Is the Ultra Mountain Bike Race Inescapable?

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The outdoor sports world seems filled lately with so many ultrafill-in-the-blank races that my normal, hours of activity a day, schedule is makingme feel lazy. And itlooks like yet another grueling mountain bike endurance race will be croppingup on the radar. Pierre’sHole, a 50/100 mile race held at GrandTarghee Resort in Wyoming hit its second year in stride on August 21.

Innocently, I went to ride my downhill bike on Targhee's trails. After takingthe chairlift up, I started to feel so guilty about the easy ride up after witnessing so many people suffering up the trails beginning at the base area. After a few runs, I ended up cheering for the, um, motivated people on their epic runs.

The racecourse features 25-mile laps of mostly singletrack,often technical, trail and 4,600 feet of climbing. With over 17,000 feet total of climbing in the 100 miles, the trail snakes around the Targheebase area on the double track of Grand Targhee’s ski slopes, drops to thevalley floor, climbs back up, drops again through a ranch, and then climbsagain in each lap.

Somewhere along 100 miles of trail and a few of the 17,000' of climbing…. Rider: Kevin Kulow.  Photo: Tim Bradshaw

This year, most racers cranked across thefinish line, filthy, dusty and exhausted, but mostly smiling. The growth in turnout over one year,with some racers traveling from Canada and across the western states, and the rave reviews of the coursehave the organizers looking towards a big future for yet another punishing race.

Although still relatively quite small, 100 people raced this year, the field doubled in entries. The race has a long way to go to reach the popularity ofsome other races—upwards of 1000 racers lining up atthe Leadville 100 MTB race—but big names are starting to take notice.

In its second year, there was a good showing of locally-basedprofessional endurance athletes, who search out strenuous (read: torturous)athletic challenges for training, such as ski mountaineer Cary Smith and snowboard mountaineer Stephen Koch.

But names such as Rebecca Rusch, winner of the Pierre’s Hole women’s 50 mile (and 3rd overall in the 50 mile race) arebeginning to take notice of this new race.J ust coming off a win at the Leadville 100, Rusch decided totake it easy, opting out of the 100. “Each race is as hard as you make it, Rusch said, and “the [Pierre’sHole] course is definitely stout…but the singletrack was fun andchallenging.”

Sara Schroeder, Rebecca Rusch, and Amy Chuiciolo on the women's 50 mile podium. Courtesy of Rebecca Rusch.

Race organizer and endurance MTB racer Troy Barry has highaim for Pierre’s Hole, given the quality of the course and the increasingpopularity of ultra MTB endurance events. “We are currently discussing taking the race to the National Ultra MTBEndurance calendar, said Barry. “We hope to double or triple the size of the race next year again, andattract more high profile racers.”

Ready to train yet?I’ll be getting some new cheers together…

–Brigid Mander

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