By Sue George
Organizers of National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series released a tentative schedule for 2008. The series grows to eight total races with the addition of two new venues and the departure of one former venue.
"Several new venues contacted us and were considered; however, some were first-year events, lap races, or had race dates just didn't fit well for the overall NUE schedule," said Ryan O'Dell, a co-organizer of the NUE series to Cyclingnews.
The Fool's Gold 100, held in Georgia, will join the series by slotting into a mid-August spot for its second running. "The race took about three years to come together and 2007 was the first year it happened," said Eddie O'Dea who promotes the race along with his wife Namrita. "I knew of the series before we had our race, but I wanted to pull our race off and make it actually happen before we became part of the series. I wanted to make sure everything came together logistically."
The Fool's Gold race is somewhat unusual for the series in that it covers two 50 mile laps instead of a single lap, but the course also boasts plenty of singletrack which slows down even the top racers. "The fastest finish time was 10 hours and 22 minutes," said O'Dea.
Also new is the Tahoe-Sierra 100, which will fill a void for the series in the western US. By occupying the September 6 spot on the calendar, the Tahoe-Sierra 100 will serve as the finale, a niche last year filled by the Shenandoah Mountain 100 in Virginia. It will be the first time the NUE finals are held in the West.
"2008 will be the first year for this event; however, racers were invited to participate in a pre-race evaluation of the course in September and provided NUE with rave reviews," said O'Dell. "According to race director Jim Northey, there will be US$20,000 in cash prizes awarded at this event." Northey also directs the "Coolest 24 Hour Race," a non-profit event that raised US$44,000 for the ACCEF in the fight against cancer.
"The Sierra-Tahoe course will include portions of the "Western States 100" course, one of the largest and most popular ultra running events in the US," said O'Dell. The addition of the California venue addresses complaints of some West-coast based racers who have been asking for an event closer to home.
Gone from the series is the Endurance 100 in Utah. "We felt it important to keep things dynamic...so the series doesn't get stale," said another series co-organizer Garth Prosser regarding the changes for 2008. O'Dell left open the possibility that the event might return to the NUE in future years. Though not part of the series, the Endurance 100 will still happen next year.
"There are no significant rule or scoring changes planned for 2008," added O'Dell. "The NUE Scoring system that was implemented in 2007 was based on requests from racers who preferred a simple, straightforward scoring system that was easy to understand." Winners are determined from the racers' best four of eight possible total races. Ties are broken by placing at the final event.
Organizers chose the current schedule to allow as many racers as possible to compete from all over the US. "Keeping the minimum races at just four races necessary to qualify along with a good variety of venues and dates, allows racers a more realistic opportunity to compete in the NUE series and still commit to other popular events, including their state series," said O'Dell.
"The NUE Series grew by 37% last year but is still new to many racers which leads me to believe that the NUE Series and 100 mile endurance racing in general is poised for growth," said O'Dell. "Our venues share some common benefits." He pointed to the fact that most of the 100 milers have a single 100-mile loop, noting the difference from most 24 hour races which tend to roll racers around on a 10-15 mile course. O'Dell also offered a theory that "the single-day format of the 100 milers better suits busy endurance racers with families and day jobs because they require a smaller time commitment for each event, but still provide "a 7-12+ hour intense workout." Unlike some series, the NUE requires no special license to compete.
For these and other reasons, Prosser thinks the 100 mile scene will grow. "I would say we are heading to a max capacity with [number of] venues; we may go up to 10 eventually, but participation [of racers] will definitely grow. Double digit growth at most venues will continue. I would almost guarantee triple digit growth at the Fool's Gold 100."
"2007 series winner [Chris] Eatough and other contenders like Harlan [Price], Mike Simonson, Tinker [Juarez] and [Josh] Tostada have all given verbal commitments for next year," said Prosser, who anticipates tough competition for the overall titles next year. The top singlespeed and masters racers are also expected to return. They will be encouraged by the NUE series organizers and sponsors, who are intending to offer cash and prizes to all racers who complete at least the minimum four qualifying races in 2008.
NUE Series for 2008
April 19: Cohutta 100, Tennessee
June 7: Mohican 100, Ohio
June 14: Lumberjack 100, Michigan
July 19: Breckenridge 100, Colorado
July 26: Wilderness 101, Pennsylvania
August 16: Fool's Gold 100, Georgia
August 31: Shenandoah 100, Virginia
September 6: Tahoe-Sierra 100 California