Cohutta 100 Race Report
The KENDA (NUE) National Ultra Endurance Race Series #2, Cohutta 100 and Big Frog 65, now part of the new NUE Marathon Race Series, rolled out from the Ocoee whitewater center near Ducktown, Tennessee, host of the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition.
The racecourse features more than 14,000 feet of vertical elevation within the Cherokee National Forest, including much of the Tanasi trail system, rated as one of the best in the state of Tennessee by singletracks.com.
Much like last year, the buzz before Saturday’s race centered on the weather forecast calling for the potential for severe thunderstorms. However, this year would be different than last, allowing racers to enjoy dry and fast course conditions under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low eighties. There was even a pleasant breeze that lingered throughout the day.
NUE Century Race Series
NUE Women’s Open 100 Mile
Carla the Crusher
Carla Williams, Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team, who placed second at Cohutta and second overall in the NUE Race Series last season, crushed the competition to finish 7:29:16, more than an hour faster than last year and nearly an hour ahead of her nearest competitor!
“My goal from the start was to get in and out of the first singletrack section in first place. I definitely burned a few matches in the first twenty miles of the race, but once I hit the gravel roads, I got something to eat and drink and was feeling good again.
I was by myself for the first gravel miles, but eventually Bradd Cobb, who ended up winning the SS category, caught up to me and we road together for the rest of the gravel miles. We would catch other riders and ride with them for a bit until they would either get ahead or drop behind our pace. We were moving at a strong but steady clip up all the climbs and then would have a blast on the sweeping downhill turns. I had no idea what was happening with the women’s field behind me, but I knew there were a lot of strong riders and that I could be caught at any time.
We hit mile fifty under four hours and I was pretty psyched about that. I figured that even if I did get passed, I was on pace for a great time and that also motivated me on the second half of the course to keep pushing up the climbs. I was pretty tired going into the last single track but I still didn’t see any other women behind me, so I just focused in being as smooth and steady as possible and ended up finishing just under 7:30. It was a great day, great course, and great start to the NUE season!”
Mari Chandler, Team Adventure Medical Kits, rolled in at 8:24:01 to take second. Twenty five minutes later, Simona Vincenciova, Hammer Nutrition, who placed fourth last year, took third this year at 8:49:16. “Right from the start and through the first single track section Linda Shin and I stayed together. I noticed my rear tire was starting to get a slow leak and made a quick stop for air at aid station one while Linda stayed behind with a mechanical. For the next 80 miles I pushed my legs hard to stay in front of Linda but, after aid station three, I got passed by Mari.
As I dropped out of the last single track section and was just about to roll into the grass, Linda passed me and Brenda was just behind. I knew I had only one chance to make a move. Right when we entered the parking lot with about a half mile to finish, I clicked through the gears and made my final sprint and kept grinding it till the finish line. Everything played out in my favor and I came across the line ahead of both of them claiming third place. I felt pretty good for most of the race and my Hammer Nutrition was working well to keep me fueled and hydrated in the higher than normal temps.”
Thirteen seconds back, Two-time NUE defending Champion, Brenda Simril, Motor Mile Racing, took fourth in 8:49:29 on a cyclocross bike. The Simrils have completed more NUE Races than any other racer, now at 57, so why cyclocross bikes for Cohutta? Brenda Simril, “Lee and I had decided after True Grit that we were going to take a breather from the NUE series this year and just do whatever comes up and sounds like fun. So, we’re adding a lot of Pisgah races, camping with the dogs, paddling and as many last minute late season ski trips as possible!
We had no intention of doing the Cohutta 100 but were going to join in on the camping and pre-race party Friday night. Then, on Tuesday before the race, we found out that a bunch of our teammates and local riding (and Growler Enduro buddies) had signed up last minute to do the 100 on singlespeed. So…at that point I started to feel incredibly left out and since we don’t ride singlespeeds, I figured the next worst idea would be to ride it on our cross bikes. This sounded like an even better idea after a couple of beers.
We showed up thinking there was little chance of making it through the singletrack at the beginning without major mechanicals (we had 4 tubes, 4 CO2s, and a pump with us plus tires and tubes in our aid bags). We intentionally went into the singletrack at the very back of the pack so we wouldn’t hold folks up and also so we could ride very conservatively to preserve our tires.
Miraculously, we made it to the gravel roads with no incidents. We were tooling along the whole time having fun, even taking a beer handoff from a buddy at the half way point (first time for me in an NUE race!). It felt great going down, but by the time we got to the 20 mile to go mark, I was feeling like it was time to get on with business and get to the finish. The fun part was seeing Linda at the top of the final gravel climb then getting to race her through the last singletrack without killing myself. She’s a super stud so it was great to finish with her. Again, by some small miracle my bike held up even though I lost most of the air in my rear tire on the last section.
That was our stupid human trick for the year so maybe we’ll try to come up with something even more ridiculous for Shenandoah. Did someone say “tandem”??”
Twenty-seven seconds behind the NUE Champ, Linda Shinn, Blacksmith Cycle, came in at 8:49:29 for fifth place, getting a PR in the process.
NUE Men’s Open
Dylan “The Kid” Johnson gets his first NUE victory
Dylan Johnson, Giant Co-Factory Northeast, earned his nickname “The Kid” at Cohutta five years ago. There are not many 16 year olds competing in NUE Race Series let alone having the gumption to try to run with the Big Dogs in the lead pack. That year, he crashed hard early in the race and his finish line became an unanticipated trip to the ER to receive stitches on his face. Five years later, at the age of just 21, this determined young man has earned his first NUE victory blistering the course in 6:42:00, proving that hard work and determination pays off!
“Cohutta has always been one of my favorite NUE races despite crashing my first year when I was 16. The course has a lot of gravel road which means you have to be patient and use a little road tactics.
There was a lead group of eleven of us and, most of the day, I sat in and conserved my energy. Last year I learned the hard way not to go too early when I bonked after a solo break. I waited until fifteen or so miles to go before making a move this time and three others came with me including last year’s winner, Brian Schworm, who proved to be the hardest to drop but I eventually managed to break free just before the single track. Winning an NUE has been a long time goal of mine and I’m thrilled to finally make it happen. I plan on doing Wilderness, Hampshire, Shenandoah, Fools Gold and maybe more.”
Brian Schworm, Think Green-VO2 Multisport p/b SWORD, second overall in the NUE Race Series last season, crossed the line less than two minutes back at 6:43:59, more than ten minutes faster than last year. “I lined up with my teammates Nathanial Cornelius and Brent Goetz for another go at this race. As many are aware, the course starts with a significant road climb to sort things out a bit before filing into the singletrack. It’s always a gamble for how this turns out. There had been times that it was full-on up that hill and other times is was just moderately paced. This year it was the latter with the exception of Brian Toone’s jumps off the front.
There was a little chaos with racers vying for position at the top but nothing unsafe. We filed into the trail for some pristine singletrack. Christian Tanguy was leading us up and I was sitting fourth position. The pace was quick and not intense. We continued in this manner until we reached the bridge crossing down near the start/finish area about 45 minutes into the race. Following the bridge there was another significant climb but this time of the singletrack variety. There was a bit of reshuffling but we continued on the following singletrack the same as before.
Once we reached aid station 1 about 1.5 hours into the race, we hit the gravel roads. We knew there was approximately 65 miles of this gravel to follow. This changed the dynamics of the race. There were 10 of us in the front group but nobody really wanted to put forth much effort to push the pace. I guess everyone was thinking it would be pointless to put forth the effort when everyone else could draft and save energy. It was also too early for attacks; the others could easily chase down a lone leader. Therefore, the group continued on at the slow pace. In fact, after a while, seven more riders caught the front group which swelled the group to 17.
The race continued this way for a couple hours. Gordon Wadsworth was telling jokes; others were discussing equipment, bikes, etc. There were a few efforts on some of the hills but nothing very serious yet. However, at one point Christian decided to increase the pace. He jumped on the front and led the group up a few hills. A few racers dropped off because of these efforts but still around 10 or so remained in the front.
Things got very serious when we rejoined the Big Frog 65 loop. Dylan Johnson immediately attacked and the group fell apart. I was chasing Dylan with Ian Spivack and Tomasz Golas right behind. Once we crested the climb, the four of us regrouped and worked together to keep the pace high. This continued until we reached the last significant climb before the singletrack. Again, Dylan attacked. It was obvious that he was riding strong and was determined to win, and this attack set him in that direction. The others and I couldn’t hold his wheel and we were spread apart up that climb.
My only hope was to try and catch Dylan in the final 45 minutes of singletrack. I hammered as hard as I could but never saw him again. Overall I’m happy with second place. Dylan definitely earned the win and I put everything I had on the course. My teammates finished strong as well with Nathanial taking 11th and Brent finishing 15th. We represented Think Green VO2 Multisport p/b SWORD well together with a 1st by Drew Dillman and 3rd from Ben Richardson in the Big Frog 65!”
Three minutes later, Tomasz Golas, DRT, from Bloomfield, IN took third at 6:46:33. Less than two minutes back, Ian Spivak, from Vienna, VA was fourth in 6:48:08.
The next four racers would all finish at 6:50, with just seconds separating fifth-eighth place. 6:50:46 for Scott Hoffner and Defending NUE SS Champion Gordon Wadsworth, Blue Ridge Cyclery/ Pivot Cycles/ Indust, going geared at this race following two straight SS victories at Cohutta. “After last year’s SS win and a good standing in the SS series, I decided to give my new Pivot Cycles LES geared bike a run in Open men.
The bike and body felt great but since I built the bike just this week and didn’t have really any miles on it, some micro-fatigue of working new muscles got the best of me; and rather than push my body into any sort of injury I chose to ride conservative. I also had some shifter cable stretch that sabotaged a perfectly set up 4-way sprint, taking 6th instead of 8th! Dylan Johnson is a man on fire right now and deserved to stand on the top box.
My goal is still a singlespeed victory, but racing bikes is the most energizing and exciting thing in the world to me so I always choose the bike that will give me the chance to enjoy that to the fullest.”
Two Seconds behind Wadsworth was former NUE Men’s Open Champion, Christian Tanguy, Rare Disease Cycling, at 6:50:48. Two seconds later, Heath Thumel, Race Pace Bicycles/ LRC, claimed 8th at 6:50:52.
NUE Singlespeed Open
Cobb on top!
|By just over one minute, Brad Cobb, Motor Mile Racing, took the top spot in the Singlespeed open to finish 7:26:09. “The race started off really fast, and sudden for me. In fact, I took my helmet off for the prayer, and before I could put it back on and buckled, Charles yelled GO. The chase up HWY64 was a normal fast start, and the field immediately spread out.
This is the first hundred miler I have done in four years (Leadville was the last time), so I knew to push hard, but save as many matches as I could. The single track was sweet and fast, and I started picking off racers pretty quickly. When we hit the fire road, I teamed up with geared racer, John Wiygul, and we time trialed to the third aid station.
At the turn, he spent a little too much time restocking, so I went ahead and kept pressing. I eventually came up on Women’s leader, Carla Williams, and we climbed Big Frog and passed a lot of folks. She was under the impression there were a couples of SS up ahead, so we both put our heads down and pushed for the next twenty miles until we came up on one of the SS. We passed him on a downhill and were able to gap him enough so that he couldn’t catch us.
Soon thereafter, we came on what I thought was the first SS, and we used the same approach, but he was having nothing of it. In fact, on several hills, he (I think it was James Thompson) appeared to be pulling away from me, and I kept digging and digging to stay on his wheel. Eventually, Carla and I dropped him and couple of others and then put the hammer down.
We blew through Aid station five knowing aid six was only a few miles away. Making the left on 221 was a very welcome sight as I have ridden this stretch many times. As Carla and I approached, the wonderful aid station manned by the Scotts Bike Center Team, I was told I was the first single speeder to come through among hundred milers. So, with about 30 miles to go, Carla and I got back into our groove and made some pretty good time back to the single track. When we hit Quartz, Carla was gracious enough to let me around, and knowing how close I was to the barn, I totally let loose.
Upon coming across the finish line, I was told I was the first SS doing the hundred. I was pretty damn happy, but about five minutes later, I was told there were two single speeders that missed the 221 turn and went a few miles out of the way (and one of them was a good friend). So, I volunteered to the race director to do whatever he thought was fair, and in the end, I remained on the top of the podium. In my mind, there is an asterisk by the win, but it was still an amazing day to ride a mountain bike.”
Kip Biese, KJBike Coach/ Old Town Bike Shop, from Colorado Springs, was next at 7:27:32. “I was still a little over geared, but not nearly as badly as at True Grit. The start was rough; I barely got there in time riding from camp so I got a little boxed in and didn’t notice the wheels I was following hadn’t held the lead group on the road climb. I was stuck behind slower trail riders until the bridge crossing coming off Old Copper. After that I felt decent and, I believe, at Aid 1 leaving the singletrack I was second SS.
Over the course of the long gravel grind I gradually slipped back and lost motivation. I don’t know how far back I went and, like most of the lead riders, I either went off course or rode backwards on the course. My Garmin had me at almost 105 miles. Once I turned around from going the wrong way, I soon caught my wife doing the Big Frog 65 and knew I was headed the right way.
When I caught John Haddock on a dirt road climb, I realized I might still be in the hunt. After that, I picked up my tempo and picked off lots more riders (SS’ers and geared riders in both races). In the last stretch of trail I felt strong and I know I caught at least two 100mile SS’ers, maybe 3. I caught Stewart Gross just before leaving the trails and sucked his wheel until almost the finish where he had to sprint for his place. I also sprinted as a SS came from nowhere to sit my wheel, but he was actually a DQ from accidentally cutting the course.”
Two minutes later, Scott Rusinko, Nox Composites, from Chattanooga took third at 7:29:04. Two minutes behind Rusinko was James Thompson, Red Eye Velo, at 7:31:17. Two minutes later, Michael Tressler, To Live and Die in PA, rounded out the top five finishing 7:33:37.
NUE Masters 50+
Clayton gets back to back wins at Cohutta!
Jeff Clayton, Georgia Neurosurgical Institute, achieved his second straight Masters victory at Cohutta, coming off a second place finish behind NUE contender Greg Golet at True Grit Epic earlier this season. Clayton finished with a commanding lead with a final time of 7:27:25, the only masters racer to go sub eight on the day.
“I was sorry and disappointed to get the news, shortly before the start that NUE defending Champion, Roger Masse, was sick and unable to attend. But, you never know (as Roger is fond of saying) if/when a new “freshman” talent will show up in Masters Class.
I did know that my new acquaintance Randy Kerr, who I met at another 100mile/100k mountain bike race called Skyway Epic a few weeks ago, would be a very formidable competitor. Randy is a super climber and it seems he prefers to crush the competition on a single speed regardless of what class he is racing. As I expected, about two thirds of the way up the pavement climb at the start, I dropped off the rather large lead group…and, as expected, Randy was in that group. What I didn’t expect was a small chase group, including eventual women’s winner Carla Williams, to rocket by! I gave an extra effort to jump on the wheel of the last guy and he towed me back to them just as we entered the singletrack.
After passing a couple of (obviously blown up) riders, I ended up in a chain of riders behind Carla. She held a great pace, but eventually it was time to get back on the gas and a few of us separated ourselves off of the growing chain of riders and held that all the way to the bridge across the Ocoee River. It was there that I saw Randy again (unbeknownst to him). It seems that a rigid bike has its limitations on the rooty-rocky old Copper Road trail! I also knew that he would disappear again on the long climbs ahead, and he did.
The race settled in for me with a small group of the lead singlespeeders and a couple of us geared riders always clustered around each other, but often not riding at exactly the same pace. Such is the dynamics of long races with the need to ride within one’s own limits, both climbing and descending. I was determined to catch Randy before the last section of singletrack before the finish, so with each rider I would catch who had fallen off of the lead group, I would ask about Randy—it seemed that I was getting closer all the time, and I knew patience, good nutrition, and hydration were key to success.
80 miles into a race the ability to do simple cognitive tasks is (for me at least) quite diminished. So, even though my memory from 2015 and logic told me that I needed to turn left onto FS221 to begin the long climb toward the finish, there were no signs directing a left turn, nor did I see any blue paint arrows on the road, so I continued straight. Besides, my drafting leech singlespeeder companions (I’d do exactly the same on a flat road!) didn’t say anything.
About five minutes later, having passed a bunch of riders going the other way, and questioning them and myself if they were outbound 100 milers or inbound 65 milers, I raised the question with my companions—they had no idea if we should have turned. We continued on hesitantly until the next road intersection (I measured it out after the race at another 2.33 miles one way) where I saw no signage for our direction of travel–so I announced I was turning around. Of course several riders I had passed/dropped a little earlier were going the wrong way too so I shouted to them to turn around. Lots of confusion…and I’m sure some riders originally ahead of me also missed the turn.
My hopes of catching Randy were obviously much diminished, but I soldiered on regardless. It really helped having some of the singlespeeders I had been racing with from very early around me (including Scott Rusinko, Kip Biese and James Thompson—all who I believe had been in the lead until the missed turn) fighting each other for position into the singletrack. I enjoyed the singletrack and was pleased to re-pass a very fast Carla Williams.
Still going as hard as I could along the highway toward the finish, I was amazed to see the green “GO” logo that identified Randy’s jersey back. He was behind a couple of other riders and spinning like a madman. Randy is hard of hearing, so I knew a sneak attack coming into the finish might work. As we entered the parking lot, I decided it was time and went full attack in my 34-10 gear and had a good gap. I even caught Stewart Gross who had dropped me way back on the last gravel climb. Randy did not respond and victory was mine!
However, my excitement was somewhat diminished when Randy informed me that he’d also gone off course, but didn’t finish out the prescribed course—so he DQ’d. It would have been much better to have a legitimate contest. All in all I was happy with my race, having taken a course misadventure adjusted ~ 1 hour off my 2015 time—watch out you top open class racers.”
John Schwab, US Military Endurance Sports, placed second at 8:11:09. A little over a minute later, Stephen Lebovitz, Motor Mile Racing, finished third at 8:12:49.
David Jolin, Team Y Not Trek, who placed third at True Grit Epic behind Clayton, took fourth at 8:17:08. One minute later, Alan Miner, Banks Bike, rounded out the top five at 8:18:54.
NEXT UP: The KENDA NUE Race Series heads deep into the backcountry of the Mohican State Forest in Ohio for the 14th Annual Mohican Mountain Bike 100, a single loop 100 mile and 100k race spanning four counties. For more information or to register, visit www.mohican.net