I had wanted to race the Tatanka 100 in Sturgis South Dakota last year and it didn’t work out with my schedule so it was a priority to get to the race this year. Sturgis is located in the far western part of the state near the Wyoming border, the town was much smaller than I had pictured after seeing the hundreds of thousands of bikers (the other kind with motors) descend on the town for the annual motorcycle rally. Sturgis actually has a nice little trail network right out of town and the Centennial Trail, which makes up the entire race course passes straight through Sturgis.
The race is a unique point-to-point, with a shuttle from Sturgis to the start at Mount Rushmore, The shuttle was an hour long and to me seemed like a huge undertaking but the race organization pulled it off pretty well. I have never been to Mount Rushmore and it was really cool just to see it never mind start a mountain bike race from the base of it. The race started out on pavement for about 3 miles then onto the Centennial Trail. The pace started out nice and easy but when the entire lead group missed a turn we had to double back and pass about 20 racers on the single track.
Once everyone was back to the front and a couple of missed turns later a group of four had separated from the rest of the field. Dylan Johnson, Jamie Lamb, Taylor Lideen, and myself were all at the front and had settled into a very leisurely pace. The first section of the Centennial Trail was quite technical with multiple hike-a-bikes and steep fun descents, we were all having a pretty good time when Dylan comes racing up from behind taking about how Taylor had crashed and possibly broken his wrist, we later found out that it wasn’t broken but had cut his hand very. Needless to say he was out of the race… We continued on the Centennial Trail which now was turning into on and off double track, heavily overgrown single track, and open rolling hills. Coming down an overgrown section of trail I hear the sound of a puncture in my tire so I pull over and take a look. This is where I had to decide if the Stan’s is going to seal the hole or not. If I use my C02 and the hole doesn’t seal then you used your air and your screwed. I decided on putting a tube in and not risking it. By the time I got going again I had lost 5 or so minutes and my chances of catching back up were slim to none.
I continued on, alone now, and things were really heating up the forecast was calling for 95 degrees and it was getting hot! I just tried to stay steady and was taking it easy on the descents so I wouldn’t get another flat as I didn’t have another tube until the next aid were my drop bag was.
Every aid station I came to I was filling my bottle and drenching myself trying to stay cool in the stifling heat. The middle of the course on the Centennial Trail was mostly double track ATV trail and there were quite a few ATV’s to deal with, on a particularly rocky section I got my second flat, luckily by this time I had another tube and put this one in unfortunately it was a 27.5 tube I was trying to put into a 29er wheel, not the easiest thing to do. I finally did get it fixed and was going again. With no more tubes I was in just finish mode going really easy on the descents but still trying push it on the climbs.
The last 30 miles of the race were really good trail riding with beautiful views of rock canyons and big climbs into big descents, with a final super fun purpose built descent back to Sturgis. I was able to hold on to 3rd place and although I had felt pretty good during the race now that it was over I was not feeling so good. The effects of racing my bike for almost 8 hours in the heat took a toll on me.
I was really impressed with the riding in the Tatanka, the course marking needs a bit of work. More than once out on the trail at intersections it took a while to figure out which way to go and I heard of many people getting lost. Overall I thought it was a great race with a good after party and fun riding I would definitely do it again hopefully without the heat next time!