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National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series heads to Pierre's Hole

By:
Ryan O'Dell

Fourth weekend in a row for 100-miler series

Finishers of the Pierre's Hole 100 win this belt buckle

Finishers of the Pierre's Hole 100 win this belt buckle

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The eighth stop of the Kenda NUE series moves from the jagged rocks of Pennsylvania westward to Alta, Wyoming, located on the western slope of the Tetons at Grand Targhee Resort. Pierre's Hole, a mountain valley tucked up to the Wyoming border just on the western side of the Tetons, was once known as the strategic center for fur trade in the Northern Rockies. Today it is known as the strategic gathering place to ski unfathomable deep powder and ride some of the best and little known singletrack in the nation. Targhee offers mountain bikers lift service during the summer months.

The race course is situated under the Le Tres Tetons, or the three Tetons (Grand, Middle, and South Teton). It features singletrack loops at Grand Targhee Resort (GTR), descending the infamous Papoose and Bustle Creeks and ascending of Teton Canyon via drainages wrapped with singletrack around Rick's Basin.

The views are breathtaking and the wildflowers will be in full bloom as racers speed under these magnificent peaks, however, according to race director, Troy Barry, "It is possible racers may not see much of them while their heartrates hover around VO2 max while climbing around the resort."

Pierre's Hole, now in its fourth year, has been compared in difficulty to the Breck 100, and some riders believe it is more difficult due to the neverending 16,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles.

This year's PH100 will be the fourth consecutive week that racers have battled for NUE points across the nation and the third western venue this year. Home of NUE Series Champion and current point leader Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt), there are just a few spots remaining for racers who still wish to register.

The course will challenge flatlanders from lower elevations as the start/finish is located at almost 8000 feet above sea level, and topping out at over 9000 feet. The 2012 course is a bit longer than last year by about 15-20 minutes, thanks to the addition of new singletrack. The race course is 25.6 miles with 3800 feet of climbing per lap, two laps for 50-milers and four laps for 100-mile racers. Expected lap times will be around 2:15:00

The 100-mile race will begin at 6:15 am. The 50-mile race begins at 10:15 am. Men under nine hours and 45 minutes, and women under 10 hours and 45 minutes will earn the coveted Pierre's Hole 100 Buckle.

Women

For a second straight year, NUE Series defending champion, Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) made it four straight wins to take control of the series with her win at the High Cascades 100. Carey appears unstoppable as she enters her fifth race of the season on home turf at the PH100, where last year she put more than an hour on her nearest competitor finishing 9:12:22.

Carey's nearest competitor, 2008 NUE Champion Cheryl Sornson (Team CF), has two wins this year including a win over Carey at Cohutta, a third place at Syllamo's plus her win last weekend at the Wilderness 101. Sornson is not on the roster for the PH100, but is likely to make her presence known in the remaining races heading into the tie breaker at the Fool's Gold 100.

Among the contenders at Pierre's Hole, Andrea Wilson (Outdoors, Inc.) has top finishes in three races this year, including third place at the Mohican 100, however, this will be Wilson's first go round at Grand Targhee. Ellen Guthrie (Revolution) has 20 years on Carey and was the eldest among all women last year yet she finished sixth place in a race that is arguably one of the toughest in the NUE Series.

Men

NUE defending champion, Christian Tanguy (Team CF) continues to lead the NUE series following fifth place finishes at the High Cascade 100 and again at the Wilderness 101 that moved him ahead of the SiMonster, Michael Simonson (Trek/RBS/CPA Crossings).
However, as the race series enters race number eight of this best four of 12 series, the men's open is far from decided with Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) throwing his helmet into the ring with wins at Cohutta and Wilderness 101 plus Barry Wicks (Kona) and Drew Edsall (Kenda / Felt) that are among the short list of top contenders knocking on Tanguy's door, just a couple wins away from claiming the NUE Series title.

In 2011, it was the three-time NUE Series Champion Jeff Schalk (Trek) that set the high bar in Alta with the only sub-eight hour performance of the day at 7:48:07. With Schalk now retired from endurance racing and Tanguy sitting this one out, Pierre's Hole provides fresh opportunity for several leading contenders including Carey Smith (Team CF) of Jackson, Wyoming, who placed second last year. Smith has already racked up a sixth place finish at Cohutta and third at the High Cascades 100, and he'll be racing on home turf.

With a win on Saturday, Drew Edsall would become the NUE Series leader. Ben Swanepoel (Squirt Lube) from South Africa has posted solid finishes including second at the Breckenridge 100 and sixth at the Wilderness 101, showing steady improvement towards his bid at the title.

Other top contenders on the guest list include Ernesto Marenchin (Pivot Cycles), who currently holds fifth place overall in the NUE series, Evan Plews (Ibis Cycles/Reall Racing) who stood second atop the podium at the High Cascades, Sam Sweetser (Cole Sport Racing), who placed sixth at Breck, and Kip Biese (Big Wheel Racing/Pearl Izumi/Old Town Bike Shop) from Colorado Springs.

The dark horse may be Mark Rucker (Biowheels/Reece-Campbell Racing). Rucker is little known in the west on the 100-mile circuit but was a solo podium finisher of the 24 hours of Mohican among many endurance events he has entered. Besides an amazing recovery following a head-on collision with a distracted driver while riding to work last year, Rucker has also soloed his way across Alaska, staring down Grizzly bears with nothing but a grin, his bike, and a pistol. If he is cocked, locked, and ready to rock, a surprise finish could be in the cards.

Singlespeed

Defending NUE Singlespeed Champion Gerry Pflug (Salsa/NoTubes/Pro Bikes) started the season with back-to-back victories at Cohutta and Syllamo's Revenge before an unnoticed tick bite at the Revenge forced him to drop out halfway through Mohican with no shows at the Lumberjack and Breckenridge.

Since then, the Pfluginator has recovered and stormed back into the top spot following his third place finish at the High Cascades 100 and, just one week later, second place at the Wilderness 101 last Saturday. Pflug will enter his third straight weekend of racing at Pierre's Hole as he continues to defend his lead and his title. And in case there is any doubt, last year, he proved he could handle four back-to-back races, claiming victory at Pierre's Hole in 9:01:31.

Pflug's greatest threat will likely come from Victor, Idaho native AJ Linnell (Fitzgerald's Bicycles/Misfit Psycles), who took first at the High Cascades 100 and second at Breckenridge. Although Linnell placed third last year, 23 minutes behind the defending champ, he is in top form this year and knows this course well. A victory at Targhee is exactly what he needs to position himself for a run at the singlespeed title.

Other challengers include Richard Long (Cycle-Smart Grassroots Team) of Orono, Maine, who currently stands in fourth place in the NUE Series and Loren Gard of Bend, Oregon who placed seventh here last year. Of course, a slip by Pflug or Linnell presents opportunity for all.

Masters 50+

Ron Sanborn (Einstein Racing) leads all contenders in the masters division with wins at Cohutta, Mohican, Lumberjack and most recently, a second place finish behind one of his biggest challengers, Roger Masse (Trek) at the Wilderness 101. Sanborn is not on the roster this weekend but will surely be following the action with interest.

Last year, it was the now defending NUE Masters Champion, Doug Andrews (GeoLadders.com) that wowed the crowd as he blistered the entire field by more than an hour at 8:57:23! Andrews has shown up just once this year, dominating the field for a third straight year at the Breckenridge 100 in his first race and only win this season.

At Pierre's Hole, 53-year-old Marland Whaley (Red Barn Bicycles) is likely the top contender. Whaley currently resides in 10th place following second place finishes at the Breckenridge 100 and High Cascades 100. A win here would certainly put wind in his sails heading into the final races.

He will face 51-year-old Dave Reynolds (Contender Bike) who placed third last year and 56-year-old David Bell, who placed fourth last year among the short list of challengers this year.

Last year, a portion of the race proceeds were used to benefit the non-profit Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (TVTAP). TVTAP is a non-profit whose efforts are focused on providing human powered connectivity throughout the valley. PH100 has the goal of doubling last year's donation to help supplement funding for future maintenance and enhancement of its trail system. For additional information, check out www.ph100.org.

Stay tuned for full coverage.