This was my second time racing the Tatanka 100 in Sturgis South Dakota. I was very surprised the first time I raced here 2 years ago at how much good riding they had in the Black hills. The last time I was here the race started at Mount Rushmore and was a point to point back to Sturgis. This made for a really cool start, but I can only imagine logistically how much of a headache that was busing all the racers about an hour from Sturgis to Mount Rushmore. This year they changed things up and made the course three loops that started and ended in Sturgis, Although I was a little bummed not to start at Rushmore I think it is a great venue to come in and out of town three times and the start finish is directly in the downtown, so this made for a great after-party with good beer and music.
Two years ago, when I raced, I suffered 2 flat tires and struggled in the 100-degree heat. I probably had some of the worst heat stroke I’ve ever experienced. This year I was looking for a little redemption from the last time although it would not be easy with temps forecasted for 100 degrees for race day I knew it would be a long challenging day. I definitely had my work cut out for me with defending series champion Dylan Johnson and the always strong and tenacious David Krimstock on the starting line. The role out from town was a very leisurely police escort but as soon as we hit the dirt Dylan was off, I jumped on his wheel and David on mine. I felt good at the start and soon was setting the pace for now just myself and Dylan. About an hour in David came storming back up to us with Mark Karansz in tow, now a group of 4 we started to get a pace line going.
About 25 miles in we were still on dirt roads and there was a hard left onto more of a logging road everyone blew the turn except me, so I kept going but slowed up to wait for the others. I was looking back a couple times to see if they were catching up and I think that while I was looking back I blew past the turn into the first single track. I kept going downhill thinking the guys were right behind me and kept seeing orange painted on the trees (this was not course marking) so I continued down. The logging road turned into a steep very rocky two track and I started to think to myself wow this sucks that they sent us down this shitty double track and we lose all of this elevation, when I got to the bottom and hit pavement and saw no marking I knew I had screwed up royally, I turned around and headed back up the nasty decent I had just come down. At first, I was extremely deflated and went up the climb pretty slow, plus it was a bowling balls for half the climb, so it was slow going anyway. When I finally did get back to the turn I was supposed to make it was marked and I could blame no one but myself.
Once I was back on course it was some fun rugged trail (part of the Centennial Trail) I started to get in a groove and decided to just hit it as hard as I could and even If I blew up I would at least get a good hard day in the saddle. I was definitely going really hard for how hot it was but at the aid stations (which were outstanding, and they would have a lot of problems with people in the heat without the incredible aid station volunteers). I was dowsing myself with cold water and drinking a bunch then would fill my bottle and go, and I did this at every aid.
I continued to push hard and started to pass a couple guys that I knew should have been a good distance in front of me then I saw Mark Kransz at the start of lap two and I thought wow, I’m back in third place already! I kept going hard but figured there would be no way I could catch Dylan and David, but I came around the corner of the pavement climb (that was extremely hot) and Dylan was sitting on the side of the road obviously cracked from heat and probably to many consecutive weeks of racing. I asked if he was ok and if he needed anything, but he told me he was fine, so I kept going. Finally, I got off of the pavement and onto some single track and I was hoping for a bit of a break, but we just kept climbing, if you think that SD is flat come to the Black Hills and do this race and you will change your mind really quickly. I was still feeling good but was starting to slow down because of the heat and from going so hard, I also figured there was very little chance of catching David, so I figured I would try to preserve myself a bit just in case the heat caught up to me.
I did start to cramp a little on the final lap, but I was able to push through it and continue with a steady pace. The hottest conditions I’ve been in up to this race was 3 days of riding in the mid 80’s so being able to push in 100-degree heat was a huge victory for me not even to mention getting lost for 20 minutes and riding an extra 5 miles or so. I try to finish every race I start even when the shit hits the fan, something about keeping your word and doing what you say you’re going to. I guess I’m old school? Or maybe just super stubborn! Probably a little of both.