Tatanka 100, Sturgis, SD
by Ryan O’Dell
The Kenda NUE Series welcomed a new venue on Saturday from the city of riders, Sturgis, South Dakota. Under sunny skies and pleasantly mild temperatures, racer’s rolled out at 5am on a backcountry loop nestled at the base of the northern Black Hills in extreme western South Dakota.
Sturgis is not only home to the world’s largest motorcycle rally but also harbors a growing community of endurance athletes seeking unparalleled scenery and challenge. Featuring a single grand loop, the Tatanka 100 course provides a mixture of gnarly single track and fast, smooth cruising. The majority of the course covers sections of the three longest official Black Hills trails: the Centennial Trail, the Deerfield Trail, and the Mickelson Trail.
The Tatanka 100 is held in conjunction with the Black Hills 100 Ultra-Marathon, which, in its first two years, has earned a reputation as one of the toughest foot races in the western US. These races share the same course for the first 50 miles, but the riders start one hour earlier, allowing them to get out front and avoid any congestion on the trail.
Sornson gets her sixth straight win!
NUE Women’s Champion, Cheryl Sorson, Team CF, made it sixth in a row as she smashed the women’s field by an hour to finish 8:52:54. Sornson has won every race she has entered this year and now holds a commanding lead toward her third NUE Series title.
“Tatanka 100 was a spectacular event. What a beautiful area with such pristine trails, a hidden treasure. The event was well organized and ran smoothly. The course was as described and meticulously marked with no worries of being off track. We were blessed with pleasant temperatures and no rain.
The race started early, but being from the east coast it still felt like a normal 7 am start. The start of the race saw the fastest riders breaking away from the rest in efforts to get to the first trail head without a backup. The first half of the race consisted of superb single track that climbed and descended numerous times throughout the first 50 miles. Some of the climbs were long and hurtful, but the descents were fun and flowy, making it all worthwhile. At 50 miles I was five hours in and concerned that it was going to be a longer than expected. Knowing the next several miles consisted of a gradual climb on the famous Mickelson Trail, I made it a point to stick with a group of riders and we began to put the hammer down. We made wonderful time. The next 15 miles flew by and my spirits raised thinking that I could finish the day under 9 hours. Once off the Mickelson Trail we turned into some rough double track that proved to be taxing, but knowing the end was near kept the pace spirited. There was some double-track, then fire-roads before entering Sturgis.
The ending of the race was a bit surprising as we entered a development and out into a water drainage ditch then the aqua duct of the drainage thru sturgis and under the roads that dumped us right into the finish at the town park. We were welcomed at the finish with custom pottery mugs and huge congratulations.
It was a great adventure with tough goings, but well worth the effort. I was super thrilled with my trophy that was an authentic painted buffalo skull. Luckily the men’s overall winner was from the area and offered to mail it home for me. It was the ending to a perfect day in a great town that overflowed with splendor and good vibes.”
Following a second place finish at the True Grit Epic, Alice Drobna, webcyclery, from Bend, Oregon finished second in 9:52:12. Brenda Simril, Motor Mile Racing, rolled in just six minutes later in 9:58:22 to take the third spot on the podium. Simril is currently in second place overall behind Sornson in the points having two other second place finishes and two third-place finishes this year. “I had never been to South Dakota before, so I really had no idea what to expect. It was way more “alpine” than I expected, with gorgeous scenery. I was cursing the 5 am start the night before, but during the race I was really grateful for it because we had nice cool temperatures and lots of shade for half the race. I loved the rugged single track and awesome down hills, and this race had the best hike-a-bike of the NUE series by far.”
Fourth place went to Linda Shin, Crankskins/Blacksmith Cycles, of Oakville, ON in 10:16:39. 34 year old Shin is a contender this year with a third place finish at Cohutta and fifth place finish at the Wildcat 100. Denise Coppock, Titletown Flyer, from Greenbay, WI took fifth in 10:45:20. Coppock finished sixth at True Grit and fourth at Mohican this year.
Local racer, Meyer, gets his first NUE Series win!
James Meyer, Quarq/SRAM, from nearby Spearfish, SD, also known among cyclists for co-founding Quarq, a producer of power meters, achieved his first NUE Series victory in just 8:08:53. Jim is now Technology Director for Quarz, a subsidiary of SRAM, and an elite age-group triathlete, representing the United States in short and long course age-group world championships. He is a three-time Ironman finisher, including the Ironman® World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in 2004. Since 2007, Jim has focused on road racing and endurance MTB. He won the Solo 30 Men’s category at Breck Epic 2012 and finished second in the Open Men’s category at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. This year’s top male and female NUE Series Champions will receive an all-expense paid trip to compete at LaRuta in addition to sharing a $10,000+ cash purse and complimentary entry into all NUE races in 2014.
Here’s what Jim had to say following his Tatanka win, “Whew! It was a reat day of riding at the Tatanka 100 this year. As part of the NUE series, there were tons of out-of-town riders, so for me the field was a total wild card. I figured I could get in the top five or so.
I wanted to hit the singletrack at the front, so I made sure to position near the front after we rolled out the first five miles on the gravel road. We all funneled through a single-file gate which created a pinch point and split up the group of 15 or so riders. I got through the gate first, so I put on gas and tried to make some separation. Turned out this was the decisive move of the race.
I was able to see a couple guys climbing switchbacks for the first 20 minutes, then, they were gone. Then, around 90 minutes into the race, we went through some creek crossings and shortly after I heard some brake squeal through the forest. Maybe out of sight, but not out of mind! I pushed hard on the climbs and stayed quick on the down hills, but after 4.5 hours at the Silver City half-way aid station, I still only had two minutes over second place. Someone there said “It’s OK, he’s a singlespeeder!” I wondered if that was supposed to make me feel better.
Then the race gets real. First, a five minute straight-up-the-mountainside-carry-your-bike-and-not-cramp-your-calves-hike-a-bike followed by a quick down and a right turn onto the Mickelson Trail. The Mickelson Trail is 18 miles of 3% engineered railroad grade. Over an hour of pure pedaling, no breaks, no hiding and we had a headwind.
There is a gold ring with embedded diamonds on the line for the first rider to break eight hours, so I started doing the math. Headwind did not help. Neither did the extra 800 feet of climbing in a new section of snowmobile trail. But the dream was alive even at 7:45 on my timer. All we had to do was fall off the mountain into town and hammer to the finish.
But it wasn’t to be. The clock struck eight hours right as I entered the bike path on the outside of town. Looks like I have another year to find another eight minutes out there on the course!”
Kip Biese of Colorado Springs, CO finished second in 8:26:58. Biese, now a professional cycling coach, has not competed in the NUE Series since 2011 where he placed third at Syllamo’s Revenge and ninth at the Lumberjack 100. However, Biese is planning to compete in several upcoming races this year.
“I went into the trail third and got around Gerry and into second quickly. I spent the first hour 10-15 seconds behind Jim Meyer and could see him on the switchbacks and open spots. I don’t know whether I could have made the push to catch, but I came into the race a little fatigued so didn’t try. With my May races I’m fourth in ProUET right now but mostly I coach and should know better than to compete in a Wednesday XC race on SS the week before a long race like Tatanka but it doesn’t matter because I had fun.
A.J. caught me about 1.5 hours in and I could still see Jim occasionally. Around two hours in, A. J. passed me and I just tried to pace myself before Pilot Knob Gerry caught me and we rode together on to Silver City. I took a long pit and then started really easing up. My strategy was to go for the win on the big climb after the hike a bike. Paul Berry was just behind me on the hike but I rode it up and over after the first wall. He caught me on the Mickleson trail as I was still saving up for the big climb that I learned wasn’t there after all. We rode together to mile 77 where he pitted and I rolled on. I caught Gerry and just did what I had to in order to hold on for third place overall.”
Paul Berry, Spoke Bike and Ski/Rocky Mountain Bikes/Soul Sportif and Dissen+ Compression Socks & Wear, from Kamloops, British Columbia finished third in 8:37:49. “After the initial roll out, I found myself third wheel into the single track. However, this did not last long as Gerry Pflug flew by in his 55×11 (actually 32×18). At least that’s what it looked like as I was pulling my lungs back into my chest.
As things settled in I found myself in a bit of a battle with three others. It wasn’t until the 30 to 40 mile mark that I finally had some daylight. As I continued, the course revealed more and more amazing trails and beautiful scenery. As I came into Silver City and then up to the hike a bike section, I found the eventual second place finisher, Kip Biese, and God no wonder I couldn’t keep up with this guy earlier! He told me he weighs in at one hundred and twenty pounds…what the hell! Anyway, we proceeded onto the rail trail section and worked well together into a significant head wind for about 30 km (Canadian miles only shorter). We separated at the aid station and I managed to crawl in a little battered but was content with my day. All told a great event with fantastic trails.”
One minute later, Christopher B Knoll, from Minot, ND finished 8:38:19 in fourth place. Ten minutes later, Ben Welnak of Littleton, CO took fifth in 8:48:43 followed a minute later by “The Billdozer” Bill Dozer Colson of nearby Rapid City, SD in 8:49:23.
The youngest and final finisher, 17 year old Sam Loftus, rolled in for his first ever NUE Series finish, narrowly making the final cutoff, following a broken drivetrain that forced him to limp in for the last five miles.
Linnell claims his first NUE Series victory of the season!
Following a second place finish to the Pfluginator at the True Grit Epic in March, A.J. Linnell, Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles, of Victor, ID powered up a loose climb and never looked back in route to his first NUE Series victory this season, second overall, to finish 8:16:13.
“I loved this race. Not every minute of it, but I loved this race. The course featured loose, steep, rocky, gnarly, natural trail riding. I rode the first twelve miles or so with Gerry until a steep, sustained bastard of a hill where I cranked past him. My heart rate was through the roof, but what was I going to do, get off and walk?!
One of my favorite parts of singlespeeding is that there’s just a minimum speed you can go based on your gearing. There’s no granny gear but if you can keep your balance and just keep the cranks turning you can keep going, probably faster than you would with gears. Yes, it sends your heart rate to the red line and past, but that feels kind of good too.
After passing Gerry, I rode with Kip for a few miles but eventually realized that I needed to be riding faster if I was going to stay ahead of Gerry. He was riding strong and I knew there was no room to relax. Kip was the only racer I saw. After passing him, I was alone until the finish. I kept getting reports that I was two minutes back from Jim, then 2.5 minutes back. I had hoped that I might be able to catch him until we hit the Mickelson Trail grade. Damn, that thing is long! That was my dark place for sure. I would have happily welcomed another racer there to help get through the headwind and over the top. After Mickelson, I was rolling into the gentle down hills while Jim was able to shift up and open the gap to seven minutes, which he held to the end.
I was glad that I geared up to 34×18 for this race. It made the steep climbs hurt but felt just right for spinning up the Mick and was definitely helpful on all of the downhill forest roads in the last 25 miles.”
Four-time reigning champion, Gerry Pflug, Team CF/Pro Bikes , finished second in 8:27:21, choosing a 32×18 gear for the race, but still firmly holds the reigns toward his fifth series title with four wins under his tires at True Grit, Cohutta, Syllamo’s Revenge, and Mohican this year.
28 year old Trevor Rockwell, Team Noah Foundation/Decorah Bicycles/Twin Six, of Decorah, IA took third in 8:55:33 following up on a second place finish at Syllamo’s and fifth at Mohican. “I was feeling as little nervous going up the gravel as I was at my max heart rate already and it was only two miles into a 103 mile race! I kept going as the local from Quarq in Spearfish put the pedal down even further. I was eyeing Gerry and A.J. as I knew that they would be the ones to watch this entire race. Well, eyeing is all I was able to do because they were gone from my view not too far into the race.
As we took the turn into the singletrack, a little bobble by Doug Andrews ahead of me over a cattle grate and I ended up having to dismount as well and badly. I stuck my foot into the grate and nearly broke my ankle in the process.
I was able to ride with Cheryl Sornson for a couple miles in the opening climbs as she was setting a good pace and making me settle down. After a while, I got past and was off in search of Doug, Gerry and Peat. I caught up to Doug, who was riding rigid on a wicked downhill about ten miles into the race. I later learned he had been riding with A.J. and Gerry but the down hills were not treating him good. I was able to put in little attacks over the next ten or so miles and opened up a gap.
On a hike-a-bike that puts all others to shame, I came upon Brett Heuring from Team Noah, who found this hike to be a little harder as he decided to pull my turtle move from Boone, landing upside down in a six foot hole filled with rocks on the steep part of the hike! He was ok though and finished is first hundo.
Later, I was all alone on the Mickelson Trail, riding gradually up hill on a 3% grade and into a head wind. I looked back to see three riders coming up quick. I noticed the short riding style of Cheryl and, OH NO, DOUG! They caught me and the pain was about to begin. They were moving and I was in a bad place. I hooked onto the back of this train and held on for dear life many times over the next 14 miles wondering if I was going to die. I was figuring Doug had me as he was riding strong even with the tough 32×15 gear he was running.
Later, I came around a corner at about 85 miles and who do I see but Doug on the side of the trail fixing a flat. I checked to see whether he needed anything but once he said no, I was off like a bat out of hell! This was my chance and I needed to go as hard as I could.”
2011 NUE Master’s Champion, Doug Andrews, GeoLadders.com, of Mission Viejo, CA arrived ten minutes back at 9:05:17 with Dwayne Goscinski and Peat Henry, both from Team Noah Foundation/Free Awesome, both racers coming in at 9:25:47 for fifth and sixth place respectively.
Whaley wails on the field by over an hour!
Marland Whaley, Red Barn Bicycles, from Hamilton, MT took a big lead to get the win in 9:22:30, as the only sub ten hour finisher in the Master’s field!
NUE Series contender, Monte Hewitt, finished second in 10:29:54, in his best finish this year, following two fifth place finishes at True Grit and Cohutta.
David Jolin, Stark Velo, from Bellville, OH took third in 10:41:19 after getting his first NUE Series win at True Grit, third at Cohutta and seventh at Lumberjack this season. With this finish, Jolin moves into first place in the NUE standings in what has become a very competitive Masters field this season.
“Coming into this race, I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond after doing Mohican and Lumberjack back to back. In the Master’s division, any number of guys could step up to the challenge for the podium. My plan was to go out strong and keep the lead group from getting too far ahead until we hit the singletrack. From then on it was 60 miles of mostly singletrack. I just tried to take speed when I could get it.
Once I cleared Silver City and headed along the stream towards the hike-a-bike and out of the valley to the Michelson trail, I had a better feel of where I thought my overall time could be. I felt that 9:30-10 hours would put me in good shape for the podium so I got in time trial mode and just started to eat up miles as fast as I could. My big mistake arrived at mile 78 when I wasn’t paying enough attention to the race signs and missed the turnoff at Edgewood, adding a total of about seven extra miles just to return to the missed turnoff!
Having no idea where the other contenders were now, I just went as hard as I could. With about ten miles to go, Monte Hewitt passed me but by that point, I was running on fumes. Monte took advantage of the descents and kept me in his rear view mirror. I was just thankful to nab a podium spot. Hat’s off to Kevin and the Tatanka team! This is a must do NUE race!”
Tatanka 100 Results (Top 5)
Men’s Open Top 5
- James Meyer 8:08:53
- Kip Biese (Joe’s Bike Shop) 8:26:58
- Paul Berry 8:37:49
- Christopher Knoll 8:38:19
- Ben “mountainbikeradio.com” Welnak 8:48:43
Women’s Open Top 5
- Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) 8:52:54
- Alice Drobna (Webcyclery) 9:52:12
- Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) 9:58:22
- Linda Shin (Crankskins/Blacksmith Cycles) 10:16:39
- Denise Coppock (Titletown Flyer) 10:45:20
Masters Top 5
- Marland Whaley 9:22:30
- Monte Hewett (mhh) 10:29:54
- David Jolin (Stark Velo) 10:41:19
- Tim Burke 11:23:59
- Paul Bosworth 11:31:20
Singlespeed Top 5
- AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald’s Bicycles/Pivot Cycles) 8:16:13
- Gerry Pflug (Team CF/Pro Bikes) 8:27:21
- Trevor Rockwell (Team Noah Foundation/Decorah Bicycles/Twin Six) 8:55:33
- Doug Andrews 9:05:17
- Dwayne Goscinski (Team Noah Foundation) 9:25:47
Complete results can be downloaded [HERE] in PDF form.
The Kenda NUE Series heads northwest to the High Cascades 100 near Bend, Oregon on Saturday, July 20. According to Race Director, Mike Ripley, just 35 spots remain before this race sells out again this year! Stay tuned here for the latest news, results, and photos.
Words: Ryan O’Dell
Photos by Black Hills Endurance
Note: XXC Magazine thanks Ryan O’Dell for the recap and for helping us share more coverage of the 2013 Kenda NUE Series in the future.