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Lutsen 99er by Singlespeed

by Michael Green • June 29, 2018

At the end of last year a group of old riding buddies decided that our cycling destination adventure would be the Lutsen 99er in northern Minnesota this past weekend. While the 'smack' was flying discussing our forthcoming race, I decided that my first 100 miles on a mountain bike would be on my Kona Big Unit singlespeed.

So here I was, lining up in the corral for my first 100 miler overlooking Lake Superior. I had a good starting position near the front with the goal of not getting caught up in the bottleneck as we pile into the first snowmobile trail. I did my best to not lose too much on the controlled roll out as I drafted and spun my legs as hard as possible.

I'd put a lot of thought into the event: my gearing, food, fluids etc and planned to stop as little as possible with my only stop planned at around 3 hours: close to halfway. I thought that if everything went well I could get close to 6 hours and so time saved not stopping and not getting caught up in traffic would be a key component to success. At mile 5, a five mile climb definitely strung the crowd out and I used my Stages powermeter to keep myself below or at threshold - no point of going all in within the first 10% of the day?

I was making good progress towards my 3 hour goal and had been making up lots of ground on the bumpy trails in the rocky terrain of the Superior National Forest. Others were having flats everywhere but my new set of Schwalbe Racing Ralphs were managing this terrain excellently. I carved through the trails, splashed through the stream crossing, and plunged through the bogs without a slip.

At mile 30 I came up to a fellow singlespeeder and sat on him for a few moments to find an area to attack. We crossed a small bridge and I went all in on the up hill seeing some big wattage from my Stages. I crested the hill and would never see him again. Halfway bag drop arrived, I exchanged three bottles, gathered more food, applied some chamois cream, had a pee, and was out of there in under two minutes. I was feeling good and motivated, especially as one of the course volunteers told me that I was now in third.

I started to make good progress. No one was passing me and I was dropping those I caught on the hills and on the technical track but none with one cog at the back. I stuck to my eating and drinking plan but at about mile 73 I felt a slight cramp in my left thigh, I had a headache, and it was getting warm. Pedaling along a flat fire road I backed off a little, poured water through the holes of my helmet and down my back - just a few moments to chill and combat the twinges. This was also a time for a perfectly timed rain shower that no-one else on the day remembered? I'm not sure how long I took to regather myself, a couple miles perhaps, until a train of guys came alongside and I tacked onto the back and rode the draft for a while.

I'd ridden the final few miles and singletrack a couple of times earlier in the week and was excited to plough through the upcoming fun section. What I was not looking forward to was the final 250ft of elevation climb in the last quarter mile - a steep three stepped finish to the day. Again, on a climb I dropped the group who had towed me while I recovered and I nailed the next section by floating over the rocks, skipping through the mud, and onto the final singletrack where I seriously overtook another ten or so riders.

As I rode off of the singletrack and onto the ski resort service road I came upon another singlespeeder. Now my mind was rolling on how to make an attack stick, especially with the brutal climb to the finish. I sat there trying to hide when he bobbled on the first section of the climb: I attacked with everything.

I didn't look back, just gave my all but, when it came to the second step, I had nothing. In proper CX style I dismounted before I lost momentum, jogged/walked the next, and remounted as it flattened out. The last climb was full of families and spectators cheering as everyone dragged themselves up this last steep climb - there was no walking this section! I crossed the finishing line and two wonderful volunteers helped me stay upright with a water and Pepsi. I finished second on the day in just over 6 hours, secured a qualification for the Leadville Trail 100, saw my heart rate hit 195 on the last section, and enjoyed every bit of it.

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