NUE Series heads to Breckenridge

On Sunday, July 15, endurance mountain bikers from all over the US, both solo and teams, will roll out from Carter Park in downtown Breckenridge for the start of the eighth annual Breckenridge 100 Mountain Bike Challenge, race number five of the Kenda National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE). Racers will also receive points in the statewide Colorado RME Series.

Course architect, Zobbewan, has linked together an amazing network of backcountry singletrack, roads, doubletrack and bike paths featuring 13,719 feet of climbing through Summit County's pristine back country. This race course, set mostly above 9000 feet, is arguably the most difficult of the series, offering three Continental Divide crossings at altitudes surpassing 12,000 feet along with spectacular, jaw dropping, "hey man, keep your eyes on the trail" scenery.

The first loop sends racers up and over the famed Wheeler Pass. After passing through the start/finish zone in Carter Park, racers head out for loop two, considered the most difficult of the three cloverleaf loops that will also feature a Strava segment this year. Two Strava flags will mark the segment and racers with the fastest times will become eligible for additional Strava prizes. According to Race Director, Thane Wright, "Loop 2 will test any racers metal, but the extensive sections on the Colorado Trail make the effort rewarding."

Passing through Carter Park again, racers head out on loop three toward an aid station located on the Continental Divide at Boreas Pass. Racers must reach Boreas Pass by 4:30 pm, the final cutoff, earlier than all other NUE series races. The Rocky Mountains are reknown for afternoon thunderstorms with dangerous high altitude lightning. For racers able to make the cutoff, the reward is a ride on the historic flowing descent of the old flume - Gold Dust Trail, before a third crossing of the Continental Divide toward the finish at Carter Park.

At the post-race celebration at Carter Park, racers will be rewarded with a gourmet buffet dinner featuring local cuisine from a variety of local area restaurants along with fresh brews from Colorado's famous Oskar Blues Brewery, purveyors of Dale's Pale Ale. According to Wright, "For racers who may not be up for the whole enchilada, shorter distances are also available for solo riders and teams who would like to experience this spectacular high alpine cycling challenge." The B-68 Marathon begins at 10:00 m with the B-32 half marathon starting at 10:15 am.

Men: Tostado attempts seventh Breckenridge victory

In the men's race, local strongman Josh Tostado will be seeking his seventh win. Last year, three-time reigning NUE Series Champion Jeff Schalk became the first ever to edge out the local champ, finishing 8:08:53 and setting a new course record. With Schalk in retirement, Tostado is the favorite to win on Sunday.

According to Wright, "Local legend Josh Tostado absolutely owns this race, winning every edition of the contest since its inception eight years ago" until last year when he was edged out by less than five minutes by the NUE Series Champion. With a home course advantage, Tostado has a great opportunity to make a mid-season run at the NUE Series title, building on his fifth place finish at the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan.

Current NUE Series Champion, Christian Tanguy (Team CF) made an attempt last year to be the first to unseat Tostado but wound up 11 minutes back, placing third. Tanguy is not yet on the roster which is, perhaps, an indication that he is using his experience to choose more favorable battlegrounds in his bid to defend his title? Tanguy currently sits in eighth place overall with his only win, so far, at the Mohican MTB100, an indication of the increasing competitiveness of the NUE Series.

Four races into the season, "The SiMonster" from Michigan, Michael Simonson (Trek/RBS) currently holds the top position on the leader board.

Other known challengers registered for this year's event include Kalan Beisel, Ben Melt Swanepoel, Ernesto Marenchin (Pivot Cycles), who currently holds the two spot in the NUE Series, and Lee Simril (MotorMile Racing) who currently sits in fifth place overall among racers that have completed all four NUE Series races so far.

Women: Kirkland tries to make it three in a row

In the women's race, Jari (pronounced Yar-EE) Kirkland (Alpine Orthopedics) of Crested Butte, set the bar for women in 2010 by winning the B-100 in just 9:59:07. She claimed victory again last year blistering the course in just 10:31:36, more than an hour ahead of her nearest competitor. Kirkland is also a record holder at Montezuma's Revenge and the 24 Hours of Moab. She will be going for her third win in a row.

Standing between her and a three-peat is none other than the defending NUE Series Champion, Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt), who has already racked up three wins this year in her bid to defend her title with wins at Syallamo's Revenge, Mohican MTB100 and the Lumberjack 100.

Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) finished just behind Carey in all three of those. A win at Breckenridge would be a huge victory for Simril, who is in excellent form and having her best season ever.

Melissa Trainer (Trek Bicycle Store) placed second last year. The course knowledge she gathered last year may serve her well this year among the new challengers.

Singlespeed: Free for all

Last year, Mark Thompson, (Wilderness Sports), a native of Breckenridge, was the only singlespeed racer to finish sub-10 hours, killing it in 9:54:00, a follow up on his win in 2010. He, along with other top finishers last year are not yet on the roster this year, leaving the singlespeed division up for grabs.

Three-time NUE Series singlespeed defending champion, Gerry Pflug (Salsa/NoTubes/Top Gear) Bikes began the NUE season with two straight wins at Cohutta and Syllamo's Revenge but suffered a tick bite at the Revenge that took him out of the next two races. He is reportedly on the road to recovery now and is expected to return but is not on the B-100 roster.

Four races into the season, leading the NUE Series is Dwayne Goscinski (Dogfish/cyclewerx/dch/noah's Foundation), who is absent from the Breck roster as well. This leaves the door wide open to several high ranked singlespeed challengers including Richard Long (Cycle-Smart Grassroots Team), who currently holds third place in the NUE Series heading in race number five at Breckenridge.

Robin Oscar (Motor Mile Racing) holds the five spot in the series after completing just three races. His best finish this year was fifth place at the Cohutta 100. A win at Breckenridge could move him up to third place in the standings.

Defending NUE Masters Champion, 50-year-old Doug Andrews ( smashed the field last year by nearly two hours, finishing 9:27:31 and smashing the previous course record. His time was good enough to place top 10 overall among all divisions. He has yet to make an appearance this year leaving an opening for 55-year-old David Grauer (Orthopro), who finished second last year and sits in eighth place with two finishes this year including a fifth place finish at Syllamo's Revenge.

Grauer also finished second in 2010, less than five minutes behind 53-year-old Larry Dewitt (Pro Cycling). He returns with two years of course knowledge this year, becoming the top contender with a great opportunity to take his first win of the NUE season.

Among his challengers will be 51-year-old Paul Foster (Team Hitarock), who placed fifth last year and 54-year-old Carl Gable (, who placed third and just seven minutes behind Grauer in 2010. Also on the roster is 54-year-old Tom Liebl (Hammer Nutrition), who placed sixth in 2010. Last year, just six out of 15 masters finished this extremely difficult race.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage.

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