Christopher Hardee Jr. at Shenandoah Mountain 100

    Christopher Hardee Jr. at Shenandoah Mountain 100

    The 2020 editon of the SM100,  one of the most challenging and storied adventure races in the National Ultra Endurance series, was quite unlike any of the previous 21 editions of race.  Thanks to COVID, there was no pre-race meal or post-race party, no traditional overnight stay at the Stokesville Campground and masked riders went off  to contest the day against small groups of their peers.

    Christopher Hardee, Jr. showed up for the 100-miler in fine form and rolled his way to a sterling top-20 finish among some of the finest endurance racers in the country.

    Here's the way Christopher described the day for one of his classes:


    The race started in waves of 10 which were spaced 15 seconds apart which was really good for keeping it as corona-proof as possible. I started in the third wave. As soon as we hit the first gravel section of the race about two miles in I found myself off the front of the group I was in but still behind the lead group of about 12 riders. I did not really mind this because I knew all I had to do was keep my pace high but sustainable for 8 hours. It also allowed me to take the first singletrack section, which was good because I am not the best rider technically. However, on the first downhill, I went down pretty hard. I banged my knees up and tore my jersey all apart but other than that I was fine and my bike was fine which was a miracle. I was still in no-mans-land so I stuck to my strategy of essentially trying to time-trial at a sustainable pace and seeing what happens. I ended up riding solo until mile 50 or so (aid station 3 of 6), including the hard technical Lynn trail climb, Wolf Ridge descent, and  Hankey Mountain.  At aid 2, I was 2 minutes behind a group of 3 fast guys and 2 minutes ahead of Andrew Strohmeyer, Ian Macdonald, and another rider.  I was caught on the long technical downhill off Hankey by Andrew, Ian, and another rider.  Three fast guys were together two minutes ahead and the top guys were up the road.  The group that caught me of about four riders was keeping a really hard tempo and I was going through a rough patch so I let them go on a technical climb (Braley) thinking I would catch them later and also recognizing how much of the race there was still to go. From there, it was just me and one other guy swapping off turns on the gravel and dirt roads until the end of the death climb at mile 75-80 where he pulled ahead on the descent. I was feeling good and just kept riding my own pace which was controlled on the downhill but really high on the uphills. I was putting time on the riders ahead of me on the final high uphill of the day but the race ended on a 4 or 5 miles long downhill/fire road stretch where I had a harder time closing the small gaps between me and the riders ahead of me. Ultimately, I ended up in 18th place with a time of 8 hours and 20 minutes, almost catching Strohmeyer.  I am pretty satisfied with this time as my initial goal was to shoot for about 8 hours 30 minutes if I was on a really good day. With better descending skills I know that a sub 8 hour time is achievable in the near future. 

    All race results, including a great result by Chris Hardee Sr. in the 100k event, can be found here.

    And a few snaps to enjoy (all photo credits, Harleigh Cupp):