Racers are making their way deep south this weekend to contest the ninth race of the Kenda National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE), the Fool's Gold 100. Now in its fifth year, the race traverses the rugged North Georgia mountains with a combination of gravel roads, doubletrack, and classic Georgian singletrack. The 100-mile course consists of two 50-mile loops and totals over 14,000 feet of elevation gain. The Fool's Gold also offers a single 50-mile loop for those not up to the full hundie distance.
Of note is the fact that the 2011 Fool's Gold 50/100 has changed venues and will be based out of the beautiful Montaluce Winery in Dahlonega, Georgia. This change was made to allow for a new and better race course, more parking, with scenic views and, of course, excellent wines. Racers should expect plenty of singletrack, including some new rerouted trail from previous years, and doubletrack with a fair dose of gravel road grunts. There are a couple of longer sustained climbs, however, it will also include many rollers.
In the men's open division, NUE series leader and three-time champion, Jeff Schalk (Trek Mountain Co-Op) will once again challenge the 2009 Fool's Gold winner, Christian Tanguy (Team CF). In 2010, Schalk edged out Tanguy by just two minutes winning in just 4:15:26 after torrential rains forced Race Director, Eddie O’Dea, to wisely cut the race short after just 50 miles, a first in the NUE Series, now in its fifth year.
This year, Schalk became the first men's open racer to win four races in one of the most competitive years ever - following his win at the Pierre's Hole 100. He is the current series leader.
However, for Tanguy, the series is on the line and there is just one point separating him from the defending champion. Tanguy has three wins and needs one more to tie the defending champion. A win on Saturday would set up a tie breaker at the final race at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 on Labor Day weekend, a race won by Tanguy last year.
Other top contenders in the men's open include Troy Barry (Hammer Nutrition), Ernesto Marenchin (Pivot Cycles), Mark Draugelis (Team CF) and South East local Charlie Storm (Storm Racing Team).
2008 Fool's Gold 100 winner and 2008 NUE Series Champion Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) tops the list of women on the roster at the Fool's Gold 100. Sornson, currently second place in the overall standings, would have a major uphill battle if she attempted to take the series from defending champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt). Carey was last year's race winner at 5:02:20 in a field that included women's legend Sue Haywood of Virginia.
Carey locked in her fifth win two weeks ago at the Pierre's Hole 100, which means that Sornson, with two wins, would need to win the next three races, including the upcoming Park City Point to Point and Shenandoah Mountain 100, held just one day apart. While it is still mathematically possible, it is highly unlikely. However, it appears that a new battle is now emerging for second place.
For Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing), a win at Fool's Gold would bring her into a near tie with Sornson for second place. Simril has second place finishes at both the Mohican 100 and the Wilderness 101. Another registered contender, Karen Potter (MTBRacenews), has a second place finish at the Lumberjack 100 and two third place finishes, including the recent Pierre's Hole 100. Potter could shake things up with a win and contend for the two spot in the process.
Andrea Wilson (Outdoors, Inc) has not competed in the NUE Series since she placed third at the Mohican 100 on June 4. Even so, a win at Fool's Gold could propel her into contention with Sornson, Simril, and Potter. Significantly, Wilson is the only woman doing it on a rigid singlespeed.
Although she is not yet registered, Vicki Barclay (Stans NoTubes/Freeze Thaw/Honey Stinger) could parlay her first NUE series win at the Wilderness 101 into contention for second place should she decide to roll up to the starting line in Georgia or either of the next two remaining races.
NUE Series Singlespeed Champion and Fool's Gold 2009 singlespeed winner, Gerry Pflug (Salsa/SPK/Pro Bikes) has all but wrapped up his second straight NUE Series Title with an incredible seven out of eight wins this year, including four back to back races, the best record in the entire series.
With his win at the Pierre's Hole 100, Pflug's strategy has worked flawlessly, taking out the competition at every race, he has made it virtually impossible for anyone to take his series title this year. The Pfluginator now owns the singlespeed division. However, that doesn't mean that the entire field won't be chasing him with hopes of capturing the headlines by winning on Saturday. Can Pflug hold off this field to make it eight out of nine?
Mathew Ferrari (Hubcap/Freeze Thaw Cycles) currently has a firm lock on second place with three second place finishes this year. In the three spot and registered for the race, however, is Jason Pruitt (29ercrew, LAS, Hodson Bay). Without Ferrari present, a win or even a second place finish for Pruitt could nudge him closer to the number two spot.
Robin Oscar (Motor Mile Racing), with just three races so far, could move up with a win at Fool's Gold. Oscar's best finish this year was second at the Mohican 100. Another one or two placing could put him in contention for second place as the series heads into the final three.
Former NUE Men's Open Champion Harlan Price (Team CF) was last year's winner, completed the course in just 4:28:12. However, the new course changes may affect that comparison.
The showdown we have been waiting for. Will the defending NUE Masters Champion, Robert Herriman (Trek 29er Crew/WSC/ACFStores.com) get back into series contention and defend his title against the HULK?
Herriman has early season wins at both Mohican and the Lumberjack following a third place finish at the Cohutta 100 but he has been MIA ever since. He was expected at Pierre's Hole 100 yet failed to show up at the starting line. The defending champ is registered for the Fool's Gold 100 but now needs at least one more win plus a win at the series tiebreaker at Shenandoah Mountain 100 to defend his title.
Herriman knows this course and won last year in just 5:42:40, more than 15 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. A win on Saturday would make it three for Herriman, who would only need to win at Shenandoah Mountain 100 to hang on to his crown.
Currently leading the NUE Series this year with four wins is Doug Andrews (www.GeoLadders.com). Andrews, nicknamed "The Hulk" for winning by margins measured in hours rather than minutes, has an opportunity to block the defending champion from repeating by winning on Saturday.
A win for Andrews would mean that the only way Herriman could repeat is if he could win back-to-back races at the P2P and Shenandoah, a tall order. There is a lot on the line in Georgia for these two masters racers.
The dark horse is Todd Henne. Henne won Syllamo's Revenge following a fourth place finish at the Cohutta 100 and is more than capable of winning Saturday. A win at Fool's Gold could put him right back in contention.
Other contenders for the race include James Wilson (Team CF) who placed fourth last year and is currently in ninth place overall in the NUE standings with three finishes. Bill Holden (Holden Brothers) is currently in fifth place overall with five finishes this year including a fourth place finish at Syllamo's Revenge.
- WN Precision Bike Fitting will be sponsoring this year's King and Queen of the Mountain competition for both the 50 and 100-mile race. The first man and woman in both races to reach Cooper Gap on lap 1 will receive one complimentary bike fitting from WN Precision online.
- After Saturday's race, just two more races remain to determine the series champions. Division champions will take the podium to receive NUE Endura custom designed jerseys in addition to over US$10,000 cash plus prizes at the Shenandoah 100 in Virginia. All NUE division winners will also receive complimentary entry into all NUE events in 2011 as part of their reward.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the Fool's Gold 100.