The Lumberjack 100 has been a regular feature of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series for a while now but it is actually one of the few that I’d never done. The Northern Michigan race is almost all singletrack, which sets it apart from most 100s. With little elevation change and high speeds, the race is known for close finishes. I’ve seen videos of the top three sprinting for the line at the end of 100 miles and with two time defending champion, Brian Schworm, on the registration list I knew this year would be no different.
When I woke up the morning of the race it was pouring rain and I began to mentally prepare myself for a long wet day. As to be expected, the start was a sprint for position as the race quickly turns to singletrack and stays that way. I found myself leading the opening section and about halfway through the first of three laps a clear front group of seven riders had formed.
That group slowly dwindled down over the next two hours and by the start of the last lap only Brian and I remained. On the flat course I knew getting away from a strong rider like Brian would be difficult but I had a plan. Five miles from the finish there are three brutally steep climbs back to back. Each one lasts less than a minute but I thought that maybe if I gave 100 percent on all three I’d have a chance of breaking away.
I played it very conservative, letting Brian lead for most of the lap. I tried to ride as efficiently as possible in anticipation of the effort that was about to come. It was at this point in the race that the rain had cleared and the sun poked through the trees bringing with it the heat and humidity. We entered the make or break section. The first of the three climbs looked like a wall in front of us with lapped riders struggling to push their bikes up. I passed Brian and crested the hill to see another wall in front of me. I didn’t look back but I could still hear Brian behind me on the second climb. With my legs burning from the first two efforts I gave everything I had on the third pitch. I recovered on the descent and took a quick look over my shoulder to find I’d made the separation.
With 5 miles left, there was nothing to do but stay hard on the gas. I crossed the finish line to a crowd of people cheering and congratulating me. I’d never seen so many spectators at the end of a NUE event and it really made this win special. Michigan locals know how to support their racers.
About a minute later Brian came across the line. We shared the ups and downs of the day as more riders finished and joined in. I don’t know why it took me so long to try my hand at the Lumberjack 100, but with the amazing trails and post race atmosphere I’m sold and I’ll be making it a regular on my race calendar.
The bike of the day was the RKT9 RDO equipped with a dropper seatpost. In a sea of hardtails on the starting line I wondered if I’d made the right choice. All doubt was cast aside in the first few miles of singletrack. The RKT rips tight singletrack and with saddle out of the way and the CVA suspension fully active, I was able to make light work of the sandy corners that littered the course. This allowed me to stay fresher towards the end of the race when it really counted, and it made the difference on the final three climbs!
Cameron Mountain Bike Racing is a mid-Atlantic mountain bike team focused on endurance mountain bike racing. The goal of this team is to promote our sport by performing at the highest level at local and national mountain bike races. The team accomplishes their goals by training and racing nationally across the United States.
–Race recap by Dylan Johnson, Cameron Mountain Bike Racing