I had the opportunity this weekend to ride Mountain Goat Racing’s Fool’s Gold 100 National Ultra Endurance Series final race in Dahlonega Georgia, on Saturday, and Jeremiah Bishop’s 108 MileAlpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, VA on Sunday. It turned into a long epic weekend with 200+ miles of riding and about 26 hours of driving!
I got delayed on the 12 hour drive from Philly to Georgia with the Roadtrek overheating. With probably 15,000 this year on the old van I’ve really been quite lucky with no catastrophic mechanical issues. However “Halen” as my friend Sydney has christened her, is temperamental at best, and I quickly found myself overheating and filling up with a multiple gallons of coolant. By Friday morning I was in North Carolina and overheating instantly, and it got a bit scary when the coolant vapor began to fill the cabin! Fortunately I was able to open up doghouse (the engine compartment inside the cab), and I found the leak; an old hose had failed. The replacement hose was just $1.47 and I was on my way, feeling chuffed I was not facing a major expensive repair!
As I rolled into beautiful Montaluce Winery, (Fool’s Gold race location) it great to see teammate Mark Drogalis and The Last Aid Station host and rider Mark Stover. And I was also pleased to see some of the NUE All Stars show up including the already crowned champs Keck Baker, and Gordon Wadsworth, plus top riders Brian Schworm and Dylan Johnson.
The race started off strong but I could quickly tell the leaders were looking into settling into a pace. Laying up on climbs and less technical sections does me no good so I thought I’d try to tire a few of the leaders out by pulling up most of the initial 10-mile climb. At least 8 riders stuck to me and there was no shaking them. Then, at the first major descent, they all just left me in the dust! With plenty of issues including old age, mortality, nerves, lack of confidence, lack of skills, and eyesight problems, but I could not hang with them on the the dusty descent and it seems like I lost over two minutes to the lead group; never to bridge back up.
I did pass Brian Schworm who had a flat, and briefly another rider (not sure if it was Nick Brag or Nathaniel Cornelius). But they both passed me back in no time. I found myself alone for the rest of the first 50mile lap, but felt confident that I’d catch some of the early leaders when they’d die off on the second lap’s long climb. It was not to be! Instead I was caught by 4 our 5 riders! And I ended up being the only victim of my fast paced 1st lap strategy!
I was a little more confident on the 20 or so miles of singletrack the 2nd lap. I managed to hold off most of the guys who caught me, but continued to duke it out with eventual Masters winner Jeff Clayton. It was a thrill riding with him as we suffered from a similar lack of insanity in the trickier sections, while managing to fly through the flowing trails. It was the short climbs though where Jeff would stand up and power away, and eventually he dropped me. Eventual Singlespeed winner Bob Moss came by me too so far outclassing me in the singletrack that I was in disbelief! However Bob was cooked on the climbs. I was able to hold him off by a couple minutes with the road finish, while Jeff held me off by a couple minutes too. All said and done I came up 35 mintues behind winner Keck Baker and just 10 minutes back of the Gordon Wadsworth, so all in all it ended up being a pretty good race for me. I was very impressed seeing Brian Schworm made his way back to 2nd place overall though he flatted so early in the race. Brian Lewis, a pro road rider, did an incredible job to get 3rd overall (I think it was his first NUE), and he was followed by Dylan Johnson. Dylan has been around since before me though he’s still under half my age! It was great see him again after racing with him in Colorado this year. He’s riding better than ever.
I ended up in 9th overall, and 8th in the open, which left me enough points to finish the series tied with Michael Danish for 6th place in the NUE in points, though I think I might get the place over him because I was able to make it to the final race, and I was also lucky enough to have a higher overall finish with 2nd place at Tatanka 100 earlier this year. Really though I’m primary pleased that I was able to finish the series as I was not able to last year.
But no time to doddle I said “goodbyes” (Thanks to event sponsors “Moes” for the food!) and started heading north. My original plan was a 10 hour drive to Maryland for the Patapsco 100, the hardest 100 mile race I’ve done. But immediately the van started giving me problems and I’d have to stop to let it rest every hour or so. After realizing that Maryland was probaby not doable I conferred with my training partner and team director, Jake Wade, and decided to go for Harrisonburg instead to ride Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, 108 miles of the most awesome road and fireroad imaginable. I was fortunate to make it to Harrisonburg and get three hours sleep! And the Gran Fondo just turned out to be the greatest fun I could possibly imagine on a bike!
So many folks turned out and everyone was rearing to go! It’s not a race as such but I had to pull out everything just to complete the event! There were two major timed climbs and I was already gassed from the previous day of riding and driving. But the inspiration from all the other riders, the wonderful aid stations and volunteers, and the shear beauty and challenge of the landscape had me pushing myself to the limit. I couldn’t’ have done it without Toasted Head Racing teammate R
ob May who help me get into the event, and other fellow team riders Chad and Katie Cherefko who got me some much needed food before the event. I rode with many folks but spent a good few hours with a Michael Dando, a powerhouse rider who pushed me to the breaking point!
Jeremiah Bishop was there to encourage all of us. Jeremiah has been one of the most successful and influential MTB riders for like two decades now. After his performance in pulling Alban Lakata to the sub-6hour win at Leadville just last month, I think you’ve got to look at Jeremiah as one of the fastest riders on earth, and certainly one of the most experienced. It was an honor to attend his event and spend some time sharing the road.