and power hiking the steeps. Near mile 94 I slowly pulled away and looking back didn’t see Toops in sight. The course became more intuitive, sign reading less challenging, and I stayed committed to ignoring my computer data. I relied on looking up to the sun to gauge my sub-7:30PM finish. With 50-milers becoming more frequent on trail I could tell we were close. Feeling confident I looked back and saw Toops! What?!?! He closed in on me AGAIN. Providing that final fire I needed! I drove my pedals, attacked the steep hill holding the precious tokens, and headed back down with enough of a gap. Passing Toops I hollered to my friend and turned onto tarmac to punch it home. I passed a final geared racer and came across the line in 4th overall position with the SS win. Marji is the hardest 100-mile MTB race course I’ve ever done. It attacks you mentally, physically, and, when you blow a turn, emotionally. Fortunately I had a good day and I attribute that to accepting MG as an adventure first, race second. Oh, and the guys making grilled cheese at mile 58, thank you sirs. Thanks to my support: Base Canp Cyclery, Norco, Shimano, Crankbrothers, ESI, and Carbo Rocket.”

Anthony Toops and Justin Holle celebrating at the finish line. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Just a couple minutes back on Holle, Anthony Toops from Ohio, took second place in singlespeed and sixth overall, finishing in 11:41:13. “Marji Gesick is always the biggest test of the year.  This year, my goal was to go sub 12hr and get the coveted buckle on a single speed.  I was able to get a buckle on gears in 2018 but it was a true test for me at the time… so doing it on a single speed had me wondering if it would even happen.  The race started with the traditional 1/2 mile run and from the beginning I was on my own pace.  My goal was the buckle and if this turned into a “race” then so be it.  I could see a few ss racers up ahead but I stuck to my plan and didn’t chase.  I was in a good group with my teammate Jeff Rupnow, who has tons of experience at this race, and I knew he could carry me to a buckle… if I could hang!  At mile 13.5 the group was flying and unfortunately missed the left turn back to Forestville.  We were heading back up to the Top of the World!  Eventually we noticed the mistake but it cost us roughly 12min, which isn’t something you can easily claw back at this race.  This caused some high anxiety until I could get my time splits back on track. Going into Jackson Park I was still up 20min on my previous sub 12 race!  Now the stress was off some but I knew the two loops out of Jackson Park are no joke. This is where the race really starts.   At this point I’m still sticking to my plan and haven’t seen another ss’r in a while.  About 15min later I caught up with Justin Holle and we rode together pretty much the rest of the race, pushing each other to make sure that buckle was ours!  Half way into loop 2 out of Jackson, Justin started to get a gap on me.  I made a mistake with my nutrition on the first loop and ran out of calories and water for almost an hour (rookie!) so I started to fade.  I made sure to get some calories in and started to feel normal again with about 7mi to go.  I would guess Justin was only a couple minutes ahead but I was solely focused on that buckle!  The last 15mi of this race is the true test and every second counts.  It’s a weird experience because this is a race where you are in a battle with the trail and yourself; racing someone else is a bonus.  No matter how well you’re doing, you’re always wondering if you’ll make it.I put my head down and went as hard as I could for that last hour or so. I WASN’T coming up short!  When I could see the last climb to Jasper Knob on my screen, I knew I had it.  BUT where the heck were all the tokens!  Of course they were on the way up to Jasper Knob (blame Todd & Danny) so everyone had that stress all day.  In the end, I finished 2nd by just a couple minutes and the buckle was mine!Marji is one of those races where you always say you don’t need to do it again… but you always want to.  Now that I have a geared and ss buckle, next year will be a new challenge!  Thanks again to my wife Jen for her motivation, my team Evolution Training Cycles/Paradise Garage Racing, and especially Heidi for all her help!  See you in 2022?! Bike Setup:Frame – Pivot LES size large. Fork – Fox Step Cast 32 100mmGearing – oval 32x19Tires – Continental cross king protection 2.3 front and rear.”

Finishing in third place, Eli Orth of Ohio, crossing the line in 12:20:44. “Marji was my fourth NUE epic distance SS race. Going into the race my main goal was to have a clean race and finish with a decent overall time. I ended up finishing 3rd.The race started great getting into one of the lead groups. It took a little hit though when our group made a wrong turn at mile 15. We were repeating a section we had went through around mile 5. Luckily Jeff Rupnow and Anthony Toops realized it once we had climbed all way to Forestville Rd. We turned back and by the time we were back on track we had lost about 14 minutes… and we were battling through other riders that we were previously well in front of. Surprisingly time was made up and by the time hit Jackson Park I was still on track to get under 12 hours. On the first loop through Jackson I was still on pace. On the last trails through the last 15ish miles I was pushing the pace and had a small crash that set me back just a little and seemed to slow my momentum a little. I made it to the finish only to realize I dropped an orange token on my way in. Soooo I had to go back and get the orange token. My finish time was 12hrs 3 min 57 sec. A little frustrated getting so close to the under 12 but falling little short. Overall happy with the race though and finishing Marji without mechanical and any physical issues is always a win. Thank to my sponsors Dean Titanium Bikes, CarboRocket, Kenda, AbsoluteBLACK, ESI Grips.Also thankful for all my family that supported me to do this race from my wife staying and watching the kids to my step-dad that ran support for me!My gearing for the race was 34×20. This was my last NUE points race for the season. My next planned race is the Cruce Del Istmo in Panama to represent the NUE.”

Eli Orth ready for the Lemans run. Photo credit: Ryan Odell

Fourth went to, Nathan Lillie of WI, in 12:45:47. Brent Pontius of MI, took fifth place in 13:37:48.

Women’s Singlespeed-First woman to complete Marji on a Singlespeed

Kristen Wade of Illinois is the first woman to complete Marji on a singlespeed. She finished in 23 hours. ” I hardly feel like I should be writing a race report considering the top female racer crossed the finish line nearly 11 hours before me but this was no ordinary race and I was in no ordinary category. The 2021 NUE Marji Gesick was my first Marji and I competed on a single speed. I was the sole female in the single speed category and much to my surprise I was the first female to ever FINISH the Marji with one gear. I rode a titanium VooDoo Dambala 29er with a 30:22 gearing and my nutrition consisted of a lot of Snicker bars, PayDays, grilled cheese and beef sticks. The Marji Gesick is more than a Hard Day, for some, it is a hard night too. I have no sponsors to thank because I am not a sponsored athlete. However, I would like to thank my husband, Al, for his continued support riding with me and encouraging me when I struggled. Next year I would like to return to race another Marji, with one gear, but faster.”

Kristen Wade is the first women to complete Marji on a single speed!

Schultz of Ohio takes the Masters win

Taking the Masters win, Brad Scholtz of Ohio, finished in 14:24:12. ” Having participated in other 906 events I knew it would be special and epic!   I had not raced Marji before, but I knew lots who had attempted, and a few who had completed the race-  and they made it REALLY clear that this would be the hardest thing you’ve ever done!  “Words can’t do it justice”! I started the race with two of my RBikes teammates as we knew that we should match up fairly well and to have some company at least for a while.   Not having any idea what I was in for, I would have been more conservative at the beginning, but my teammates were pushing a pretty spicy pace- I hung on and tried to settle in and stay on top of nutrition/hydration.  What a challenge it is pay attention to navigation, hydration, nutrition, physical effort and tackle the technical sections was crazy fun and challenging!   When I reached the bag drop(mi 65ish) I was feeling pretty good, but I also had a decent idea that the last 40 mi were the hardest!  And needless to say I was not disappointed!    The scenic views, stupid hard climbs and technical descents were my favorite- make no mistake, the constant punchy climbs really accumulate to break you down.   My secret is really to just “stay present” and enjoy/tackle the section that you’re currently doing.  Don’t even think about what’s yet to come.   The second most critical thing for me is to stay in a “positive“ place- giving and receiving positive energy from/to the other riders.   Positive engagement with everyone I can in contact with.  Thank you to my teammates(RBikes) for the pacing and to the amazing volunteers all over the course!!That was amazing!  I’m proud of my effort, but now I’m completely hooked, and already thinking about next year and how I can go faster!  I Was extremely pleased to take 1st place in the Men’s Master division.”

About fifteen minutes back, John Munger from MN, takes second place in 14:38:20. Vin Dog Mack of MI, takes third place with a time of 15:10:11. Fourth goes to, Scott Cole of WI, in 15:45:44 and fifth place to, Derrick Seys of IL, crossing the line in 16:21:30.

John Munger and Piotr Bednarski on their way to Marji

For full results CLICK HERE

Pictures from the race can be found here: Rob Meendering and Ryan Stephens

Mark your calendars. Registration for the 2022 Marji Gesick is October 15th.

The Park City Point 2 Point Returns

Written by: Shannon Boffeli

After taking the 2020 season off due to Covid, Utah’s most-anticipated mountain bike race each year returned for its 13th edition. Taking in over 75 miles of Park City, Utah’s, world renowned singletrack and 10,000 vertical feet of climbing, the Point 2 Point is known as one of hardest single-day mountain bike races in the country. 

This year riders from across the country came to the destination town of Park City to be challenged by technical trails, grueling climbs, breakneck descents, and moose. 

Elite men start at the 2021 Park City Point 2 Point. Photo by Jay Dash

Rains on Friday helped clear out some of the smoke that has plagued the west throughout the summer and provided endless hero dirt for the riders to enjoy their P2P experience.

As the race kicked off just after sunrise it was clear both elite fields were ready to push the pace early. 

Two-time winner Evelyn Dong (Juliana/SRAM/No Tubes) took the early lead pushing what challenger, Melissa Rollins (Team Twenty24) described as, ‘cross-county Olympic speeds.’ Dong was joined early on by Caedran Harvey with Rollins not far behind. 

Riders wind through the trails in Park City. Photo by Jay Dash

The  punishing early pace broke up the women’s field and saw Evelyn Dong establish a solid gap that continued to grow throughout the day. The Juliana rider rode clear throughout the day and not even getting stung by a bee on the lip would slow the lone leader. 

At mile 55, Dong passed through the crowds at the Park City Mountain feed zone taking in the cheers from hundreds of local fans lifting her spirits to finish the final 20 miles showing strong form. 

Behind the leader Melisa Rollins had moved into second place after Harvey got off course in the mid-mountain section of the course. 

Evelyn Dong navigates Round Valley in the early morning sun. Photo by Jay Dash

Rollins was followed by the hard-charging Virginian Andrea Dvorak (Cutaway), who is battle-tested in all forms of endurance cycling.  

No one would be catching Evelyn Dong on the day as she finished the race with a smashing time of 7:30:18, well inside the top-20 of the 350 men and women in the race. 

Rollins final push to the finish was temporarily delayed as a mother and baby moose took up residence on the trail. The 25-year-old Rollins was forced to bushwhack her way around the pair before getting back on course and finishing her day at just over 8 hours. 

Despite encountering the late moose challenge, Rollins managed to stay over 20 minutes clear on third-place rider Dvorak who finished at 8:24:55.

The only way to get through the P2P. Photo by Jay Dash

Chelsea Bolton finished fourth in the open women’s field but took top honors for best quote of the day for her comment after finishing the punishing Steps trail climb exclaiming, “Before today, I’ve only ever gone up that trail by mistake!”

Courtney Boyd (Wattie Ink) rounded out the women’s podium in fifth place with a time of 8:47:14

Momma and baby Moose on course at the P2P.

The open men’s race got off to a similarly rapid pace with relative youngsters Truman Glasgow (Rouleur Devo) and Tanner Visnick (POC) pushing hard early accompanied briefly by Australian Lachlan Morton (EF Foundation) who was fresh off a podium finish at the 6-day Breck Epic and his Alt Tour De France effort where he rode the entire Tour De France course solo. 

Morton suffered an early flat before exciting the Round Valley section of the course. This left Glasgow and Visnick out front, a strategy that Visnick had envisioned. “Going out hard early is typically my move,” the 24-tear-old Visnick said. “Unless I’m marking another rider and don’t know the course well, I prefer to be in front setting my own pace on the climbs and descents.”

Never-ending single track is on tap every year at the P2P. Photo by Jay Dash

Despite throwing down early speed, Visnick was unable to shed Glasgow who worked his way into the lead by the top of Deer Valley resort. The 21-year-old Glasgow stayed clear on the following descents and through the tortuous John’s trail where a mother and baby moose forced some brief detours. 

At 50+ miles in both riders descended into the Park City Mountain feed zone just seconds apart. 

Morton was slowly working his way through the field jumping into 5th place by the Steps trail climb and taking over 4th before making his way into the feed zone. 

In front the racing was all out with less than a minute between the two leaders and Tanner Visnick now being out front, barely. 

Tanner Visnick goes for an early lead in the morning sun. Photo by Jay Dash

Despite being young, Visnick is no stranger to distance events having already won the Gunnison Growler, Emerald Epic, and Big Sky Biggie in 2021. After a quick stop at the final feed zone, Visnick used his endurance experience to hold onto a 20 second gap over his challenger needing to essentially sprint the final 5 miles of downhill to cross the line with just 39 seconds in hand. 

After almost six and a half hours of racing Truman Glasgow finished less than a minute behind the leader.

Riders get a well-deserved break after 75-miles of single track. Photo by Jay Dash

Lachlan Morton worked his way up to third place by the finish, passing another youngster, Cameron Larson (Summit Devo Team), in the final miles of the race.

Larson took fourth in what was his longest-ever mountain bike race effort.

Fifth went to Danny Van Wagoner with a time of 6:45:29. 

Race Notes

In a tradition unique to the Park City Point 2 Point, a special award is given to the final racer to finish each year’s event; in special recognition of their perseverance making it to the finish line. 

This year’s red lantern award went to Kristine Thompson, who finished, in the dark, with a time of 13:58:44. The longest-ever finishing time for the P2P.

Red lantern winner Kristine Thompson at the finish

For the first time three riders on the men’s podium were former NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) racers. Truman Glasgow and Cameron Larson both raced in the Utah league, while race winner Tanner Visnick raced in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 

Instead of tapering the weekend before the Park City Point 2 Point, race winner Tanner Visnick, was getting married in Bozeman, Montana. Congratulations Tanner!

Click Here for Full Results from All Categories

Hitting the descents at the P2P. Photo by Jay Dash

US Cup: XC Olympic Results

Mexican National Champion Daniela Campuzano & Christopher Blevins Win in Fayetteville

Elbows-out, world-cup-style racing is what the US Cup was hoping to deliver in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this weekend and did not disappoint. Exhilarating head-to-head racing throughout the women and men’s categories led to sprint finishes to decide both winners.

The best of the best were on hand in round 1 of the US Cup and they clearly brought their A-game treating the crowds with constant attacks, big drops, technical descending, and plenty of speed.

The women’s race featured multiple national champions going all out for the win. A lead grouping of Haley Batten (Trinity Racing), Mexican national champion Daniela Campuzano, and Erin Huck formed at the front after Lea Davison succumbed to a flat tire.

Huck and Campuzano got clear on the penultimate lap before finishing in a wheel-to-wheel sprint with Daniela Campuzano coming out on top just 2 seconds in front of Huck.

Batten stayed clear in third position while Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz) dropped an impressive last lap to jump into fourth place in front of Hannah Finchamp.

The men’s race featured a stacked field with all eyes on the battle between US national champion Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) and Trinity Racing’s Christopher Blevins who are battling for a spot in the upcoming Olympics.

The duo did not disappoint as they lead a train of North America’s top talent around the Fayetteville course ultimately dropping everyone except a determined Riley Amos (Bear Development) who did not shy away from the challenge of racing for a win.

On the final lap Swenson and Blevins opened enough of a gap to play a little cat and mouse before unleashing a roaring sprint to the finish line with Blevins taking the win by less than a bike length.

Amos rode home in third followed by Cole Paton and Puerto Rican Georwill Perez Roman.

Results

Pro Women

12033Daniela Campuzano ChÁVez PeÓNFemale35HIDALGOUNK71:25:56.2004:34.2513:23.6413:31.4813:26.2413:56.9913:42.5413:21.06MEX10008100086
22015Erin HuckFemale40BOULDERCO71:25:58.5904:35.7813:22.1313:32.0113:25.8913:56.7213:42.2713:23.79USA10006969735
32005Haley BattenFemale23SANTA CRUZCA71:27:04.8904:33.4713:23.8813:32.2513:25.9813:56.6214:06.2814:06.41USA10010130521
42014Alexis SkardaFemale32GRAND JUNCTIONCO71:27:58.5004:37.3513:45.0013:41.3613:46.8914:21.8914:14.7813:31.23USA10058874536
52018Hannah FinchampFemale26MILLCREEKUT71:28:25.8104:34.4913:25.0513:51.3213:58.1314:23.4914:14.6313:58.70USA10009349265
62030Gwendalyn GibsonFemale22RAMONACA71:28:38.2004:36.1813:22.7013:51.0214:00.0414:21.9714:15.4714:10.82USA10016145329
72025Sofia Gomez VillafaneFemale27HEBER CITYUT71:28:46.3904:33.8813:23.3513:43.7314:08.2214:23.2214:31.7214:02.27USA10008140809
82001Rose GrantFemale39COLUMBIA FALLSMT71:28:52.3204:40.9413:48.1614:01.0214:06.4114:16.1414:14.7113:44.94USA10008187891
92004Kelsey UrbanFemale23KENTFIELDCA71:30:43.2404:33.6113:23.9113:42.8214:09.3014:52.2614:59.8615:01.48USA10010130420
102024Madigan MunroFemale19BOULDERCO71:31:03.6504:34.8013:42.6014:02.8414:35.3014:39.3014:40.1614:48.65USA10085042308
112021Ruby RyanFemale20GRAND JUNCTIONCO71:34:16.8004:36.4013:43.1614:22.5714:57.8615:03.6815:35.1015:58.03USA10021993520
122003Crystal AnthonyFemale41BENTONVILLEAR71:36:47.8004:39.2514:24.3316:21.8414:55.7815:15.4715:33.5515:37.58USA10006680351
132013Lea DavisonFemale38SUNDERLANDVT71:37:27.9304:35.1513:24.8113:30.7416:11.1513:59.6713:52.8521:53.56USA10003588374
142022Natalie QuinnFemale20LOUISVILLECO71:37:55.2704:56.0014:51.6714:52.0315:27.2516:16.0016:16.6315:15.69USA10089027388
152028Gabrielle RichardsonFemale19RANCHO SANTA MARGARITACA71:39:02.4404:51.6715:09.9515:40.6615:43.1215:43.1916:05.5715:48.28USA10077911895
162019Haley RandelFemale19MILL VALLEYCA71:41:07.9804:44.3315:12.8415:45.1315:42.6915:42.5516:13.4117:47.03USA10090671237
172016Michaela ThompsonFemale19NIWOTCO71:41:37.3604:38.8014:33.8715:32.4316:21.5715:56.0117:48.3016:46.38USA10095589339
182002Lisa CordovaFemale34CHICOCA71:45:08.4505:00.7415:29.7015:31.7615:37.4516:13.0516:31.2420:44.51USA10064785775
192007Madelyn RobersonFemale19GARDENDALEAL51:10:03.5004:36.9514:53.3217:20.6816:54.9916:17.56USA10071700966
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True Grit Epic 100 Mile

A Day of Firsts for True Grit

This year’s True Grit Epic in Santa Clara, Utah, represented an exciting new chapter for the southern Utah race. 2019 was it’s first sellout year with an impressive 800+ riders taking the start. It also represented the first year of the True Grit gravel grinder.

Riders enter the Zen trail

As race morning broke it seemed to be following a now-familiar pattern, early forecasts of cold temperautres and rain turned into pleasant skies and ideal riding weather. Rain throughout the week had left some puddles on the trail but nothing a seasoned True Grit rider couldn’t handle.

The hundred milers start first just as the sun rose over the cliffs of Zion.

True Grit defending champion and endurance-veteran Taylor Lideen (DNA Cycling/Pivot) was a heavy favorite for the men’s category as fellow Arizona rider Chase Edwards (CZ Racing) was favored for the women who was determined to improve on her fourth place from last year.

As the riders rolled out a puddles and standing water from the previous rains splattered the field until they exited the opening wash and the climbing started. At the front Lideen moved to the front with Pete Karinen.

Karinen kept the heat on the defending champion ensuring he wouldn’t ride away for an easy win. The lead duo rode together throughout the opening 50-lap and the early climbs of lap two.

It wasn’t until the steepest climb of the day up to the dreaded waterfall descent that Lideen was able to open a gap. A small advantage was all Lideen would need as his riding skills took control on the highly challenging Barrel and Zen trails.

It certainly wasn’t an easy day for the defending champion. At the finish Lideen said, “some days you feel great and just ride away and other days it feels like you really have to work for it. Today was one of those days.”

But despite not feeling his best Taylor Lideen was able to control the day and finish the 100 miler in just over six and a half hours. Nine minutes in front of challenger Pete Karinen.

After the race the repeat race winner had this to say:

It was a blast riding with Pete throughout the day as he is a super talented and skilled rider. I was able to make my move on the longer climb up to the waterfall early into the second lap. You never know how the day will go on such a rough and technical course out there but I was fortunate enough to grab the win. I am always blown away by how awesome and friendly every racer is out there no matter the distance they are competing in. It’s always a pleasure to race in this event. Mary (Mrs. Lideen) of course was my everything with her aid in the pits. I am one lucky dude to have her in my corner. Big thanks to all of the volunteers out there as well! Races like this wouldn’t happen with great people like that!

Timon Fish (Sticky Racing) finished in third with a time of 7:00:12 after a close battle with Stefano Barberi (Serious Cycling).

Chris Alstrin (Carborocket) grabbed the final podium spot in fifth.

With the win Taylor Lideen takes the lead in the NUE series but will not likely feature in the final series picture as his goals for the season are outside the NUE leaving the door open for others to challenge for the NUE title.

The women’s race appeared to be starting as expected with Chase Edwards opening an early lead through the big climbs on the opening lap. She held the lead heading into the technical slickrock jungle of Zen trail but St. George local Shirley Leydsman (Team Redrock) closed things down in the rocks and pulled ahead.

Once out front Leydsman stayed focused on riding her own race and erasing the disappointment of crashing and badly injuring her wrist in last year’s True Grit.

Her motivation showed as she opened a big gap finally crossing the line over 30 minutes up on Edwards who had this to say after the finish.

True Grit is a brutal NUE season opener! Shirley, the local gal who won, caught me at Zen, took a line I was unfamiliar with, and dropped me on the first lap. It was a great warm-up to the season as the techy sections on the course forced me to keep my head in the game and to also acknowledge skill sets that got a little rusty over the winter. I’ll be chasing other NUE races this season while representing Construction Zone Racing. I’d also like to say thanks to Paragon Athletics for helping to keep my body strong and injury-free, to Coach Kata for continuing to work with me on this ongoing journey of balancing work stress and training, and Honey Stinger for fueling all the adventures. 

Julie Thumel (Race Pace Bicycles) finished in third place followed by Becky Edmiston (Steamboat Velo) in fourth.

In the singlespeed group, Mark Schafer improved on his bronze medal from 2018 with a race win at this year’s True Grit. Schafer dominated for most of the race finishing almost a half hours clear of runner up Johnathan Ciampa (DRT/Cycological).

Ciampa put together a strong race chasing down Nathan Whipple after the opening 50 miles and opening a gap in the second half of the race. Whipple started out strong but a tall gear and a long New England winter effected his performance. The third place rider had this to say about his day in Santa Clara:

Early season weather in New England didn’t let me get out on the SS as much as I’d have liked. Just days before the race, Boston got a fresh 18” of snow even.  Add in an optimistic gear choice for the race and I did a great job setting myself up for an Epic amount of hurt. It was hardly noticed though, what with the amazing trails and spectacular vistas constantly trying to one-up each other. 

The gear choice did help early positioning, but by the start of the 2nd lap the damage from the low cadence grinding started to show. I found myself forced off the bike to avoid having the wheels fall completely off. I had nothing to counter with when the second place finisher caught me and I watched him motor away from me up the first climb on Zen. I rode by myself for the majority of the second lap after that and soaked in the views and amazing trail. 

The men’s master group saw Cary Smith once again crushing the hopes of all competitors. Smith, who had the fifth fastest finishing time of all the 100 mile riders dominated from the starting gun leaving no doubt he was going to repeat as master’s champion short of major catastrophe.

But Smith avoided any complications to his race and finished a full 2 hours clear of runner up Gerry Hatcher (Santa Cruz).

Hatcher turned in a strong effort in his first True Grit experience and had this to say after the finish:

The Santa Clara/St George area has intrigued me for a while and I’ve never ridden in Utah so learning of the “True Grit Epic” race gave me the push I needed – Road Trip!  I brought my 2018 Santa Cruz Highball CC 29’r hardtail.

Having never ridden in the Santa Clara area before, and my introduction to it being the most gnarly sections of the True Grit rattled that confidence and made me immediately re-calibrate my race strategy. 

I dialed everything back from “go fast” to “just make damn sure I finish.”  Having fitted relatively thin walled & fast rolling tires thinking because I’m a small framed lightweight rider it was “probably worth the risk”, didn’t help with my anxiety. Sidewall tearing, rim & tire destroying geology was lurking everywhere! It wasn’t until I got through Zen Trail on my second lap that I relaxed a bit. Until then I had to constantly remind myself to stay focused, keep good lines, and to not take unnecessary chances.  I used my cyclo-cross skills to shoulder the bike and trot over, around, or down more sections than I’m proud of, but hey I finished! And, un-expected icing on the cake, with a respectable second place too!

Jim Miller finished third after enjoying his day and improving after a broken frame almost ended True Grit in 2018.

He had this to say at the end:

It was a great day, I love this race and plan to come back again and again.  The trails are nearly 100% sweet single-track, the race vibe is competitive but fun and friendly, the event is well run, the volunteers are great, and the setting is so very beautiful! Thanks to Joe’s Bike Shop in Baltimore for having my Trek Fuel EX in tip-top shape.

Click Here for full results from True Grit Epic 2019

Riders were treated to food a live music after the finish

Park City Point 2 Point

Larissa Connors Repeats and Alex Grant Makes Crushes in his Return to the Point 2 Point

Written by: Shannon Boffeli @pearlizumi_pivotmtb_team

Saturday saw the 10th edition of the Park City Point 2 Point endurance mountain bike race in Park City, Utah.

In it’s tenth year, and ninth consecutive sellout, the Point 2 Point reached new heights in racer satisfaction and competition. With a field of 350 hearty souls and some the North America’s best mountain bike racers toeing the line, the Point 2 Point got rolling just as the sun crested the mountains; seventy-five miles of endless singletrack and over 10,000 feet of climbing lay ahead.

Riders come from all over to enjoy and suffer on the miles and miles of Park City’s gold certified mountain bike trails capping off the racing season and hopefully taking home some cash and prizes too.

The sun rises on the 10th edition of the PCP2P. Photo by: Jay Dash

Giving away almost $12,000 in cash for podium finishers and thousands more in prizes, the Point 2 Point gives riders everything they could imagine and more. And once they throw in unique prizes like the “I am Somebody Prize,” a free Scott bike that goes to a randomly selected race finisher and the Red Lantern prize package, every participant has a chance to come away with more than just an exceptional singletrack experience.

This year’s event saw top-notch riders like Geoff Kabush (Yeti/Maxxis), teammates Ben Sonntag and Russell Finsterwald (Clif), Aussie Ryan Standish (Orange Seal/Merida), 6-time P2P winner Alex Grant (Cannondale/Gear Rush), Jamey Driscoll (Pivot/Maxxis), and youngster Zach Calton (Spry/Legacy).

The leaders started off on what seemed a leisurely pace for the first hour before Jamey Driscoll heated things up getting off the front and creating the first selection of the day.

The chase group made contact with Driscoll around mile 30, with all the top talent still represented in the group. Rob Squire briefly gave it a go trying to break things up on the long Corvair and John’s trail descents but couldn’t shake the top talent.

Alex Grant rolls through the aspens on his way to a win. Photo by: Jay Dash

On the subsequent climb Finsterwald, Grant, and impressive 21-year-old Zach Calton began their rise to the top of the race.

At the Park City feedzone, mile-53 in the race, this trio attacked the final big climb of the day wheel to wheel. The climb up Armstrong trail is over 1,000 vertical feet of winding singletrack and unrelenting elevation gain. It has also been the location of the decisive attack in each of Alex Grant’s six previous P2P wins.

“We we’re rolling up Armstrong at a pretty good pace,” Grant shared after the finish. “Russell was leading and seemed to be feeling strong. I could feel Zach suffering a little bit and suddenly Russell said ‘I gotta stop’. I wasn’t sure what was up.”

After a few soft pedals to see if Finsterwald would continue on, Grant decided this was his time to go. The Cannondale rider flexed his climbing muscles and quickly opened a gap on his breakaway compatriots.

Behind the leader, Calton moved into the runner-up spot as Finsterwald was forced to dismount to negotiate a natural break of a secondary nature.

Sonntag, Standish, Driscoll, and Kabush were chasing hard behind.

Calton started to feel the first 55 miles in this final stretch and drifted back to the chasers with the Clif duo of Finsterwald and Sonntag shuffling Calton into the four spot.

In the end, no one could bring Alex Grant back. After missing several years because of injury and family life, Grant was back on the top step of the Park City Point 2 Point taking the win by over 4 minutes. This time greeted by his wife and daughters at the finish line.

Grant, the lone leader, was followed by Russell Finsterwald who was just seconds in front of his teammate Ben Sonntag.

Zach Calton looked poised to take the final podium spot. He put his head down sprinting toward what he thought was the line. In heartbreaking fashion however he missed the final turn into the finish. Calton was in sight of the finish line arch as dozens of spectators yelled, waived, jumped up and down and did anything they could to get his attention.

Sadly for the youngster, by the time he had corrected his route Jamey Driscoll and Geoff Kabush had snuck in to take the final step on the podium. Calton, recent winner of the Crusher in the Tushar, would have to settle for sixth.

Kabush had put in his familiar fast finish over the last 20 miles of the race. The former Canadaian national champion passed Standish on his way to the finish before disaster struck almost within sight of the line.

“I was on the final rocky descent and things were going really well until they weren’t.” said a bruised and battered Kabush at the finish. “I felt like I was downhilling really fast until I hooked a tree and ended up on the ground.”

Unfortunately for the Canadian, he went down on the Iron Bill descent which has almost no actual “ground’ as it is mostly just rocks piled on top of rocks. Kabush limped in for the final podium spot with torn up shorts, a bleeding hip, deep abrasions down his back, and a deep laceration on his left elbow that would require stitches to close.

One of the most talented women’s field ever assembled for the Park City Point 2 Point took the start Saturday morning. Defending champion Larissa Connors (Twenty20/Felt) would be challenged by previous P2P winner Evelyn Dong (Spry Cycles/NoTubes), Singletrack 6 winner and Canadian Jena Greaser (Gear Hub Sports/Rocky Mountain), Aspen Power of 4 winner Marlee Dixon (Pearl Izumi/Pivot), and 23-year-old Luna rider Hannah Finchamp.

As she did last year, Larrisa Connors got off to a fast start already opening up a big lead by the first feed zone at Deer Valley resort. Not far behind was Evelyn Dong and Marlee Dixon  who followed in third after getting past Greaser and Finchamp.

Larissa Connors flashes her characteristic smile on course. Photo by: Jay Dash

Connors appeared to be on a tear as she crested the first big climb before the Corvair descent. Dong continued to occupy the runner-up spot followed by Dixon with Finchamp closing in.

Dixon was able to hold off her challenger through the aspen-tree-maze of John’s trail but on the subsequent climb Finchamp’s climbing legs kicked in and she caught and passed Dixon opening up a several minute gap before the next descent where Dixon closed down the advantage to mere seconds before Finchamp dealt the final blow on the Armstrong climb.

All the action behind did nothing to bring back the sole leader as Larissa Connors’ lead continued to grow reaching just over 10 minutes by the finish.

Evelyn Dong rolled in second followed by Finchamp and Dixon in fourth.

The final podium spot of the day went to KC Holley (Kuhl) who is a veteran of the P2P and turned in one of her best rides overcoming Greaser, Meghan Sheridan (Bingham’s), and Nicole Tittensor (Scott) on her way to the podium.

Open women’s podium. Photo by: Jay Dash

As impressive a win as it was for Connors, what she did after the race was perhaps the highlight of her performance.

For the second year in a row, Connors, a school teacher, donated her $2,000 winner’s check to the Summit Bike Club junior development program. And after 75 miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing Connors took her turn on the podium, grabbed a bite to eat and went out to ride another 28 miles. Why? Because she wanted to get over 100 miles in for the day.

Congratulations aren’t hard to find for P2P finishers. Photo by: Jay Dash

With all the podiums done and most the riders on their way home one prize was left for Jay Burke and the Park City Point 2 Point staff to hand out: The Red Lantern Prize Pack. An annual recognition of the final rider to cross the finish line, the red lantern is a special acknowledgement of the rider who pushed themselves the most to earn the title of Point 2 Point finisher.

This year’s lantern went to open women’s rider Lucie Kayser-Bril. Kayser-Bril dug deep and persevered to finish with a time of 12 hours and 45 minutes. Crossing the finish line just before dark with her husband and children cheering her in.

Over six hours after race leader Alex Grant finished, Lucie Kayser-Bril marked a successful end to the tenth edition of Utah’s premier mountain bike event; the Park City Point 2 Point.

Click Here for full results from the Park City Point 2 Point 

Larissa Connors prepares to chow down on a well deserved post race meal. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli

 

 

 

 

 

 

NUE Wilderness 101

Written by: @JenToops

Photos by: Bryan Lewis

The Wilderness 101 is a classic on the NUE National Ultra Endurance Race Series and is know for its rolling hills through amish country, long gravel roads, rail trails, tunnels and rocky east coast singletrack.  This year a new Marathon distance was added which is part of the NUE marathon series. W101 is hosted in Coburn, PA and organized by Shenandoah Mountain Tours.

One of two tunnels racers ride through near the finish line. Photo credit: Kayla Randolph

Flooding the previous week had racers wondering if racing was going to be possible, but the high waters receded and the weather was perfect on race day!  Camping was provided at the race start/finish which added to the overall race weekend experience.

Open Men

Johnson gets third NUE win for 2018

Open Men: 1st Dylan Johnson, 2nd-Brian Schworm, 3rd-Christian Tanguy, 4th- Heath Thumel, 5th-John Wiygul, 6th-Andy Rhodes, 7th, Dan Atkins.

In the open men’s division a lead group of Johnson, Bishop, Tanguay and Schworm formed but after, Jeremiah Bishop (Caynon Topeak Factory Racing), had to stop several times for flat tires, Bishop was able to finish in ninth place. Taking the win by about seven minutes was the 2017 NUE race series champion, Dylan Johnson (Leska MTB), crossing the line in 6:39:50.

Finishing strong for second place, Brian Schworm (Think Green Bicycle), came in at 6:47:17.

“The recent weather with the record setting amounts of rain and consequential flooding had me a bit concerned about the condition of the course for the 2018 Wilderness 101; however, with a few reroutes by the race director and a nice break in the weather on race day, the conditions were completely agreeable.  The race started out of Coburn to cool temperatures and the excitement began although the pace was moderate at best for the first hour and half.  In between aid stations one and two the pace quickened on a few of the climbs and a lead group containing Dylan Johnson, Christian Tanguay, Jeremiah Bishop, and myself formed.  We rode together for a while but either a piece of singletrack, or a climb, or mechanical problem would split our group into various combinations with some leading and others chasing but ultimately we would regroup.

I would say the first decisive section was the Sassafras/Pig Pile section of trail.  I was already 10-15 seconds behind the others entering the trail where Jeremiah and Dylan took off leaving a gap to Christian and another gap to me.  Unfortunately for Jeremiah, he suffered a flat towards the end of this section leaving Dylan on his own.  Jeremiah was able to continue but was now behind.  He quickly worked his way back up to me and then we rode back to Christian.  Us three worked together for a while trying to bridge back to Dylan but ultimately Jeremiah’s tire was still giving him problems.  He needed to stop again.  Christian and I forged on until the Stillhouse climb beyond aid station 4 (at least, where aid 4 was supposed to be; unfortunately, we beat the delivery leaving us without).  Anyway, on the Stillhouse climb I could see Dylan up the hill so I pressed on hard while Christian wisely held back to save some energy for later.

At the top of the climb just before entering the Sand Mountain section there was a “trail angel” with some water.  This unofficial aid station was perfect since aid 4 was missing and I was out of water.  Dylan was also in need and was taking his time refilling his bottles.  I filled up quickly and caught Dylan who was only a few seconds ahead at this point.  We rode together through Sand Mountain and the following climbs and descents.  I was feeling great at this point and sensed that Dylan was not.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  After a little back and forth, Dylan attacked with about 12 miles to go and I had no response.  I went from feeling great to feeling a bit sluggish.  Very quickly that deteriorated to feeling tired and hungry and then to feeling light-headed and shaky.  I was running scared; I had completely given up chasing Dylan and was more concerned about Christian gaining on me.  In the end Dylan put almost seven minutes on me and Christian was just 30 seconds back.  I was relieved to be finished and even more relieved that I held my second position.

Of course I need to thank my team Think Green – Bicycle Face for their support.  Also my other sponsors Sword Energy Drink, Specialized Bicycles, ESI Grips, Schwalbe Tires, and TruckerCo, but as usual, a special thanks to my extraordinary wife Jennifer for her undeniable support and understanding in these adventures of mine.  Now time for some recovery and then revamping of the training for my next NUE event, the Shenandoah 100 in about a month’s time.”

Just seconds back from second place, last years Wilderness 101 race winner, Christain Tanguy (RBS Cycling Team), finished in third place, 6:47:47.

Open Women

Barclay wins Open Women

Open Women: 1st- Vicki Barclay, 2nd-Lauren Cantwell, 3rd-Amelia Capuano, 4th-Julia Thurmel, 5th- Lindsey Carpenter

Local racer, Vicki Barclay (Cannondale, Kenda) took the top step in the women’s open, at 8:10:35.

“This was my first time racing the Wilderness 101 since 2015. After a few years of shorter, one-day races and stage races, plus a few weeks of little racing, I was excited to race this 100 miler to get in a good day of quality training and racing on home turf (I have a house in State College with my husband, Rich). Come race day, I was thrilled to see that the race had brought out some fast ladies; I knew I would have to ride a smart race to take the top step at the end. Lauren Cantwell and I rode mostly together until Aid 1; I let some small gaps open up at times, but wanted to ride conservatively for the first 20 miles (this was my seventh time racing Wilderness and I have made every mistake in the book in year’s past that has cost me significantly!). Once the pace settled a bit after the climb out of Aid #1, I put in some small efforts to gain a gap before a key piece of singletrack. The gap stuck and I managed to stay out in front for the rest of the race, trading places with some men on the course, and enjoying the special kind of pain that 100 mile racing induces. With the recent rain, a lot of singletrack had be replaced with fire roads, so I was happy I chose to run my Honey Badger XC pro 27.5 x 2.2 tires front and rear – excellent traction in the singletrack and fast rolling on the roads. I fueled the race with lots of my favorite race snack – GU Watermelon Chews! With the good feels at Wilderness 101, I am considering racing the Shenandoah 100 in a few weeks!

Sponsors:  Kenda Cannondale Women’s Elite Team”

About eleven minutes back, Lauren Cantwell (Deschutes Brewing), took second place at 8:21:21. Finishing third was, Amelia Capuano (Rearden Steel) crossing the finish line at 8:47:03.

“The race was comfortable for me. It was beautiful outside and I really enjoyed the evolution of the day’s riding. I am appreciative of the smiling and joyful riders with whom I rode for portions of the day, they made it a blast. Also very glad that the flood waters receded from the park to make for fun camping. Thank you Chris Scott for taking on the challenge of running classic races.

Sponsors: Myself, My Family, and Great Friends, LLC.”

Singlespeed

Wadsworth gets second NUE win of the season

Singlespeed: 1st-Gordon Wadsworth, 2nd-Ross Anderson, 3rd-James Litzinger, 3rd-Don Powers, 5th- Peyton Randolph, 6th-Joel Nankman, 7th-Kenny Kocarek, 8th-Joe Worboy, 9th-Donovan Neal, 10th-Peter Bradshaw

Defending SS NUE Champion and last years Wilderness 101 singlespeed race winner, Gordon Wadsworth, Blue Ridge Cyclery/Pivot Cycles, gets his second NUE win for the 2018 season finishing in 7:14:41.

“My day was pretty swell. We JUST finished relocating a little outside roanoke and so motivation wasn’t high to be honest. Nevertheless as soon as we kicked tires onto the sweet Pa dirt all the stoke came flooding back.

Our start was WILDLY casual for about the first two hours. A wild pack of singlespeed racers including Don Powers, Kenny Kocarek, Peyton Randolph, and myself seemed pretty comfortable controlling the pace from the front. And the group of maybe 30-50 riders seemed happy to let us!
In the downhill turns prior to aid 2 I made sure to be at the front and was joined by a purposeful Jeremiah Bishop. We’ve got a few W101s under our belts and both knew that the dirt climb out of Aid 2 was narrow and more difficult to navigate; often precipitating a break group or a bump in the pace. Jeremiah and I swapped recipes for a bit before charging down into the Detweiler descent. A firing Dylan Johnson shot past us and I knew if I could hold their wheels I could make the group I needed to be in.
Our group shrunk coming out of Detweiler, and again on3 bridges until it was the familiar company of Heath Thumel. Heath and I have similar strengths and after a long week of moving for me and a week away from home racing the High Cascades 100 for him we were both happy to keep things “fast casual.”
And we pretty much did. Working with two other riders until the descent down No-Name trail after which it was the two of us singing songs and dreaming for finish line.  Crossing 4th and 5th overall with me 1st SS
The Pivot Cycles LES was MONEY as always on the fast fire roads and gnarly rock knees of the PA Wilderness. Industry Nine system wheels custom laced to NOX rims wrapped in Maxxis Ikon rubber had heath and I both smiling and confident no matter our line choice.”

Fifteen minutes back, Ross Anderson (Elevation Zero), finished at 7:35:01. A couple minutes later, James Litzinger (Syndicate cycling) and Don Powers (UPMC Pro Bikes), declared a tie for third place and finished together at 7:37:36.

Powers states, “Well this past Saturday was my 8th time racing the Wilderness 101.  I’ve had recent success at this race scoring podiums spots in 3 out of the last 4 years and was hoping for another similar result this year.  I knew it would be tough with some strong competition in Gordon Wadsworth, Jim Litzinger and Peyton Randolph all in the mix.  The race starts with a 3ish mile / 1000 foot gravel climb.  The pace was pretty chill and the big geared guns let us SS’ers set the pace.  What surprised me even more was that they let us SS’ers set the pace all the way to aid station 1, which is 19 miles into the race.  Normally on the climb out of aid station 1 the intensity picks up and the top geared guys start to flex their muscle.  But that was not the case.  As we crested the top of the climb I started shouting out to the likes of Jerimiah Bishop, Dylan Johnson, Brian Schworm, & Cristian Tanguey that I was confused by their tactics.  On the next rocky descent things started to shake out, Gordon got away and I tried to keep it close to Litzinger.  Jim was on his full suspension S-Works SS while I was on a rigid SS.  I was able to gap Jim on the next climb and then he proceeded to drop me on the next technical rocky descent.  I was able to catch back up on the next climb and then once again he got away on the next descent.  After that I did not see him again until later.  Going into aid station 4, I was caught by another strong SS’er Ross Anderson.  He got away on the big climb out of aid station 4 and I didn’t see him again.  So I knew I was sitting in 4th place with about 35ish miles to go.  As I rolled into aid station 5, I saw Litzinger refueling and filling bottles.  He got a little lost and had to back track a bit, he was off course about 1.5 miles (This is what happens when you climb with your head down and miss arrows).  We rolled down the first part of the rail trail together and he said his legs were pretty dead.  On the last climb with about 7 miles to go in the race I attacked him and put a decent size gap on him heading down to the technical final single track trail called Fisherman’s Trail.  Well my lead didn’t last long as Jim caught back up and then proceeded to attack me.  After we got out of Fisherman’s Trail I was able to close the gap on the last part of the rail trail, I was running a slightly bigger gear than him 32X18 vs 34X20.  We called a truce and rolled the last 3 or so miles into the finish together.  They scored us tied for 3rd SS & 12 overall with a time of 7:37 and change.  While Jim is without a doubt my biggest racing rival, he is also a good friend and it was nice to finish tied with him in such a hard race.”

Masters

Spaulding repeats at Wilderness

Masters: 1st- Russell Spaulding, 2nd-Tom Stritzinger, 3rd- Roger Masse, 4th- Jim Matthews, 5th-Bruce Stauffer

Last years race winner, Russell Spaulding (TFM Racing), repeats again this year coming in at 8:09:12. Spaulding is currently in second for the overall series standings.

“I really didn’t know what to expect this time around at Wilderness. I have been racing hundreds every two or three weeks since Mohican in June. The “Double Hundred” (Miles & Heat) out in South Dakota really left me in a bit of a fog before this race.

After the neutral roll out I found myself stepping out in front of the lead pack on the initial climb. This ended up being my only real contribution to the pack behind me, because I ended up startling a family of deer that ended up crossing the road just ahead of the pack. So you see, that’s really why I was out front on the first part of the climb. Just trying to protect the deer / mountain biker relationship!

Halfway up the climb the lead pack caught me, and I just tucked myself right in behind one of the stronger riders and held on for the top. Once we hit the top the lead pack just cruised along like it was some Sunday ride. I’m tucked in behind a rider just cruising along, and I happen to notice that the entire pack was being led by two single speeders. It’s like all the geared riders are sitting on the couch eating chips, while someone else is doing all the vacuuming!

After aid two the master’s race was just starting to take shape. Johnston was within view up ahead of myself and Masse. The further we got into this race, I realized two things. One, the mountain bike Gods had selected me as part of their amusement during this race. I ended up on the ground a little bit more than I would have liked. Someday I hope to be a real mountain biker! Two, my legs were cramping way too early in this race.

Masse eventually ended up leaving us all behind to fend for ourselves. I was just trying to stay in the mix, and work through the cramping in my legs. By aid three I was hoping for some instant relief for my legs in the form of pickle juice or yellow mustard.  Neither were to be found, but fortunately there were some Endurolytes available.

At the bottom of the first downhill after aid three I ended up passing Masse. The rocks in Pennsylvania are just plain mean, and he was working on one of his tires. When I reached the off camber, rocky as hell “No Name” trail I ended up making another mistake and ended up on my back below the trail. It wouldn’t have been that bad if my legs had not immediately seized up. Man that’s painful! By the time I got back up on the trail Stritzinger comes screaming by me to take the lead before we reach aid four.

Aid four is grilling hot dogs! Can you believe it? Bottles of fancy mustard on the table! I pretty much drained one of those fancy mustard bottles before hitting the climb after aid four.

I would assume that most racers despise the climb after aid four, but for some reason I really start to come alive in the last third of a race. My legs were becoming less of an issue. The temperature was heating up, and the climb was taking me into my Zen zone.

Turns out I ended up catching Stritzinger just before the last climb of the race. I knew there were two major climbs after the aid four climb, but there are also a couple of smaller climbs within that mix so I wasn’t sure what lay ahead for both of us.

In the end I got to ride with some very talented riders. I’m grateful, and lucky to have had such an awesome experience. Congratulations to Tom Stritzinger and Roger Masse on their amazing finishes, and a special shout out to John Friel. Way to tough it out John!

Thanks to TFM Racing, G-Assist, Valor House, and Tried and True for sponsoring me this season.

Special thanks to Chris Scott, his crew, and all the volunteers that made the Wilderness 101 such an amazing experience. To the crew at aid four that decided to grill hot dogs. Thank you. That was a most excellent decision!”

Three minutes back, Tom Stritzinger finished strong for second place at 8:12:41.

” I was having a strong race until just before the last climb with about 5 miles to go.  Then Russell Spaulding catches me from behind.  He says “hello” then drops me like a bad habit.  If he used Strava, I am guessing that he would have been the KOM of the day for that last climb!  I really enjoyed the first 18 miles where it was like a Sunday morning ride with what seemed like the entire race field riding together, chatting and going at friendly pace.  I never see Jeremiah Bishop, Christian Tanguy, Brian Schworm and Dylan Johnson after the opening gun and until the finish.  It was unreal to still be riding with and chatting with these guys through the first 18 miles!  The course had everything:  gnarly single track, two track, gravel, long tough climbs, and a tunnel that was very dark and a bit scary as it was strewn with rocks!  Overall, a great venue, phenomenal volunteers, some serious mtn. bike riders and a fun time for all.  Wilderness 101 is one of my favorite races in the NUE series so far this year.  I hope to be back again next year.”

Rounding out the podium and taking third, Roger Masse (Stokesville, Shenandoah), finished in 8:17:38.

Click here for full results

Click here for event photos (by Bryan Lewis of Cutaway USA)

What’s next on the NUE Epic and Marathon Series? NUE Pierre’s Hole in Alta, WY on August 4th, 2018. Click here for info on Pierre’s Hole.

Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge

Anthony and Daigle Conquer Carrabassett

Written by: Ryan O’Dell

Located in the beautiful Carrabassett Valley of Northern Maine at Sugar Loaf Ski Area, The eighth annual (CBCC) Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge 100k joined the NUE Marathon Series in 2017 witnessing tremendous growth. According to race director, Warren Gerow, “the event has evolved a lot since 2011 when the 100k was a two lap course that was stitched together with mostly old single-track and double track. We’ve seen tremendous growth in the past few years; 2015 187 people registered online, this year, the race has grown to about 500 racers.” In addition to the NUE 100k distance, CBCC also includes shorter distances of 50k and 25k plus kids races.

During the past seven years, approximately $750,000 has been spent building mountain bike trails in the Carrabassett Region. The goal is to construct an iconic mountain bike trail network that is on everybody’s “must-ride” list. To date, there is approximately eighty miles of riding for all abilities. This includes miles of super flowy, machine-built singletrack and old-school style trails that have been carved out with hand tools and sweat. Profits from the race go towards construction and maintenance of new trails.

 

Women’s Open

Anthony Wins!

Crystal Anthony, Liv Cycling, won the Women’s race finishing in 5:44:59, her first NUE win of the season!

Following her second place finish at Cohutta and her first NUE win at the Mohican 100k this spring, Lara Richards, Little Fire Cycles, finishes second in 6:11:19. “This year has been a great year of racing for me. I have really enjoyed doing the NUE series. It seems that every race the weather has been wonderful and each location seems to be more beautiful than the last.

However, since having to DNF due to a mechanical at Damascus, I was definitely not going into the Carrabassett Challenge with much confidence.  And after the 20 hour drive from Georgia to Maine, I was contented with just enjoying my race, doing my best and finishing where I may.

Bacon with chocolate drizzle to power riders on course.

At the start of the race Kaitlyn and Crystal both took off fast and I thought I was sure not to see either of them again. I was not too far along when Bryna passed me strong on a climb of rocky switch backs putting me in 4th. I was able to keep her in my vision for the first 18 miles or so and was able to pass her, while charging down a steep downhill. But not for long, she passed me back soon after and this time I was not able to keep up.

At this point I found myself riding with the same group for several miles. I road chill and paced myself accordingly. I did not think I would make it onto the podium. But even still I was having a crazy fun time on the trails and the ever changing terrain. Even if I finished last, I would not have regretted this race at all.

The Carrabassett Maine trails offered a more challenging course than I expected and kept me engaged throughout. I enjoyed the twisty sections, moving in out of the rocks. I enjoyed getting to ride up the Widowmaker to and through the ski resort. There were longer and steeper climbs than I anticipated. The downhills were also a blast and so much of the single trek was fast, fun, and flowy.

I was picking up speed in a level area of single trek, just enjoying my ride, when I noticed a female rider ahead of me. I could not believe it!  I told the male rider just in front, “to the left”.  I was going to catch my competition. At that point, the race became a race to me again.  I was off and was able to catch and pass Kaitlyn before exiting that section of single track but I knew I had to keep pushing. I could tell she was a strong rider and knew if I slacked off at all she would be right on top of me. I think I was able to put a little distance between us after a long climb through a clearing.

After this came Birthday Hill which I bombed down fast as I could and it was here I unknowingly passed Bryna as well. She road in behind me from the aid station from on top of the hill. I only noticed her as we exited on to the gravel. She got in front of me at the u-turn and, from there, we road together for many miles passing each other now and then. I still, at this point, thought she would get away from me before the race was over and I would finish third but I was able to break from her after a short stretch of gravel and then the last climb of single track switchbacks. It was hard for me to keep a decent pace at this point, I was getting very tired and was waiting for her sneak behind me. I gained some speed on some fun downhill which was a nice break and helped push to finish the race and take the second spot.

I did not see Cathryn at all during the entire race and I am proud to finish second to someone so strong. I am also grateful to be able to race with such amazing female athletes as Bryna and Kaitlyn.

NEMBA and the volunteers did a terrific job setting up this race.  Many thanks to Little Fire Cycles and Adventure Cycles for making sure my bike and wheels are race worthy and Rhinohead for my awesome gloves. See everyone soon at the next NUE race!”

Four minutes later, last year’s race winner, Bryna Blanchard, BMB Racing, was third at 6:15:06. Blanchard is a top contender for the NUE Marathon Series title with second place finishes at both Mohican and Iron Mountain this year. “Another fantastic NUE race happened last Saturday, this time in the Carrabassett Valley wilderness of Maine. The weather and trail conditions were perfect, much different from last year’s mud and pouring rain on the start line. The level of competition had also taken a step up from last year.

Two very accomplished women from the west coast, Crystal Anthony and Kaitlyn Boyle, pushed the pace from the start. I love racing this course, the constantly changing terrain, long climbs and descents keep me engaged and distracts from the exhausting number of hours it takes to complete. I raced hard and felt good, passing Kaitlyn on the long exposed midpoint climb to move myself into second. Super strong Lara Richards and I rode together on and off, trading places back and forth for much of the race until she dropped me for good and rode away on the final long double track climb. The highlight of my race was riding with Lara, trying to capitalize on my strengths and minimize my weaknesses to stay ahead or in contact with her. Not sure if I went out too hard or didn’t fuel properly but the last five miles were absolute survival, suffering and going nowhere fast.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with finishing third in such a strong field of women. While my good friend and world class racer Crystal easily took the win, less than eight minutes separated 2nd through 4th place. At the end, I was spent, all my strength, mental focus, and strategizing was left out on the course. Every race is a learning experience and I have two weeks to makes some tweaks and prepare to the next one in PA. This was my most challenging day on the bike so far this year, and quite possibly the most fun!”

 

Men’s Open

2018 Marc-André Daigle wins, setting a new course record!

37-year-old Marc-André Daigle, Garneau/Pivot Cycles OTE Canada, was first overall, earning his first NUE win completing the 100k course in 4:54:15, setting a new course record, the first racer to finish sub five hours!

Custom syrup bottles for race finishers!

Four minutes back, Mathieu Belanger-Barrette, Pivot Cycles OTE Canada, gets second at 4:58:03. “I wasn’t expecting such a fast start especially knowing that we were about to shred singletrack for 5+ hours. The pace was sustained and even exaggerated for a while and we finally got settled around km 60. Marc-André and I were in front and we couldn’t see the chase group. I was starting to see double when Marco pulled a big attack. It was way too much to handle. As I tried to catch him back, I clipped my pedal on a hidden rock and crashed quite hard on my ribs.

I was able to keep my second place untouched even though I slowed down quite seriously after the crash. The course was insanely good, not too much climbing but a lot of technical section to distance the riders.”

Two minutes later, 2017 Race Winner, Andy Scott, Riverside Racing, took third at 5:00:08, sixteen minutes faster than last year.

 

Singlespeed

2018 Kramer wins the SS Race!

Shane Kramer, Placid Planet/Barkeater Trail, won the Single Speed race to finish 5:35:29. “After hearing several of my friends talk about how great the riding was in Carrabassett Valley, I knew I had to add this race to my calendar. I’ve always been a slow starter and showing up to the line late didn’t help me any this past weekend. I was probably in 100th place leaving the start and maybe 80th by the time we hit the tight singletrack. Patience was the name of the game while I waited for every opportunity to pass. As we got to the condos on Sugarloaf I heard someone counting off riders as we went by “…48, 49, 50…” making up ground but still a long way to go. I finally caught up to a group with Peter Bradshaw and Matt Sousa just after the 1st aid station on the climb up Buckshot.

I was racing on a borrowed frame from Solace Cycles that I just built up on Wednesday before the race. The frame fit and rode great but didn’t have any water bottle mounts. I don’t like riding with a hydration pack so I only had one water bottle in a fanny pack. This meant I had to stop and fill bottles at every aid station. Not the best race tactic.

I yo-yoed for quite a while with Peter and Matt. Matt told me that Doug Thorp was still up ahead somewhere. I don’t know Doug but heard he was a strong racer and figured he had 1st place already wrapped up. So, after finally getting a gap from Matt and Peter, I was pretty surprised to come up behind Doug a couple of miles before the 3rd aid station. I made a pass but he passed me back as I stopped to fill my only water bottle. I caught and passed him again on the fast gravel out and back section. I think mainly because I was pushing a bigger gear, 34×19. This section also allowed me to see that Peter and Matt were still right there. So, although, my legs were showing signs of cramping I tried to keep the pace up and decided to skip the water refill at the last aid station and push through to the finish. I’m so stoked to come away with a win at such a great event.

Four minutes later, Peter Bradshaw, Mad Alchemy/Zanconato, took second at 5:39:28. “Start was quick into singletrack and super fun. Lots of people but it moved well. Weather was cool and just got a few sprinkles right as we got going. Doug seemed to have a great start and was well ahead. I was riding just behind Sousa for the open miles through all the fun stuff. Once the race opened up to the gravel climbs we were joined by Shane and a bunch of people from other categories. We kept a pretty large group until maybe halfway up the large climb in the middle of the race and Shane rode away.  Sousa and I rallied pretty well to the top but split. I connected with another rider and he pulled me along for a long way along a great river trail. I saw Doug and Shane riding together at the turn around, then later caught Doug and tried to chase down Shane but he was flying. Fun day, singletrack we rode looked great, monster climbs, sketchy skimobile descents, and a river crossing! Gearing was 30×18 and I was pretty happy with that.”

Three minutes later, Doug Thorp, Colonial Bicycle Company, finished third at 5:42:21. “To fully understand why I ended up on the podium you need to understand two things; I’m addicted to cycling and I’m broke. This was my second NUE single speed race, and truly my third SS marathon mountain bike race ever. My journey began in Pisgah in April where I was JRA and ended up bashing my carbon wheel and squishy bike just days before Big Frog for which my girlfriend was registered and I was still only toying with the idea. With my squishy bike in the emergency ward, I only had one option. I had to race my cobbled together SS which was an old On-One 456 26” setup like a dirt jumper. So with the option to race Open off the table I was more inclined to race but still unsure if I was up to the task of slogging for 65 miles in Tennessee. I did some reconnaissance the day before with a few friends who had flown in for the race and felt it was within my ability to finish. The race started slow and ended well with me getting stronger throughout and moving from 13th to 7th in the last 10 miles. I ended up losing a sprint for 6th, but was elated that my first marathon SS race went so well. The only question I had was could I do better? I was hooked.

Brimming with confidence I registered for my local race the Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge knowing full well that this race was full of both Backcountry and challenges. My race morning got a little thrown off since I had forgotten my 2toms chamois sheets; I was desperately searching for anything that would keep me from destroying my undercarriage. I found my Shimano bleed kit in my trunk and slathered on some green mineral oil and was hoping for the best. I rolled up to the starting line late and found a friend that let me squeeze in. He told me he just applied his own sheet, and was worried his hands were now too slippery to hold his bars. “5 minutes to start.” ~Announcer. I sprinted over to his car and went full sloppy seconds on his 2toms sheet, rolled back to the start line at peace and waited for the gun. Right there my race was saved.

“Bang” we were off! The first couple turns are important at every race but hitting that single track before the rest can save you minutes in the overall. I fell back to somewhere in the high 30s or low 40s before making it to the first real climb. After the first 10 miles I was only 6 minutes back on the open leaders. I was feeling great and kept just spinning up the climbs and letting her buck on the descents. I was sitting in the 20s overall and was really feeling the flow.

Across the 30k mark at the aid station I was told I was in the lead just before heading out on the 5 mile climb. I felt strong and was forcing myself to keep up on my nutrition. Greg Jancitis who was recovering from an early mechanical went by me on a power section like a freight train. I was baffled by his speed; he was kind enough to let me know I had a solid lead over the next single speeder. Little did he know I was four miles away from the “Lake Placid Kid” (aka Shane) from blowing my doors off.

The course had some great water crossings and the last one had an un-rideable log at the top of the bank which was about 4 feet wide. Looking back and watching four riders hurdle the log and seeing the absence of a rear derailleur on one was disheartening. It was now a race or so I thought at the time. Shane and I rode together for the next few miles until I went past him at the aid station. Shane quickly filled a bottle and gave chase. The best and worst part of this course is around mile 44. It’s an out and back power section on a dirt road, where you can see 5 minutes ahead and 5 minutes behind you. As I found out the hard way my cadence of 120 couldn’t match the gearing and legs of Shane. I then was doing damage control wondering if all these other hammerheads that saw me spinning my wee little legs could see how much I was hurting. Turns out one other did and also had the legs and will to do something about it. Bradshaw caught me after mile 50, somewhere in the willywacks on some OG single track. For the most part I kept up to him, until I didn’t.

I had one last trick up my sleeve, a trail called Crommet’s which is a half an hour climb at mile 60 (Yeah, 60! If you’re quick at math you’ll realize this was not as billed; a 100k.) I kept going the best I could with will and legs starting to fade I finally hit the last aid station just before the climb and started pushing my way by the masters racers up Crommet’s. At the top I was truly hurting with my stomach turning sour, my Garmin reading 65 and my legs all but spent. Heading down Oak Knoll, a heavily armored trail which I did my best to vibrate my way down, I didn’t manage to catch Bradshaw and believe he stayed strong. The last piece of this course has you cross the mighty Carrabassett River via a small footbridge. However this year’s big spring storms took it out and we were forced to ford the Carrabassett on foot. Running with my bike in knee deep cold river water was the highlight of the day. I finished better than I could have hoped and raced my hardest with limited mental mistakes.

If you’re not from around here and want to disprove the local colonialism “You can’t get there from here.” Mark your calendars for the hardest NUE in the Northeast.

 

Masters 50+

Golet gets his first NUE Win of the 2018 Season!  

NUE Epic Series Champion, Greg Golet, Team Chico, earned his first win of the season now competing in the NUE Marathon Series.  Golet completed the 100k course in 5:34:26. “This trip was a homecoming of sorts for me having spent many of my vacations as a kid alpine skiing at Sugarloaf and hiking in the Bigelows. And with my mom still living on nearby Eustis ridge, the race was the perfect excuse for a visit. The plan also made sense for my brother and best childhood friend who came from Alaska and Colorado.

I’m terrible at pack starts and group riding in general, and had a pretty bad start jamming a stick in my derailleur trying to pass in a brushy area, and otherwise wasting energy being spastic when I should have just been patient and waited for the course to open up. On the first sustained climb I got past my friend/rival Jeff who I’ve battled with the last couple years in the Epic series.

After traversing the resort we hit a section of steep narrow trail where a wrong line choice sent me flying over the bars. My bike cartwheeled, but somehow I landed on my feet. With no apparent bike issues or injuries I was able to ride on.

All day I was blown away by the varied terrain and trail conditions. Coming from dry California, it felt so good to ride in the moist forests.

On the out and back I saw Jeff was riding fast with a group just a few minutes back, and so kept pushing, skipping aid stops even though I was low on water and out of food, but then wondering if the little bits of time I saved would be lost from slowing down if my intermittent leg cramps worsened, which didn’t seem unlikely given how dehydrated I was.

But on the last long climb I felt good, and the oak knoll descent was pure joy. However, at the bottom I relaxed too soon and went off course. Luckily a guy not far behind me figured it out quickly and soon we were back on track.

Before the race started, the guy who set up the course welcomed us there “as family”. That resonated with me, and I felt lucky to have so many friends and family there to share the experience with. Maine rocks, and it’s awesome to see such a vibrant and quality mountain bike  scene developing in Carrabassett Valley.

Next up Pierre’s Hole!

Three minutes later, 2016 NUE Epic Series Masters Champion, Jeff Clayton, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute, now competing for the NUE Marathon Series title, finished second at 5:37:21. “My wife Jodi and I arrived at Carrabassett Valley on Thursday afternoon after several days of spirited hiking in Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia and Acadia NP. I was looking forward to riding some rugged trails, but unsure how my tired legs would do. My potent rival, Scott Burrill, graciously offered to share his slope side condo minutes from the race start….it is not at all unusual in mountain bike racing for the fiercest competitors to become great friends.

On Friday morning race director, Warren Gerow, gave Scott and me a riding tour of some of the course, which was very helpful because it covered some of the more technical single track and sketchy “rake and ride” sections. Race start was pretty typical sprint for the trail, with the usual silly risk taking for very little gain. Not wanting an early crash or quick burn out, I was content to settle in behind the large front pack.

About 15 minutes in, Greg Golet came cruising by and I got on his wheel. I managed to stay on his wheel for about 15 minutes while he passed several riders. Just after we passed Scott, Greg kicked the pace up, I fell off and Scott passed me back. For the next couple of hours I plugged away, my technical riding getting more comfortable and pushing a big gear on every road climb.

I finally caught Scott on the Esker trail but he was having none of that and gunned it dropping all but a few of a train on riders I’d brought up. Barely hanging on through the poplar stream trail, I knew I needed to drop him (and have any chance of catching Greg) on the road and/or Crommets trail after aid 4. I was never sure I had dropped him because I was passing many of the 50k racers and it was hard to see who was behind.

The lady who let me know five miles to go put a smile on my face, and I made sure to have fun but be cautious on the switchback descent to the narrow gauge trail. From there it was a nice cool river crossing and hammer up the final single track, never giving up hope of catching Greg. I really enjoyed the race and appreciate the effort and hospitality of the CRNEMBA crew and my new Mainiac friends.”

Seven minutes later, NUE Marathon Series defending champion, Scott Burrill, Bikeman.com, finished third in 5:44:25. “This was my fifth or sixth time riding the Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge and by far the best. The race organizers really nailed it this year and we were graced with perfect racing weather and trail conditions!

Coming into the race after two weeks of nursing a summer cold, my strategy was to go in slow and steady and to keep an eye on Jeff Clayton. The first 20 miles or so went well. I got ahead of Jeff after the first gnarly downhill from West Mountain. I knew, though, that he’s a steam roller and gets faster as the race goes along.

Through aid 2 I saw no sign of him and kept on trucking up the notorious 4 mile dirt road climb.  When I made the turn onto the Esker trail I was feeling good and maintained a fast steady pace toward aid 3 at “Birthday Hill”.  Looking over my shoulder on a long power line stretch, I saw no one behind and felt fairly secure; surely I had a big lead on him by now? Nevertheless, a couple miles later, a group caught me including Jeff; so much for the gap. We left aid 3 together and headed out.

The group worked together on the out and back and then into the “Sticky Trail”, a technical stretch of ST I know well. I led the group and we whittled it down to three quickly. Unfortunately, I blew a lot of energy in there and felt it climbing to the Poplar Hut. I followed Jeff and another racer into aid 4 feeling pretty blown and knowing I had the very long climb up “Crommets” to the Stratton Hut area. Sure enough, I had no gas going up and watched as the two rode away from me, so, another lesson in the never ending course of XXCM racing.

The race was blast with fantastic competition, amazing turnout, stellar management and killer conditions! The aid station crews were, as always, simply awesome. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!”

 

WHATS NEXT: NUE Epic Series heads to Bend, Oregon on July 21 for the High Cascades 100, a race around the volcano of Mount Bachelor. One week later, NUE Marathon and Epic Series racers will head for the challenging hills and rocks of State College, PA for the Wilderness 101.

Mitas 4 Islands Stage Race – Croatia

4 Islands Mountain Bike Stage Race: Racing from the New World to the Old

Written by: Shannon Boffeli

Just over a year ago Jen and I finished our last mountain bike stage race, Titan Tropic Cuba, two weeks ago we went from what felt like a developing civilization in Cuba to racing in the earliest expanse of western civilization; I can’t imagine a greater contrast from out last stage race to the Mitas 4 Islands mountain bike stage race in Croatia. From racing in the untouched interior of Cuba we transitioned to racing on trails built in the Roman era; the start of stage one traverses through castle ruins for shit’s sake. A castle built well before discovery of the Americas, when the earth was still thought to be flat. How’s that for a contrast.

Despite the differences in location there were several constants shared between this and other stage races we’ve done, the most important being: incredible trail riding.

Riders roll through the ruins of castle Baska – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

The 4 Islands organization know they have a special gem in their hands and they want to share it with all their mountain bike friends. From the opening climb through the castle Baska ruins on day one to the seaside trails and beach finish on the final day in Losinj, 4 Islands serves up an all-you-can-eat feast of dope singletrack, breathtaking views, rowdy descents, and steep steep steep climbing. This is an amazing race but you best be ready to throw down because 4 Islands will test you in everyway.

The 4 Islands stage race follows a course through historic Croatia hitting 4 of the over 1,000 islands in the Eastern European nation. Tucked just across the Adriatic sea from Italy, Croatia is a beautiful country with a rich mixture of old world charm, modern European comforts, and post-Soviet culture.

Riders are never far from coastline and port cities at 4 Islands – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

Each stage of 4 Islands begins on a new island starting with Krk then moving on to Rab, Cres, and finally Losinj. Participants have a choice of staying on a yacht, the race hotel package, or arranging their own lodging.

The race is a team event so each racer needs a teammate. Teammates have to stay within 2 minutes of each other throughout each stage. The race hosts roughly 300 teams during the 4-day race.

Jen Hanks and Shannon Boffeli ride in the Mixed category at 4 Islands stage race – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

4 Islands is a UCI event so it’s guaranteed some of Europe’s fastest riders will be in attendance. This year accomplished UCI riders like Fabian Geiger and Esther Suss were pushing the pace up front and although you won’t be starting with them, unless you have your UCI license, the men’s and women’s times will definitely be measured against these superstars.

There is no doubt 4 Islands will provide what you are looking for in a European adventure. Incredible scenery featuring everything from hidden inlets and secluded coves bathed in the pristine turquoise waters of the Adriatic, towering mountain scapes of jagged, jostled limestone, to medieval cobblestoned villages seeping with old world charm. 4 Islands will not disappoint.

Team Ghost navigates the rocky singletrack in Croatia – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

And if challenging yourself on the bike is your goal well you’re in for a real treat with this race. Without a doubt Croatia offers up some of the very best riding I’ve seen in all of Europe. And I don’t mean groomed flow trails. I’m talking about narrow, rough, rowdy singletrack that never lets up from the start of stage one to the final beach on Losinj.

Unlike some other European stage races, 4 Islands is a real mountain bikers race and you won’t do well if you can’t ride your bike. Croatia’s unique geology leads to a land covered in baby head, limestone rocks and when I say they are everywhere, they are literally everywhere. The porous limestone on the Croatian islands, called karst, allows water to seep through the rock rather than run off in streams and rivers. This slowly erodes and dissolves the top layer of sediment exposing an ocean of baby heads. Over centuries the Croatians have used these stones to build their paths, trails and endless stone walls that line everything, the only clear land visible is because some intrepid Croat cleaned away all the rubble using it to create an endless maze of rocky ramparts (thank you Les Brown, professor of geology and 4 Islands finisher.)

Riders cross the Moonsurface on stage 1 -Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

What I’m trying to say is riding in Croatia is a blast! The difficulty level of riding at 4 Islands was a real treat. Each day you are being challenged not just by distance, fatigue, and competitors but by the trail itself. Full suspension is a must and even a dropper post would be a welcomed addition for most riders who find themselves hurling their way down rock strewn descents with 5-foot stone walls on each side funneling the riders through 10 to 20 minute descents that feel like one never-ending rock garden.

Despite having 600 racers on course at the same time and an abundance of singletrack riding, the racers rarely encountered bottlenecks or slowing on course because of slow moving riders. The 4 Islands crew does an admirable job of dividing riders into 4 different starting waves and because racers start most days right from the ferry it means you often face a brutally steep climb right out of the gate that does a great job of stringing out the pack and allowing riders to attack the singletrack when they approach it. A real treat in any big stage race.

4 Islands climbs are steep steep steep – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

Outside of the racing activity the 4 Islands staff are nice as hell, as were all Croatians we encountered, they will bend over backwards to help you out even if what you actually need may get lost in translation a bit. The food provided on course and at the race hotels is fantastic and plentiful with a wide variety of meal options that made it easy even for a gluten-free and vegetarian racer to stay well fed throughout.

 

Our Experience

Mitas 4 Islands stage race is our fifth stage race competing as a mixed team, male and female partners. We arrived in the start village of Baska on the island of Krk two days before the race. Just enough time to get bikes built, pick up our registration, ride some of the opening stage, and take a quick tour of the Baska harbor.

Baska harbor

One of the more exciting aspects of racing in an international event is having no idea who you will be facing out on the trail or how high up in the race you’ll be. It’s all a mystery until the start.

Day one began with a big climb of about 1,200’ right out of the gate. The pack spread out quickly and we found ourselves surrounded by about five other mixed teams heading up the long first climb that empties out onto a rubble-strewn mountain top called the “Moonsurface”. The riding gets tough here as you weave your way through fields of baby heads. Jen surged ahead through the rough riding and moved us into second place for a bit before settling back in to fourth.

4 Islands offers up some of the best singletrack Europe has to offer. Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

We spent the rest of the day chasing a Belgian duo who would give up time on the techy parts but make up time on the roads using a cable that allowed the male rider to tow his partner in the open sections.

We crossed the finish pretty happily in fourth place not far behind the Belgians. We had spent about four hours weaving our way around Krk. All the talk at the finish line focused on the abundance of gnarly descending throughout the day as I think everyone was happily surprised by the quality of the trail riding.

 

Day Two

The morning immediately had a different feel. It was raining. An early transfer to the island of Rab offered no respite from the rain as it was coming down in sheets by the time the race started.

cold, wet, and muddy was the name of the game on day 2 – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

We were instantly drenched from a combination of the persistent rain and water pooling on the road and trails. Once again we opened up with steep climbs but the rain and cold deadened our legs a bit. Once again we were battling with the Belgian squad but without the tow cable this time.  As it turns out, towing is illegal and they were given a 30-minute time penalty after stage 1. They seemed to have a bit more juice than us and, I’m going to presume, perhaps a bit more experience with cold and rainy conditions coming from Belgium.

About an hour in, the second place team (MT Zoom) were on the side of the trail with a mechanical and despite not feeling our best we were excited to be in third again.

Rab was one the most scenic days of riding in 4 Islands as the trail skirted along endless miles of shoreline within inches of the sea offering riders views of the incredible hidden coves and inlets around the island. Enjoying the scenery was tough as water, mud, and more water poured over us all day long. The stage finished with a massive descent into the resort town of Lopar which our drenched bodies were unable to enjoy; as the descending just made us colder.

Riders begin the final rainy descent into Lopar on day 2 – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

After crossing the line most riders quickly retreated back to the port where dry clothes were waiting. Recovery was critical on this stage.

We were excited to finish third again but lost over 18 minutes to the Belgians. Things could always be worse though as we later found out that Ant White from the MT Zoom team had broken a crank arm and, incredibly, rode over half of the race with one leg! Mountain bike stage racers are a tough bunch.

Mixed team leaders Thomas Weschta and Rebecca Robisch power through the rain to win stage 2 – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

As difficult as the day was the aftermath was almost as bad. Cleaning bikes, cleaning bodies, cleaning clothes, getting warm, eating, cleaning bikes again, replacing brake pads and cables, drying shoes, and preparing for the next stage left very little time for recovery and rain was, again, in the forecast.

 

Day Three

Mercifully we woke to clear blue skies and much warmer temperatures the morning of stage 3. We prepared for another ferry transfer to Cres. The location of the day’s stage. As we boarded the ferry we were told the race mechanics had run out of brakepads overnight and anyone needing new pads would have to wait until we landed at the port to get them. The exhausted race mechanics had been working until 5 in the morning getting bikes ready for riders the next day but a shortage of brakepads meant either you would be going without or frantically work some of your own bike magic when we hit shore.

Riders enjoy the return of sunshine on stage 3 -Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

Luckily, I used the 2 pairs of pads we had with us on Jen’s bike the night before. That meant I only needed stoppers for my bike.

We hit the shore with about 50 minutes before the start. After navigating a long line of distressed racers I finally got my pads and had just enough time to change the front set of pads while we waited on the start line; only having front brakes is better than no brakes at all and there were plenty of people who would be going without.

We started off the ferry deck and immediately up a 1,200-foot leg-burner. After that we were dumped again into fabulous Croatian singletrack flowing through vineyards and fields of olive trees, lined with rock walls of course. The warm weather and sun helped to fuel us to a strong start sitting comfortably in third on the stage in front of the Belgians this time.

Race leaders bounce between another of the many stonewalled descents in 4 Islands – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

Midway through we hit a long stretch of two-track hugging the Cres coastline. A breathtaking track but wide and flat enough that it allowed our rivals to catch up just as we hit the base of the day’s steepest climb. About a mile long and well over a 20% grade for long sections the Belgians attacked early. We were able to close the gap back down and when it kicked up again we countered their attack and briefly got a gap of our own before they brought us back. They launched to final counter attack just as the climb crested and that was it. We were in damage control mode again.

We rode strong the rest of the day enjoying the dry trail, tacky dirt, and endless Croatian singletrack.

Race leaders charge through the cobbled alleys of Osor – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

We finally finished the stage charging down a long section of cobblestoned streets and narrow passageways through the medieval town of Osor.

Despite losing more time to our rivals we really enjoyed the day and felt good about our performance on the 4 Island’s queen stage on Cres. Finishing in Osor was icing on the cake. Cobblestoned streets, canals, a rusty old drawbridge, all in the shadows of centuries old steeples and facades made an amazing stage that much more memorable. With big smiles, we boarded the bus for our final transfer to our finishing hotel on Losinj.

 

Last Day

Another warm day and no transfers made for a more relaxing feel to this final morning of 4 Islands. We were a bit nervous though wanting to hold onto our second place in the GC and knowing we only had just over 5 minutes to work with. With a shorter stage on tap it seemed possible especially if we could get off to a quick start like we had the previous day.

The start of stage 4 in Mali Losinj – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

After a mile or two cruise to the day’s start venue in Mali Losinj we found ourselves right in the middle of a perfectly picturesque scene in the quaint port city. Imagine the most idyllic European seaside town square and that’s Mali Losinj. Cobblestone streets lined with cafes and coffeehouses, majestic sailboats resting in crystalline blue waters set the scene for the final day’s start.

The last stage was the shortest but featured two very steep climbs at the start and a long flat run into the finish line following the coastline.

The start was fast and our Belgian rivals managed to get in front of us as the climbing started. It was tough to enjoy another warm, clear day as we pushed hard to limit the time gap.

One big climb down, we reached the bottom of the final big ascent of the race. A beast of a mountain that starts hurting before you even start. It’s so steep you can see the final climb for a half kilometer before actually getting there. The climb itself is so steep they recently had to pour two parallel ribbons of concrete running from top to bottom to help the 4×4 trucks get up. Pick one ribbon at the bottom and stay on it if you hope to have any chance of riding your way to the top. You need every bit of your 50 tooth eagle rear cassette to get up this thing.

Most riders are forced to walk on the epically steep final climb of stage 4 -Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

As painful a climb as this was it lifted our spirits a bit as we could see the Belgian duo in front of us and they were off walking.

We crested the climb and attacked the usual mixture of rock-strewn singletrack, walled descents, and seaside walkways literally giving everything we had to get to the finish line.

We spent no time enjoying the incredibly scenic final kilometers, running just feet from the Adriatic, we were pushing with all we had for the finish line. When we finally crossed, it was a mixture of accomplishment and disappointment that waited for us as we were so happy to be on the podium but lost second place but just 21 seconds!

Riders celebrate the final day at Losinj – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

The disappointment quickly faded as we enjoyed another great post race meal and shared our stories with the new friends we made throughout the week.

4 Islands is an incredible race. It gives riders everything they could possibly want from a multi-day stage race; unrivaled scenery, tough competition, challenging course design with loads and loads of singletrack, friendly staff, and excellent food and sleeping accommodations. My two tricks for making your 4 Islands experience the best would be: pay the extra coin to stay on the boats during the race and take advantage of the race mechanics to service your bike each night (your legs will thank you for the extra time to recover).

Final podium of the mixed category with Jen Hanks and Shannon Boffeli in third – Photo courtesy of 4 Islands

 

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Whiskey Off-Road – Prescott, AZ

Keegan Swenson Wins in a Sprint on Whiskey Row While Annika Langvad Out Duels Chloe Woodruff

Keegan Swenson (Stan’s NoTubes/Pivot) closed down a gap on Howard Grotts (Specialized) in the final approach to Whiskey Row before out sprinting the US national champion to win by a bike length.

Previous marathon and cross country world champion Annika Langvad (Specialized) took a solo win in Prescott after handling challenges from past Whiskey champion Chloe Woodruff (Stan’s NoTubes/Pivot) and Erin Huck (CZ Racing).

Photo by: Kenny Wehn

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