Out of all of the NUE Series 100 Mile MTB Races, the Wilderness 101 in Coburn, PA is one of my favorites. The course has a great combination of everything to make the race interesting, fun and challenging over the big 100 mile loop. The race starts off on a long climb and basically goes up and down for the rest of the race, as the elevation profile of the race course pictured above shows quite nicely. At the 101, most of the climbs are of the fire road variety and the descents are usually rocky and technical trails, which creates a good mix of riding terrain in my opinion. This year the perfect weather of the day and the super dry course conditions made the race course even faster than it usually is.
Here is my version of how things went down in the single speed race.
After the first big climb, three other single speeders (Matt Ferrari, Justin Pokrivka and Montana Miller) and I separated ourselves from the rest of the large single speed contingency at the race. Justin was the first to drop from our single speed group on a big climb before the Three Bridges Trail. Matt was the next victim to drop from the pace as Montana and I exited the technical trail onto a fast fire road section. Then, a few miles from checkpoint #2 (around 42 miles or so into the race), Montana could not hold the pace being set by two geared guys we were drafting and was also dropped. I had a quick stop at check point two and quickly jump on another geared riders draft out of check point #2 without any other single speeders in sight.
I was feeling good at this point in the race and thought that I might have an easy victory ahead if I continued my fast ride and rode smart. But, I soon found out the race was far from being over when Matt and Montana caught back up to me before mile 55 or so. After a hard effort on a big climb before check point #3, I was able to get clear from Matt and Montana again, but knew that they were probably still hot on my trail. So, I did a quick pit stop at checkpoint #3 (around mile 62) and was able to leave the checkpoint before any other riders arrived.
The climb out of checkpoint three is a hard one. It is a steep single track trail covered with roots and rocks. It is a hard trail to climb with a geared bike, so using a single speed on it is pretty brutal. Half way up the trail I tried to get over a section of big roots while standing out of the saddle to get more power out of my pedal strokes. During this attempt, my rear wheel lost traction, which caused all of my body weight to go forward and for me to then go over the bars. I hit my knee on my handlebar stem during this crash, but was able to walk off the pain after pushing my bike for about 10 yards up the hill. I was happy that I was not seriously injured and that my bike also made it through the crash without any damage.
After the hard climb out of checkpoint #3, the course goes into some technical single track, which eventually leads to a super steep downhill. I decided to ride the downhills fairly conservatively after getting my gap on the other single speeders to avoid race ending mechanicals and crashes. I might have been a little too conservative, though, because my Pro Bike Teammate, Justin Pokrivka (J-Pok) caught me by the bottom of the descent. I let him ride by me in the technical single track that followed the descent because he rides the stuff like a mad man.
This section of technical single track was followed by another fire road climb; however, and I was able to gain my time back on J-Pok and actually put a little time on him before entering the next section of single track. But, soon after going into the single track J-Pok was on my wheel again and I again gave him room for a pass on the trail known as Beautiful. This is probably the most technical trail in the race and J-Pok easily put some time on me again by the bottom of the hill. Knowing that another friend and geared racer Andy Gorski was close behind, though, I knew catching a draft on the fire road section leading to check point #4 would not be a problem. Andy did a great job pulling me along and I was thankful he was around for the help.
After our quick stop at checkpoint #4, Andy and I started climbing the long rocky trail that followed. When we started the climb, we could see J-Pok about 30 seconds up the trail. Andy told me to go ahead and that he would see me at the finish. So, I left Andy behind and climbed hard in an attempt to catch J-Pok again. By the top of the climb, I finally caught him and even put a little time on him before descending back down the ridge.
I knew that I would have to descend fast to keep pace with J-pok, so I let my bike fly a little faster down the descent this time. About part way down the descent, I heard a loud popping noise and figure it was either a rock busting my tire or Justin's. At the bottom of the hill, J-Pok says to me, "Hey, do you know you have a flat." I said, "No, I thought it was yours." I probably was aware that my tire was losing air quickly, but said "no" to J-Pok because I was in a state of denial about it.
As much as I like doing the Wilderness 101, I have had constant issues with getting flats at the race. I have flatted at each of my last three attempts at doing the 101. Before the race, I made sure the tires on my bike were in good condition and even filled them with a higher pressure than I typically run to eliminate my chance of getting another flat this year. Unfortunately, however, this year turned out to be no different than my past three 101 attempts and I was again forced to fix my flat at about mile 70.
When I stopped, J-Pok was courteous enough to stop with me and ask if I had everything. I said that I was good and had what I needed for the repair. He then asked if I wanted him to wait for me to fix the flat, so we could ride in together. I appreciated his offer and wanted to say yes to his kindness, but instead I said "No, go ahead. This is your day, man. Go get it." J-Pok took off and I began my frustrating tire change.
I thought that if I rode hard after my flat repair I might have a chance to catch J-Pok again. I did chase hard for the next 30 miles, but I never did see my teammate again. At the end, J-Pok finished the race strong with a finishing time of 7 hours and 30 minutes. I came in about 4 minutes later in second, but very content with the outcome of the race. J-Pok is a good friend, a good racer and was definitely the fastest racer of the day.
The next 100 mile race for me will be the High Cascade 100 in Bend, OR this coming Saturday, August 7th. I am really excited to race on the trails around Bend. I have heard great things about them and it will be cool to experience them first hand. Hopefully, I will be recovered from my Wilderness 101 effort to have another fast race there, especially since I will be going against the Team Niner Duo of Fuzzy and Deejay. Wish me luck!
Happy Trails, Gerry