The Founders Lumberjack 100 celebrates its eighth year, seven with the Kenda NUE Series. The race will again utilize a 33-mile loop through Michigan's beautiful Manistee National Forest and the Big-M Ski Area.
Michigan style singletrack - composed mostly of hard pack trail, occasional sandy sections, and fast rolling terrain - offers twists and turns that demand constant power and total concentration as the trails quickly turn to nothing more than green blurs of forest. Easy fireroad coasting, it is not. Ninety percent of the 33-mile, three-lap race is comprised of this singletrack that will eventually push racers over 9,000 feet of total elevation gain.
According to Rick Plite, Founders Lumberjack Race Director, "This year’s race sold out in about 11 minutes! With a strong following, Lumberjack has been growing and selling out since its inception. It has put Big M XC Ski Area on the map pretty much forcing the Manistee National Forest to expand and pave their parking lot, install new outhouses, add signage to the trails along with a new kiosk. A second overflow lot was opened last year again increasing the limit."
The 2012 course will be the same as it was in 2011, including the hike a bike climb up to the fire tower and the blazing fast descent on the Fire Tower service road. Storms have been minimal this spring so, knock on wood, the trail debris should be fine but it has been a dry spring, so things might be a bit sandier than normal.
Men: Tanguy returns to defend his win at Lumberjack
NUE Series Champion Christian Tanguy (Team CF) from Michigan is returning to defend his win after last year's tasty victory over three-time NUE Series Champion Jeff Schalk at the Lumberjack. Tanguy had put 10 minutes on the champ, completing the course in just 6:30:25 before going on to win the title at the final showdown with Schalk at the Shenandoah 100 in Virginia.
Following a second place finish to US Olympic hopeful, Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) earlier this year at Cohutta, Syllamo's Revenge took its toll on the Tanguy following a hard crash that forced him to drop out of the race. But he did not drop out for long. Despite lingering pain following his first DNF in the series, Tanguy sewed up the wounds, dusted himself off, and took on the Mohican MTB100 on June 2, just two weeks later earning his first NUE Series win of the year.
Michael Simonson (RBS Trek MTB Team), also from Michigan, rolled in just nine seconds behind the three-time NUE Champ last year to finish third on the podium. Simonson has become well known among the packs of contenders for his repeated attacks on the entire field. His close second place finish two weeks ago at Mohican could spell trouble for Tanguy, who should be checking his rearview mirror more often for the SiMonster. However, Tanguy may benefit from the help of teammate Brandon Draugelis (Team CF), who placed second at Syllamo's and sixth at Mohican.
Enter the strongman from the highlands of Breckenridge, Colorado: Josh Tostado (Bach Builders) enters the fray in his first NUE Series appearance this year since placing third overall in the NUE Series last season. With a win at Lumberjack, Tostado could put his stamp on the podium before heading back to try to take the series lead on his home turf in the high mountains of Colorado where only one man has ever bested him. And who was that man? None other than three-time NUE Champion Jeff Schalk.
Dark horses include many of the usual suspects including Rob Spreng (Dirty Harry's), who has third place finishes at both Syllamo's and Mohican and he may be riding with Chris Peariso (Adventure212 / Specialized), who coincidently scored fourth place finishes at the same two races. Ernesto Marenchin (Pivot Cycles) and Zack Morrey (BlueRidgeCyclery/NoTubes) are both in the hunt with top 10 finishes this year along with Jordan Wakely (Einstein Racing) who most recently finished fifth at Mohican.
Women: Sornson out while Carey is the favorite
Two-time defending champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) placed second to 2008 NUE Champion Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) at the Cohutta 100 earlier this year, then regrouped and went on to win the next of two NUE Series races at Syllamo's Revenge and the Mohican. Her winning time last year was an impressive 7:40:38.
However, Sornson reported that she is out for the Lumberjack this year due to a recent crash that, according to Sornson, will earn her some much needed rest and recovery time. Her withdrawal makes Carey the odds on favorite to repeat.
Concerning her crash and subsequent withdrawal from the Lumberjack, Sornson said, "I was racing and asked to pass someone on left. They said ok, but as I passed they went left. I caught something on side of trail, the bike stopped but I didn't, and hit the ground hard. Thank goodness for helmets! I also landed on left side and broke a rib or so. Not the best timing, but at a good break in my season for rest and recovery. It's forced, but that's good because I have a hard time resting. As bummed as I am, I can't complain too much. My season has been great and now I can look forward to a great late season as well."
Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) is on the guest list and having her best year ever, with two second place finishes at Syllamo's and Mohican to add to her eighth place finish at Cohutta. A slip by Carey may find Simril at the top of the podium in Michigan and just one point away from leading the NUE Series.
Dark horses include Stephanie Smith (US Stove / Trek / Vantaggio Fitness), who placed seventh at Syllamo's, Shannon Tenwalde (COMBO Race Team / Whole Foods / Roll), who placed tenth at the Mohican, and her teammate, non-other than two-time defending OMBC (Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series) Champion, Heidi Shilling (COMBO Race Team / Whole Foods / Roll).
Jocelyn Linscott (Dark Horse Cycles), Michelle Minnerick, Danielle Musto (Salsa/Twin Six/Kenda) and Danielle Shaver (Founders Alger Racing) will all compete on singlespeeds with a shot at the women's open of the NUE Series as well.
Singlespeed Men: No Pfun for Pflug in Michigan this weekend
The two-time defending singlespeed champion Gerry Pflug, who won the Lumberjack last year in 7:13:50, had this to say after pulling out of the Mohican MTB100 at Aid Station three, just 46 miles into the race. "I'm starting to feel a little better now after my bad Mohican 100 Race, but I'm still not close to one hundred percent recovered."
"I didn't realize what my issue was during the race, but figured it all out on Monday when I found an extremely swollen and sore lymph node on my upper leg. It was then that I put two and two together and remembered that I had found a tick lodged in my groin area two days after doing the NUE Syllamo's Race. I was able to remove it all, though, so I didn't think much about it after that."
"Then, I called my doctor on Monday, and he put me on a strong antibiotic and ordered a Lyme disease blood test. I'll get the results back next Monday but my doctor thinks I only have a bacterial infection from the tick bite and not Lyme disease. Hopefully, that is the case. I am feeling better after taking the antibiotic for a few days now, but I'm not sure doing a 100-mile race so soon after fighting this infection will be the best thing for my complete recovery. I've decided to try doing a much shorter race forty five minutes from home next weekend instead of the LJ100."
Pflug reported that he is still planning to do all of the remaining NUE Races except Breckenridge and the Park City Point to Point. "I had a hard time making this decision, but I know it is the best one for my health right now. Hopefully, I can make a strong come back in the series come July."
With the Pfluginator recovering from the tick's revenge, the door has been flung wide open to contenders including Matthew Ferrari (Hubcap/Freeze Thaw Cycles), who nailed two third place finishes at Cohutta and Mohican and Jason Pruitt (Peoples Brewing, LAS, Hodson Bay), who finished fifth at the Lumberjack last year and has two fourth place finishes this year.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the defending champion may come from Justin Pokrivka (Top Gear /Cohen & Associates). With his win at Mohican, Pokrivka could move into a virtual tie with the Pfluginator with an opportunistic win at Lumberjack.
Mike Montalbano (Bicycle Tech/Eleven Madison Park/Tomac) is one of only a select few riders who can say they beat the Pfluginator and former NUE Champion Harlan Price in 2010, winning Mohican and then placing second, less than a minute behind the Pfluginator at Lumberjack last year. Those impressive stats make Montalbano a favorite to win this year.
Duane Goscinski (Dogfish/Cyclewerx/Noah's Foundation), unknown in NUE circles until this season placed second at Cohutta, fourth at Mohican, and could raise his fortunes even higher with a win on Saturday. Robin Oscar (Motor Mile Racing) didn't compete at the Lumberjack last year but placed fourth overall in the NUE Series with four top 10 finishes. Oscar is a dark horse favorite to win.
NUE Masters 50+: Sanborn and Jordan are the favorites
2010 NUE Masters Champion Robert Herriman nailed down back to back wins at the Lumberjack in 2010 and 2011 where he set the bar at 7:25:30. However, Herriman is absent from the roster so far this year along with Roger Masse, who finished second at the Lumberjack last year, and thirid overall in the NUE Series behind Herriman and 2011 NUE Masters Champion Doug Andrews, who went undefeated last year to take his first NUE Masters title.
In 2012, it's Ron Sanborn (Einstein Racing) from Traverse City, Michigan who has been kicking ass and taking names this year with wins at Cohutta and Mohican. A win in his home state of Michigan would put Sanborn just one win away from a lock on the Masters division that could only be broken by the tie-breaking last race that will be held at the Fool's Gold 100 in Georgia in September.
However, he will, no doubt, face stiff competition from 56-year-old, Jim Jordan (Black Sheep Bike), who finished third last year at the Lumberjack.
Dark horses include John Wyrick (Team Brad / Biowheels) who finished seventh at the lumberjack last year and James Wilson (Team CF).
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for coverage of the Lumberjack 100.