Sunday, April 25, 2010

One long, wet road

The first race of the National Ultra Endurance Series, the Cohutta 100, was a wet one for sure this year. For the past five years, this race has alternated year after year from a wet course to a dry one. With 2009 being a fast dry course, it was time for 2010 to be a wet course again and it was a deluge of wetness this year.

The rain started early Saturday Morning and came down long enough to make the trails pretty slick for the start of the race, but luckily the rain let up just enough during the start to allow us to begin without standing in the rain. However, it didn’t take long for everybody to get muddy and wet even without the rain falling, since the trails were already soaked. After about 4 hours of riding in this early grit, my face and bike was completely coated in a layer of dried mud. After this period of time, Mother Nature then took it upon herself to clean everybody up by pouring buckets of rain on us for the remainder of the afternoon. Of course, this made coming down the mountain on the last section of single track pretty bad, especially since most people had worn through their brake pads by this time in the race.

I usually don’t mind racing in bad conditions, but if given the choice, I would much rather have faster dry conditions. I also like when the cleaning up I have to do after a race it not such a difficult experience. Pretty much by the time I finished the race and got back to the car to start ridding myself from all of my almost permanently attached muddy clothing, I felt like I was about to go hypothermic. I doubt that I can accurately describe just how good taking a warm shower at the camp ground felt after doing this race.

The 2009 Cohutta was my first long race on a single speed and I ended up taking the win. I set my expectations pretty high this year because of my win last year and hoped for another victory, even with 2006 overall NUE Series Champion Harlan Price also registered in the single speed class. As the race started, things seemed to sort out pretty well for me and I was able to enter the single track in the second leading group along with fellow single speed competitors Harlan and Matt Ferrari. But, by the end of the first single track section, I let a few geared guys get in between me and my single speed competition just before entering a technical section on that part of the course. Unfortunately, they were both able to get a nice gap on me during this time, so I had to chase fairly hard through the next section of single track to get back up to them. Fortunately for me, I was able to re-join the two of them again not long after starting the long fire road section of the course.

The three of us rode well together on the fire roads up to check point #2 and we all stopped to replenish are liquids of choice there. Matt had some difficulty at the check point, which caused Harlan and me to gain a slight advantage over him. We took it pretty easy, though, so Matt was able to get back into our group. But, it was not too long after Matt re-attached himself to us that Harlan kicked up his speed. Matt soon fell off our pace and a few miles later, before check point three, I also then lost contact with Harlan.

The rest of a race was basically a matter of survival for me. I was still able to keep my pace up, but dealing with the prospect of riding in the rain for a few more hours and the mental defeat of being dropped was not playing over too kindly in my mind. Thankfully, I endured the rest of the race with little to no issues and finished second in the single speed class and tenth overall with a time of 7 hours, 33 minutes.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my performance. Sure, it would have been nice to take the win, but I guess second is not so bad when considering how difficult the conditions were and who my competition was. One thing for sure, the NUE Series Single Speed Class is going to be a whole lot different with Harlan in the mix this year. It will be, for sure, a long, hard road for whoever takes the overall series victory this year, which is a good thing. Right??? Happy Trails, Gerry


  1. Good Morning,
    Can you elaborate on what SS set up you are riding? I am interested in SS endurance racing on a Salsa, and have questions regarding EBB vs. the new El Mar, otherwise built as light as possible. Thanks....

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  3. Hey Hamilton,
    I am using a Salsa Selma with an EBB. I have not had a chance to try the new El Mar with the adjustable rear dropouts yet, but am real excited to ride one soon. Since the new El Mar is TI, I think it would be a great choice for endurance racing because of the ride TI gives, but honestly the Selma is pretty smooth too for being scandium.
    For this race, I used a White Bros Carbon Fork because it is light and the Cohutta is not real technical. On most 100 mile races, I use a Rockshox Reba Suspension Fork. Most of my other parts on the bike are made by Salsa, like the bars, stem, skewers and seat post. Not all of it is the lightest stuff around, but they are all promised to make through a long race without issues. Hope this helps and please let me know if you have other questions. - Gerry

  4. Yeah, I know a lot of people are salivating over the possibility of a Ti El Mar with swinging dropouts. My guess is the Selma will be retooled for the new dropouts too, if all goes well with the El Mar. Life's too short for that kind of uncertainty, though! Hope to be on something Salsa soon! Thanks for the info. -H