Fool’s Gold 60 – NUE Marathon Finale

KENDA NUE Series #10

Fool’s Gold 60

Dahlonega, Georgia

Ryan O’Dell

For the first time this year, Fools Gold offered a 60 Mile option. This was another challenge for the Marathon Racers, providing a final opportunity to improve their national ranking. Besides being the final race, Fool’s Gold also served as the NUE Series tie breaker. This year’s Fool’s Gold moved to a beautiful new location at Anderson Creek Retreat near Elijay, GA, that included camping. Racers and spectators were treated to amazing views, including Springer Mountain, the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail.

In addition to race day awards, the top five NUE Division winners will receive a share of the $6,000 cash purse. Each of the four division winners will also be rewarded with complimentary entry into All NUE races in 2017, a custom made NUE Champions Jersey by Voler.

Women’s Open

Nielson Takes the Win!

Jen Nielson, South Paw Cycles/Liv, won the race with a time of 5:11:15. “Fool’s Gold 60! 60 miles of pavement pounding, gravel grinding, flowing single track fun! No issues with illegal day-of registration this time around. I was prepared(ish). From the detailed website, to the email updates, to the extensive race guide, this event was clearly going to be well managed down to the finest of details.

The extreme organization stressed my somewhat naturally chaotic and unorganized self…just a bit. Packet pick up no later than 06:20? Race starts at 07:45? Deadlines. So early! I hustled to get out of work on time Friday, so as to finish the race day packing. Erik busily wrapped up shop duties, ultimately making for yet another late travel night. No sooner than our heads hit the pillows, it was time to be up and moving. Packed up, bikes loaded, bodies fueled, race packets secured, port-a-potty trip in the dark…check! Back in the comfort of the Element, I was quick to announce pre-race nap time and get multiple alarms set. Good luck 90 mile racers, we Nielsons need our beauty rest! Thirty minutes of glorious sleep, plus hitting snooze x1, and it was show time. I won’t lie, this was my first time enforcing pre-race nap time and I wasn’t sure whether or not the effects would end up being most regrettable.

The mass start was indeed massive as everyone jockeyed for positions in front of the timing mat. I was among the many racers fanned out on the outskirts of the gravel road and into the grass, well outside of timing mat territory. As I tried to inch closer and closer to the gravel road, not wanting to risk any sort of timing penalties, a lady on a BMC calmly reassured me that we would all eventually make it across the mat. Unfortunately, that did little to reduce my anxiety or desire for a good start. A car horn announced the start of the race and I squeezed in with the rest of the racers, making it over the mat with a foot to spare. Whew! Go time for real now!

The Lust was locked out and ready to go, so we jumped to the outside of the pack and made quick work of getting up to the front before tucking back in for some drafting. Big sigh of relief. It was sketchy going, surrounded by the sounds of brakes squealing and tires rubbing other people’s tires. I was just hoping that the results of those sounds would not include me being on the ground. I found myself mostly spending time with a couple of riders behind Erik, who was a couple of riders behind Thomas Turner. Wise? I’m not sure, but I wasn’t about to give up what I had. Neutral start completed, the pack was getting friskier, with random attacks off the front. As things ramped up, my thoughts simplified, focused on things that I had survived and had prepared me for this…TNR @ Pendleton, TNR, TNR, TNR, Tabata, Tabata, Tabata (thanks Brian Sheedy)! Well, I don’t know if those things really made a difference, but they were pretty much all I could think about.

The first climb was long and chunky. The rhythm I had hoped to carry was quickly lost. At times, it felt like everyone was passing me and there wasn’t a wheel I could manage to hop on. After the climb, was a long, fun descent. I was totally awake and ready for it. I was ready to chase some of those carrots that had passed me on the up. The Lady Lust and I made amends after Black Bear Rampage, getting in some quality bonding time over the last week, and were finally finding our groove. It was exciting!

When we hit single track, it was fast and flowy. The Lust and I were ready for it. There were certainly some “oh $#*t” moments, coming into corners hot, not realizing the trail was no longer directly in front of me. Guys were caught and others passed me. I tried to grab wheels where I could, hoping to pick up the pace for some sort of meaningful impact on the competition. I guess it wasn’t all fast and flowy. There were some punchy hills in there that made the down to up transition hard on the legs. At one point, I hopped off the bike to hike behind a line of others hiking, and realized I was looking at some long slender legs that couldn’t possibly belong to a guy, right? I checked her out closely. Yup, definitely not a guy. I debated asking the burning question that was on my mind and finally decided to let my mouth win. Much to me relief, she was racing the 90. I passed with some words of encouragement and continued on, wondering who was really behind me in pursuit.

Lesson learned from Black Bear, I was conscious to be eating every time I hit a fire road. Food, food, food was another overriding simplistic thought for this race. Even if I wanted to forget eating, the volunteers at the aid stations were on it, chastising me for not getting nutrition, despite my reassurances that I was eating what I packed. Other thoughts that generally preoccupied me while I was out there were, surely there is a Carey Lowery out there on the prowl….Carey, Carey, Carey….and as I hit the downhills, surely there is a ripper like Kaysee Armstrong behind me…Kaysee, Kaysee, Kaysee! Much to my amusement, I wasn’t the only one thinking Carey.

The final ascent was a long steady fire road climb of about 3.6 miles. This climb I liked! My happy rhythm was ready! While grooving on up the climb I passed a guy I had been going back and forth with and he jumped on my wheel. Not long after spending a little time together, he asked “Are you faster than Carey?” I responded with an, “I don’t think so.” “Are you sure?” is what I got in return. “Well, she beat me last weekend.” was the best I could do for him. “Oh.” It felt like disappointment, which for some reason had me laughing a little. After a little longer, he asked how much further the climb was. I could only answer that I didn’t know for sure, but thought it was seven miles from the top to the finish (thank you Jerry McClung). He debated hanging on my wheel or catching me on the descent. His final words were that if we could rejoin by the end, he would give me a good draft in to the finish. Who could refuse an offer like that? So, I climbed on and he settled into his pace.

When I reached the top of the climb, I was greeted with a sign that indicated eight miles to the finish. Damn you Jerry! An extra mile?! 61 miles! Up until then, my mind had been racing with thoughts of excitement at the awesome descent that would await me. I was ready to rip. Or so I thought. Not long after starting down, my right calf started to cramp up. I never get leg cramps! I sat down on the sections I could, trying to shake things out. This wasn’t happening! After a shorter time than I expected, my friend came tearing by me, yelling that this was my opportunity to jump on his wheel for my lead in. Everything in me snapped to attention. It was go time! Forget your cramping legs, forget your aching hands, forget your throbbing feet, and forget everything else. I worked hard to stay on his wheel, but ultimately lost him. It was ok though, because I was finally on and catching other people.

I hit the final section of pavement, grabbed some nutrition, and set to work. I managed to get into a group of three guys. There were suggestions of working together, there was attacking and definitely not working together, there were words of encouragement that gave me extra boosts I didn’t know I had, and there were look backs to ensure others were dropped (including me). The final drag to the finish was a grass field that felt a lot like trying to ride through thick, deep sand. It felt like going nowhere. It didn’t seem to matter if you were standing up or sitting down. It was all the same slow arduous progress trying to reel in that finish line banner. Boy did it feel good to finally make it! Well, nothing felt good then, but it sure does now. 1st overall/women’s open. Erik Danger Nielson rocked it into 5th overall/men’s open, in a tough field of men.

Lisa Randall and Mountain Goat Adventures put on a great event! One of the best organized, most well marked, and well supported races I have been to. The amenities, post-race food, and awards/payouts were definitely something to brag about. It was a fantastic experience!

A surprise arrived for me on the Thursday before the race, meaning that this was the last race the Lady Lust and I would be doing together. It did have me on the verge of tearing up at one point during the race (endurance races will do that to you). I am glad this is the way we got to finish together!”

Tiffany Ballew, Peachtree Bikes, came in about fifteen minutes behind Nielson, with a time of 5:26:16. Having just finished with a first place win at Rincon, this was her fourth NUE Race of the season and her second place finish also moved her into second place overall in the NUE Series.

Beata Wronska, City Bikes, finished third with a time of 5:42:50. This was her second year racing at Fool’s Gold. She won first place in 2015. “This was not my first take at the Fool’s Gold since I had an opportunity to race it year ago and was fortunate enough to take the win. I was looking forward to come back on this challenging course and have some fun. Making the drive all the way from South Florida makes for quite a trip, but I and other Floridians find it well worth it.

Just two weeks ago, I raced in Val Di Sole, Italy in the Cross Country Masters World Championship where I can proudly say I podiumed and shared the stage with an Olympic medalist and 3-time World Champion and other top European riders. I felt already accomplished but realized that this endurance event would be a good aid to clear my mind and enjoy the quite different scenery to our local bike scene as well as a good moment to finish my season on a good note.

The truly off-road part of the course was pretty spectacular, especially the flowy single track and super tough and fun Bull Mountain. I had a wonderful time riding those sections and tackling the small creeks, steep uphill’s filled with roots which were so tough that only strong riders could make it all the way up, as well as having a blast on the super-fast and technical downhills. It was all so enjoyable that often I was forgetting that I was actually racing. There were times where I was battling my competition and swapping spots but also times when I felt like I was on my own in the whole forest and could hear only the trickling of water, rustling of leaves and my own breath.

I don’t think I will ever forget how I felt on the final rocky descent coming back to the finish line. The descent was so loose, rocky and bumpy that I experienced at the same time pain and almost complete numbness in my hands and feet. For sure my body was not used to descents like this and it made it more of a challenge for me than anything else. Coasting to the finish line after that was quite elevating and I had a brilliant time going back and forth with a few male riders and giving one rider a sprint finish which made if fun for both of us as well as spectators.

Finishing third and still placing on the podium this year leaves me completely content and satisfied, especially knowing the field was deep and stacked with talented riders. Now I just wish we had more races like this closer to home. I hope one day I will be able to focus solely on endurance racing and hopefully compete for the overall NUE series points.”

Laura Booth, City Bikes, finished in third place with a time of 5:42:50 jumping up to fourth place overall in the NUE Series.

Overall for the NUE Marathon Race Series, Karen Jarchow, Team Toepeak-Ergon, earned her first NUE Marathon Series Championship, sweeping the series with a perfect score of 4, winning ALL of the NUE races that she participated in.

Tiffany Ballew placed second overall and Becky Edmiston, Steamboat Velo, earned a final ranking of third overall in the NUE Series.


Men’s Open

Mendez takes the win in his first NUE Race!

Gabriel Mendez, Team 706P, won the Men’s Open with a time of 4:18:16. “The morning of the Fool’s Gold 60 and 90 mile endurance races, everyone was on their bikes in anticipation for the starts. At 7:15 sharp, we watched the 90 mile racers take off down the gravel road to embark on the grueling task. By 7:30, many of the 60 mile racers were already hanging out in the staging area, making small talk to pass time until the neutral rollout at 7:45. At the whistle, a couple hundred mountain bikers rolled out behind the lead car for the first portion of the race.

The pace remained tame for miles, even onto the first ascent of Nimblewill Gap, where Phil O’Donnell and myself rolled off the front (being roadies who could probably use a cushion on the twisty downhill) and established a small gap on the pack. By the end of the descent of Nimblewill, freshly graded and thus riddled with overturned rocks and potholes, we were joined by three others, Thomas Turner included.

The first upset in the top positions was caused by Erik Nielson and my stop at the 21 mile aid station; my bottle had been bucked out of its cage on the descent. This caused the two of us to have to chase up to O’Donnell and Turner, the race leaders. After some amount of time, I rejoined Phil and we pursued the charging Thomas Turner, who I was told was dropping the hammer at a hopefully unsustainable rate. At the 30 mile checkpoint, we were told that we were about two minutes behind the leader.

It wasn’t until the vicious ascent of Bull Mountain that I regained sight of Thomas. This was undoubtedly the toughest section of the entire race: the combination of mangled roots and gradients consistently in the double digits had me (and I would assume Thomas as well) hugging my granny gear and wrenching my bike simply to stay upright. However, the descent almost compensated in enjoyment for the suffering we endured up the mountain; it took all I had to hang on to Thomas’ wheel as we screeched and skidded down the single track and dirt roads at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour.

Following the descent, there was a stretch of road and a small amount of trail left before the 7 miles going up the backside of Nimblewill. At the base of the climb, I upped the tempo a bit in hopes of opening a small gap by the top of the climb, which lasted nearly 30 minutes but felt like an hour of switchbacks. Upon cresting the mountain, I realized I had to take all the risks on the final descent of Nimblewill to keep Thomas Turner at bay, as I had found he was significantly more competent at descending than I. Unfortunately, these risks earned me a cracked rear rim after the fact, but they also maintained my gap to the bottom of the downhill. From there, I knew it was a matter of elbows-on-the-bars time trialing against the headwind to the final stretch of gravel and grass.

The turn onto Big Bear Lane was a huge relief, although I did not realize we were to be routed down into the valley to be made to climb back out to the finish. As immensely painful as it was at the end of such a long race, hats off to the people who made this decision as anything less would have been unfitting to finish the brutal course (which was nothing short of epic) and it made you give everything you had left in the tank. All in all, I must say this was one of the best organized, most challenging races I’ve ever had the opportunity to compete in, and alongside multiple highly respected figures of the sport nonetheless.”

Just six minutes back, Thomas Turner took second at 4:24:40.

Fifteen seconds later and following two reported flat tires, Andrew Purcell, Wooster Bikewerks/Y-Not Cycling, in his fifth NUE Race of the season, took third with a finish time of 4:24:25.

In the NUE Race series overall for Marathon Men, Alex Pond earned his first NUE Marathon Race Series title. In point battle that was determined at Rincon in Costa Rica, Andrew Purcell placed second overall. David Pike, DNA-Movement p/b Penetron, took third overall in the point series.


Betz comes out strong in second NUE Race, wins first place!

After finishing in fourteenth place at Big Frog earlier in the season, Jason Betz, Raising Cane’s Racing, grabs the win with a time of 4:47:15, just seconds ahead of second place.

Fifteen seconds later, at 4:47:30, Bradly Cobb, Motor Mile Racing, took second in his first NUE Series Race, the closest finish in the Fool’s Gold 60.

Cobb’s teammate, Justin Mace, Motor Mile Racing, took third with a time of 4:52:24 in his second NUE Race of the season. He raced earlier in the year at season opener, True Grit, placing 37th.

Overall, James Litzinger, Napoleon Elite, become the first NUE Marathon Series Champion undefeated with a perfect score of 4. Litzinger’s teammate, Scott Williams, Napolean Elite, finished the season ranked second overall in the NUE Marathon Series.

Ernesto Marenchin, Pivot Cycles/Twin 6/Was Labs, ranked third overall just one point behind Williams earning early season wins at both True Grit Epic and the Bailey Hundito.


Masters 50+

Turner on top!

In his first NUE Marathon race of the season, Greg Turner, Cartecay Bikes, wins Master’s 50+ with a time of 4:51:57.

Nineteen minutes later, last year’s race winner, Jorge Cortez from team JOVACO, finished second with a time of 5:10:41.

One minute later, Matt Hammond, Team Engine, completed the podium, finishing third with a time of 5:11:56. Along with his fellow podium dwellers, this was Hammond’s first NUE race this season.

Overall in the NUE Marathon Standings, 52-year-old Anthony Hergert, Rescue Racing, became the first NUE Marathon Masters Champion. Herget placed fourth at Fool’s Gold 60 this year, nine minutes behind Hammond at 5:20:06.  In route to his first series victory, Hergert,  completed in five of the ten NUE series races this season, including a first place finish at Rincon Challenge in Costa Rica.

NUE Webmaster, 61-year-old Dan Mock, finished 16th on the day at Fool’s Gold, moving into second place overall in the NUE Marathon Master’s division. 51-year-old Jim Thacker, Queen City Wheels ranked third overall in the NUE Standings.


WHATS NEXT: Stay tuned for the 2017 NUE Marathon Race Series schedule to be announced in early November.

Big Bear 75k Race Report

JULY 23, 2016

Kenda NUE Marathon Race Series #6

Presented by Hammer Nutrition 

By Ryan O’Dell

The third annual NUE Big Bear Grizzly 100 race course received its inspiration from the infamous Terrible 10,000, a ride the local endurance hammerheads have been doing for years. This year’s race included racers from seven different countries and twenty different states. It also rewarded racers with NUE Race Series points for the first time as part of the new NUE Marathon Race Series.

The race kicked off a week-long cycling festival organized by Big Bear Valley Race Association teamed up with the Big Bear Cycling Association and the City of Big Bear Lake. Big Bear Cycling Association promotes the Tour de Big Bear this next weekend with an anticipated 2000 riders.

Located at 7000 feet above sea level, the charming tourist town of Big Bear has long had a solid reputation as a cycling destination, attracting visitors from the LA Valley and hosting some of the largest national events over many years. Nearby ski resorts offer lifts for cyclists during the summer months accessing the newly developed Skyliner Trail. New Belgium Brewing offered several variety’s of draft brews throughout the day in the beer garden welcoming weary racers and fans with malty, hoppy goodness.

 Women’s Open – Giovane wins!

Sophie Giovane was the first woman across the line at 5:21:14. Ten minutes later, Stacy Forcino was second at 5:31:22. Kathryn Lockwood from Dana Point was third at 5:48:05. Three minutes later, Mandy Oliekan was fourth at 6:08:54.

Men’s Open – Forcino with the W!

Romolo Forcino took the Men’s Open 75k at 4:15:43. Trolis Niebla came in second at 4:57:54.

“The race was epic. I tried not to go too hard at the start and save something for Radford. When we hit the decent from Grand View Point I was sitting third with fourth place on my wheel. I had heard the descent was knarly so I let him by and took it slow. I’m glad I did because the middle of that descent was crazy technical (especially since that was my first time on it).

Once we hit the bottom, I pushed a tough tempo thru the rollers up to the SART. I was able to catch third by the start of the SART. I rode his wheel through the single track and recovered some through this section, ready to go by Radford. I hit the gas at the bottom of Radford and dropped fourth place. Towards the top of Radford I could finally see second place and caught him at the top. When I passed him, I tried to sprint by so that he would not try to suck my wheel.

On the Skyline single track (which I know well), I hit the gas. Once we hit the second part of Skyline I could no longer see the third place racer behind me anymore. On Skyline, I was stopped by a rescue helicopter. I had to hike up a steep incline to the fire road and then back down to Skyline to get around it. This was exhausting and I was panicking about getting caught. After that detour, I pushed it all the way to the finish. It was a super fun and tough day. Glad to have finished second and already looking forward to next year!”

Three minutes later, Scott Pontzer captured third at 5:02:44. Collin Drake was fourth at 5:29:13.

Rob Marquart rolled in just six minutes later to take fifth at 5:35:36.


Single Speed Open – Mulka wins the SS!

26 year old Mark Mulka from Columbus, Ohio won the SS race coming in at 6:41:56.

53 year old Raulie Tarango from Fawnskin, CA was second at 7:08:40.


Masters 50+ Open – Whittmore wins the Masters!

51-year-old Joe Whittmore from Murrieta, CA took the top spot to finish in 6:00:39. “What a great event! This was my second year racing the Grizzly. Last year I competed in the 100K and decided I didn’t have the fitness for that distance this year, so I signed up for the 75K.

The event is very well supported with several (themed) aid stations that are placed at just the right distance apart. Great volunteers and support staff.

I’m from So CA and love the different trails that comprise the course. SART and Skyline rank at the top of my all-time favorite single track trails. If I had to sum up the race with one word it would be “Radford!”  The Radford road climb is a difficult climb on a good day, but start the 5.7 mile, 2500 ft. climb at mile 30 (at race pace) on a hot summer day and you’re in for a huge challenge, both physically and mentally. The conversation among most racers, post-race, begins and ends with how they did on Radford. Overall a great event! I am looking forward to next year!”

55-year-old Jeff Peterson from Mission Viejo was next, placing second at 6:27:23.

60-year-old Doug Benedon from Agoura, CA was third at 6:48:05. “This my third year participating in the event and I’ll keep coming back (legs and lungs permitting).  Everything about this event is first-class. The organization (registration, volunteer’s course markings, aid stations) is professional and friendly.

The course itself is unbeatable. There is a great mix of single track and fire roads, all of which seems to be pointed uphill. But when things really get tough, and they do, you can soak up the beauty of the surrounding mountains. This is a must do event for anyone looking to challenge and reward themselves on a mountain bike. There are also shorter distances for riders wanting to challenge themselves and get a taste of the event before taking on the longer distances. These riders enjoy the same first-class treatment as the NUE riders, so come one, come all!”


NUE Marathon Race Series #7, Pierre’s Hole 100k in Alta, Wyoming on August 6




Tatanka Marathon (NUE) – Sturgis, South Dakota

Karen Jarchow and Alex Pond Prevail at the Tatanka Marathon

By Ryan O’Dell

On Saturday, July 9, The Kenda NUE Series headed to Sturgis, South Dakota, home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally. Tatanka, the Lakota word for Buffalo, is the only point to point race in the NUE Series. At 6am, racers began gathering beneath the shadow of USA National Landmark Mount Rushmore.

Beneath the magnificence of mammoth rock sculptures representing four of our nation’s greatest presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, NUE Marathon racer’s rolled out at High Noon, down a short section of pavement connecting them to the Centennial Trail along an 50k course that includes gnarly single track and fast, smooth cruising trail winding all the way to Sturgis. The town of Sturgis is nestled at the base of the northern Black Hills in extreme western South Dakota.

Temperatures this year reached an unseasonable high of 97 degrees, tempered by low humidity and, at times and in places, strong breezes throughout the day. This was the first year Tatanka included the 50k Marathon as a stop on the new NUE Marathon Race Series. There was also an 85 mile race that is stop #6 in the NUE Century Race Series and a 15 mile Sprint distance for first timers that included many kids. Racers must complete at least four NUE races to qualify for series awards that includes cash, prizes and a mid-season travel award to Costa Rica for the Volcano 100 in September.

Quarq, a division of SRAM, located locally in Spearfish, offered race fans live online tracking for the first time this year and Strider Bikes, located in nearby Rapid City, set up a skills park, offering kids as young as 2-3 years old an opportunity to test their bike skills. In addition to crafts and a variety of food and beverage stands, racers were treated to local craft brews courtesy of Crow Peak Brewing and The Knuckle Brewpub.

Women’s Open

Jarchow gets her third straight NUE Win!

Following up on her wins at both True Grit and Bailey Hundito, Karen Jarchow, Team Topeak-Ergon, made it three straight winning the Tatanka Marathon distance in 3:30:57 and getting fifth overall as well. “Going into this race, I told myself that I would take zero risks.

From the start, the top ten or so had instant separation and I found myself exactly where I told myself not to be – second wheel to Alex Pond. That’s when I backed off a little, and let a handful of guys pass up the road that lead us into a creek side trail before the open road to Aid 1. By staying steady and picking my way around the random rock gardens, I was able to work myself back around a few of those guys before Aid 1, and then I stayed pretty settled into in the women’s lead and 5th overall from there on out.

Once on the trail, I focused on just staying smooth, consistent, hydrated, and enjoyed the spectacular Centennial Trail. I really enjoyed everything about this trail, from the steep, punchy climbs, the rocks, and especially the long swoopy descent through the trees before dumping back out by I-90. Next up, Jeff and I will head to Pierre’s Hole – another new location to me that I’m so excited to go check out!”

Ten minutes later, Becky Edmiston, Steamboat Velo, claimed second at 3:40:26. “HOT!  It was around 95 degrees at the Marathon start, though people’s Garmin’s were registering over 110!  The climb was HOT! I focused on Karen Jarchow’s advice (from her coach) “start slow to finish fast” and tried to keep it under control until the Aid Station at 18 miles.

Even though it was roasting I was getting chills, which seemed like a good reason not to push any harder.  After a cold towel on my neck (thank you volunteers!) and a refill at the aid station, I let myself push a little harder until the end. The trails were so fun! Nothing technical, good flow in parts, some rocky sections to navigate and some good, punchy climbs too. Going through lots of different ecosystems, (creek bottom, pine forest, grassland) kept it interesting. Sturgis was a great host town. I camped at the race camping, “Hog Heaven”, and a bunch of racers got burgers at “The Knuckle Saloon and Craft Brewery” (a biker bar), rode the day before and the day after on some really nice singletrack.

That was my fourth and final NUE race of the year! It’s been a blast. The series got me to travel to four races that I wouldn’t have otherwise done, and I’m glad, it was a really fun experience! Barb Fetters took third in 4:03:55.

Men’s Open

Pond goes sub three!

Following a seventh place finish at the season opening True Grit and his first win at the Bailey Hundito in Colorado, Alex Pond, Sonoran Cycles, took the Tatanka Men’s Open and posted the only sub three hour time at 2:58:33. “This year I made the choice to venture out and race some new venues and, with the addition of NUE’s new Marathon series, I was intrigued by the locations and the possibility of an overall title. The latest race brought me to the Black hills of South Dakota, a place I had only passed through once and only knew it for heat and crazy storms.

I arrived on Friday to ride the Victoria trail loop and got a nice taste of what the conditions of the area would be like. The heat was already pretty intense and the 15 mile loop had me out riding much more then I would have liked to before a race. After grabbing packets and food to cook dinner, my friend Becky and I made to our sweet private camp site at the Hog Heaven Campground, a site picked by the race organizer for racers to post up at. The site offered showers and ample choices in sites, seeing that it was only open during the Sturgis Bike Week, the place was empty.

The race for the Marathon division did not start until High Noon but Saturday morning I was up with the sun, already baking in the heat that would prove to make many worried for the race. I had my usual breakfast and then tried to find things to do without getting to excited about racing, checking over my bike multiple times and laying down in the shade, trying to stay cool and out of the sun. Thankfully a fellow Coloradan racer was staying at a hotel with AC who invited us to chill out for a bit before the start.

We opted for the Shuttle to the start point, since this race is a point to point, which made for a fun ride, and a chance to meet some of the other races and find out how far others had traveled to partake in the event. We all stepped off the bus, quickly running for a bathroom and shade. I think everyone had been downing the fluids, knowing the thermometer was reading above 95 which had a lot of folks nervous about the cramps that could come.

Joking around with a couple friends, I vowed not to lead out the race, and to see who was going to get out and be a serious contender for the race. As soon as the police escort drove off I found myself exactly where I said I would not be, leading everyone up the paved road and to the singletrack. I felt good, not paying too much attention to my heart rate that was already through the roof, but feeling that my legs were comfortable and my mind was ready to race.

About five racers and I hit the dirt which led us up the singletrack that would eventually lead us to the Centennial trail. We hit some creek crossings right off the bat that caused some bobbling and had me worried about the handling for the day. We made it onto some smoother terrain and up a two track road were I found my rhythm and was able to get in a groove. About three miles in I looked back to see no one was holding pace with me, so I kept it steady to the first aid station, which was only five miles in, and stopped to top off my bottle, knowing I didn’t want to get behind on fluids this day.

After the first aid we hit the main “Centennial Trail” and started to encounter the Epic racers. I was concerned before the race, not knowing how many of them we would be working to get around throughout the day, but after the end, it was not many and it was fun to see them out there knowing they were suffering much more than me. This was weekend number five of hitting the race scene and I am looking forward to a couple weeks of enjoying some Colorado High Country trail riding before getting ready to head up to Alta WY for the Pierres Hole 100k and then heading back to my stomping grounds in the North East for the Hampshire 100k.”

The trail had a fairly decent 2000′ vertical off the start, lots of little punchy hits, and some good rocks and roots thrown in to boot. My biggest limiting factor for the day was my rear brake that was howling and not giving my much braking power, and as soon as we started to descend, there were many hard corners that became tricky and had me worried about others catching me with better handling. Making it to Aid 2 was great, the staff was super energetic and the cold towel on my back was the best thing I’ve had done to me in a race ever!

From there I kept my pace steady and focused my efforts on making it a sub three hour race. Once we left the centennial and had only 5+ miles of trail left, we hit some great new trails just outside Sturgis before putting us onto the bike path to the finish. All in all, the course offered plenty of chunky rock, smooth pine needle covered singletrack and open prairie meadows that, if you could take a moment to enjoy, really made for an epic day on the bike.

This was weekend number five of hitting the race scene and I am looking forward to a couple of weeks enjoying some Colorado High Country trail riding before getting ready to head up to Alta WY for the Pierres Hole 100k and then heading back to my stomping grounds in the North East for the Hampshire 100k. The NUE has been a super fun series and all the races have offered awesome terrain, great venues, and parties that always bring out the best in the Mountain bike Community.”

Brian Stampe was next to claim second in 3:18:04. Jake Aisenbrey, Larson’s Cyclery, was next placing third at 3:31:08. “I felt the Tatanka Marathon distance was the perfect length for the first MTB race of the year. Coming out of a long gravel season, my legs were pretty shot and fast, explosive efforts were lacking.

During the pavement rollout and onto the gravel road, I was sitting somewhere in the top 12 when gaps started to open and I lost contact with the lead group. When we hit the rock sections going up Elk Creek, there was some unwanted hike-a-bike due to the close proximity with other riders. It was pretty hot due to the mid-day start but all systems were in check and I started to gain time back when we hit the singletrack at Dalton Lake.

I struggled with the climbs, having what felt like zero strength in my legs, but my cardio fitness made up for what my legs lacked. The course was incredibly dry, so coupled with the pine needles, the corners were pretty slick. I opened up on the descents and told myself to lay off the brakes. I checked off a couple more riders on the final descents towards the interstate crossing, but continued to keep the pace up until the finish. I really had no idea where I sat when crossing the finish; needless to say I was pretty surprised to see a 3rd Place finish in the Men’s Open!

Having raced the ‘Epic’ length of the Tatanka last year, it was nice to come back and enjoy the part of the course I barely remember. The Black Hills always offers a fun atmosphere and good people; there is no question why I’m down there for so many races. I don’t have any NUE races on the horizon, but if my schedule allows, I may enter into Pierre’s Hole.”

Six seconds later, Bryce Thorman, took fourth at 3:31:14. Four minutes behind Thorman, local Spearfish racer, Jonathan Reth, Spearfish Family Dentistry, claimed the fifth spot at 3:35:48.



Litzinger now leads the NUE Marathon Series with three straight wins!

Following wins at the Big Frog 65 and Mohican 100k, James Litzinger, Napleton Elite Cycling pwrd by Dirty Harry’s, now leads the NUE Marathon Race Series arriving first at 3:23:06. “My wife, three sons, and I drove from PA so that I could take on the Tatanka 50 K.  The views in South Dakota are exceptional!

On race day, while teammate Anthony Grinnell got an early start, my other teammate Scott Williams and I tried to pass the time before our Noon start.  I have never started a race that late and was a little unsure about how it would go considering the heat would be increasing to 95 degrees.

The race started in Piedmont with a police escort out of town on a paved road. Then the race truly began for me on Little Elk Creek Road where the pace began to pick up. I was able to sit in behind some fast-geared riders until we got to the single track. Once on the single track, I was able to get by some geared riders and ride my pace through the technical canyon trail.  After popping out onto the dirt road before Aid Station 1, I noticed that my teammate, Scott, was not far behind me on the road. I stopped at Aid Station 1 for a top off of my liquids due to an extremely hot day then continued the long opening climb, enjoying the beautiful rock and pine forests. Once at the top, Scott and I rode together, enjoying the flowing and rewarding downhill.   I refueled with an apple cinnamon Hammer Bar once!

We started to climb up into Aid Station 2, where I was greeted with a freezing, soaking wet towel, draped around my neck. It was so great! Thank you to the amazing workers at Aid Station 2! I left the Aid Station riding by myself but when I got to the top of the climb, I noticed that Scott was right behind me. He was having a great race! We rode together on the ridge of the mountain, before making one of the final climbs where we were rewarded with an awesome long descent where we were able to fly with our Pivot Les bikes along the ridges flowing single track!  It seemed like this decent went on for an hour!  It was so much fun!

After the single track, we shoot out onto a long fast descent through a prairie before crossing under route 90. I knew that there were only a few miles left so I put the hammer down for the final stretch through the fast prairie, although I was held up for about thirty seconds as I was running a herd of cattle down the trail that would not get off the trail. I was a little nervous with the large group of cattle and small calves mixed into the herd; I didn’t know how they would respond to a rider. The cattle proved to be my final obstacle in taking the win at Tatanka SS 50k!  It was smooth sailing to the finish only passing a few other riders before the finish in down town Sturgis! Congratulations to my teammate Scott Williams on a great ride!  Thank you to all of our great sponsors, Dirty Harry’s, Napleton Auto, Hammer, Bontrager, Maxxis!”

Litzinger’s team mate, Scott Williams, Napleton Elite Cycling p/b Dirty Harry’s, was next just two minutes back to finish 3:25:54. “Three of us came out West from Pittsburgh to take on the bull and the rugged terrain that Tatanka has to offer. I was nervous leading up to race day with it being a terrain I was not familiar with but thought it would be an awesome adventure. Tatanka did not disappoint one bit.

Shortly before reaching Aid #1, which is roughly at mile six of our nine mile climb, I was eagerly surprised to catch Litzinger’s wheel, I quickly rolled in and with the help of a local Boy Scout who topped off my bottles with some cold water and was able to roll out keeping Jim in sight.

Tatanka throws some tough climbs that keep you working for miles but you once you top out, the descents are well worth all the work. There was no shortage of gnarly, fast, long twisty descents and you earn every bit of them. The heat was really starting to get me and Aid #2 was an absolute blessing with ice cold rags that the volunteers wrapped around our necks as we rolled in. In addition to the ice towel, I was greeted with my drop bag, Coke and ice water; it was about as good as it gets with how hot it was on a race day and kept me moving strong.

Jim and I yo-yo’d most the race, I would close the gap on climbs and he would open it back up on descents. By the end of the day, Jim held a two minute lead on me taking the single speed win and we rolled in 3rd/4th overall for the Tatanka Marathon; a solid day for us both. I had an absolute blast on my Pivot Les single speed and would love to be able to come back out here again next year. This trip would never have been possible without the support from my team, Napleton Elite Cycling and local shop, Dirty Harry’s. As of right now, I am signed up for Shenandoah which will be my first 100 miler, very excited to head down there for such an iconic race.”

Robert Herrman, Ridge Riders of the Black Hills, took third at 3:52:31.


Master’s 50+

Dickenson Crushes the field, going sub four to get his first NUE win!

Robert Dickenson, Mtn Mania, was the only Master’s racer to go sub four hours in route to the win in 3:59:18. Jerry Hoff was next at 4:59:42 with Mike Dailey getting third just five minutes behind Hoff at 5:04:50

NEXT RACE: The KENDA NUE Marathon Race Series heads due west to the Big Bear Grizzly in Big Bear, California on Saturday, July 30. for more information and stay tuned here for the latest news, results, and photos.