Midwest MTB Racing Recapby Jay Richards
May 1, 2012
May is here and the mountain bike season is shifting to the big ring. Events are popping up on the calendar like roots and rocks on the tight and twisty, including the beginning of series racing. This weeks reports takes a look at the many upcoming events but first, exclusive recaps from this past weekend from Steve Wenzel who was racing at Turtle River State Park END-Spar, Devin Curran who was testing the legs at the Decorah mtb time trials and a special report from Wisconsin native and seasoned Pro Travis Woodruff, who was dicing it up with the big shooters, including 2012 Birkie winner Tad Elliot, at the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, AZ.
What is END-SPAR? Answer: Extreme North Dakota Spring Primer Adventure Race - The race is billed as the 'second hardest race in North Dakota', held in and around Turtle River State Park about 30 miles west of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Each year the course changes entirely and new mystery challenges presented. Steve Wenzel along with fellow Maplelag MTB team rider, Matt Engen, went north to take on the challenges laid forth and Steve provides a nice recap:
The third annual END-SPAR (Extreme North Dakota Spring Primer Adventure Race) event was held at Turtle River State Park, 20 miles west of Grand Forks, ND Saturday, April 28th. I had participated in a couple of Swamp Donkey Adventure races up in Canada in years past and was intrigued by the close location and getting out and doing something different.
The weather could not have been better - overcast and cool with a strong south east wind. Fellow Team Maplelag member Matt Engen joined me in the 2 person open category.
With the course maps freshly distributed along with our check point punch cards the adventure was on. 6 mandatory check points were required and all were to be found in the beautiful Turtle River State Park. I am sure that we hit every corner of the park at least once not to mention crossing the Turtle River a half a dozen times. All 6 check points accomplished and our next goal was to grab the optional points along the "river walk". This task consisted of hiking or running along the Turtle River looking for 3 locations which require an identification punch. Grab all three and you get 3 points.
After checking in again Matt and I were on our bikes heading to the small town of Larimore, ND. Speed helps, but in the end getting as many of the 15 optional points in the time allotted is the most important.
In Larimore, we tried everything we could except for the raft section which was 3 points lost. We did navigate the wilderness around Larimore for 3 difficult check points and bagged them all. The organizers threw in a couple of crazy obstacles that required patience and skill - a hike a bike down to the lake and back that was extremely hard, building a fire with 3 matches and a cotton ball covered in petroleum (Matt and I failed this task) and a bear bag skill that required our back packs to hang from a tree as if we were in the wilderness to keep the bears from our gear. All were well thought out and interesting to try. (Photo: Steve Wenzel)
Being bikers, pushing the wind 10 miles back to the park was perfect for Matt and I. We grabbed all of the check points to and from with no troubles.
Back at the park, 5 hours into the allotted 6.5 hour event we still had 3 check points that were to be found while riding our mountain bikes. Matt is good with a map and we found all three and returned to the start/finish just in time.
Of the 15 possible check points, Matt and I finished with 11. 1 lost for failing the fire test and 3 for skipping the boat section. In speaking with the other racers, it seemed that if you did the boat section you were limited in time to get the trekking points. So, Matt and I missed the boat, but grabbed the majority of the points.
6.5 hours of non-stop movement in beautiful ND. Lots of slogging through the woods, rivers, swamps and sand - most excellent adventure!
The title of this race just sounds interesting. You take mountain biking and mix the word whiskey with it, you don't know what to expect. The Whiskey 50 is a mountain bike event started 8 years ago that attracts some of the biggest names in mountain biking. The course get raves reviews but it's the $30,000 prize list that brought recent Sea Otter winner as well as past National champions to toe the line and race for big cash. Always waving the flag nicely for the Midwest is TJ Woodruff, who trained hard and specifically for the event. Despite an unfortunate tire mechanical, TJ placed an impressive 32nd place, one place of former MN resident Kurt Refsnider.
This was my second trip up to Prescott, AZ for the Whiskey 50 and it was also the second year that the event hosted a separate pro category race in addition the weekend festival. The pre-race buzz was bigger than last year, as was the prize purse ($30,000), and the level of competition that had registered. I knew that it was going to be a big weekend and I felt that I was prepared to give it my best. The hope was that might have meant snagging just a little bit of that prize money, as I was fortunate to do in 2011.
The weekend kicked off with a pro fat tire crit in downtown Friday evening. The course includes the city's steepest city block which was followed by about three more blocks of climbing before dropping steeply back towards the start finish with a couple of corners thrown in for good measure. We raced for 20 minutes plus three laps which basically worked out to be the equivalent of a 11 x 90 second workout with 1 min recovery. It was crazy hard in a nutshell and most all of us loved it. The heavy hitters made it fast and the pace never lulled. I was content to finish among the second group of riders, happy with how I felt and ready for the main event on Sunday. The fans were lining the course up the entire climb so it was impossible not to give it your best.
One of the unique things about the event is that it span three days, but their is no pro racing on day two. This makes for a good chance to preview parts of the xc course, cheer on those in the open (amateur) categories, and generally take in the festival nature of the event as a calm before the storm of sorts. At 8:30am Sunday morning the racing got serious and plenty fun. The "50 proof" measures out to 47 miles and includes roughly 6000 feet of elevation gain. It starts downtown on pavement, includes rugged mountain and forest singletrack, a few jeep trail climbs and a big out/back section on Skull Valley road (which is a minimum maintenance dirt road). In other words the course has a mix of everything and requires a rider to plenty fit and also well skilled. The distance is a nice compromise between XC and marathon too. Of all the racing I've done, I love that this single race course is so versatile and really tests all aspects of riding. (Photo: Dave McElwaine)
I lined up next to the 2012 Birkie champ Tad Elliot so we got to talk about the Northwoods of WI prior to the gun going off which was cool. Unfortunately my race had a hiccup about 40 minutes in when I sliced my front tire's sidewall open. Luckily I was able to stop safely and about four or five minutes later I was rolling down the trail once again with a tube installed. Any hope of a 'good' result was gone, so my main priority was to pedal hard, and mostly enjoy ripping around on some incredible trails. I did all of that and finished just a minute or so slower than my time from last year. While it wasn't the result I had hoped for, I still enjoyed the ride and loved every minute of race. The start went well and I was feeling good (enough) prior to flatting out of contention. Racing with some of North America's top pros while helicopters film the race from above is pretty rad!
This is a must-do event and hopefully it's one that will only continue to get bigger and more legendary than it already is. I should add that many others suffered flat tires too. My wife, Chloe was forced to DNF after double flatting. Her Race Club teammate Judy Freeman flatted on the final descent twice and went from 3rd to 8th place before coming across the line. At the finish many more rolled in with soft or completely flat tires too. I had a long run without flats so perhaps I was due. There's always next year and plenty of great racing left to do this season.
Coverage on CyclingNews
Decorah MTB Time Trials
Western Wisconsin rider Devin Curran made the jaunt down to Decorah for early season high end, competing in the Decorah Time Trials. Devin reports:
Sunday was the twenty second running of the Decorah Time Trial Mountain Race. Close to 100 racers showed up to beat the clock over the Driftless Region of northern Iowa. Course time was set early by last year's winner Trevor Rockwell who was first to go and came in just over 28 minutes almost six minutes faster than the year before. His time did not stand long as Iowa City’s Brian Eppen lit the trail up with lap that stopped the clock at 26:15.
This race brings out the best in a cycling rich community that know how to throw a race and they know how to party... (Photo: Devin Curran)
Results to be posted
A busy weekend to kick of May plus a lot of events cranking up the next few months to put on the radar, highlights below.
The Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) begins it series in Iola with the Iola Bump and Jump. The Bump and Jump is unique in the start loop takes racers up and around the back side of Iola’s 40 & 60 meter ski jumps and then drops back down past the lodge into the jump bowl. With the early spring and opportunity for most people to log some miles, the racing should be fast and furious across the board. (Photo: WORS)
The Minnesota State Enduro championships wastes no time putting riders endurance to the test early in the year with the Sandwich 50 on Saturday May 5th. The Wich50 is held at Eastwood Park on the fast and furious singletrack course.
Hillside Park will be host to the 4th annual Spring Fling this Sunday, May 6th. $10 at 10am with the popular flowing trails near Elk River. Race director Rich Omdahl is thinking hard how to work in new trail built as of late.
The Minnesota Mountain bike series kicks the season off with an open house this weekend at Peace coffee in Minneapolis. Racers who have registered for the Series an opportunity to stop by and pick up their permanent Series numbers and Series representatives will be at the kick off to answer questions about the schedule for 2012, new events, the State Championship Race and much more.
Cuyuna Lakes MTB Festival will be held June 9th. Although there will be no cross country, a hill climb and time trial will test riders speed and stamina. There is also a poker ride and skills clinic.
Missed out on getting entry to the Leadville 100 or Chequemegon 40? Lifetime Fitness displays their benefit of multi endurance event involvement with the chance to gain an entry by competing in the Lutsen 99er. The Lutsen 99er is a 99-mile course on Minnesota's scenic North Shore. The course takes you straight up and over the top of the Sawtooth Mountains. Top riders, as well as a few random participants will be awarded entry into the above mentioned iconic events.
Keep the wheels moving!
| || |
About the author...
Jay Richards maintains a very active lifestyle. He somehow finds time between managing a full-time resort (Maplelag) and bringing up a family of four boys with his wife Jonell, to compete in both mountain bike and a few cross-country ski races. Jay rides for Maplelag Resort, manages the Maplelag/Paramount mountain bike team and enters his 22nd year of racing and promoting mountain bike races.