By Ryan O’Dell
Special to Singletrack.com
Perfect weather and ideal course conditions greeted a record 500+ racers Sunday at the championship race of the Kenda National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE).
The 2010 season featured a best four-out-of-eight races with all ties to be decided at Shenandoah in Virginia.
Shenandoah takes place at Stokesville, near Harrisonburg, resting on a swath of beautiful grassy area, high on the mountain, with amazing views of the surrounding misty blue Appalachian mountains of Virginia. The singletrack was equally amazing.
Although the NUE Men’s Open and Master’s divisions were already decided at the Fool’s Gold 100 in Georgia two weeks ago, the Women’s Open and the Singlespeed divisions were still up for grabs as well were all other podium positions.
Christian Tanguy (TeamCF.org) had played second fiddle to the defending NUE Men’s Open Champion, Jeff Schalk (Trek Mountain Co-op), all season. However, last Sunday would be different for Tanguy, who posted his first NUE victory in just 7:03:14, securing second overall in the Men’s Open.
Schalk, still recovering from a muddy Fool’s Gold 100, took second at 7:08:25, five minutes behind a possessed Tanguy, yet became just the second racer ever to complete all eight series races, winning the Men’s Open for a second straight year with five wins.
Michael Simonson (Gary Fisher/SRAMM XX/Notubes) rounded out the top three in the NUE Series, finishing 8th in a top ten that featured the who’s who of XXC, including third place Chris Beck (Subaru/Trek), 4th place Brandon Draugelis (PAvalleys.com), 6th place Jens Nielsen (Sport Systems), 7th place former NUE Champion, Chris Eatough (Trek Mountain Co-op), and 5th place Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Team) who had what became an extremely difficult race after flatting on Narrow Back Mountain, just 12 miles into the race.
According to Bishop, “after suffering a flat, I was passed by at least 50, maybe 70 racers while making repairs in the weeds. Afterward, I was forced to pick my way through the field along narrow singletrack to try to make my way back to the lead pack.”
In an amazing display of strength, Bishop clawed his way back in, finishing fifth on the day, 7:32:28.
Garth Prosser (Cannondale Factory Racing) finished 12th on the day, entertaining the gathered crowd with a hard sideways skid just past the finish line and improving his score just enough to edge out Andy Applegate (Champion Systems/Cannondale) by one point, securing 5th place in the Men’s Open, his best series finish ever.
The Women’s Open became a battle between two giants of the sport when Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) stepped back into the series with a win at Fool’s Gold. Carey, facing a formidable and motivated series leader and 2008 NUE Champion, Cheryl Sornson (Team CF), knew she had her work cut out for her but found a way to make it happen in just 8:23:02, capturing first place and her first NUE Series title.
“The sm100 was the best and hardest NUE of the year for me as I had the pressure of riding with Sue Haywood up until mile 75,” said Carey. “I was pushing the pace as I was constantly aware of Cheryl being somewhere behind me. I knew Sue had no reason to work so I was determined to ride as hard as I felt I could all day. I had some mechanical trouble that kept me from descending as well as I can so I really had to make time on the climbs when I could. Sue and I were in the pattern of climbing close by then she would gap me on the descents and I would catch back on the flats up until mile 75. Then I decided to really go for it after aid station 5 and I never saw her again.”
Carey said Leadville complicated her NUE schedule .
“I had to have four perfect races for it to all work out as I only did four of the NUE series,” she said. “Anyone who races ultras knows that so much can go wrong during an 8-10 hour ride so I am extremely fortunate to have pulled this off this year.”
Hot on her heels was the former national champion, now retired, Sue Haywood (SBC/Turner Racing) finishing just five minutes behind the NUE Champion. Even in retirement, Haywood continues to be a force whenever she shows up. Sornson, despite missing her high mark, had an incredible season, finishing second in the NUE Series Women’s Open securing spots on the podium at nearly all of the NUE Series races this year.
“The SM 100 was a perfect ending to the NUE series. The weather cooperated, the trails were riding great, and the event was run seamlessly,” Sornson said. “I felt a bit tired going into the event and was not sure how I would perform. I can’t say I had a great day or that I was burning it up out there, but I can say that I kept it together and gave what I had. Of course I would have liked to win, but what I really wanted was a sub 9 hour day and I got that. For that I was thrilled. Amanda and Sue are great competitors and they definitely burned it up for great finishes.
The next three spots in the NUE Series women’s open were also up for grabs Sunday and in the end, just one point separated third, fourth, and fifth place. Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) nearly lost the podium when competitors Karen Potter (MTBRaceNews.com) and Vicki Barclay (Freeze Thaw Cycles) finished 4th and 5th respectively. However, Simril with her 6th place finish was able to hang on to her lead, taking third overall in the NUE Women’s Open. Loreen Coffelt (Velosoul/The Natural Way) was not present however her four finishes allowed her to capture 6th place in the NUE Series. In all, forty women competed in what was the deepest women’s field in the NUE Series.
The Singlespeed division, like Women’s Open, was undecided heading into the final showdown. Defending champion Gerry Pflug (Salsa/SPK/Pro Bikes) was facing the former NUE Men’s Open Champion, Harlan Price (Team CF) who had soundly defeated him at Cohutta, Mohican, and Fool’s Gold. Price, who suffered a high speed crash down a mudslide at the Fool’s Gold two weeks ago, was still recovering from bruised ribs and a gash that required eight stitches. With the series championship at stake, the 42 year old Pflug took full advantage of the situation with an amazing display of strength, finishing in 8:02:10, 17 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor, Mike Ramponi (Independent Fabrication) who took second.
Just one minute behind Ramponi, an energized Matt Ferrari (Freeze Thaw/Hubcap) finished third, threatening to move up to second place in the NUE series unless Price managed at least a 5th place finish. One minute behind Ferrari, Dylan Johnson (Oasis Bike Works) sprinted across the line and banged the gong, set up to ring out finishers as they cross the line. Price admittedly wasn’t 100%, but he certainly wasn’t willing to give up any more space on the NUE podium as he finished fifth at 8:25:20, just enough to give him a one point lead over Ferrari and second in the NUE Series.
Rounding out the top eight in the NUE Series Singlespeed Division was 4th place Ron Sanborn (Mclain Cycle & Fitness), 5th place Jason Pruitt (29er Crew), 6th place Robert Lochner (Iron City Bikes), 7th place Roger Masse (Gary Fishser 29er Crew), and 8th place Robert Radzwich (The Bicycle Shop-State College).
Master’s 50+ Open
Robert Herriman (Trek 29er Crew/ACF Stores) was not present yet he had already wrapped up the NUE Masters division with wins at Cohutta, Mohican, Lumberjack, and Fools Gold. This was Herriman’s first NUE Masters Championship. Bill Nagel (Guy’s Bicycle Racing) sat out the race as well, gambling that his 15 points would be low enough to carry him to second place in the NUE Series, where racer’s receive series points based on their finishing place. Lowest points determine the winners. It was a risky proposition that nearly failed as Erik Lenzing (Freeze Thaw Cycles) and David Grauer (Orthopro), both with 18 points, fought it out in a desperate bid for the remaining two podium spots.
Todd Henne wasn’t contending the NUE Series but proved his muster as the first Masters 50+ to cross the finish line in 9:12:20. Three minutes later, William Simms (Cycle Lodge) took second followed by Denis Chazell (Z Adventures), Jim Matthews (MBR), and former NUE Master’s Champion, John Williams (Bike Line of Newark, DE) whose 5th place finish also gave him 5th overall in the NUE Master’s.
Nagel’s gamble paid off as he held on to his second place position in the series. Lenzig’s 7th place finish was three minutes ahead of Grauer, who finished 8th in the series, but it was not quite enough as Grauer captured the final podium spot, finishing 3rd overall in the NUE Series.
The NUE Series awarded $16,000 in cash and prizes. Every racer who completed the 4 race minimum receives awards that included four Velocity wheel sets, Kenda Tires, 15 Yakima Racks, and Ergon Grips. NUE Champions also received custom made, personalized award plaques along with custom made NUE Champion Jerseys courtesy of Endura Technical Apparel. Racers who completed the four race minimum but were not present can request their prizes by sending their mailing address to Ryan O’Dell at firstname.lastname@example.org