Making a Return to Big Racing, National Ultra Endurance Series: Cohutta 100

An 8-hour drive had me scrambling to get my bottles and feed options set up for my first 100-mile mountain bike race of the year: The Cohutta 100, which takes place in the steep mountains of the south end of the Appalachians. My new Team SHO-AIR van added some comfort and novelty to my journey, and I arrived in Tennessee to enjoy meeting a few fans and other racers at the venue for a Friday night autograph session and registration.

On Saturday, the start gun went off at 7 a.m. at the ‘96 Olympic Whitewater Center. The early morning fog was thick. Five hundred racers fought for the first singletrack. I used my XC skills to slot in second wheel and stay out of trouble. After a hard 30-minutes of serpentine singletrack on the Brush Creek Trail with the pace driven by tattooed tough-man Rob Spreng, the race settled down into a sustainable pace – the day would be a TOUGH one; 14,200-feet of climbing over the course of 100 miles.

My training had been very hard in the mid-week leading up to the race, with a 5-hour blaster just two days previous when I emptied my tank. To succeed over 100-miles, I knew my nutrition strategy and hydration would be essential, so I held with the lead group that was 8-man strong at the time.

Around mile 45, my motor warmed up and my power was coming on so I decided to drive the pace. The hardest part of the day was where the racecourse descended way down 2,000 feet into the neighboring state of Georgia for the Pinhoti Trail, and then took us back up a monster climb where we were greeted by… more climbing!

I punched it on the big climb and the quickness of the Cannondale F29 was apparent as I cranked out a good rhythm full-pace.  I was flying through the dark canyons of green pines and rhododendrons. The last piece of trail was an amazing singletrack: mostly downhill-thunder-rocks-express! Alternating dry southern oak forests singletrack ribbons on steep hillsides was super fun.

Feeling strong makes a big difference versus suffering through the last hour of one of these hundred-milers. They can be a suffer fest! But I cranked it out, and took the win. It was a great feeling to start my 2014 endurance season with such a good day in the saddle. I enjoyed a post-race swim with friends, celebrated the win and a return to epic racing.

Next stop is Team SHO-AIR’s own epic: The Catalina Island Gran Fondo! Check out the team’s page for more info about the big ride.

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