Kerkove and Looney win in Wyoming

Situated in Teton Valley Idaho on the Wyoming border, the Pierre's Hole 50/100 is a new race offering 50 and 100-mile races, the latter with 17,200 feet of climbing.

The race started early hoping to give everyone the opportunity to finish by making the Teton Canyon cutoff time of 6:30 pm. Under brightening skies, start temperatures hovered around 40 degrees F, and all pondered what the day would bring in the form of precipitation and temperature rise. The forecast was not only for pain, but for snow, wind, hail, and colder than normal temperatures.

From the gun, 100-mile veterans Jeff Kerkove and Cary Smith hit the start loop climb with a furious pace dragging with them experienced riders Nathan Miller of Park City and Mike Wolf of Helena, Montana, as well as the strongman team of Aaron Nydam and Ben Aufderhide from Jackson, Wyoming.

Smith, racing the 50-mile distance on his singlespeed, came out of the famed Rick's Basin singletrack loop, into the base area, and headed towards lightening ridge with a slim 20-second lead over Kerkove.

The next group consisted of the rest of the fast men a minute back. Kerkove and Smith would chase one another up lightening ridge and descend the 1,400 foot drop of singletrack, Mill Creek, to Teton Canyon without much change in the time gap.

Both riders blew past Teton Canyon aid station #2 and hit the Ski Hill road climb up to Bustle Creek 900 feet above. Following another 900-foot drop and a 1,400-foot climb the two riders would remain close with all others chasing.

Topeak/Ergon rider Sonya Looney would sit in the middle of this 100-mile group and establish a large gap to the other woman on the first lap. Meanwhile the second race within the race was taking form with Troy Olson and Dave Bergart of Teton Valley staying close to Smith with a blistering first lap of two hours and 10 minutes.

The 50-mile women would have local heavy-hitters Amy Fulwyler, Robin McGee, Kate Lynch, and Jill Damman putting in sub three hour laps. Fulwyler, recently coming on strong as a climber and descender, came through on her first lap in front of all but five 50-mile men.

As the race moved into the second lap, the temperatures rose just a little at the start/finish, but 10 degrees elsewhere on the lower parts of the course. The ladies, all great friends, teammates from time to time, and vicious competitors over the years, continued to climb aggressively, descend with confidence and speed, and smile all the while.

Riding on sheer will, McGee made up several minutes on Fulwyler the second lap, and Lynch rode her second rode climb about two minutes faster than the first lap. When asked what she thought about the race afterwards, Dammon stated that she had an absolute blast the entire time. Lynch, standing by, chuckled and commented that she wasn't sure she could say that she could fully agree, but it was an amazing course, well organized, with tremendous support, and she was glad that it was over.

The Martz family from Kewaskum, Wisconsin put the entire family on the line with Mom, Dad, 14-year-old Sam , and younger brother Jeff all racing for bragging rights. Although the course would take its toll on the whole family, they all repeated that they would be back next year to challenge themselves again.

Smith would continue to race strong and notch himself the victory in the 50-mile distance with a time of four hours and 10 minutes. Smith would be followed to the line by Troy Olson (+20minutes), Mike Piker, Travis Ward, and Dave Bergart.

The women would see a real battle at this distance with Amy Fulwyler taking the win at five hours and 12 minutes, followed by Robin McGee, Jill Daman and Kate Lynch. The top 50-mile team of Tim Bradshaw and Tom Hedges would post a combined effort of six hours and 22 minutes to win this division.

With the 50-mile race closing the 100-mile group would only be entering their second half of the race. At the mid point, teammates Kerkove and Looney would take solid leads going into the second 50. Miller from Park City would find himself at a 13-minute deficit to Kerkove. While Looney would have a commanding one hour and 15 minute lead over first-time 100 miler Carmen Messina.

In the 100 mile team race, Aaron Nydam and Ben Aufderhide challenged the clock to break nine hours with the goal of the coveted silver belt buckle. They would miss their mark by merely two minutes and 15 seconds, vouching to come back next year. While the race was working itself out, Mother Nature had other plans by unleashing winds and rain. The rain frequently changed over to hail and moments of snow squalls followed again by sun.

Ultimately, the hard men of the 100 miler would ride through the adversity and Kerkove would come across the line first at nine hours and 17 minutes followed by Miller at 9:36. Wolf of Missoula would arrive an hour off of Miller's pace. The women would see Looney run the full course in 10 hours and 40 minutes, with Messina finishing in her person goal, through hail and snow, under 13 hours with grace and composure.

Racers of both disciplines would find a warm post race meal at the base area and local organically brewed beer to wash it down. With smiles of accomplishment and stories of the pain cave energizing the air, the first Battle of Pierre's Hole became a huge success.

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