The fourth annual Pierre's Hole 100, held at Grand Targhee in Alta, Wyoming, showcased the host resort's trailbuilding acumen with a challenging race course that included 16,000+ feet of vertical combined with amazing descents and jaw-dropping views of the Tetons and surrounding mountains.
Grand Targhee Resort is well known for its powdery conditions in the winter, but with the continued addition of singletrack and lift service, it is also becoming known for its mountain biking.
The wildflowers were in full bloom and waist high in many places along the singletrack. The weather was near perfect under blue skies, billowy clouds and mild temperatures. A gentle breeze on race day and local brews helped to keep racers and spectators cool throughout the day.
Women: Carey wins the race and a face-off with a bear
National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series defending champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) made it five NUE wins this year and by doing so, is in an enviable position in her bid for a third straight NUE Series championship on her home course Saturday. Carey, who lives in nearby Victor, Idaho, set the pace for women, cruising in at 10:26:57 along a course that featured several more miles of additional singletrack making, the course close to 105 miles. At one point, Carey faced off with a local black bear on Mill Creek.
"I went out with the lead men, trying to get into the singletrack in the top 15 just so I wouldn't get stuck behind slower descenders down Mill Creek," said Carey, who felt good most of the day, but chose to back off the pace the second half of the race. "It really sunk in how long and hard of a day it would be once I saw how long it took to finish the first 50 miles, and I had the upcoming Breck Epic in my head, so I knew I didn't want to completely crush myself. The nature of the course was crushing enough on its own!"
Carey's race took her 1:13 longer than last year. "It was definitely the hardest NUE I've ever done, the only event I can think of that may rival its difficulty was the old E100 in Park City. It was just relentless. You had to be on the pedals 100 percent of the time either climbing or navigating technical descents. I got 16,000 feet of climbing in 105 miles. I was so happy to have such a great NUE series race close to home. The race was well run, the weather was perfect and I slept in my own bed!"
Her encounter with the bear happened on the Mill Creek descent when she scared a black bear that was travelling across the singletrack. "Honestly, I don't know who scared who more! He stopped and stood his ground for a bit and I, of course, also came to a dead stop at just enough distance for it to be safe but also for it to feel way too close for comfort. It was scary for a moment for sure but he decided to scamper off after a few moments."
It took awhile for Carey's heart rate to come back down and for her to stop shaking and she decided to ride the last descent a little slower.
Just three women were able to complete the challenging course this year. In second place, Christy Olsen (Fatfish Racing) finished 12:06:10. Perhaps most impressive was Ellen Guthrie (Revolution/ Peak Fasteners), a 50+ racer, who, following her sixth place finish last year, completed the course to finish third on the podium in 14:15:07.
NUE Series contender Andrea Wilson (Outdoors, Inc.) registered for the 100-miler, but decided to drop down to the 50-mile race in which she earned a podium spot. "I've had a couple of instances of not being able to recover following the hundreds and with the Breck Epic Singlespeed Stage Race World Championship starting eight days after Pierre's, I wanted to make sure I was totally rested and ready to give it hell next week."
Men: Plews earns his first-ever NUE Series victory
Evan Plews (Ibis Cycles) achieved his first-ever NUE Series victory and became one of just two racers to go sub nine hours, with a 8:44:56, following his impressive second place finish behind Barry Wicks (Kona) at the High Cascades 100.
With this victory, Plews acknowledged that he may make a late season run at the NUE Series title. "I did a few of the races back in 2008 and finished third in the series but never finished better than second in a race, so it's kind of fun to check that off the to do list (chuckling). I've worked really hard and that's the thing about cycling that's so cool. It's like doing homework for a test. You put in the time and train really hard and eventually it comes good."
Ten minutes after Plews, Ben Melt Swanepoel (Squirt Lube) rolled at 8:54:10, his second number two finish since the Breckenridge 100.
Fifteen minutes later, Cary Smith (Team CF) crossed the line in 9:09:29. "Today's race at Targhee was in the running for the hardest race of the series, in my opinion," said Smith. "Luckily, the weather was perfect. Nice and chilly at the start but never getting too hot."
The race started fast, with Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) leading up the first dirt climb. Then Smith led for the 20-minute dusty descent on Mill Creek. He said he was keeping a slightly mellower pace than usual after almost broadsiding a cow early in the morning.
Climbing up the pavement, a group of four formed. Plews, who likes to race from the front, set the pace the whole way, with Swanepoel, Clint Muhlfeld (Sportsman Ski Haus/Hammer Nutrition) and Smith content to sit on his wheel. Conditions all day were quite dusty, so there was a definite advantage to leading the descents, especially down Bustle Creek, which was significantly more rutted than in years past.
The four stayed together on the steep Dry Creek climb, but when they hit the upper pavement section, Evan increased his tempo. Swanepoel went with him but the pace was too high for Muhlfeld and Smith. They all came back together as they entered the base area at Grand Targhee Resort, but then Plews and Swanepoel again went on the attack, this time for good.
Smith dangled behind them, with a slight gap over Muhlfeld, who then put about 30 minutes on Smith as he entertained thoughts of abandoning. "The thought of two more laps up Dry Creek seemed very unappealing. Once we were back on the rolling singletrack in Rick's Basin, however, I ate and drank to ease the slight leg cramps that were forming and eventually caught and passed Clint to open a gap that I would maintain until the finish," said Smith.
Plews and Swanepoel continued to extend their lead until they finished first and second. Smith followed in third.
The next four racers to finish sub-10 hours came in just minutes apart were by Edsall in 9:24:41 who finished fourth, moving him into second place just one point behind the defending champion Christian Tanguy (Team CF) in the NUE Series.
"My bike worked great, but I've got a lot of work to do to get my 'native Floridian legs' up to speed for all this climbing at altitude," said Edsall. "This race reminded me of why I love the sport. I get challenged at every one of these NUE races. They break me down mentally and physically and I feel like I've achieved something every time I finish an NUE race. I almost quit at one point until I grabbed some 'magic' freshly baked mini cupcakes at the aid station along with some awesome watermelon. That was the perfect mix to get me going again."
Edsall was followed closely by Jamie Lamb (Cyclesmith) in fifth at 9:29:31. Lamb is a former member of the Canadian National Cycling Team in both the mountain bike and road disciplines, having formerly concentrated on Olympic cross country in his younger years, riding for Kona.
"I moved to the road in 2006, racing for Louis Garneau for two years, before deciding to concentrate on academics upon the end of my U23 days. I graduated from law school this spring, and, having decided not to practice law, began training in a panic as I looked forward to the Canadian Cross Country Championships in June (I placed 14th) and American endurance races," said Lamb. "I'm targeting the Canadian Marathon Championships in Quebec on August 26, hoping that if the planets are aligned I might find myself on my way to marathon Worlds in France."
Less than two minutes later, Sam Sweetser (Cole Sport Racing) finished 9:31:14. "I found myself riding with Jamie for the first 40 miles until he put the hammer down on the second time up Bustle Creek and dropped me. From there, I just tried to maintain a steady pace and hoped I would eventually be able to ride back to his wheel."
"Entering the last lap, people told me he was close. I tried to up the pace, but I was at my limit and could just not reel him back in. Entering Rick's Basin for the last time, I was again told there was a 100-miler not very far up the road. This gave me some more motivation to go just a little bit harder. Eventually, climbing out of Rick's Basin, I caught and passed Clint to move into sixth but with so many 50-mile riders mixed in, I had no idea I had moved up a spot until he graciously let me pass and told me I was now in sixth." One minute later Muhlfeld rolled into seventh place at 9:32:54.
All racers who finish sub 10:15 were awarded the gold Pierre's Hole Buckle and one local racer, who has sought the buckle for four years now, could not have been more pleased to make the cutoff. By a mere two minutes, Gabe Klamer (Fitzeralds Bicycles)finished eighth on the day as the final buckle recipient in the men's division with a time of 10:12:11.
Singlespeed: Pfluginator back in top form
NUE defending champion, 43-year-old Gerry Pflug, (Salsa /Notubes/Top Gear) added brick and mortar to his series lead with just four races remaining, getting his first win since suffering a debilitating tick bite at Syllamo's Revenge earlier this season. Pflug has three wins now, adding to his second and third place finishes on the comeback trail. Three of those races have been on back to back weekends. The Pfluginator finished 9:58:24, a half hour ahead of his nearest competitor and was the only singlespeeder the finished sub-10 hours.
"With only two NUE Series Race wins this year, I very much needed a win at Pierre's Hole to get me closer to another series win," said Pflug. "A win at Pierre's Hole was even more important for me with NUE Series contender AJ Linnell being at the race. AJ had really good fitness at the High Cascades 100, where he finished first, and I was sure beating him on his home course would not be an easy task."
When the race started, Pflug got to the front and tried riding the long opening climb at a fast pace. He could tell just a couple of minutes into the climb that it was going to be a long day because the 8000-plus feet of elevation was making breathing difficult. Additionally, he felt the negative effects of the colder temperatures at the start.
Pflug was caught on the opening climb by Linnell, Trevor Rockwell and Mike McShane. The three of them put a little time on Pflug down the long Mill Run descent and he was starting to feel a little concerned about how things were going. Pflug caught McShane on the long road climb back out of the valley, but Rockwell and Linnell put more time into their lead over the eventual winner.
Pflug got going when the temperatures started to warm up. "My legs finally felt like going hard, and I got a view of AJ and Trevor before going into Rick's Basin the second time, probably about 40 miles or so into the race. AJ wasn't looking too good when I passed him and Trevor was only able to hang with me for another mile or so before I was able to get clear from him. From that point, I just stayed on the gas and continued riding hard to eventually get the singlespeed win."
Pflug said the course was brutal for singlespeeders. "The long and steep Dry Creek climb felt almost impossible to ride on a singlespeed at times, but I was able to clear it all four times up the climb. I used a 30x19 gear ratio, which was a little bigger gear than last year, and by the end of the race, I was starting to regret it. I also used a rigid fork for this race, but will definitely be using a suspension fork next year given the new single track descending here."
Linnell, the local favorite from Victor, Idaho, was forced to drop out after experiencing stomach flu-like symptoms. Linnell still presents the greatest threat to Pflug's quest for a three-peat following his impressive win at the High Cascades 100 and second place finish at Breckenridge.
Trevor Rockwell, 27, (Decorah Bicycles/Twin Six) placed second in 10:29:52. "I was feeling great on the climbs, pushing a 33x20, especially the road climbs where I eventually opened a little gap on AJ. I would later learn that AJ pulled the plug after this lap with sickness from early in the week. Coming out of my pit on lap two, Pflug came screaming up looking very strong. I went with him trying to finish the lap with him but my body was feeling a little mid-race fatigue and he was moving like a machine."
Mike Shane finished third in 11:23:29 with Trevor Bain (Archidocederbonga) next in 11:56:14, and Richard Long (Cyclesmart Grassroots Team) after him in 12:54:01, rounding out fourth and fifth. Just five singlespeeders were able to finish.
Masters 50+: Hershberger wins a nail-biter
Just nine masters went the distance on Saturday led by 54-year-old Mark Hershberger (Hoback Sports), who emerged victorious in a close race with the top three masters who finished just minutes apart. The local favorite from Jackson, Wyoming, Hershberger finished in 11:34:15, just over a minute ahead of 50-year-old Dave Reynolds (Contender Bike) in 11:35:52 (last year's third placed finisher). Hershberger, a top NUE Series contender, placed second at Syllamo's Revenge and fifth at the Breckenridge 100.
Seven minutes later, 54-year-old Marland Whaley (Red Barn Bicycles) passed through the finish in 11:42:56. Whaley also has back to back second place finishes at Breck and the High Cascades 100, making him a leading contender for the title behind NUE Series leader Ron Sanborn (Einstein Racing), who has three wins plus a second place at the Wilderness 101 and Roger Masse (Trek) who placed second at the Mohican 100 and first at the Wilderness 101 last weekend.
Whaley said, "Things were basically going well for the first two laps despite a crash on Mill Creek. I wanted the buckle and was running at my goal time per lap. Then, on the third lap, everything changed. I forgot my fuel bottle that covered my next two laps so I had to ride back and get it. Then, on the first pavement climb I knew I was in trouble. Riding a hardtail on that course was exhausting my back and arms."
"Bottom line, I think as a first-year NUE rookie at the tender age of 54, three tough races in four weeks was too much for me, including travel for 400 miles. I soft pedaled to aid stations at a pathetically slow pace just trying to hang on and finish....I'm learning!"
Rounding out the top six were Gary Gardiner, 50, (Bountiful Bicycle Racing) in 12:35:51, John Lauk, 56, (Bountiful Mazda Cycling Team) in 13:03:57, and Emil Gercke (Fat Fish Racing) in 13:07:18. Dave Bell, 56, (that'll leave a mark) finished seventh following a fourth place finish last year.
The Kenda NUE Series race will shift east to New England for the sixth annual Hampshire 100, making its debut in the NUE Series on Sunday, August 19. The race benefits the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center (http://www.crotchedmountain.org/) and consists of 100-kilometer and 100-mile options that wind's through the beautiful and varied terrain of Southern New Hampshire.
Most all of the NUE races have sold out this year and registration is filling up quickly in New Hampshire with 330 currently registered and a field limit of 500.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Evan Plews (Ibis Cycles)||8:44:56|
|2||Ben Swanepoel (Squirt Lube)||0:09:14|
|3||Cary Smith (Team CF)||0:24:33|
|4||Drew Edsall (Kenda-Felt)||0:39:45|
|5||Jamie Lamb (Cyclesmith)||0:44:35|
|6||Sam Sweetser (Cole Sport Racing)||0:46:18|
|7||Clint Muhlfeld (Sportsman Ski Haus-Hammer Nutrition)||0:47:58|
|8||Gabe Klamer (Fitzeralds Bicycles)||1:27:15|
|9||Jonathan Davis (Trek Bike Store)||1:33:49|
|10||Ernesto Marenchin (pivot cycles)||1:36:01|
|11||Chad Harris (CarboRocket)||1:59:04|
|12||Michael Muhlestein (Roosters-Bikers Edge)||2:21:14|
|13||Brock Cannon (Brock Cannon)||2:24:12|
|14||Josh Jacquot (The Path Bike Shop)||2:43:34|
|15||John Malloy (Planet Earth)||2:45:05|
|16||Brian Blair (The Path Bike Shop)||2:52:34|
|17||Bryson Deppe (Ed Cycles)||4:00:19|
|18||Shad Hamilton (Lander Cycling)||4:17:42|
|19||Jeremy Larsen (Rose Bike-Dr. Milleson Alpine Clinic)||5:02:29|
|20||Tony Buoncristiani (Sawtooth Orthopedics)||5:48:25|
|22||Dave Byers (Fitzgerald's Bicycles)||2:48:31|
|23||Mark Llinares (The Hub)||2:59:31|
|26||Brian Wieczorek (Freddie Fu Cycling)||4:35:09|
|27||Jesse Ferrer (Just me!)||4:48:47|
|28||Andrew Jordan (Revolution-Peak Fasteners)||5:30:59|
|29||Michael Belser (Fat Fish Racing)||5:53:19|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Amanda Carey (Kenda-0Felt)||10:26:57|
|2||Christy Olsen (Fatfish Racing)||1:39:13|
|3||Ellen Guthrie (Revolution-Peak Fasteners)||3:48:10|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mark Hershberger (Hoback Sports)||11:34:15|
|2||Dave Reynolds (Contender Bike)||0:01:37|
|3||Marland Whaley (Red Barn Bicycles)||0:08:41|
|4||Gary Gardiner (Bountiful Bicycle Racing)||1:01:36|
|5||John Lauck (Bountiful Mazda Cycling Team)||1:29:42|
|6||Emil Gercke (Fat Fish Racing)||1:33:03|
|7||Dave Bell (that'll leave a mark)||1:54:36|
|8||Wiliam Cross (WilliamCross)||2:06:30|
|9||Hal Loewen (Olympia Cycling Club)||2:44:36|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Gerry Pflug (Salsa-Notubes-TOP Gear)||9:58:24|
|2||Trevor Rockwell (Decorah Bicycles-Twin Six)||0:31:28|
|4||Trevor Bain (Archidocederbonga)||1:57:50|
|5||Richard Long (Cyclesmart Grassroots Team)||2:55:37|