By Ron Sawicki in Fayetteville, Tennessee
The third round of the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike National Calendar (MBNC) drew some of the most talented male and female competition for the second consecutive year to Fayetteville, Tennessee, for the Dirt Sweat & Gears 12 hour race.
The weather forecast called for rain the night before and continuing into the morning and that is exactly what the racers experienced. As soon as they hit the singletrack into the woods, the mud-fest began. Bikes clogged up, derailleurs and chains broke for many during the first 20 minutes of what would prove to be a very long lap for most.
Tinker Juarez won the men's race with 11 laps. Brandon Draugelis finished second with the same number of laps while Josh Tostado completed 10 laps for third place. In the women's race, Pua Sawicki defeated Rebecca Rusch for the win although both racers had nine laps. Carey Lowery finished in third with eight laps. Dejay Birtch won the men's singlespeed elite race ahead of John Mylne and Greg Martin.
Juarez only brought one bike and it was a hardtail. Before the race, he thought this might not be a wise choice due to the rocky and bumpy course, but it would ultimately pay off given the muddy conditions. While others were messing with there bikes in the mud during the race, Juarez was way out front and able to keep pedaling. Singlespeed racers such as Dejay Birch and John "Fuzzy" Mylne also had an advantage over the geared racers. Less was definitely more and they were able to pedal their way through the muck and get out front, too.
Juarez kept himself out front and held on to his lead until the end. Draugelis was just six minutes back while Tostado made an impressive comeback after mechanicals and a huge deficit to round out the top three.
Sawicki opted for the suspension as most did and she also got caught in the muck, with stops required to remove the mud just to keep on pedaling. After the first lap she switched onto her hard-tail and she was able to move at a steady pace again.
The women's winner rode strongly to increase her lead over the second placed Rusch, who was about 19 minutes back after six hours. After the halfway point, Sawicki settled in for the next five hours on her way to the win. Rusch finished 16 minutes later on the same lap with Lowery one lap back.
See full results from Dirt Sweat & Gears and check out the latest Mountain Bike National Calendar (MBNC) Ultra Endurance standings after three events. In the men's category, Harvey Minton and Jason Sager are tied for the lead while Carol Clemens, Christina Smith and Pua Sawicki are tied for the women's lead.