the last eight years, the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) has grown
from linking a handful of niche 100 mile mountain bike races into
what is perhaps the biggest mountain bike series in the US, at least
in terms of participation. Last season, every NUE race with a field
limit sold out prior to race day.
recently checked in the NUE Series co-founder and promoter Ryan
O'Dell, who was kind enough to take the time to chat with us about
how the series started, what has made it so successful, and where he
sees it heading in the future.
those folks that don't know you, you're the series director for the
NUE Series and you also promote the Mohican 100 and a number of other
races in Ohio. How did you get into promoting mountain bike races?
the early nineties, probably like many who are reading this article,
I used to throw my steel frame Schwinn 10 speed mountain bike,
complete with big balloon tires and steel rims, in the trunk and high
tail it out to Mohican Wilderness to blaze a few laps and stretch my
legs on the weekend, or at least it felt like I was blazin’ on that
30lb behemoth. I had to true the rims after every ride. heh
was on one of those weekend rides that I met Derek Cuthbertson of
Cuthbertson Racing. They were holding an XC race on my stomping
grounds and I became hooked. Racing, for me, was a way to challenge
myself and I also enjoyed the camaraderie and stories we shared over
post-race brews. Often, we would pile into a van with a cooler full
of beer and energy drinks, heading out to two other old school Ohio
trails at Velo-Z in Zanesville and Vulture’s Knob in Wooster.
times, I assisted Derek with some of the races then, later, when he
began focusing on his growing family and could no longer hold races,
I began directing races at Mohican Wilderness. Sometime later,
Mohican Wilderness joined with our two other favorite venues, and the
Mid-Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (MOMBC) was born. Within a
few years, the MOMBC race series expanded to become the Ohio Mountain
Bike Championship (OMBC), a 12 race series that now includes the
Mohican MTB100 in Loudonville.
Eight years ago, NUE was born as a collaboration with, then, Cannondale
racer, Garth Prosser, Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring, and
Rick Plite who directs the Lumberjack 100. The purpose was to tie
together the few 100 mile races that existed back then. Since then,
NUE has evolved as a way to bring together the best 100 mile
endurance races in the US and as an alternative race series for
endurance minded riders who prefer long epic days in the saddle vs
riding around in circles.
may not be the first place folks think of when they think about epic
mountain biking, but the Mohican 100 features some pretty amazing
singletrack. Can you describe Ohio mountain biking to people who have
cyclists who have never been here view Ohio as flat land. While that
may be true of the western portion of the state, the hills of the
Appalachians extend up through the heart of Ohio all the way to
Cleveland with elevation gains of about 350 feet. Formed by receding
glaciers, Ohio has steeps, and even some rocky terrain, combined with
flowing singletrack. The 24 mile trail constructed within the 5000
acre Mohican State Forest winds its way around a steep gorge that
offers riders the feeling of riding in the mountains without gasping
for thin air. It took our small Mohican/Malabar Bike Club two years
to get the permissions and three long hard years of effort to
construct but it stands as one of the top destinations for mountain
bikers coming to Ohio.
uniquely cool courses have been established near lakes at Alum Creek,
Westbranch, Dillon, and Eastfork State Parks. Nearly all of them are
well marked with plenty of nearby lodging, camping and restaurants.
The variety is surprising and I would encourage anyone traveling
through Ohio to check out what we have to offer.
NUE Series has grown every year. What's been the secret to the
success of the series?
cannot imagine why anyone would not be tempted to embark on a single
day epic adventure, traversing the best backcountry trails in the
US?! NUE courses are well marked and managed, there is encouragement
and support every 20 miles or so, and it is likely that most of your
cycling buddies are already there.
is committed to all racers, including pro’s, who must play by the
same rules. "No license is required” to race, simply enter and
NUE ranks you nationally. EVERYONE who completes the series minimum
of four races receives recognition and a prize package from our
$12,000 series cash purse also includes series wide complimentary
entry for all four division winners next season plus the opportunity
of a lifetime, an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica in November to
compete at the LaRuta de los Conquistadores, a 3 day stage race
across the entire country from the Pacific to the Caribbean.
racers now plan their family vacations around our events and why not?
Every location is a mountain biker’s dream and NUE was born of
passion by mountain bikers who were dissatisfied with the status quo
of racing around in circles.
added a number of races to the Series over the last few years, what
have been your goals in doing that?
new location must have a great reputation among racers and a regional
draw that fits with current series events to allow for strong
competition. New events should not be in close proximity of existing
venues or have race dates that conflict with nearby NUE Series
Events. Our goal is an epic race that has a regional draw and
since travel costs are often the primary consideration for racers,
NUE has expanded to make it easier for racer’s to achieve the four
race minimum required for a national ranking and awards.
the first time, a few races have dropped from the series for 2014.
What brought those changes about?
the circumstances for a race director change. Syllamo’s Revenge is
a great example. They have a very challenging and epic race course
but their forestry permit reduced the number of racers they could
allow to enter.
to limited numbers, we agreed it was in their best interest to focus
on their 50 mile race instead of trying to include a 50 mile and 100
mile race. In other cases, a venue may not fulfill the conditions of
their agreement. Several years ago, one venue stiffed the NUE Series
on the year end awards contribution required by each race director.
That is totally unacceptable since 100% of the race contributions
from participating directors are awarded to NUE Series Champions.
must have been playing close attention to the controversy over
UCI/USA Cycling's (now postponed) decision to ban UCI Licensed riders
from competing in non-sanctioned races. The UCI is set to make a
decision this month on the future of that rule. What effect would
it's enforcement have on the NUE Series? What's your take on it?
Ryan O'Dell: Yes,
judging by social media buzz, it appears that everyone is paying
attention. The controversy and hard feelings being stirred up by
USAC’s decision to begin rigid enforcement of this this rule
appeared outrageous to riders judging by the comments I’ve read.
including Pro racers, recognize that they should be free to make
their own decisions about where they would like to race. As a result,
many racers feel that USAC is acting like a school yard bully in
their attempt to prevent UCI licensed racers from entering non USAC
sanctioned events. Many of these non-sanctioned events actually pay
out the kind of cash Pro level racers need to earn a living to
support their families. Who is USAC to take choices away from racers
and families like 2012 NUE Series Champion Jeremiah Bishop?
to their website, USA Cycling states that their mission is to achieve
sustained success in international cycling competition and grow
competitive cycling in America while delivering an exceptional
customer experience. I would argue that this action is in direct
contradiction with their stated mission.
specifically ban promoters in the NUE Series from sanctioning their
races through USA Cycling. What's the reasoning behind that?
one likes a bully. Instead of encouraging the NUE Series to join USAC
by providing benefits that make sense to both our racers and
participating race directors, many racers are upset that it appears
that USAC is using UCI Rule 1.2.019 toward their own purpose, as a
tactic, to force racers and race promoters to join USAC.
is currently reviewing this rule and has delayed action for another
year most likely because they recognize that, according to UCI
presidential candidate Brian Cookson, "The overarching principle
should be that people want to join your organization and want to
participate in your events rather than trying to force people into
that, which will always be problematic.”
an interview with Cycling News, the UCI presidential candidate goes
on to make the same point that that many NUE racers and directors
would agree with, "You have to make people want to join your
organization, not force them to join by threatening them with
sanctions of some sort.” It is our hope that their decision will
reflect this common sense statement.
reality is that the NUE Series, the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship
Series (OMBC), and races like the Whiskey 50 are viewed by many as a
refreshing alternative for racers who have become disillusioned by
USAC and see no real value to paying their annual license fees.
Racers, including many top level professional mountain bikers, are
seeking fun, challenging, well run, grass roots based events that
offer real rewards and opportunities without the added burden of
fee’s and restrictions put on them at USAC sanctioned events.
think most racers would agree with UCI’s Mr. Cookson that USAC (and
UCI) must fully reject this kind of bullying of racers and
non-sanctioned events and focus on what can be done to support racers
and grow grass roots events like NUE. Until then, NUE will continue
to reject USAC sanctioning of our events.
number of NUE races include 50 mile or 100k options. Have you
considered adding a 100k series to the NUE mix?
Whether those shorter distances become a distinct 100k NUE Series or
are scored within the NUE series as a whole is currently under
uses the top finishing times as a better gauge than a strict "100
miles” so there already several current NUE races are not a full
100 miles. The True Grit Epic, Grizzly 100, and Pierre’s Hole 100,
for example, are less than the full 100 miles. However, their terrain
and accumulated elevation make them equally as challenging as some of
the full hundies.
do you see as the most important aspects of a successful mountain
bike race? What do you look for in potential NUE races?
successful mountain bike race is a total experience that will include
most or all of the elements that racers are looking for including a
challenging and well-marked race course, a good vibe and welcoming
atmosphere with smooth registration procedures, easy to understand
directions, post-race festivities that include tasty food and quality
brews to help celebrate the achievement along with timely post-race
results and reporting.
NUE Series is looking for events that already have a good regional
draw. The questions we ask include: Is the course challenging without
being over the top? Is it well managed? Does it have a good track
record with racers? Is the race atmosphere fun? And finally, does it
fit in well with the existing NUE race schedule?
do you see the NUE Series in 5 years?
years goes by so fast! It is still hard to believe we will be 11
years old in five years!
the continued and emerging growth of NUE style endurance racing, we
anticipate there will be many more quality events added to the
schedule representing several new regions.
2008, NUE has grown from just a handful of events to now 13 races in
13 different states nationwide. Many more races have requested to
join and are now included on an official prospects list located on
the NUE Schedule page of our website at www.nuemtb.com.
of what each race contributes to the overall cash purse is currently
paid to NUE top finishers in addition to series-wide complimentary
entry for division winners, so we anticipate that the cash purse will
continue to grow in tandem as well.
NUE is focused on increasing the rewards for ALL NUE Series finishers
who take the challenge and the hard effort it takes to complete the
four race minimum. Every year, each of our growing number of sponsors
contributes to a personalized prize package that is awarded to every
NUE Series finisher in addition to prizes offered to every NUE race.
will be sending online questionnaires to racers following each event
beginning this season, both current and prospective events, with the
intent of giving racers direct input in determining which races they
like best and providing our directors with valuable information about
areas we can improve, individually and collectively. Responses will
be tallied and available online for all to see, including the NUE
Advisory Board made up of participating race directors and NUE
very exciting focus at NUE is rewarding racers with opportunities.
Last year, two NUE division winners, Cheryl Sornson and Gerry Pflug,
received an all-expense paid trip to compete at the UCI LaRuta del
los Conqustadores, www.adventurerace.com,
in Costa Rica. This year, all four division winners will receive this
award which includes airfare and perks like massage therapists,
meals, lodging, and transfers following each stage.
is currently working with our Squirt Lube sponsor on a possible South
African adventure. Over the next five years, we hope to continue to
grow and expand opportunities for all NUE races and racers so stay
tuned for more good things to come your way from NUE.