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It’s “Game On” for Linnell

Fitzy Team rider, A.J. Linnell, cruises the High Cascades 100

Sometimes the final outcome of an entire season comes down to the last few races. That’s the pressure that Fitzy Team singlespeed rider, A.J. Linnell, faces as he enters the Pierre’s Hole 100 at Grand Targhee Resort this weekend. Pierre’s Hole 100 is part of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series, a collection of 14 long distance mountain bike races that take place across the country. A.J., 37, is battling for the title of NUE Singlespeed Champion, and so far this season, he has strung together some outstanding NUE (and non-NUE) performances to make that possible…

March: True Grit, St. George, UT – 2nd (NUE)
May: 12 Hours of Disco, Salmon, ID – 1st
June: Knobby Tire 9 to 5 Marathon, Boise, ID – 1st
Tatanka 100, Sturgis, SD – 1st (NUE)
July: Marathon Nationals, Sun Valley, ID – 2nd
High Cascades 100, Bend, OR – 1st (NUE)

A.J.’s NUE wins have come on a variety of courses. The Tatanka 100 took place on more technical terrain that he characterized as, “rough singletrack similar to that in Teton Valley with loose rocks and beautiful forests.” A.J. must have felt right at home in the Black Hills — he placed second out of all the riders, in addition to winning the singlespeed category. His next win at the High Cascades 100, a “top notch” race that attracts approximately 350 riders, offered a different challenge. This time he had to contend with an enormous “dust cloud” that caused him to “ride blind” at the beginning of the race. A.J. said he gauged where he was in the field because he, “knew some of the geared riders around me and how fast they ride.” He must have paced himself well as he never saw another singletrack competitor the rest of the race. He won by ten minutes.

Even with these victories under his belt, A.J. still needs two more wins in the NUE Series to force a tie breaker with the current leader, Gerry Pflug, at the Fool’s Gold in Georgia on September 7. Tomorrow, he will go for broke at his hometown race, the Pierre’s Hole 100, a three lap event that promises big climbs and big descents. Last year, A.J. dropped out of the race on the second lap due to illness. This year, he’s in a “must win” situation to keep his title dream alive.

But, if A.J. stands atop the singlespeed podium at Targhee, and wins the Point to Point in Park City at the end of August, he has a chance to vie for the NUE crown in early September. Regardless, he has to book a plane ticket to Georgia before he races in Park City, a leap of faith if there ever was one.

So…here’s to A.J. and the rest of the Pierre’s Hole of luck this weekend! We’ll be pulling for you!

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