Big Frog 65: NUE Marathon Series #2

On April 28, 2018 Roost Racing, LLC held the Cohutta 100 (NUE Epic Series) , Big Frog 65 (NUE Marathon Series), and Old Copper 20 in Ducktown, TN. This was stop number two on the 2018 National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) race schedule.  These races were held at the Ocoee Whitewater center, a venue that hosted the kayak/canoe slalom competitions at the 1996 Olympic games.  Nestled within the Cherokee National Forest racers traversed through sections of Brush Creek, the Tanasi Trail Systems and miles of scenic fire roads.

The Big Frog 65 packed over 8000 feet of climbing in just 65 miles.  Rain the previous day had some racers worried, but the trails were in prime condition. It was a little chilly at the start but the sun peaked out and warmed up to mid 60’s for most of the race. Couldn’t have asked for better racing weather!

Women’s Open

1st-Jen Toops (Pearl Izumi/Pivot Cycles) 2nd-Lara Richards (Little Fire Cycles) 3rd-Danielle Slaton

Toops gets her second consecutive NUE Big Frog 65 Win!

The  2017 NUE Marathon winner Jen Toops (Pearl Izumi/Pivot Cycles) wins the women’s open in 2018 with a time of 5:23:24.

“This was my second time racing the Big Frog 65.  The weather was perfect for the race in the Mid 60’s, much better than last years humidity. From racing the previous year, I knew starting position and powering up that first road climb could make or break the race.  Going into the singletrack I was second, making sure I had the leader in  sight. The group I was with quickly became a congo line as we all rode each others wheels having no where to pass.  In hindsight this probably gave my legs the warmup they needed. It also allowed  some time to get used to my new Pivot Les 27.5 as we just finalized the build two days prior.  As we entered the first gravel climb I was now leading and worked hard on the ups and downs to maintain that lead.  I worked with several other racers through out the day and had a 40 minute PR from last year!” Next NUE race will be Mohican!

Finishing second was Lara Richards (Little Fire Cycles) 5:32:01.

“I have raced the Big frog 65 for past two years.  Both years I really enjoyed the race and thought the race officials did a great job.  This year the weather was perfect and condition of the trail was mostly good with an exception to trail by the river which was muddy and wet.  Tanasi trail system offers some great rooty single trek. And the graveI flows good with some steep climbs and pretty views. My goal was to get 5th or better and was not expecting to get 2nd at all. I beat my previous years time by more then an hour.

I think preriding, fitness and my new bike contributed to my improvement from the previous year. I had no significant mechanicals and only wrecked once with no injury.  I started the race fast but feel like I did slow down to a steady pace during the second half.  All the racers were friendly and made the race even more enjoyable.  Even though it was a grind, it was still just overall just a great raceday!”

Just a couple minutes back from second was Danielle Slaton 5:33:54.

“I stayed in the second group on the road climb and went into the singletrack as the 3rd female behind Jen and Mary. I was by myself which was unusual and wasn’t pushing too hard since I knew it was a long race. Lara and Hallie caught me and the 3 of us rode together though the end of the first singletrack and across the bridge. I stayed in 5th place for the Bear Paw climb and Riverview singletrack, conserving energy where I could and staying behind Hallie (we could still see Lara about 10 seconds up). Once we hit the forest roads, I managed to pass Hallie but could no longer see Lara. Eventually, I caught Mary and rode with her until she flatted on the big frog loop. That put me in 3rd with only Lara and Jen ahead. I kept riding hard since I didn’t know how long it’d take Mary to fix the flat. The result was better than I’d expected, after training for only 14 weeks with Jeremiah Bishop. I was hoping for at least a top 5 and exceeded my expectations! My best result in this race previously was 9th in 2016 and I cut 20 minutes off my time!

Sponsors: My education and full time job, haha :) And my husband who’s the best mechanic in the world! I’m a Vanderkitten VIP too.”

Next NUE Race: None, doing BC Bike Race in July!

Men’s Open

1st-Andrew Dillman (Think Green) 2nd-Elliott Baring (Pivot Cycles/Baring Performance) 3rd-Chris Tries (The Bike Shop) 4th-Thomas Turner (Jamis Factory Team) 5th-Chris Shannon (Think Green-Bicycle Face)

Andrew Dillman wins NUE Big Frog 65!

After a second place finish in 2017, Andrew Dillman (Think Green) wins the Men’s open in 4:16:56.

Thirteen minutes later, last years winner, Elliott Baring (Pivot Cycles/Baring Performance) took second in 4:30:41.

Chris Tries (The Bike Shop) finished third in 4:32:16.

“I race for The Bike Shop in Johnson City and Industry Nine. I ended up 3rd in the open men Big Frog after having a slow start. At the start I got popped of the front group and was 15th or so going into the first singletrack. As I sat in the back of the group watching the leaders roll away from me, with nothing I could do because the singletrack was too tight for passing; I accepted I was not making a podium today.  In that group I made my way to the front on the first climb and got away from eveyone on the first decent.  After that I was solo for while until John and Spencer caught me in the big frog loop. This gave me some rest and allowed me to attack the big climb coming back and start my bridge to the guy in 4th who I thought was a world away until other racers coming the opposite direction started saying ” you can catch him”. I started seeing the 4th place alone and up from him 2nd and 3rd midway from aide station 3 to aide 4 and thought “shit I am back in the game!”  but did not make contact until the finial  5 to 10 miles of singletack where I came through 4th and 3rd place.I plan on making it up to the Mohican 100k after MTB marathon nationals this week where I hope to defend my 35-39 title from last year.”


Crawford takes the win in singlespeed

1st-Matt Crawford (UPMC/PRO Bike+Run)  2nd-Josh Kunz (Knobby Side Down) 3rd Anthony Toops (Paradise Garage Racing)

Matt Crawford (UPMC/PRO Bike+Run) wins Big Frog singlespeed in 4:56:40.

“My recent move to Asheville made this race an easy trip from my new home soil. I’ve raced the Cohutta 100 the past couple of years so the course was very familiar. I decided to start off fast this year vs pacing the single-track in the 100-mile version. Entering the woods in top 20 really allows for a fast and flowy ride. Once the single-track opened up to gravel roads the race was on. I put in a coupled digs up the beautiful TN gravel. To my surprise, 1st place was in sight after the first summit. We continued to ride together for the next 10 or so miles. I would create a gap during all the climbs but Josh quickly made up ground on the flats. My trusty 34×20 gearing was once again a good choice as the miles added up. However, the legs began to fatigue around mile 50 heading into the last 10 miles of punchy single-track. I put one last effort into the big climb up to Aid #1. The gap to 2nd place was about 30 seconds into the single track. I kept looking back for any sign of life behind me. I didn’t see anyone for the last 10 miles. Making the turn and entering the Whitewater center was a pleasant feeling.

 This was my first NUE win after a couple 2nd and 3rd  finishes last year. Heading to PMBAR and Pisgah 111k this month. Time to get gnarly! Big thanks for Pro Bike +Run for dialing in my SS each year.”

Just a few minutes back Anthony Toops (Paradise Garage) finished in 5:05:07

“This was my first ever single speed endurance race and it was tough!  My 32×19 gearing seemed a good balance for the day.
The day started out with some big efforts jockeying for position up the road climb. I managed to just get ahead of Eli Orth and into 3rd place just before the first single track. At the time I thought I was at least 2nd but I didn’t see Josh Kunz sneak past in the pack up the road climb. Apparently he was pulling on the front like a beast!
Most of the day I was racing by myself (around geared racers) until midway through the “lollipop” area of the course. Eli had closed in and was looking strong so I made sure to at least stay on his wheel, which wasn’t an easy task. Eventually I was able to get a gap on the gravel downhills and maintain it through the flat section and all the way until the finish line. It was a tough day and I’m pumped to end up on the podium!  Thanks to Paradise Garage for the support!
Looking forward to Mohican 100k SS!”

Masters 50+

Clayton gets the top step in Masters 50+

Jeff Clayton (left) wins Big Frog 65 in Master’s divison. Race director Justin Mace (Center). Roger Masse (right) placed 2nd in Cohutta Master’s

Coming in first, 2016 NUE Master’s champion, Jeff Clayton (Georgia Neurosurgical Institute) in a time of 4:57:46.

“With a lot of rain forecast Thursday before the race I was expecting muddy trails and roads.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when taking a hike with my wife on a trail from Thunder Rock campground Friday that the trails and roads were in great shape.  A short pre-ride of some of the course later confirmed that.  I had an ok start to the race, sticking with the second group heading into the first trail. Unfortunately about 10 minutes in I clipped a pedal and crashed pretty hard.  Several racers went by, and more importantly my rhythm/confidence was shaken and knee bruised.  By the time I got through the only messy part of the course on the old copper road trail a few more racers had come around.  Things started to improve for me and by the time I exited the trails onto the gravel I was feeling better.  From there on, I started catching racers consistently.  Passing Jorge Cortez gave me a boost as he is a strong Masters racer.  I traded some strong pull on the flats/downhills with Jesus Galindez up to the 3rd aid station and from there summoned my reserves to catch a few more racers on the road up, up ,up to the return of the trails.  Feeling pretty strong as I entered the singletrack I relished the fact that I wasn’t in the 100 mile race this year and could really enjoy the trails!  I figured Matt Hammond was still ahead in the Masters category, and I wasn’t sure about anybody else including Scott Burrill, who won Masters in 2017, so I gave everything I had all the way to the finish line.  It turns out Matt had gone off course on the gravel, so was behind me and I’d already passed Scott so I was chasing a ghost!  I really enjoyed returning to the Big Frog race after three years of surviving the Cohutta.  The race was very well run and who could ask for a more beautiful day in a more beautiful setting!”

About twelve minutes back was Scott Burrill ( coming in second at 5:10:20. Rounding out the top three was Matt Hammond in 5:14:01

“Was leading the race more than halfway through and took a wrong turn that cost me about 20 minutes. This occured on the lollipop portion between sag 2 and 3. It would have helped tremendously to have a marshall at this area. I was just following blue tape like we were told to do…. It was my first attempt at this race and it was well attended with may recognizable faces in the cycling community. All in all, I enjoyed the day 😊

For complete results click here

The next NUE race is Mohican MTB 100 on June 2, 2018 in Loudonville, Ohio. Hope to see you there!

Written by: Jen Toops

Cohutta Big Frog 65

Ryan O’Dell and Shana Biese

NUE Race Series #2 rolled out of the Ocoee Whitewater center on April 29 and into the Cherokee National Forest, located near Ducktown, TN. Races included the Big Frog 65 on the NUE Marathon circuit and the Cohutta 100, on the NUE Epic 100 mile Series. In addition, the Old Copper 20 mile offered new ultra-racers an abbreviated version of the big race.

The buzz at this year’s race centered around last minute course changes, the result of Forestry forbidding race organizers from using traditional gravel road routes that had been used for many years. Adding insult to injury, organizers were only given one day notice to make all of the necessary changes. The result was a shortening of the 100 mile race course to just over 80 miles. However, with race day temperatures that topped out at just over eighty degrees, many racers expressed relief that the course wasn’t the full advertised one hundred miles. Although the 100 mile course was shorter, Race Director Justin Mace, reported that it included added elevation this year.

Women’s Open

Toops gets her first NUE Big Frog 65 win!

The defending Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Race Series Champion, Jen Toops, Paradise Garage Racing/Pearl Izumi/Honey Stinger/100%, earned her first win in the NUE Race Series at The Big Frog 65! A novice level racer just two years ago, Toops finished 6:05:32, following an eight place finish at the True Grit series opener.

“I lined up on the start line toward the front group, started the long road climb ending up second going into the single track, and found myself in a group of about five guys. The leader was already out of sight and we were going at a comfortable pace so I settled in. When I hit the fire roads, I really pushed it on the downhill and felt like I was just surviving on the climbs. The heat was really getting to everyone and I stopped at most aid stations to dump water on myself to cool off.

When I hit the last single track, I pushed as hard as I could, still hoping I could catch the leader. With about five miles left I caught sight of her, making the pass on a rocky uphill, and kept pushing the pace until the finish. Big frog 65 was a tough one but sometimes the races that push your limits are the best ones! I will see everyone at the Mohican 100k!
Four minutes later, Annajean Dallaire, Papa John’s Racing Team, hung on for second place finishing with a time of 6:09:52. Seven minutes later, Sara Caylor, took third at 6:16:59.


Men’s Open

Baring wins Men’s Open!

Elliott Baring, Pivot Endurance MTB, won the Men’s Open with a time of 4:45:23.

Seven minutes later, last year’s race winner, Andrew Dillman, Think Green, took second in 4:52:09.

“Wow. That was harder than last year! A lot has changed in the past year, my fitness being one of them. A year ago I had been training hard for my last year of racing Collegiate Road Nationals for Marian University and was in pretty decent shape by the time Big Frog rolled around. Since graduating college, however, cycling has taken somewhat of a backseat, but I still decided to make the journey down to Big Frog since I’ve enjoyed the race so much over the last few years.

I was able to hang with the leaders pretty comfortably until about the fifty mile mark and that’s when my lack of endurance began to make itself known. That last portion of single track felt SO much longer than the years before, but it made me feel better when I found out that there were four miles added. Despite being attacked by a bear and dragged into the pain cave, I somehow managed to hang onto second place and secure a spot on the podium.

I am super glad my team, Think Green Toyota of Lexington, and the guys Nate Cornelius and Clay Green convinced me to make the trip down. I was reminded of how much I enjoy this race and its atmosphere. My favorite part of the whole event is the prayer right before the start. As I race my bike I want the cry of my heart to always be, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for man.” (Colossians 3:23). Thanks to the Big Frog event for hosting such a great race, can’t wait for next year!”

John Petrylak, Scott Pro MTB Team and Bike Factory, came in third with a time of 4:58:26.

“I arrived in Ducktown after dark and met up with most of Cameron race team at their cabin for the weekend. After I woke up Friday and got a glimpse of the AMAZING view out of the front door, I knew it was going to be an unforgettable weekend regardless of the race result.  I did my usual pre-ride of the first ten miles or so of the start and beginning single track on Friday to wake up the legs and stoke the fires. I slammed down a mug of coffee with breakfast after our 4:00am wake-up call on race day and headed to the start. I had the unusual experience of watching and cheering as my friends took off for the Cohutta100.
Before I knew it, we were lined up and ready to roll. Then it was go time. I had a really good feeling in my legs after the first couple of pedal strokes so I kept pushing and still felt great. Before I knew it I was leading my first NUE marathon race up the long road climb.
After about five minutes the lead group was down to only about 10 riders so I started to soft pedal a little and catch a quick breath before we hit the single track.

I remained in the top five or so for the first bit of single track trail. Gordon Wordsworth and Elliot started to get away so I surged down the short paved descent; Andrew Dillman quickly joined me and hit the next section of trail right in front of me. After a big long effort on the trail next to the river we could see the leader’s right in front of us.

Just after the long bridge over the river, I made contact with them and then I did something really counterproductive to effective racing. Up the short steep single track, I caught my pedal on a root that stuck out of the ground like a lasso. Now, any other time this would have been a minor inconvenience. However, at the exact perfect moment, I had just started my surge forward to catch on to the leaders just fifteen feet up the trail. All of the force trying to go up the hill sent me over the bars when my pedal hooked the root. When I landed, my second water bottle flew out of my jersey and down a cliff never to be seen again. And just like that, I was all alone.

I regrouped, remounted, and charged up and on, linking up with some 100 mile riders coming off the out and back after AS1. I kept climbing as hard as I could and descended like a mad man. Finally, after an hour of all out riding, I caught the lead group of Gordon, Elliot, Andrew and the first chase group doing the 100 mile race a few feet up the road after AS 3. Once I caught them, Mr. Wadsworth put out a few nice attacks that left me dangling off the group. Rats!!!

I had burned a few too many matches to counter the attacks, so I decided to settle into my manageable pace up the climbs in hopes of the lead group fading a little in the final miles. No fading what-so-ever happened from this elite group of riders so I continued on towards the finish, topped a bottle off at AS 5, and headed for home.

The last miles of single track lasted for what seemed like days; I knew this could be my first NUE podium and I just wanted to see that finish line banner. I rode carefully but as quickly as my worn out legs would allow me. Then, finally, there it was, the last section of pavement before the finish. I tucked in and headed to the finish; checking over my shoulder about every eight seconds to make sure I wasn’t going to be caught from behind. As I crossed the finish line, I was greeted with one on my favorite finisher prizes; a really nice quality coffee mug. After a really tough race at True Grit I was very pleased with a third at the Big Frog 65 and look to build on this for the rest of the series.”



Wadsworth Crushes the Big Frog 65 first overall!

Following back to back series wins in the NUE Overall Epic Series Single speed division, the Defending NUE Series Champion, Gordon Wadsworth, Blue Ridge Cyclery/Pivot Cycles, made his 2017 NUE debut by crushing it, taking first place in Singlespeed AND with the overall best time at The Big Frog 65 in 4:45:38.

“My goals this season are all about the fun. After the course change was announced mid-week before the Cohutta this year Big Frog represented a fast paced good time on some of my favorite trails. My goals were to race hard at the front all day and I did that. I was lucky to race with one of my best friends and fellow Pivot Cycles athlete Elliot Baring. He and I are Pisgah Stage Race duo teammates and have a great relationship for trail shredding.

After he went early in the game, I chased on and helped put down some of the watts that got him the open win, and me the SS win. I love the East TN trails and my Pivot Cycles LES with Industry Nine wheels tuned by Blue Ridge Cyclery! It was perfect for it as is proven by the LES going 1,2 for the day!”

Jason Betz came in second with a time of 5:34:08.

Sixteen minutes later, Eli Orth, Queen City Wheels, finished third with a time of 5:50:19.


Masters 50+

First Race of the Season Proves to be a good one for Burrill

Scott Burrill, team, came out with a strong start to his 2017 season getting his first win at 5:39:02.

“The Big Frog 65 was my first NUE race of the 2017 series and only my second NUE race ever.  This was also the first race I have ever traveled by plane to attend so I had a few things to learn about bike packing and transport but it all worked out just fine. I arrived two days before the race so I was able to scope the initial climb and single track out ahead of time.

I started the race at a manageable pace for the first climb watching the open guys tear away but being careful to space myself ahead of others before entering the singletrack. During the first fifteen miles or so of single track, I got log jammed behind some slower riders so I had to rely on them to allow me and some others to pass whenever possible. I ended up passing quite a bit over the course of the race which is how I like to roll.

Being a Master, I was on the lookout for the “M” on other racer’s calves; and did pass three or so others in the first twenty miles but I never saw another “M” after that. Not knowing whether there were other masters ahead, I raced the rest of the race with internal speed limits set trying to avoid the inevitable cramping which did crop its ugly head around mile 47.  From there on it became cramp management riding to the end.

I worked with a group of guys on a lot of the Forest Roads and met some great guys from South America. I traded positions with the lead Single Speed guys for a while too and picked up a 100 miler on the flat road on the backside. The last ten miles of single track was pretty much survival mode for me, defend position, don’t crash, don’t take a wrong turn. It all worked out and when I finally emerged at Thunder Rock Campground area, I knew I had made it. The climb back up to the Whitewater Center went fast and I had no one in sight in front or behind me, a great finish area to come back to for sure.

Overall, an amazing race with the incredibly smooth single track, challenging dirt road climbs, and overall a fantastic mix of terrain and conditions. The temps in the 80’s were a bit much for this Mainer coming from temps in the 40’s but it was nice. A dip in the Ocoee was a must afterward!  Sunday, I couldn’t help but go back and ride more of the killer Brush Creek single track before I flew out!”

Sixteen minutes later, Chris Ready, Velo Sports Racing team, came in second place with a time of 5:55:06. Eleven minutes later, Chris Steven Torrence, Racing Greyhounds, finished third with a time of 6:06:49.

WHATS NEXT: Join NUE Race Series for race #3 in Loudonville, Ohio on June 3rd for the 15th Annual Mohican MTB 100! Top series contenders have already committed to Mohican, now the largest attended race in the NUE Race Series limited to the first 700 racers along with the largest series cash purse at $10,000US.