call him the Si-Monster, and for good reason. As one of the top riders on the
National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) series Michael Simonson rages through the peloton, like Godzilla in Tokyo, devouring hundreds of the
nation's top riders every weekend.
the week heís a mild-mannered engineer for the Department of Defense but on the
weekend the Si-Monster comes out leaving a trail of smoldering legs and bike
parts behind him.
took a minute to talk with us about how a former marching band member from Clarkston,
Michigan, becomes one of the top mountain bike racers in the country and what
makes the National Ultra Endurance series so exciting. Read his full interview
MTB Race News -What is your background, did you grow up mountain bike racing? Were you
involved in other sports in high school?
Mike Simonson -Back in the day, I got started racing BMX at Waterford Hills Michigan BMX
track. I was only 12 or 13 years old. My home boys and I built this crazy BMX
dirt jump track across the street from my house. Every year weíd add more and
more trails, and people would come from farther and farther places to ride them
and weíd have these big dirt jams. It was a blast. I still canít believe
whoever owned that property never kicked us out of there. I bought my first MTB
from a guy named Robert Linden at Kinetic Systems Bicycles. He used to take me
out to Pontiac Lake XC trails in the winter time to ride. I used to school him
on all the downhills but heíd catch me on the climbs. Robert started Tailwind,
a MTB race promotion business, and I got into MTB racing doing his Michigan
MTB Race News -Youíre a big dude, much bigger than the average mountain bike racer. Exactly
how tall are you and how much do you weigh? What advantages/disadvantages have
you encountered because of your size?...
Mike Simonson -Iím officially 6í-2Ē and my weight can go anywhere between 170 to 200 lbs
depending on the time of yr. I have huge weight fluctuations. Iím like the
Kirstie Alley of MTB racing. However, I have a big aerobic engine and strong
legs which I rely on too much sometimes. Some of the weight is upper body which
helps on the longer downhills. The NUE courses are pretty heavy on the
climbing, so to be lighter and more efficient can go a long way when you
multiply it over 7-8 hrs worth of hills. The first few hills go OK, but theyíll
wear a big guy down eventually if you keep having to tap into an anaerobic
effort to keep up. I have podiumíd at an NUE weighing 200 lbs, I carried a
little more muscle...and fat, but I can definitely tell a difference when Iím
lighter. I worked really hard on dropping weight this year, hopefully it
MTB Race News -Why focus on the NUE series and not something else like the Pro XCT?
Mike Simonson -Most of the Pro XCT races are a little out of driving range for me. Besides, if
Iím going to drop the coin on flying, I want to go to an event where I can
really take advantage of the area/terrain, and ride to my hearts content. An
NUE gives you an all day experience of miles and miles of trail the area has to
offer. The NUE seems like they got it together too. The series is defined,
simple, and straight forward. Iím not even sure what the Pro XCT series is
anymore in the US. Itís too confusing. I really hope the NUE series keeps
growing. Iíd love to see more of the top XC guys try it out. Last year we saw
JHK and Todd Wells giving Leadville a go and we saw Thomas Turner and few other
XC guys from the South giving Cohutta a try. Maybe weíll see a few more try it
this year. Iíd love to see even more coverage of the series. Maybe even a live
update roll like they do with the major road races.
MTB Race News -Which NUE race is your favorite?
Mike Simonson -It used to be Shenandoah, but Iím starting to lean towards Wilderness now. I
have a serious axe to grind with that race. That course eats my bicycle every
year. This is the year I make it through without a mechanical damnit! Chris
Scottís events feel just like the way mountain biking should be, no more, no
MTB Race News -Before this season Jeff Schalk has been nearly untouchable, but now he is
getting challenged from riders like you and Christian Tanguy, what is different
Mike Simonson - I
think Schalk has made everyone up their game. Iím doing stuff in my training
that I wouldnít have dreamed of 5 yrs ago. Iím exhausted just sitting here
thinking about it. I wouldnít say Iím super physically gifted, but as they say
in poker, Iím good enough to sit at the table and take a pot every so often. I
have to work at it really hard though and itís taken a few years to hone the
100 miler in. Iím sure the others are more focused than ever as well. The
courses are incredibly hard. I give props to anyone who finishes. To go under
7hrs is like doing three XC races in a row.
MTB Race News -You have had some great races this year only to be undone by mechanicals. How
do you stay positive after such bad luck and do you think you'll break through
with a NUE win this year?
Mike Simonson - I
certainly think itís possible. The positive outlook is something Iíve had to
drill into my brain over the years. Itís part of maturing as an athlete. I have
to keep telling myself not to cry over spilled milk, because it really doesnít
do any good, and it just makes you a buzz kill to be around after the race. The
post race vibe is the best part... sitting around chatting and hearing
everyoneís war stories, then laughing about it. Iíve been doing the series for
a few years now and Iíve made a lot of close friends and I wonít let a flat
tire ruin the time I have to enjoy their company after the race.
MTB Race News -Which of the remaining NUE races represents your best chance at coming home
with a win and why?
Mike Simonson - I
donít know. I think Mohican and Lumberjack suit me best. The climbs are
shorter, but that also means more time going anaerobic over and over, which can
be a killer for me. Wilderness might actually be a good one, as long as I can
get between aid 2 and 4 without mishap. The climbs are just the right length
MTB Race News -What keeps you motivated to race hard for 7-8 hours?
Mike Simonson -Untreated hypomania... no seriously, I guess Iím a fierce competitor at heart.
I love racing at the front with the best, interacting with the other guys,
attacking, covering attacks. The element of the race unfolding as we move along
keeps me engaged. It uncovers weaknesses and makes me proud to show my
strengths. Iím so grateful just to be able to be up there at the front. I
realize that Iím not going to be capable of racing like this forever, so I try
to give every second of it total focus and respect. You take time off work,
drag your ass 10hrs across the country, sacrifice time with your family and
train yourself to complete exhaustion... I better be giving it 110% the whole
f#@king 7-8 hrs. I owe that to myself, my family/friends, my sponsors, my
employer, and the people at work who have to deal with my smelly cycling
clothes hanging on the cube walls.
MTB Race News -Why is mountain bike racing so big in Michigan?
Mike Simonson -The roots of "the Michigan sceneĒ are pretty deep. Guys you might not know like
Jason Lummis, Jeff Weinert, Scott Quiring, Don Cameron, Robert Linden just to
name a few, are mainstays and have been pushing and grinding out the sport of
MTB racing in Michigan for decades. I donít think Iíll ever leave Michigan, or
ever completely stop racing MTBís, and I hope one day Iím thought of as part of
that Michigan root structure.
MTB Race News - What
is your favorite race in Michigan, why?
Mike Simonson -Iceman Cometh is a hard one to top. It was the race that made me fall in love
with racing. It seems to grow each year with more and more top national talent
showing up. Itís the year end blowout. Itís like a holiday for mountain bikers
in Michigan. Itís total mayhem and Iím surprised they havenít kicked me out of
Traverse City yet. Ore to Shore is another great event. August in Marquette on
Lake Superior is something you have to experience. Lumberjack is always on the
list too. Rick Plight does a fabulous job with what he has to work with.
MTB Race News - Tell
us about your sponsors this year.
Mike Simonson - Trek
29 is still supporting, but I switched it up to add a few more additional
sponsors... Rochester Bike Shop in Rochester MI, and CPA Crossings. Must haves
were Notubes wheels, SRAM components, and ERGON grips, so they all jumped on
board too. It makes for one really sweet 29er.
MTB Race News -Favorite mountain bike racer John Tomac or Travis Brown? Why?
Mike Simonson -You gotta respect a dude who just says F it and moves to Montana to live on a
farm, plus heís a legend in the sport of MTB. But I think Travis Brown is more
the kind of dude you could hang out with at the bar, or be down for some crazy
road trip to a mud hole mountain bike race in BFE. Iíd say Travis Brown.
MTB Race News -What is your favorite race of all time and Why? It doesn't have to be a race
you have done.
Mike Simonson -The Race Across America has always intrigued me. Iíve kind of thought it would
be cool to try one year. Maybe as the one last big who-rah before I go out.
Itís sounds totally crazy and right on the edge of human capabilities. Sign me
up! We just have to convince my wife this is a good idea.
MTB Race News -Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people probably don't
Mike Simonson - I
didnít play sports in high school, rather I was in the marching band. Thatís
actually how my wife and I met. I played the drums and she played the clarinet.
I tried out for Drum Corps International one time, but didnít make the snare
drum line. My whole familyís musicians, so I donít know where the obsession
with bike riding came from. Hmmmm..
was born and raised in Clarkston Michigan and currently live only about 12
miles from there in Oxford MI with my wife Michelle, our golden retriever
Buddy, and Mr. Fatty our cat.
to the sponsors, thanks to the fans and everyone who has given me support over