Midwest MTB Racing Recapby Jay Richards
August 7, 2012
A quiet weekend past with not much to wave the flag about on the Midwest racing front. Fans of mountain biking are gearing up for the biggest event of the year this weekend,....cross country mountain bike racing in the the Olympics! This weeks report takes a quick look at mountain biking in the biggest sporting event of the world and the riders representing US of A. Plus, the usual look ahead to a busy rest of August in the dirt.
Waving the Flag for Ol' Glory
Personally, the Olympics are a bit off the radar until it happens. But, when the Olympics are in full swing, it is hard not to get caught up in the action and drama that comes with it and pretty much awesome to see top level athletes competing in all aspects of sport. I had no idea trampoline was an Olympic sport until this year....crazy!
Four riders will be representing United States this weekend when world class mountain riders hit the Hadleigh Farm venue outside London which was specifically built, with great attention to detail, naturally, to provide a challenging and spectator-friendly course. Although the course might not be what most bikers call "mountain biking" with perfectly graded berms, turns and rock gardens, it is great the event is part of the Olympic scene and provides great exposure for our "fringe" sport, especially if any American should happen to medal.
On the eve of the Olympics, cycling broadcasting legend, Phil Liggett made comments about the validity of mountain biking being in the Olympics. "It is absolutely disgraceful what they have done," Liggett said of the change, introduced by the UCI and approved by the International Olympic Committee following the 2008 Beijing Games. "They have devastated the track with the new events and taken out the iconic events of the Olympics." Personally, I find it interesting (frustrating to be honest) he made this comment, when during the Tour De France, he exclaimed how many Tour riders started their careers in mountain biking, including a few of my favorite riders, Peter Saggan and Cadel Evans. His comments did create a stir including reaction from Olympians Sam Schultz and Canadian Geoff Kabush. Mountain biking has seen fantastic growth and the inclusion of mountain biking was a good decision on Olympic committee part, in my opinion.
Regarding BMX, I had a chance to watch a few World Cup events this spring. The skill, speed and handling is incredible and was awesome to watch and definitely something to put on radar if following the Olympics. BMX has provided a starting point for many mountain bikers, including one of this years Olympians, Todd Wells. One discipline of mountain biking, downhill racing, is a event I would like to see added. If you haven't seen Aaron Gwin and one of his World Cup downhill runs, here is a little taste of his amazing skills. Even though I am "cross country" to the core, the unbelievable bike handling skills carried out over breakneck speeds on some of the gnarliest trail conditions riders move the wheels over is mind blowing and utmost respect for those guys having watched it live at Nationals throughout the country.
Even though the Olympics bring the best in the world to compete, the field size will actually be quite smaller than the typical world cups as countries are allocated only a few spots, based on world cup ranking. This means powerhouse countries like Switzerland will only have two riders when their fifth ranked rider nationaly could easily be a top 15 Olympic rider!
A look at the US riders:
- Georgia Gould - Agreeably the best American rider with best chance to medal and a real good chance to bring home gold. Despite some bad luck this year at a few races, she came through at the Windham World Cup taking the win and also took the National title in Sun Valley. The course outside London favors the former hippie chick and expect
- Todd Wells - The London Olympics will be Wells' third Olympics. Athens saw the Durango, CO resident nail down a 19th place before posting what he called his "worst race ever" in Beijing. The experience of racing Olympics past has provided to knowledge on working on the little things such as staying with his team Specialized outside the Olympic venue, training without distraction. Does Wells have the chance to medal? Anything is possible but a top 10 finish would be a great result from this former 9-5 IBM office job worker to full time pro mountain biker.
- Lea Davision - Davison might be the most familiar to Midwest riders having seen the Jericho, VT native make an appearance at the mighty Chequemegon Fat Tire Festival, taking a coveted win and also bringing her Little Bellas program to Cable area to introduce future young female athletes to the wonderful world of mountain biking. Davison has had a bit of a re birth in the sport, result wise, after posting top finishes in the National scene and making noise on the World Cup level. Excited to just participate, should have the focus and skill set to also nail a top 10 finish.
- Sam Schultz - On the National scene this year, Schultz has had a dream run, winning the National title in Sun Valley and following up with a Pro XCT win in his back yard in Missoula, MT. The teenage looking, always smiling whipper snapper seems to just be glad to make it to the big show and asked about his chances to medal, replied "you never know, I'll give everything I got and see what happens".
Mountain Bike Olympic Coverage on Cyclingdirt
Singletrack.com Olympic Coverage
Cyclingnews Olympic Coverage
Sam Schultz Interview on MTB Race News
A busy weekend on tap with not only events in the Midwest but also the popular Leadville 100 which always draws a good field from the Midwest.
Michigan's largest mass start point to point race, Ore to Shore, takes place in the UP of Michigan with the Hard Rock 48 highlighting the weekend's events. The O2S is a point-to-point race, with riders gearing up at the start line in Negaunee, where in 1844 iron ore was first discovered in the Superior region. The long distance course travels through Ishpeming, past towering head frames from the heyday of underground mining, and then heads north into the beautiful wooded wilderness, crossing or running along side of the Dead River all the way into Marquette to the Lake Superior shoreline
The Minnesota mountain bike series hops across the river to Wisconsin hitting up the White Tail Ridge venue, which for the past three years was host to the "Border Battle". The White Tail Ridge course has a great mix of fast-flowing single track, roots and rocks, fast downhill sections, wide open fields, leg-torching climbs and elevated wooden berm. Whitetail Ridge is fast-becoming a Twin Cities favorite for riders looking for an ever-evolving challenge.
Michigan Tech Nordi Coach passing word on the third annual Michigan Tech MTB Rondevous which is coming up later this month. The Rondevous is a** 1 or 2 lap Mountain Bike Race around the Michigan Tech trail system. The Course is **challenging but the terrain is safe, entirely on trails (95+% singletrack) with hills. 1 lap is approximately 12 miles. The name* *"Rondevous" is a play of the Dutch word for lap - "ronde" and the word "rendezvous" - a traditional celebration of the French fur trappers. The "Ronde" is also a monumental European bike race in the Flanders region, notable for requiring very strong riding to win. The Rondevous race is a celebration of challenging MTB riding and takes place Saturday, August, 25, 2012. More information on their website.
Keep the wheels moving!
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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.