Mohican 100 :: Race Report

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Shred Mobb Capo Banks take it to the woods once again. Full Mohican 100 report below. 

Oh Mohican 100, you got me good… Again. There is no doubt in my mind that the Mohican State Park trail system is the premier trail system in Ohio. Ray’s MTB Park may have received IMBA Epic status first because of its novelty but Mohican stands above all in the buckeye state as far as variety, distance, and challenge. There are trails with steeper climbs and gnarlier downhills but none that that keep coming at you with the relentless pace of MSP’s 26 miles of nearly full single track. Set in the heart of Mohican Country, near Loudonville, the MSP loop comprises the first major section of the annual spectacle that is the Mohican 100 MTB Race.

I’ve lined up for the 100 miler every year since I first raced Mohican back in 2014, with exception of 2017 when I raced the 100k due to a bad crash that kept me off the bike for a month during peak training. Much of what keeps me coming back for the 100 miles every year is a half mile long downhill section I call the Stroble Downhill right before Aid 4.5. The Stroble Downhill is located on private property and can only be ridden as part of the race. Yes, it is really so good as to make the extra 40 miles worth it. I was giddy at the start line, happy to be back to the full length, looking forward to that relished piece of descent later, and lucky to have scored a really good spot near the front of the field. Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon Topeak Fox Shimano Maxxis) and Brian Schworm (Think Green - Bicycle Face pb SWORD) were a few riders over and a row in front of me, respectively. One of my closest rivals, Michael Gottfried, was several rows back from me.

For the first time since the race’s inception Race Director Ryan O’Dell opted for a neutral start due ongoing bridge repairs not a thousand feet past the start line. Michael, who was taken out by another rider on that same bridge last year must’ve been relieved by this. We rolled out at 7 o’clock on the dot, bunching up behind the lead out vehicles that were not to be passed. I was glad for this because it meant that the first few hundred feet of the climb out of town were also neutral, which suits me. The bliss did not last long though and the lead vehicle blew its horn and took off rapidly to signal the official start of the race.

Within seconds my heart rate shot up into the 170’s as I tried my best not to let the excitement get the better of me as familiar faces passed me. There went Jeremy Paul, Ryan “Dombro” Dombrowski, and to my great chagrin, Gottfried. 400 vertical feet and 1 mile later I found myself at the back of the lead group losing ground repeating my mantra for the day: “don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Early on all is well and spirits are high! Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Early on all is well and spirits are high! Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Due to the heavy rains the night before the oftentimes bone dry gravel roads to the trailhead were damp this year which, thankfully, kept the dust to a minimum. Surprisingly, the ATV trails down into the Mohican Adventures Campground had much less mudd than they usually do. The MSP trail system is known for how well it stands up to rain and it did not disappoint. I don’t recall a single puddle as we settled into a 4 man paceline consistent of the legendary masters racer Roger Massey, Ted Rauh from Marauders, Scott Morman from Rescue Racing, and myself. We rode together until a rooty climb right before the OG’s (original gnomes), when Ted launched an attack. I dug deep to stick to his wheel and so did Scott but we lost Roger. Ted kept up the pressure until we got to the two track shortly before County Rd 939. Determined not to be behind anyone going into the upcoming downhill sections  I countered Ted’s attack on the two track and pulled ahead to the Mile 9 climb. I motored up it passing several more riders, Ted and Scott hot on my heels and into the first downhill. Scott is undoubtedly a stronger climber than me but I was able to put enough time into him on the downhill to stay ahead into the mile long DH to the bridge. I definitely burned a match needlessly here but it was worth the reward of a personal second best time! “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Scott Mormann of Rescue Racing in the zone on the MSP Trail Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Scott Mormann of Rescue Racing in the zone on the MSP Trail Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Those of you familiar with Mohican already know what comes next, many a riders most hated section of the entire MSP Loop: The 2 mile long Mohican FU-climb up to ODNR Mohican Rd 58. Scott and Ted got the better of me pretty quickly but I was able to keep them in view all the way to Aid 1. Where Ted didn’t stop and Scott had trail crew waiting to hand him pre-filled bottles while I had to explain to the aid crew which bottle was for HEED and which one for water. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

Grateful for the refill I chugged along a minute later and eventually arrived at the hike-a-bike section that is generally considered unrideable by anyone but Jeremiah Bishop who was the first to ride it during the race and in perfect conditions back in 2015. I was surprised to spot Jeremy Paul a strong rider for the Spin Litzler road team about halfway up and set out to catch him. I caught up to Jeremy shortly before the Water Bar Downhill and was determined not to get stuck behind him for this part. The Water Bar Downhill is the Mohican 100’s equivalent of Heckler Hill at the Pisgah 111k. Normally closed to bicycle traffic this horse trail features a series of water bars with 6-12 inch steps that are tricky to navigate because they’re off camber and slick. The trick is to clear them one wheel at a time without hitting your bottom bracket in the process. Sounds simple enough, right? Well I should mention the 6 inches of mud and horse shit you’re riding through between each bar. While most technical riders get down this without dabbing, there is no shame in walking because you do not want to fall in this nastiness. Trust me. It can really wreck your day. A few miles further along we got to the first road section since the start where I fell in with a group of 5 other riders and we stuck together loosely until Aid 2. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Don’t set your foot down here, it’s not just mud you might tread in. Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Don’t set your foot down here, it’s not just mud you might tread in. Photo credit: Butch Phillips

Jeremy caught back up to me at Aid 2 and we chatted briefly. I was waiting for my bottles to be refilled while J needed to have his handlebars straightened. He was not having a good day and had crashed a couple of times. Knowing that there would be more road riding for much of the way to Aid 3 I considered to wait for J to partner and take turns pulling but lost track of him while I dealt with my bottles and so I took off solo. As it worked out this was actually a wise choice. Jeremy caught back up to me at the top of the Griffin Rd. Climb, told me to jump on his wheel, and proceeded to pull me more or less all the way to Wilderness. There, he was kind enough to give me a pass almost right away (I owe you a beer big bird!). Even though the Wilderness trails are located on private property, they are open for legal riding year-round due to the generosity of its owners. I usually only ride Wilderness during the race because it is a bit of a maze if you don’t know your way around. If you have never been, I strongly recommend you find yourself a buddy who is familiar with the trails and go check them out. A mix of old school single track, downhill trails, and rocks for days, Wilderness is pretty unique in Ohio and the closest we have to West Virginia style trails. It’s also a good place to send someone who thinks they’re the shit because they’ve made it around East Rim a couple of times; if you’re really mean spirited, anyways. I jest. don’t do that. Seriously, it’s a dick move. Don’t be a dick. Another reason I don’t often ride the Wilderness is that it is deceivingly short; at least the parts you ride during the race, which are the only ones I know. Don’t let that fool you though. This hell will suck you in for a good long while and none of the aid stations along the course is as welcome a sight to me as Aid 3 at the end of the first three quarters of Wilderness. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Tom Weaver of Knobby Side Down on the happy side of the Griffin Road Climb. Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Tom Weaver of Knobby Side Down on the happy side of the Griffin Road Climb. Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

I got into Aid 3, where the 100K and mile riders split, ahead of Jeremy and was on my own for most of the rest of the race. I felt fairly good as I made the right turn out of the aid station and set off toward the final quarter of Wilderness. Soon after, Kenny Kocarek from KSD whom I had seen repeatedly throughout the day caught up to me. We rode and pushed our bikes together for a while and chatted about my target race for this season the Marji Gessick 100. Kenny raced Marji last year and according to his descriptions it is a sincere leg buster, so I was happy for what insight I could glean off him. Kenny is a single speeder with insane climbing ability. To my detriment I made the mistake of giving him a bit too much of a leash on one of the steeper risers and he dropped me as we got toward the end of Wilderness. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

A little less than halfway between Aids 3 and 4 is Aid 3.5. Historically, it has been minimally stocked with water and sometimes cups of flat Coke but this year they had a full spread. Apparently I was the first one through to help himself to some of the homemade pickled beets which were delicious! I think this development is really cool because it reflects how this race has grown over the years. More fully stocked stations mean better neutral support which in turn makes race completion more attainable to first timers, which grows the event.  Much of the remainder to Aid 4 consists of the Mohican Valley and Holmes County trails. They’re both rail-to-trail conversions. Mohican Valley has always been paved as long as I’ve raced the Mohican 100 but Holmes County was only paved last year and times along it were faster than ever this year. I set a PR this year even though I found myself without a paceline for the first time on it ever. Considering the Holmes Trail was crushed gravel before the paving may not seem like a big deal but it matters, considering overall race times this year were significantly longer than in the past, which gives you an idea of the overall trail conditions during this year’s race. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

The Holmes County Trail dead ends in Glenmont, which is also where Aid 4 is located. The crew at Aid 4 was comprised of all veteran volunteers who have been at this location for 5+ years and know exactly how to make the pass through as efficient as possible. Big props to those guys and gals! With a little over 26 miles to go, Aid 4 is also usually where the light at the end of the tunnel becomes visible once more. Another 10 or so miles of road eventually lead to a gravel road called Stroble Rd which then turns into a logging road replete with ankle deep mud. In the past, there was a section off of Stroble for which the race lead through a more or less dried out riverbed. This year there was some new freshly cut single track running parallel to the creek bed which was littered with downed trees. The single track leads to the second to last truly grueling climb of the day and, finally, to that sacred little bit of single track descent down to the swinging bridge. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

I do not know what it is about this descent. It is ridiculously short to claim it is worth riding 40 miles for. It is washed out, rough, and chunky. It flows horribly and really all you can do is hold on and let roll. Maybe it is because it is on private land and therefore may only be ridden during the race. Maybe it is because it is the last real singletrack downhill of the day. I don’t know; but dammit I’ve loved these 30 seconds of descending ever since I first rode them. Thank you to the kind landowner who provides access for the race.

 2017 MTB Nats M45-49 winner Brian Schworm crosses the hanging bridge Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

2017 MTB Nats M45-49 winner Brian Schworm crosses the hanging bridge Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

At the bottom of the Stroble Downhill lies a narrow suspension bridge that crosses the Mohican River. Tucked away in a corner across from the bridge is Aid 4.5 undoubtedly the best aid station of all along this 100 mile course. It too is staffed by a veteran crew except these dudes are a bunch of no good hooligan knuckle heads who will offer you beer hand-ups or, if you show inclination but ultimately decline, flavor one of your bottles with a shot of cheap hootch. Thanks guys, just what I needed 90 miles into this slugfest! “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 

Up a small incline from Aid 4.5 the course once again merges the 100k/mile routes, keeping the little gem just barely out of sight for the 100k riders. It is always an odd feeling to come across the 100k group here. You know you just rode an extra 40 miles compared to them and you cannot help but resent them just a bit for that but at the same time you can’t help but offer them encouragement to keep going because they’ve probably suffered just as much as you, if not more, in their own way. A few may even offer cheers in return although most just grunt or give you angry or blank stares. Not a half mile past Aid 4.5 is the last bad climb of the day: Valley Stream Road. Not a mile long this fireroad climb features an average 7% grade. The bottom half while long is reasonably flat and it flattens out further as you climb but then the road takes a sharp left turn and all of a sudden turns into a wall. I still remember the first time I climbed Valley Stream and while I’ve learned how to pace it over the years it is still a heartbreaker. “Don’t blow up, don’t give up.”

 Don’t let the wind chime fool you, Aid 4.5 is rated R Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Don’t let the wind chime fool you, Aid 4.5 is rated R Photo Credit: Butch Phillips

Valley Stream eventually leads onto a township road and onward to the MSP trailhead parking lot where Aid 5 is located. Most riders skip this aid station because it is less than 5 miles from the finish but I was grateful for it and grabbed one last Hammer Gel to see me through the finish.

9 hours and 10 minutes after I set out with over 600 other racers I crossed the finish line with my second worst time but best positioning ever at the Mohican 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race and I cannot wait to do it again next year. I finished 29th out of 123 in the Men’s Open. “Didn’t blow up, Didn’t give up!”

All Photo Credit goes to Butch Phillips (Photoglyphix), Event photos for purchase: http://butchphillips.com/sessions/2018moh100mtnbike/content/index.html
Website: http://butchphillips.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/photoglyphix/

Event website: http://ombc.net/mtb-100/mtb-100-2

Series Website: http://nuemtb.com/

Strava activity:  https://www.strava.com/activities/1613308687

Gear list:
Bike: 2017 Rocky Mountain Element 970
Wheels: Velocity Blunt SS laced to DT Swiss 350’s (Custom built by the BC Crew)
Tires: Maxxis Ardent Race 2.35 (F), Maxxis Ikon 2.2 (R)