Grand Targhee Resort, a full service ski resort is well known for its regular waist deep powder in the winter. Should it be any surprise then that summers are equally as great for mountain bike racing?The third Annual Pierre's Hole 100, held at Grand Targhee in Alta, Wyoming, is the latest addition to the Kenda NUE Series and it did not disappoint. The Pierre's Hole 100 offered racers a challenging course that included 16,000 feet of climbing combined with incredible views of the Tetons and surrounding mountains.
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 kept racers and spectators cool throughout the day, and rains the previous day kept the course tacky and fast and likely contributed to record fast course times.
NUE defending champion, Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) made it five NUE Series wins this year and by doing so, may have locked in her second straight NUE Series Championship on her home course Saturday. Carey, who lives in nearby Victor, Idaho, set the pace and the bar for women, cruising in at 9:12:22.
"I didn't actually see any women all day. I tried to get with the fast group of men at the start just because I didn't want to be behind a bunch of folks at Mill Creek," said Carey. "There were probably 20 in front of me, and I was happy with that. I just didn't want to get all balled up there because I know it well and can ride it pretty fast."
"I got to sleep in my own bed and drink my own coffee in the morning, it was phenomenal!" said Carey, who is usually on the road. "I've had a really busy schedule this year but it's really important for me to come and support the race and the expansion of the series. And it's just a really, really quality course right down the street."
When asked how this most recent addition to the NUE Series stacks up to the other well established courses, Carey said, "It's definitely one of the hardest. The climbing is just relentless, and you do get breaks, but the breaks you get on the descents are just full on. You have to be focused. If you lose your focus for a second, especially on the Mill Creek or the Bustle descents, you're gonna pay for it. There were a lot of flats and a lot of wipeouts."
The battle for second place raged on between Namrita O'Dea (Topeak/Ergon) of Atlanta, Georgia, and Jenelle Kremer (Revolution/Peak Fasteners) from Salt Lake City, Utah. Kremer had the edge until a soft tire forced her to stop, allowing O'Dea to move into the number two spot. Later, Kremer upped the ante, pushing the pace and finally overtaking O'Dea on one of the subsequent climbs. The two remained close throughout the race however O'Dea fell just four minutes short of closing the gap on Kremer who finished 10:47:03. After the race a very happy Kremer simply stated, "That hurt, A lot."
Sara Schroeder finished fourth, 11:46:49, but still managed to find enough energy in her legs, later, to kick up her heels on the dance floor to live music performed by Swagger, who claims to be Utah's pemier Irish rock band.
In a close fifth, just three minutes later, Amy Chiuchiolo (GAS/Intrinsik) of Bozeman, Montana, rounded out the podium.
Three-time defending NUE Champion Jeff Schalk (Trek Racing Co-Op) made it four wins, setting a new course record in the process, 7:48:07, and taking the lead in the NUE Series with just three races remaining. This win also marked Schalk's 19th one hundred mile win on the Trek Top Fuel.
"I think all three of us," said Schalk, referring to the six-time Breckenridge Champion Josh Tostado (Bach Builders) and Cary Smith (Hammer Nutrition), "were pretty evenly matched, so I expected it would be a close race with the three of us staying together today.
"But maybe 20 miles in, Josh flatted and then I flatted like a mile later, so then, Carey Smith got a couple of minutes on me. I must have fixed my flat faster than Josh since I didn't see him behind."
Schalk knew Smith was two minutes up and that it would hurt more to chase him down slowly. "So I went really hard to catch him by mile 30.Doing so kind of put me in the hole and I was suffering pretty bad so I sat on him for a little bit."
Then, finally, at mile 40, after sitting on for awhile, Schalk started feeling decent and decided to go when he noticed Smith struggling. "I think it was through the campground and there was this slight little uphill. He stopped to get a bottle, and it took him a little bit of time so I just went on the gas and got a nice little gap up that climb and never really saw him after that."
Smith, who placed first at the High Cascades 100 just two weeks ago and finished second today, 8:02:40, had this to say, "We were together down through the bottom of Teton Canyon back up through dry creek and out to Rick's Basin.
"Josh flatted, pulled over, and then about a minute later Jeff flatted. Judging by how those guys were riding and their body language, I was like, I don't think a flat is going to be enough (laughing). And sure enough, within an hour, Jeff was back up with me. He caught me on the road, on the pavement. I just stayed where I was. It was a good pace. I wasn't going to be able to pick it up. My breathing was ok but my legs were a mess."
Tostado, who finished third, in 8:13:39, following a second place finish to Smith at the High Cascades 100 added, "I just kept my pace going. I had a good lap on my second and then half of my third and last lap. I would go through phases where I was like, I'm feelin' good, I'm feelin' good, and then, all of sudden, I was like ughhhhhhhhhh."
Stig Zomeg, (Team GPOA) recovered from a mid-race flat that dropped him outside the top-20 riders. The Norwegian rider, who lives in Denver, made his way through the field finishing fourth in 8:41:48.
Eddie O'Dea (Topeak/Ergon) finished fifth, 8:56:48, after spending the first 50 miles riding just outside the top 10. O'Dea, who directs the upcoming Fool's Gold 100, in Georgia said there are a few spots left in his race on August 20.
NUE defending champion Gerry Pflug, (Salsa /Notubes/Pro bikes) kept his commanding lock on the singlespeed division, making it seven wins out of the last eight NUE races, including four straight races over the last four weekends.
Pflug finished 9:01:31 and with just three races remaining, it would appear next to impossible for anyone to win the last three in a row. The Pfluginator put 20 minutes on his nearest competitor, which appears to a modus operendi for this talented racer.
Afterward, Pflug said he was tired but added he didn't think this race was as hard as the Breckenridge 100, the only race this year he has not won, finishing seventh. When asked which race has been his favorite, Pflug replied, "Every time I finish one of these races I think 'that was the best one', then I do the next and IT seems like the best. I would have to say the Wilderness 101 is my all-time favorite."
Behind the defending champ, the battle was on for second place between two local strongmen, Michael Shane (Club Ride Apparel) from Ketchum, Idaho and AJ Linnell (Peaked Sports) from Victor, Idaho. In the end it was Shane, edging out Linnell by less than a minute, 9:23:46.
A singlespeed legend on the NUE Series circuit, DeJay Birch (Niner) wasn't far behind, pulling it in to finish fourth at 9:33:56. Greg Martin of Ketchum, Idaho finished fifth at 9:45:24.
Defending NUE Champion, Robert Herriman (Trek 29er Crew/WSC/ACFSTORES.COM), although registered for the race, failed to show, leaving the door wide open for his greatest challenger Doug Andrews (GeoLadders.com).
Andrews, hailing from Mission Veijo, California, didn't waste any time, stepping in and taking control of the series as the only master racer with a perfect record of four wins. Andrews has come on strong this year, finishing top 10 overall at the Breckenridge 100 before putting two hours on the entire field at the High Cascades 100 in Bend, Oregon just one week later.
Solidifying his reputation as "The Hulk" for these herculean efforts, Andrews continues to astound the field with his great form heading into the final three races, winning in just 8:57:23, more than an hour ahead of his nearest competitor.
Unless Herriman, who has two wins, can win one of the next two rounds plus the tiebreaker at Shenandoah Mountain 100, he is in danger of losing his crown to Andrews. No doubt, the defending champ is aware of this and is laying his trap now. It appears very likely there will be a showdown between these two titans.
Steve Butler (Kryki Sports) from Ketchum, Idaho, put more than a half hour on his nearest challenger to finish second, 10:00:59. Dave Reynolds (Skidmarks) from Salt Lake City, Utah, held off the rest of the field to take the third spot on the podium at 10:33:03.
The Next Kenda NUE Series race shifts south to Georgia, which has been suffering from a record level heat wave this week. If the heat doesn't abate within the next two weeks, expect it to be a race of attrition, however, Dahlonega, where the race is located, is located in the northern mountains of Georgia, where the temperatures are typically much cooler than central Georgia.