Christian Tanguy won the 2011 Kenda National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series, but he might not be back to defend his title in 2012.
The 36-year-old from Worcester, Michigan raced to his first-ever series win in an exciting finale at the Shenandoah Mountain 100. Going into the race, Tanguy and rival Jeff Schalk (Trek) were tied in points due to each having won four rounds, but Tanguy took the top honors after beating Schalk in Virginia.
So just what is the key to victory in the NUE Series? "For me, the quality number one of a successful NUE Series rider is being able to endure the pain," said Tanguy.
When he's not racing his bike for Team CF, Tanguy works full-time as a mechanical engineer for an automobile supplier, and the reason he may not be back on the full NUE circuit in 2012 is a professional one because he will be part of an upcoming work delegation to China.
Tanguy, who is from France, speaks English with a French accent. He moved to Michigan in 2001 and has lived there ever since. He is now married to an American woman and is also a father.
Cyclingnews spoke with him about his season after he clinched the 2011 NUE Series title.
Cyclingnews: How did it feel to win your first NUE Series title?
Christian Tanguy: First of all, it was a big surprise because it was not a goal I had for myself at the beginning of the season. I was the first one to be surprised to win at Cohutta and at Syllamo's Revenge. Then after I won the first two rounds, most of my friends started to think that I had a shot at the NUE series. I said, "Oh really?"
CN: What was it like to battle so closely with past multi-time NUE Series champion Jeff Schalk?
CT: I was afraid of him at the last race. I knew I'd beat him twice there in the past, but still at the Breck 100, he was at the top. I gave myself a 30 percent chance of winning the Shenandoah Mountain 100. I don't know what suited me so well at Shenandoah. I had a plan, and I wanted to try to accomplish it the best I could.
I'm slightly faster on the climbs than Jeff is, and what I tried to do was tire him out on the climbs. I wanted to be able to stay at the front until the end. The battle was very difficult.
CN: How many 100-milers is enough for a given year?
CT: I think eight is the maximum number of 100 milers per year. Between the vacation and the travel and the rest, eight is stretching it.
You want to drop the worst results. If you do less than eight, you come into a rhythm at the beginning of the season when there are races every two weeks. After that, the races are more out west, so if you skip one, you might have a full month between races, that's a little too long.
CN: Do you do any non-NUE Series racing?
CT: I am committed to the local racing, so any time I was not racing the NUE, I was racing here in Michigan. There is a USA Cycling-sanctioned championship organized by Tailwind-racing.com, and I was fortunate enough to win that this year. That's the fifth year in a row that I won the championship.
CN: How many years have you been racing the NUE series?
CT: Four years. The first year, five years ago, I only did one race, which was the Lumberjack. The following year, I think I did four or five races. For four years, I've done four or more races. [Four completed races are required to be counted in the NUE Series. - Ed.]
CN: What were your best NUE Series races this season and why?
CT: There are three races that stand out. The Lumberjack 100 because it was in Michigan and everybody believed for some reason that it was my home race and therefore I should have an advantage, but it wasn't true. Over the years, Jeff Schalk probably won there more than I did. But it's far from my home, and I don't go there to ride. It's considered my home race although it's not really the case. I had a very tough week before the race, which had me out of town and I couldn't prepare the way I wanted to. During the race, I had good legs and was really active in this race. I attacked twice and I shook the lead group, so I'm proud of that. I was in control for that race.
The NUE Lumberjack 100 was the first NUE race I did... about five ago. In 2010 and 2009, I was second and in 2009, I finished maybe 20 seconds behind Jeff - I was so close. In 2010, it was a different story, and I was second but I was on the verge of not finishing the race - I wanted to quit.
My other best races were the Breckenridge 100 and the Shenandoah Mountain 100. At Breckenridge, the [high] altitude and the scenery stood out more than the course or results. I consider that one to be the hardest 100s I've raced. I've raced Shenandoah three times, and all three times I beat Jeff Schalk. It was the deciding race for the series this year.
CN: What was your worst NUE Series race and why?
CT: The Mohican 100. I stopped eating and something was not quite right. I had digestive problems and I was feeling really, really sleepy. I dropped from the lead group and after that, it was a long way to the finish. Fortunately for me, I was going to quit but my teammate Brandon [Draugelis] came by me and said to stay on his wheel, and we'd ride to the finish together. If he hadn't been there, I would have quit the race. It made me push hard. I finished fourth. Then for days afterward, I was really sick.
CN: How much time would you say you train each week in years when you are participating in the NUE?
CT: I ride maybe 12 hours per week when I'm training during the season between my work schedule and family time. I want to be a good dad as well. I ride when I have time. Compared to a normal person, that's a lot of training, but compared to other top NUE riders, it's not that much. What I don't do in hours, I do in intensity. When I train, I don't just ride, I ride to maximize that effect.
Some people ride all winter long and do tons of riding. First of all, I don't like riding in the cold, so all I did during the winter was some time on the trainer. I'd do it after I put my kids to bed: from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm or 10:30 pm. It was hard mentally to go on the trainer at that time, but I needed to prepare for the season. The intensity during the winter made a difference. I never ride with anyone, so I had no idea how fast I could be.
CN: In what direction would you like to see the NUE Series head going forward?
CT: I think [Series Director] Ryan O'Dell has it figured out pretty well. There is a push to get more races on the West Coast - I think that's a fantastic move. I'd like to see it a little like the NBA with an eastern and western division and one big race like a playoff game. That could be cool.
I hear that Alex Grant and Tinker Juarez are thinking of doing more NUE Series races. To have more top competitors like that will make it very interesting. I think the series is heading in the right direction.
CN: Tell us more about your "retirement" from the NUE Series. What's next?
CT: My retirement is very likely. I asked for a delegation to work in China. The timing of delegation is not set in stone, but it will likely be in the beginning of 2012. Depending when my actual start date will be, I may be racing one or two NUEs, but I would be surprised if I could race more than one or two. Knowing that I won't do the full season, I might not do the full training. I will be more like a tourist in those races.
CN: Any parting thoughts on the NUE Series?
CT: It's been very much fun. As I started coming in contact with Jeff Schalk at races and got to know him, I discovered he's a great guy. He would give me advice before the race and this shows what a fair person he is. I'm fortunate in that I could challenge him there for one season.