Racers are making their way deep south this weekend to contest the final race of the Kenda National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series at the Fool's Gold 100. Now in its sixth year, the race traverses the rugged North Georgia mountains with a combination of gravel roads, doubletrack, and classic Georgia singletrack. The 100-mile course consists of two 50-mile loops and totals over 14,000 feet of elevation gain. The Fool's Gold also offers a single 50-mile loop for those not up to the full hundie distance and a 10km run on Sunday.
"We have changed the second lap for the hundie," said Race Director Eddie O'Dea. "It's less total climbing, but loaded with the punchy climbs that where the signature of this race a few years back. It also allows us to allocate our staff and volunteers to make for a better race experience for everyone."
The Montaluce Winery and the city of Dahlonega is still a draw for the racers and their families. The site of the first, though short lived, gold rush in the US (hence the name) is also home to some great restaurants, shops and, of course, wineries.
"We are stoked to be hosting the NUE Series final. To have such heated battles take place on our trails is fantastic," said O'Dea. "One of our goals when we started this race was to bring national level racing back to Georgia. We've had NORBA races and the Olympics, but it's been too long since we've had a race this big on our great trails."
After the race, day and series awards will be given with the four division top finishers sharing $11,000 in prizes for the NUE Series. All NUE division winners will also receive complimentary entry into ALL NUE events in 2013 as part of their reward.
Women: Carey and Sornson to duel for women's title
Three-time defending champion Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) has had an amazing season, winning six NUE Series races this season and the Breck Epic in Colorado. However, the NUE Series is a best four of 12 races with ties broken at the championship. That means that Carey must win or stay ahead of Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) on Saturday if she hopes to retain her title.
Carey's last win at Fool's Gold was in 2010, when the race was cut short due to pounding rains. The field that year included Sue Haywood (Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite). Carey, still recovering from her win at the Park City Point to Point last Saturday, will have her work cut out for her in Georgia where a bad day, flat tire, or any lengthy mechanical could cost her the NUE Series title.
Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) won't be cutting the champ any slack and tops the list of contenders on the roster at the Fool's Gold 100. Currently sitting second place overall in the NUE standings, Sornson won here in 2008, the same year she claimed her first NUE Series title. She won again last year setting the bar at 8:53:22. Sornson's hard fought road to the title includes wins this year at the Cohutta 100, Wilderness 101, and, most recently, at the Hampshire 100. She will be all IN at Fool's Gold!
Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) has had another great season with a steady hold on third place in the NUE Series all season against top level competition. She finished second here last year, just 16 minutes behind Sornson.
Andrea Wilson (Outdoors, Inc) has not competed in the NUE Series since she placed third at the Mohican 100 on June 4. Wilson made the podium at the Breck Epic this year and has to be the dark horse for Saturday's race. Wilson, sporting a mohawk under her brain bucket, has become well known for doing it on a rigid singlespeed but has opted for gears on rare occasions.
Men: Tanguy faces off against Bishop for series title
Just one racer stands between the NUE series defending champion Christian Tanguy's bid to repeat and hang on to his title. Currently Team CF riders hold the top three spots in the NUE Series.
At the Fool's Gold, Tanguy won in 2009, then, in 2010, the NUE Series three-time champion Jeff Schalk (Trek) edged out Tanguy by just two minutes winning in just 4:15:26 after torrential rains forced Race Director, Eddie O'Dea, to cut the race short after just 50 miles, a first in the NUE Series. Last year, Tanguy edged out the champion after a missing, critical, split sign sent the race leader, Schalk, in the wrong direction, forcing him to backtrack and make up a considerable amount of lost time in what would become a controversial finish, ultimately resulting in a tie at 7:11:12.
With his sights set on his first NUE Series Title, Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) enters the championship race with wins at Cohutta, Wilderness 101, and, again, just last Sunday, at the Shenandoah 100 where a flat tire left the defending champ clawing his way back into second place.
Other top contenders will include Evan Plews (Ibis Cycles/Reall Racing), who is among a short list of racers who will compete for the remaining podium spots. Sam Koerber (Niner/Industry Nine), who finished fourth at Shenandoah, and Ben Melt Swanepoel (Squirt Lube) in his final US appearance before returning home to South Africa for a much needed rest will also race. Swanepoel has been chasing the NUE Series all summer gaining valuable course knowledge that will, no doubt, benefit him in 2013. Kevin Carter (Gripped Racing) is currently in fourth place in the NUE Series just behind Brandon Draugelis (Team CF) and Cary Smith (Team CF).
Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) is currently holding fifth in the NUE Series with a great opportunity to move up to the podium following his third place finish here last year. Rob Spreng (Dirty Harry's) is holding the six spot behind Edsall. Jonathan Davis (Trek Bike Store Racing - Boulder, CO), Chris Peariso (Adventure212/Specialized), Zack Morrey (Blue Ridge Cyclery) and Michael Simonson (Trek/RBS) all have the potential to turn up the heat and make their stand for the season on Saturday.
Singlespeed: Pfluginator first to claim four straight NUE Series titles
At the tender age of 43, three-time defending NUE Series singlespeed Champion Gerry Pflug (Salsa/SPK/Pro Bikes) has wrapped up his fourth straight NUE Series Title with three wins to his credit this year. In 2011, The Pfluginator racked up an incredible seven out of eight wins, including four back-to-back races, the best record in the entire series. He won the Fool's Gold in 2009 and again last year, setting the bar at 7:48:15.
In the 2012 season, a tick bite to the groin at race number two in Arkansas threatened to derail him, forcing him to drop out of the Mohican 100 at aid station 3, however, Pflug recovered and fought back, taking the podium in four straight races to lead all contenders. For Pflug, the Fool's Gold is more of a victory lap but don't expect anyone to cut him any slack on Saturday.
Dwyane Goscinski (Dogfish/cyclewerx/dch/noah's Foundation) sits in third place overall in the NUE standings behind Pflug and Ron Harding (Trestle Bridge Racing), however, Patrick Blair (Adventures For the Cure), with wins this year at the Wilderness 101 and just last Sunday at Shenandoah, could upset both by winning on Saturday which would move him into second place overall.
Jason Pruitt (29ercrew LAS Hodson Bay) placed second to Pflug last year. He has five races under his belt and will be defending his fifth place standing to stay in the the top five prize money. Just behind Pruitt in the standings is Kelly Klett (Trips for Kids - Triangle) who had better keep Pruitt in his sights if he hopes to move into the top five.
Other contenders include Robin Oscar (Motor Mile Racing), who placed sixth last year and Richard Long (Cycle-Smart Grassroots Team) who has completed an incredible eight races this year, more than any other singlespeed racer.
Masters: Sanborn has the NUE Series title in the bag
The 2010 NUE Series Champion Robert Herriman smashed the field last year in just 8:22:42, finishing more than an hour ahead of his nearest competitor before losing in a close race at the championship against a "just turned 50" Doug Andrews (www.GeoLadders.com). The 2011 defending NUE Series Champion Andrews, nicknamed "The Hulk" for winning by margins measured in hours rather than minutes, did not attempt to defend his title this year, reportedly due to his official parenting duties, however, he did make his presence known at least once by smashing the race course as only Andrews can in the only race he attended this year, the Breckenridge 100.
With Herriman and Andrews out of the mix this year, Ron Sanborn (Einstein Race) picked up the slack, earning his first ever NUE Series title with wins at Cohutta, Mohican, Lumberjack and the Hampshire 100. In fact, the only masters racer to get the best of Sanborn this year was Roger Masse (Trek) at the Wilderness 101. Masse has a solid lock on the number two spot in the series leaving the remaining battle for the last three spots. Mark Hershberger (Team Jackson Hole/Hoback Sports) winner of the Pierre’s Hole 100, currently sits solidly in third place.
According to our calculations, that leaves Chris Irving (Los Locos) as the man to beat. Irving placed third last year behind Herriman and Paul Van Kooten (Motor Mile/SCV). A win for Irving would move him up to fourth place overall in the NUE Series, just ahead of Mark Dragelis (Team CF).
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage.
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