Mohican 100 MTB – Race Description

31 05 2009

The Mohican 100 is the 2nd Race in the National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Series, eight one hundred mile cross country MTB races. As part of the NUE, the Mohican 100 attracts all the top national racers and national attention. VeloNews in a recent article about the NUE described it this way:

The Mohican 100 has arguably the most demanding course on the NUE circuit, thanks to its many rocks and rots. The huge, single loop threads through four different counties, and includes the 24 miles of Mohican State Forest, voted Ohio’s best mountain bike trail. While the course has 11,000 feet of climbing most of the ups come as brutally steep, short hills. The race opens with one – a lung busting sprint out of downtown Loudonville to the tp of Maple Heights.

The Mohican 100 offers a bit of everything. Pine forest, single track, stream crossings, rock gardens, log bridges, loose rocky descents, mud, obstacles from logs to rail road ties on steep muddy descents. Every technical obstacle a rookie MTB race like myself fears. As last years winner Jeff Schalk told us pre-race, “Leadville is a high altitude road ride compared to this.”

We competed in the 100 K version of the race, which cuts off 40K of mostly dirt roads and gravel roads.

Weapon of Choice for Mohican 100 MTB

27 05 2009

Lightened up a bit for 2009. Specialized Epic Marathon. Aluminum frame, SRAM and DuraAce Components, Rock Shock SID Race fork and Specialized Brain rear suspension. Will run tubeless Maxxis Crossmarks at Mohican (Kevan Millstein, equipment guru to the stars, highly recommends this tire. ) Sub-25 lbs. Giving up about 2 lbs over carbon because I spent most of my equipment budget getting the Cervelo ready for the Assault.

Assault on Mt. Mitchell – Race Report

19 05 2009
Weapon of Choice for the Assault

Weapon of Choice for the Assault

My observations on equipment, since you all know that is my real passion, not this actual riding stuff:

  • Lightweight, carbon aero wheels with tubular tires are an excellent choice for a 73 mile solo effort on a rolling course with a head wind.
  • A 28 tooth sprocket and a compact crank are worth every penny when climbing 27 miles with long stretches at 9% or steeper.
  • Dura-Ace 7900 gruppo shifts crisply even while climbing.
  • Ergo shaped carbon bars can cure shoulder tightness and hand numbness on a long ride, especially when climbing.
  • A tricked out 15 pound bike with carbon aero wheels and tubular tires is definitely the weapon of choice for a plump, aging cyclist wishing to climb 12,000 feet during a challenge century.

My observations on Mt. Mitchell participants and my Cleveland based ride mates:

  • A tricked out 15 pound bike with carbon aero wheels and tubular tires may elicit derisive comments from your peers (old guys who aren’t as fast as they used to be) when you line up in the front row of the last wave of a competitive event – most frequently – “With that bike shouldn’t you be in the first wave?” My answer: “The bike should be in the first wave, but I am right where I my three dollar legs need me to be. Without the bike, I would in the back with the hairy legged 12:00 hour riders with streamers on their MTB bar ends.”
  • When, at breakfast, friends put into your head the idea of a barely glued replacement tubular rolling off of the rim in the corners after a flat, it is hard not to think about exactly that for the next 99 miles after your tubular tire flats at mile three.
  • Even friends laugh and accelerate away leaving you to die a slow solo riding death for the next 70 miles when your high tech, ultra geeky aero carbon tubular goes flat three miles into the ride.
  • Derision turns to grudging respect when nobody can stay on your wheel as you solo through the back of the field to make up the 10 minutes you lost changing your flat. (It was the slow end of the field.)
  • Temporary salvation sometimes comes in the form of a racer chick. Racer chick # 1 overslept and needed to catch her team up front. I grabbed her wheel, held on for dear life, and let her pull me through 20 fast miles. She dropped me on the first real hill and I was back to soloing in the wind. Racer chick # 2 rode tempo for me all the way up the route 80 climb as she tried to catch her riding mates who had ridden past the Marion rest stop as she stopped for water.
Perfect Weather - 65 degrees and Sunny

Perfect Weather - 65 degrees and Sunny

Competitive placement at Mt. Mitchell pretty much depends on two things 1) How fast is the paceline you grab in the first three miles rides to Marion and how far you stretch yourself to stay with them; and 2) What you have left for the 27 mile climb to the top from Marion after pushing yourself to stay with the pace group that was too fast for your level of fitness. Above all else, make sure you beat at least 500 people to the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway or you will not make the cutoff and will be sent back down without summiting. Check out my other post Assault on Mt. Mitchell – Race Description for the full description.

My story comes down to this: I flatted three miles into the ride, the entire field and ALL the pacelines, fast and slow, left me 10 minutes behind while I changed my tire. I spent the rest of the day playing catch up, worrying whether I would make the cut off at the Blue Ridge Parkway and hoping my barely glued tubular would not roll off my rim in the corners (Thanks for putting that thought in my head Craig and Jon).

Flat?  I don't think so

Flat? I don't think so

For about an hour, I worked hard to stay on the wheel of Racer Chick #1. Other than that my legs were feeling a bit tight and I kind of loafed along through the wind and hills, stopping every 20 miles or so to put more air in my tire which had a leaky valve, to refill my water bottles and to munch on Uncrustables, an empanada like pre-made hyper-processed peanut butter sandwich. The good news was I was passing people constantly as I worked my way through the field. Maybe I still could make the 750 person cut off at the Blue Ridge Parkway. Net result – 5 hours to Marion, Rider 700 across the timing mats.  If I could keep this up, I would make the cutoff.

20 plus miles and 6000 feet up Mt. Mitchell

27 plus miles and 6000 feet up Mt. Mitchell

Common wisdom says Marion is the half-way point of the race. The “average” time is double the “average” time to Marion. This was looking like a long day. But here is where the 28 tooth cog, 15 pound bike, and many hill repeats came into play. I climbed to the summit in only 3:17:21 ride time. Even on the steepest portions of the descent, I was able to maintain cadence of at least 70 RPM and on the less steep sections, I was riding a Lance like 95 RPM. This saved my knees and legs and allowed me to climb the best that I have ever climbed — almost 1900 vertical feet per hour. If I was given correct information, I entered the Parkway as rider 620 – 80 places higher when I turned onto the climb.

The finishers complete the course in 5:15 to 5:30. 8:00 hours usually put you in the top third of the field and 9:30 puts you in the top half of the field. I finished in a hair over 8:00 hours ride time. My “official” elapsed time was around 9:13:00. If I am not mistaken, Jim was just under 8:00 hours elapsed time, Jon was at around 7:06  and Craig was a speedy 6:45. Jim and Jon, feeling badly about ditching me at mile three dutifully waited for me at the finish line and cheered me across the line.

In all, a good day.

Assault on Mt. Mitchell – Race Description

19 05 2009

Assault on Mt. Mitchell is a unique road race. One thousand two hundred riders leave Spartanburg, SC at the crack of dawn for the 102.8 mile race. They ride 73 miles to Marion, NC over rolling hills climbing close to 5500 feet up a series of relatively short (200 to 200 vertical climbs). Riders group up into pace lines and maintain a blistering pace to Marion. Groups of top riders maintain 22 or above. Merely strong riders group up to average 18 plus over that first 73 miles.

At Marion, the real race begins when the course tilts up towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. Route 80 is the twelve mile stretch up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It offers 2800 feet of climbing at an average 6% grade. Due to strict parkway rules, only the first 750 riders to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway are allowed to continue. The rest are turned back. This adds a note of urgency to the ride to Marion and the climb up Route 80.

At the Blue Ridge Parkway the fun really begins. Seven more continuous miles of 9% average grade brings 2400 more cumulative feet of climbing and deposits you at the last rest stop before Mt. Mitchell State Park at 4800 feet. (That is nearly 20 miles of continuous climbing for those of you doing the math).

Despite the recovery it brings, you almost resent the next two miles downhill, because the whole way down you know you are just going to have to climb back up the 500 feet of altitude you just descended. And climb you do, another 1000 feet at a now comfortable 7% grade over the 3 miles to the entrance of Mt. Mitchell State Park. 98 miles into the ride, Mt. Mitchell State Park’s main road takes you on a thigh burning, gut wrenching 3 mile 9 % ride up to 6200 feet. Take a breath, enjoy a half mile or so of false flat averaging only 5% before you enjoy the final 12% three quarter mile climb to the peak. The winners blaze through it all in 5:30 hours. The average rider is out there for 9:30 to 10:30 hours and the last stragglers come across the line in about 12:30 hours. In all, 102.8 linear miles, 11,500 vertical feet of excruciatingly painful fun.

Bike Geek Stuff

14 05 2009

Fabian Cancellera rode to victory at Paris/Roubaix a few years ago on this frame, one of the stiffest in the peloton.  Strength and lightness in a single package.  Perfect for those of us who are not wiry 135 pound climbing machines.  Zipp 404 wheels, FSA Compact Crank with SRM Powermeter and 11 x 28 rear cassette.

Weapon of Choice for the Assault

Weapon of Choice for the Assault

Components are a mix of Dura Ace 7900 and 7800 with a Ritchey carbon cockpit.  15.4 pounds of cycling perfection.  Skillz?  Legs?  Who needs those when you are riding a beauty like this.

Assault on Mount Mitchell

13 05 2009

Flat? I don't think so.

The Assault is one of the most popular challenge road rides in the US.  102 miles through the back woods of South and North Carolina, culminating in a 20+ mile 6000+ foot climb up Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi.

The 20 plus miles and 6000 feet up Mt. Mitchellway I figure it, if I can drag 26.5 pounds of mountain bike up 12,000 feet of climbing on dirt paths at 10,000 feet of altitude, dragging 15 lbs of tricked out carbon fiber across the Blue Ridge Parkway at Sea Level should be a cake walk.

Stay tuned.

20 plus miles and 6000 feet up Mt. Mitchell


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.