Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NUE #2, Syllamo 125

This past weekend I travelled down to Mountain View Arkansas for the second race on the NUE schedule, the Syllamo 125.  It is the shortest race of the series at 125K rather than the typical 100 mile length of a NUE Race, but the shorter distance doesn’t make it any easier.  Most of the NUE races have longer stretches of dirt road or at least some wider trail to allow for riders to eat and take a mental break from riding single track.  Syllamo, on the other hand, is probably close to 97 % tight and technical single track, which requires a racer to remain very focused for the entire duration of the race.  In addition to the technical nature of these trails, the high temperature of the day made this event even more grueling. 

The course seemed completely different to me this year from how it rode last year when it was wet.  It was almost impossible to get any traction on the slick rocks last year, which made riding many sections on the course very difficult on a single speed.  This year, however, the course was completely dry and almost everything could be ridden.  My course time was over thirty minutes faster than the finishing time I had last year.  I’m sure if the temperature was in the sixties instead of the nineties, the race times would have been even quicker this year.

From the start of the race, my legs felt pretty good at Syllamo.  I remembered suffering pretty bad on the first dirt road climb leading to the entrance of the endless single track last year.  This year my legs just wanted to go and I entered the trail immediately behind the fastest geared riders.  Another SS rider, Ron Harding, was right with me and I could immediately tell he was a very capable rider, but what I didn't know is that we would end up spending most of the day together.  At most of the NUE races, it seems like I spend a lot of time alone.  This can make the race drag by at times.  The time at Syllamo seemed to be flying-by with my fast riding partner.  Not only did Ron make the race more interesting with some good competition, but it was also nice to have some good conversation to help pass the time.  We were together so long that I started to wonder if our race might come down to a sprint finish.  I'm not much of a sprinter, so I was hoping that would not be the case.

Me and "Skinny Rivers" having some fun!
Eventually, I was able to get a small gap over Ron before going into checkpoint number five at about 57 miles into the race.  But, by the time I started to exit the checkpoint, Ron was entering it and I realized my gap was much smaller than I thought.  I knew then that I would have to ride the next 15 miles without any mistakes.  It was super hot by this time of the day and I could tell I was starting to become dehydrated even though I had consumed fluids constantly throughout the day (9 total bottles by the end of the race).  At certain points during the last 15 miles of the race, I started to feel week and dizzy from my effort.  When this would happen, I would just suck down more fluid and continue pushing myself toward the finish.  Luckily, my situation never got bad enough to completely wear me down and I was able to ride into the finish with the singlespeed win and in fourth place overall.  Ron came in just about 3 minutes later and Even Plews came in third about 2 minutes after Ron.  Next to my finish at last years Lumberjack 100 with Mike Montalbano, this was the most exciting finish I've had at a NUE Race.  If this is a sign of things to come, it is going to be a very interesting race year for me.

My totally cool (but very heavy) trophy.
Syllamo was certainly a race of attrition this year.  It seemed like the sharp rocks on this course were tearing apart tires and destroying bikes all over the course.  I was lucky enough not to suffer any mechanicals or flats during the race.  I did get a rear flat tire on Friday when a random rock on the trail tore off some of my new tire tread while I was pre-riding the course.  Fortunately, I was able to obtain an awesome replacement tire from my single speed racer friend Andrea Wilson.  She hooked me up with a 2.4 Maxxis Ardent Tire.  Since Andrea rides the Syllamo Trails often, I took her advice and put the Ardent on my front rim and moved my original 2.1 front tire to the rear.  I usually run a pretty low pressure in my front tubeless tire set-up on my NoTubes Crest Rims, but with the huge volume of the Ardent I was able to run a super low pressure of 14 PSI.  Andrea’s advice, the performance of the Ardent and my Salsa Selma Ti on the technical rocky trails were all a big key to me riding so well on a course that destroyed so many tires/bikes.  Thank you Andrea, Maxxis, Notubes and Salsa for helping me ride these trails so much better!

Happy Trails....  Gerry

Thanks to Tony Barrett for the racing photo!


  1. Great race report! Yeah, you gotta watch out for that Ron guy. He's fast and that was his first NUE race ;-) His wife is pretty darn fast too. Congrats on your win!

  2. Nice Ride and Report!

    The ardent is one of my all time favorite tires. Sticky and tough but still rolls well. I raced on the 2.25 for a long time.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Sandie and Rob.