One of the longest running and most successful national
mountain bike race series, the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series is entering
it’s 5th season. The NUE series is directed by Ryan O’Dell who also
manages the Mohican 100 in Loudonville
Ryan took a few moments to talk with us about the success of
the series and what makes the NUE such a unique and thriving feature of the
American mountain biking landscape. While other national series continue to
stagnate the NUE is flourishing, Ryan sheds some light on what keeps the NUE
Read Ryan’s full interview below.
MTB Race News -Why did you decide to organize the Kenda NUE series?
Ryan O’Dell - In
2002, when the Mohican 100 began, each of the few 100 miles races were
operating independently. As a racer and Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series
director, www.ombc.net, I suggested that we
tie these races together as a part of a new (hence NUE) national series.
A simple, straightforward plan was discussed with Chris
Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring of Virginia; Rick Plite, director of the
Lumberjack 100 in Michigan; and Cannondale factory racer, Garth Prosser. The
result of those discussions became a best of four race series consisting of the
most popular and well-managed 100 mile events in the US.
Several sponsors, early on, recognized the potential of what
we were doing and offered to help.
Kenda jumped in with both feet as our title sponsor from the
very beginning. Hammer Nutrition offered to become naming sponsor, providing all
NUE Series races with their all natural products. Pro Gold offered their endurance
quality lube for our aid stations. Endura offered custom jerseys for all NUE
Champions and Velocity, Yakima Racks, Ergon and others offered prizes to every
racer able to go the distance by completing four races.
In contrast to USA Cycling, we also agreed that NUE Series
sanctioning would not require racers to pay license fees. Every racer has equal
opportunity to enter and win, professional and amateur alike, without
purchasing a license from anyone.
MTB Race News - This season you added three new races
west of the Mississippi. Why the push to include more races out west?
Ryan O’Dell - It
is important that western racers have equal opportunity to complete the four
race minimum. With most NUE races selling out now, some in just hours or even a
few minutes, this has become increasingly important.
The addition of western venues has better balanced the
series geographically providing western racers an equal opportunity to compete
with less travel costs. More race
dates also means more flexibility for racers with busy schedules to complete
the four race minimum.
MTB Race News - What about these three races (Syllamo’s
Revenge, Pierre’s Hole, and Park City Point 2 Point) made them a good fit for
Ryan O’Dell - Each
of these three new venues have great reputations and management, in addition to
epic trails in scenically spectacular settings.
Syllamo’s Revenge, led by Race Director, Steve Parker, is a
very popular 50 mile race set in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas along a trail
designated epic by IMBA. This year, Steve added a 100k distance to allow a
limited number of racers the opportunity to compete in the longer, NUE Series, format.
The race sold out within minutes, however, for racers who were unable to get
in, don’t despair, Syllamo’s Revenge is planning to make arrangements that will
allow more racers to enter next season.
The Pierre’s Hole 100 takes place at Grand Targhee Ski Resort,
near Driggs, Idaho. It received rave reviews from racers last season, including
Kenda NUE Women’s Open Champion, Amanda Carey. The resort management has made a
great effort to offer racers not only a great race, but a first rate
I met with the organizers this past winter and experienced
Targhee’s amazing champagne powder snow, measured in feet, rather than inches.
Everyone I met at the resort was friendly and helpful. The resort and nearby
town of Driggs is made up of locals that have a cool, backcountry vibe that made
me wish I never had to leave. Racers are in for a real treat!
Park City, Utah hosted one of the first NUE Series races,
The E100, years ago, not long after hosting the Winter Olympics. One of the
most difficult courses in the series, the E100 boasted 18,627 vertical feet of
climbing over 100 miles that subsequently took me fourteen hours+ to complete. Only
about a third of the field finished the race then.
The organizers of the Park City Point to Point, P2P for
short, resurrected the race two years ago, including only the best portions of
what was an amazing racecourse, while making it a bit less "over the top” in
terms of difficulty. Besides primo singletrack and amazing views of the Wasatch
Mountain Range, the community of Park City is well suited to accommodate
visitors and even has a local television station that broadcasts local
MTB Race News - Where would you like to see the NUE
series in 5 years?
Ryan O’Dell - NUE
Racers can look forward to more amazing venues in a variety of geographic
regions, making the NUE Series even more doable for racers. Series cash awards alone have increased
by more than 400% since last year and media coverage continues to improve. Currently,
NUE is looking for a media partner that would like to offer comprehensive video
coverage of our increasingly popular events.
MTB Race News - Can anyone beat Jeff Schalk this year?
Ryan O’Dell - Jeff
Schalk, Trek Mountain Co-Op, has been "The Man” for three straight years now
and remains the undisputed favorite for the Men’s Open division, winning five
of the eight NUE Series races last season.
However, in what is, perhaps, a shadow of things to come
this year, Michigan’s Christian Tanguy, Team CF, won the final NUE Championship
race at the Shenandoah 100 last year, his first win, proving that he can compete
with Schalk, after finishing second to him at the Lumberjack 100, Wilderness
101, and the Fools Gold 100. At
Cohutta this year, it was Tanguy who, once again, took top honors.
Each NUE racecourse is unique and some of them play to the
advantages of local racers, including Josh Tostado, Bach Builders/Santa Cruz,
who resides high in the Rocky Mountains and continues to dominate the
Breckenridge 100. Tostado has shown improvement each year at other races as
well including third at the Mohican 100 in Ohio and the High Cascades 100 in
Oregon last year.
Another racer to watch is Michael Simonson of Michigan, Trek
29er Crew/SRAM/Stans No Tubes. Simonson had several top three finishes last
year and lead for most of the Cohutta 100 before flatting near the end of the
race. He is likely to stay in the hunt at the front of the pack.
A dark horse due to his possible bid for the Olympics next
year, Jeremiah Bishop, Cannondale, is always a threat and capable of winning
big races. If his schedule allows him to throw his hat into the ring this year,
expect great things to happen.
MTB Race News - What makes Jeff so dominant in this
Ryan O’Dell - In
approximately 500 B.C., Chinese General, Sun Tsu, reportedly stated, "If you
know yourself and you know the enemy, you need not fear the result of a hundred
In addition to his super human strength and endurance, Jeff
prepares himself and his equipment well, understands the nuances of each course,
knows his competitors and plans his race well. He is a professional in every
way and his experience as three time NUE Champion makes him the odds on
favorite again this year.
There are three other NUE Champions deserving of recognition
including Kenda’s Amanda Carey, Women’s Open Champion. She is off to another
great start this year with her second straight win at the Cohutta 100. However,
former NUE Women’s Champion Cheryl Sornsen, Team CF, won’t be cutting her any
slack in her effort to win back the NUE title.
At age 43, "The Pfluginator”, Singlespeed Champion Gerald
Pflug is a two time NUE Singlespeed Champion, off to another great start by winning
NUE #1 at Cohutta. However, 32 Matt
Ferrari of State College, Pa displayed the hard work he put in during the off
season with a close second at Cohutta, just ten minutes behind the champ.
Ferrari will likely continue to be
a formidable hurdle for Pflug’s attempt at a three-peat.
At age 51, Masters Champion, Robert Herriman, of Royal Oak
Michigan won his division outright last year before the final race at
Shenandoah. However, he is facing some tough competition this year from 50 year
old newcomers, Doug Andrews, of Mission Viejo, CA, winner at Cohutta and new
master racer, Roger Masse of Bethesda, MD.
Andrews was eager to promote www.projectrwanda.org, an
organization committed to furthering the economic development of Rwanda through
initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope.
MTB Race News - What has made the NUE series successful
when so many national race series have failed?
Ryan O’Dell - There
is really no mystery. The NUE Series represents what racers like me and many
others have wanted for years. A national series along the best and well managed
epic length racecourses in the US without unnecessary license requirements or
being required to attend every event. Every racer who shows up at the line of
an NUE Series race has equal opportunity to win and receive national
recognition. All racers who go the distance are ranked and rewarded.
MTB Race News - Have you ever considered making the NUE
events USA Cycling sanctioned? Why or why not?
Ryan O’Dell - NUE
Series races are selling out across the country, however, racers and race
directors alike are not clamoring for USA Cycling sanctioning which would add
unnecessary and additional fee’s and burdens to both? Go figure
NUE has become its own national sanctioning body that is a
real benefit to race directors who benefit from national media exposure along
with prizes from series sponsors that far outweigh the cost of admission. By
the way, 100% of that cost of admission is awarded to NUE series winners.
MTB Race News - Of the 11 races on the NUE schedule,
which one is the most difficult?
Ryan O’Dell - That
is often dependent on weather and race conditions.
The Breckenridge 100, held mostly above 9000 feet, is an
added difficulty for flat landers like me. Last year, Cohutta, Mohican and the
Fool’s Gold 100 were all hammered by unusually heavy rains making the races extremely
MTB Race News - You
organize the Mohican 100. What kind of experience do you want Mohican riders to
come away with?
Ryan O’Dell - The
Mohican 100 racecourse is a single one hundred mile loop spanning four counties
through some of the most remote areas in Ohio. Our stated team goal is to help
as many racers as possible to finish.
I hope racers will be awed by the natural beauty, stoked by our
world-class singletrack, and quenched by Ohio’s finest brewery, Great Lakes
Brewing, who is reportedly bringing a truck of hoppy goodness out to this
Last year, our final finisher, Mike Dietlin turned 69 and
confided to me that Mohican was on his bucket list. Crossing the finish line,
he told us that the race was the most difficult of his life. If our race can live
up to the expectations of racers like Mike, then we’ve achieved our goal. Mike
Dietlin was the first to register this year.
Racers who plan to enter are urged to register soon at www.mohican.net. Last year, more than 600
racers took the Mohican challenge! This year, there are already more racers
registered than last year at this time.
MTB Race News - Do you think providing a GPS map of a
100-mile race is important or is good course marking sufficient?
Ryan O’Dell - GPS
mapping is available and helpful to racers, especially when signs and trail
markings have been known to disappear at times.
MTB Race News - Where
did the inspiration for the Mohican 100 come from?
Ryan O’Dell - I
was approached ten years ago by racers, including Garth Prosser, who suggested
that the OMBC Series should offer a 100 mile race in addition to our 24 Hours
of Mohican held in September. At that time, many endurance racers began to prefer
the 100 mile format to going around in circles at 24 Hour races.
My first 100 mile race was the Wilderness 101, a rocky
roller coaster ride near State College, Pennsylvania directed by Chris Scott. Great
course, great brew, great vibe.
Prosser and I designed the Mohican course to incorporate
many of our favorite design features from several popular races, including the
101 and La Ruta. One of the highlights is a flowing 24 mile singletrack loop
around the gorge in the 5000 acre Mohican State Forest, recently chosen as best
in Ohio by Mountain Bike Action magazine. Since then, our local community of
Loudonville has been very supportive in much the same way that Leadville, CO
supports the Leadville 100.
MTB Race News - What’s the best thing about being a race
director? What’s the worst?
Ryan O’Dell - From
my perspective, the most rewarding aspect of being a race director is witnessing
hundreds of happy faces from volunteers and racers alike. It’s a party-like
atmosphere but, behind the scenes, it takes a team of committed, experienced
volunteers paying close attention to detail in order to make it happen.
Conversely, the worst is when racers are unhappy, lost, or
worse, injured. Our goal is for racers
to come away with a positive Mohican experience they will never forget.
Click Here to view our
coverage of the most NUE race the Cohutta 100