You may have heard about two relatively new events in the Black Hills, the Tatanka 100 mountain bike race and the Black Hills 100 ultra-marathon. 2012 will be the inaugural year for the Tatanka and the second year for the run, which despite some weather-related setbacks was a resounding success in 2011. Taking advantage of the rugged and scenic Centennial Trail, and a few others in the case of the Tatanka, and being 100 miles in length these events are destined to form a reputation as some of the most challenging, even without being at elevation, but also two of the most enjoyable events in this class in North America.
Yesterday I did a solo ride of the stretch of Centennial covered by these events, with a long detour through Piedmont, SD to refuel. The large section stretching south from Dalton Lake to Pilot Knob I had never been on before, so apart from a training ride it was also race reconnaissance. I ended up missing a turn on Trail 40 and followed an old fall line trail down to Silver City Road. Which was a bummer, but it was getting dark so probably for the best. Discounting detours my approximate time from the Sturgis City Park to Silver City was about 9 hours. This covers the first and much rougher and slower portion of the mountain bike event and puts me roughly on pace to finish the event during daylight (for some definition of daylight). I am still worried about being able to finish at all, but at least I know that it is possible.
Some notes for riders: the Centennial Trail from Sturgis to Dalton is rough, definitely pass-able on a hardtail but much more pleasant on a full suspension. Continuing south past Dalton it gets even rougher and the rocks get bigger. If you plan to do this event on a hardtail do yourself a favor and make it a 29er with high volume tires. I did this ride on a Demo Trek Superfly 100, which is definitely one of the few “right” bikes for this kind of terrain. Thanks to Jesse at Rushmore Mountain Sports for letting me take her out.
Trail notes: overall the Centennial is in excellent shape for this time of year. Much of it is still needle-covered, but that is something that only time (and tires, shoes and hooves), or hands with rakes or leaf-blowers will solve. There are only a handful of trees down, which should be removed soon, but they are all easy to go over or around and none are located such that one might get into trouble coming up on it at speed. Overall, it is in great condition — so get out and take advantage!
Mileage (car): 186mi (round-trip to both start and finish)
Mileage (bike): 65mi
A couple of photos from the Centennial between Elk Creek and Dalton Lake.