Midwest MTB Racing Recap: Chequamegon Editionby Jay Richards
September 11, 2012
Hard to believe the big Chequemegon week is upon us. Reports from Cable are all good and another great weekend is on tap which could only be made better if the skies open up and make for some real honest fun. Riders have been doing course recons the past few weeks, months.... with a couple reports of some changes at the end of the course folks might want to check out. Also, exciting news is the opening race in the Minnesota Cycling League and the growth at the next level in collegiate cycling. This weeks report includes a preview of the top riders slated to toe the line in the Fat Tire 40, special race report from Jordan Horner from the first Minnesota High School League race and Casey Hildenbrandt checks in from the college scene.
Chequemegon 40 Preview
Another Fat Tire Festival is upon us. For many riders, this is the race of the year and structure their training for this one weekend. There are also many riders that would like to train more but are just glad to roll up to the line and enjoy the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin.... rolling along on one of the greatest things invented, a mountain bike. Another electric race is on tap with the usual suspects plus a couple 11th hour additions that should keep the pace super fast at the front. We take a look at the top riders in the 40, which might possibly be the strongest field ever, particularly the men, and their chances on the dirt, grass and gravel.
- Brian Matter: Makes the top of the list as a four time winner, having won the last three years. It is hard to bet against him. This time of year his body is programmed to suffer and deliver on the Birkie trail which has resulted in wining. The savvy experience, edginess and knowledge of races past, even with world class road pros breathing down his neck, gives him the highest advantage.
- Cole House: House won the first big point to point race in the Midwest earlier this year, the Ore to Shore, cashing in on his road sprinting skills to take the sprint finish over Matter. House has the experience and the former Short and Fat champion will eventually win the 40.
- Michael Olheiser: I had to double check to make sure I spelled his name right as Mike is a rider not familiar to Midwest riders other than he has pulled off some solid results in the 40 in years past including a second place finish to Matter last year but only a second away! Count on Mike to be at the front, making things interesting, again.
- TJ Woodruff: One of my favorite riders. Have had the privilege to toe the line with him in races across the country a few years back and has made an several appearances in my back yard which means a ton to a race director. Like I said about House and have said before about TJ, one day he will win the 40. Took a win in Quammy land a few weeks ago with a Pre-Fat title, the winning vibes should be flowing. With the stacked field this year it will be even more challenging but TJ knows what it takes.... and just needs the perfect race for that to happen. He showed good form at Maplelag in the first two stages of the three stage race but wasn't able to provide the matchup I was looking for against Brendan Moore as his chain broke early on. To top it off, he got stung by a bee but classic TJ, he shrugged it off showing good sportmanship, steering attention to the next race.
- Tristan Schouten: Just a few seconds off from Matter in 2010, Schouten has had some solid finishes over the years but just can't seem to crack to top spot. Recently signing with a new cyclocross team for the upcoming cx season, has the form and fitness to be up at the front and again, one of those riders that is due for a win.
- Pat Lemieux: Growing up in the "toughest weather in the country city", which would be Fargo if you aren't a visitor to Accuweather, only made this current road Pro tougher than nails. Pattycakes won the MN state road champs this year, and has been logging some training on the Chequemegon course getting systems dialed. Should improve on his 11th place finish from last year.
- Jason Sager: Former podium finisher, nailing down a third place two years ago, the Utah resident races all over the country and puts in solid results whether it be high country stage racing, local lung burning short tracks or Pro XCT races.
- Mike Phillips: Top five finisher last year, the quiet rider with home town listed as Chicago, was right there with Matter and House in the sprint at Ore to Shore this year, proving he still has the legs to be at the top.
- Jason McCartney: The United Health Care rider was third last year, coming in cold turkey so to speak to put in an impressive first year performance. Having one year under the belt and what to expect at race speeds could be just enough to cross the line first.
- Matt Busche: Looking at all the resumes, it is hard not to have Busche at the top of the list with a huge win in 2011 taking the US Pro Cycling Championship title. This year has been solid as well, taking 2nd in the Tour of Utah and 8th the end of August at the Pro Cycling challenge among top riders in the world. I have no idea how much he has ridden on a mountain bike and the pure mountain bikers will say it doesn't matter since it isn't a mountain bike race...but it does "Matter"! One interesting thing to note posted on Wikipedia is Busche used to be a professional window washer in New Mexico!
- Bjorn Selander: Bjorn is on the start list that was given to me and to be honest, I haven't heard much about him this year but we all know he is fast, earning huge star power with his world championship cx accomplishments and will be up in the mix.
- Mark Lalonde: If anyone says a particular bike is necessary, which seems to be the 29er, don't pay attention. The Lalonde brothers get it done on a singlespeed and do it fast! Lalonde appreciates the bicycle in an artistic nature and like all us, just loves to ride.
- Cam Kirkpatrick: Cam is a rider that focuses on the 40 maybe more than any rider in the field, not taking anything away from the hard work other folks put in. Even at 46, one of those riders that doesn't let age get in the way and dials in to pedaling his bike...fast!
- Brendan Moore: Moore is back to dice it up with the nation's finest having possibly his best season to date. Dominating the Minnesota scene like he has the past few years, he hasn't tested his form at the Elite level but Moore feels his form is as good as it has ever been and could make for an interesting mix in the battle if he survives until the later miles, mentally and physically.
- Paul Hanson: The star from St Peter, MN, Paul has come back after taking a few years off so to speak and has been riding strong. Would not be surprised to see him post a top 15 finish like he has in the past. Currently second overall in the Minnesota series.
- Doug Swanson: Doug is a former champion and has the passion and desire on a bicycle not seen in many others. He focused his attention the middle part of the summer to the birth of his second child, a beautiful baby girl. Doug might not have the form this year but he will give it his best shot and I was proud of him slugging it out at Maplelag in all three races Labor day weekend.
- Matt Shriver: Shriver posted a nice second place finish last weekend in the WORS race and was the youngest finisher in last years 40 at 6th. Very capable of repeating that performance and could move up a few spots
- Tyler Gauthier: I haven't met Ty but I like the way he carries himself through the social networks as this up and coming rider from Ishpeming, MI proved his mettle with a solid finish at the Ore to Shore earlier this year and has posted some top WORS finishes including a win. Definitely a rider to keep watch on for the future.
- Steve Tilford: Whoaah, how could I get to the bottom of list and not mention Tilly....saving the best for last! Tilly's tread is petrified on the 40 course with not only tons of training miles logged but more importantly, three coveted wins. The US Mountain bike hall of famer and cycling legend Tilford has probably one of the most popular cycling blogs with insight and commentary not found anywhere. Steve has been fired up as of late with the latest doping crap and if he can anger manage that energy and transfer it to the pedals, it could result in a top spot on the podium instead of a top 10, which he recorded last year.
There are probably at least a dozen riders worth mentioning that have the potential to crack the top 10 and there will always be riders flying under the radar who nail down an incredible performance that might launch them in to a spot on the wooden block.
- Chloe Woodruff: Chloe had a solid season racing the PRO XCT National circuit including a handful of top ten finishes and a short track win. I had a chance to visit with Chloe at Maplelag during the Loppet weekend, talking world cups and uci racing and only have great things to say as she took the overall title in the Loppet stage race. The former u23 National champ should be up at the front and possibly riding with Jenna Rinehart and Lea Davison doing direct battle
- Jenna Rinehart: Has three total victories to her name including back to back in 2009 and 2010 and her first coming in 2007 to make the three. After opening a bike shop with her husband last summer, she has toed the line a few more times including an exciting finish in the Ore to Shore with Woodruff this year which isn't very common when the females are mixed with the males. The former U23 National champ has the talent to make it three in a row and the only four time winner.
- Lea Davison: Davison's big accomplishment this year was being named to the Olympic team! Yeah Lea! Lea, who broke Rinehart's streak with the win in 2008, and took the win last year is in the classification of pure mountain biker (how can you not, growing up in Vermont) and has the chance to make it four like Matter. Having the experience of previous participation is key and will be acclimating nicely with the running of the Velo Bellas youth mountain bike camp this week for area female dirt shredders.
- Sara Kylander-Johnson: Sara has had another good year, maybe not quite the results of last year where she had a concussion near the end of the season and spent most of the off season recovering. Driven, and focused, once the race is on she is in a zone that is seek and win.
- Rebecca Sauber: Rebecca competes in more ultra endurance and 24 hour events but has the speed for when it is needed and has potential to throw it down for a podium finish like she did last year taking the third spot.
- Catherine Wahlberg: Drinking from the same fountain of youth as Tilford, Wahlberg is the only other three time winner besides Rinehart and Davison and still a threat for the overall even at the young age of 50.
- Lisa Krayer: Moved down a few spots from a 2010 third place to 9th last year, will be a good battle to improve back up towards the top if everything falls in to place. For Krayer, anything is possible.
- Linda Cooper: Linda has moved from Fargo to Iowa but that shouldn't of slowed her down. The times I have ridden the Wednesday night Rollag road ride, Linda is always there mixing it up with the guys and throwing it down. Could improve a few spots on the top 10 finish from last year.
- Dianna McFadden: Racing a consistent season once again, the Duluth resident spent most of her time racing in Wisconsin. No stranger to the area and has a great training partner in her husband Todd who has been a top 3 finisher in the 40 himself.
- Sara Agena Wright: Just missed the top five by a minute last year and should be in the mix again.
- Michelle Flanagan-Haag: The Hayward resident has the privilege of riding the Chequamegon course whenever she can and the experience always comes in handy. Should be a good battle between her, Susan Juedes and Andrea Matter to round out the top ten.
- Jacquie Fairfax Phelan: There probably aren't too many riders that recognize name so best thing to do is click this link. If you don't click the link, Phelan was the NORBA national champion in 1983, 1984 and 1985 and has been involved with mountain biking most of her life, promoting and teaching and all good things in between. Latest word was she was flying in but with no bike...!
Although the main events have been filled for the Chequamegon, riders who want still want to take part of the action might considering a day of riding on the CAMBA trails on Saturday and watch the exciting finishes then participate in the Sunday Funday events. It is some good fun for sure and in all the years participating, Sunday is sometimes the best day out of the weekend. As with any big event, the Chequamegon folks can always use a few extra hands. If you're interested in volunteering, contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Latest News from Chequemegon
High School Racing
Probably one of the more exciting mountain bike related happenings this year, to me, is the new Minnesota High School league cycling. League officials have done a great job not only getting the league rolling in Minnesota but having it start out with a big bang! Series racing has been fantastic for growing the sport in Wisconsin and Minnesota but I think most people will agree, for the younger racers outside Kids Comp and Citizen Youth, it has been tough to keep some kids interested in the 13-18 age bracket. High school racing fills this niche and the league should only continue to grow and grow once more people realize mountain biking is the real deal. Jordan Horner provides a special report as Skinnyski was also on site at Salem Hills to catch the opening race action:
I remember being so excited when I heard Minnesota was coming out with a high school league for mountain biking, but I never imagined it being as big as it was. 151 racers turned out in the 8 different categories. There were dozens of tents up and hundreds of excited racers, parents, volunteers, and people who just showed up to watch. The course was dry but really fast, perfect for the many brand new racers out there. I raced in varsity with Sophia Marchiando and Sonja Hedblom. It started out fast and stayed fast through every tight and sandy corner, I knew I wanted to stick on Sophia’s back wheel as long as I could to have a chance to win. Three and a half of the four laps I did just that but she pulled away halfway through the last lap to put a 30 second lead on me. The Burnsville-Lakeville mtb team had 5 total podium finishers, I finished 2nd place in the girls varsity race, Libbey Endersbe got 2nd and Carley Endersbe got 3rd in girls junior varsity, Nicole Jensen placed 4th in the sophomore/freshman race, and Blake Nelson got 3rd in the boys junior varsity race. For someone like me who always wanted someone my age to race against in the MNMBS this is perfect! It was so much fun to have real, hard competition and earn the place on the podium. I cannot wait to see how the next race of the season turns out.
The college scene continues to gain momentum and the high school growth should only enhance the college scene in years to come. Casey Hildenbrandt, a freshmen at Ripon College, has hit the show by storm and provides a little bit of insight what things are like post high school:
The collegiate racing setting is unlike any other race team or environment I've been around. We get an education during the day like the other students, focusing on the student part of "student athlete", have practice and rides after classes like other varsity sports, and travel as a team also. As far as Ripon College, it's amazing. I was unsure what to expect not really knowing anyone from the team previously besides my roommate, Marcus Reed-Thorsen, who I've been friends with and raced with for a few years now. But as soon as we arrived, the team was bonding. It seems we are always together. It's pretty awesome actually. From pulling up to breakfast and knowing who is there already because you know what bike is theirs, studying together, riding together, catching up on some shows off of netflix, pretty much everything is with each other. The drive to races is filled with attempts to study, jokes, race stories, and my personal favorite, blasting music. The race scene is unlike any race I have been to either. You're around the team and other teams. It seems low key because we all get along. It's not like other races I've done where people don't talk to anyone and people are so up tight. This has the feeling of a social almost, everyone is pumped to go shred the downhill run, find some jump lines on the cross country course, and to cheer everyone else on from other teams. With that said, race time is serious like any other race. When we all take the line, the official says his stuff, and the whistle goes off, it's go time. It's unlike any other race atmosphere, but still has some of the toughest competition I've ever gone up against. I never really would have thought I'd be throwing down with some guys racing in Europe from the U.S. World Championship squad, but that's the kind of competition that collegiate racing offers. Relaxed atmosphere and tough competition, it's the best of both worlds.
We packed up after classes on Friday afternoon and started the 6 hour drive north up to Copper Harbor, MI for the cross country and downhill races on Saturday. We stayed a block away from Lake Superior and headed up the hill to the start of the cross country race bright and early. The Men's A field was up first with Marian University grabbing the top 3 spots: Drew Dillman 1st, Josh Johnson 2nd, Jason Blodgett 3rd, and myself coming in 4th. Downhill was later in the day after the cross country events were over. All I can say is dangggg! These guys have some mad skills. It was a pretty solid course, with some insane drops and the best berms I've ever seen in my 18 year lifetime. Pro rider J.D. Swanguen grabbed the win in the Men's A field for the second weekend in a row. After downhill was all wrapped up there was a cookout provided by Michigan Tech. Saturday night we drove back down to Houghton, MI, which is where Sunday's events, short track cross country and dual slalom, took place. The short track course was longer than most, consisting of 60% singletrack, versus 40% two track. The singlerack even had some bridges in it, one of them actually being faster to ride the bridge. The Men's A field had the early start again. I took the hole shot and had a 5 second gap out of the first section of singletrack and held that gap without too much effort really until it was closed back down at the start of lap 2 by the top 3 riders in xc on Saturday, Dillman, Johnson, and Blodgett. The next lap I believe Dillman and myself snuck away and help a gap for a lap or two. Then Blodgett joined us for the rest of the race. The tactics didn't start till the last 3 laps of the race. I led the last 3 laps of the race and fought of the tag-team of Marian on the final lap. I managed to maintain the lead through the doubletrack to the final section of singletrack. I punched it coming out of the singletrack but sat up as I saw their shadows on the ground next to me. As we climbed the final climb to the finish, Blodgett's shadow starting coming up from 3rd wheel all the way next to mine up front. As soon as I saw his shadow I jumped and tried to hang onto his wheel, but I just barely missed out. I managed to gap Dillman though and almost caught back up to Blodgett by the finish. Blodgett took the win, I came out 2nd, and Dillman came in 3rd. We were all within two seconds of each other in the sprint, fun racing! I went out to cheer on the rest of the stxc races and headed over to dual slalom to take some practice runs. I wasn't feeling the course at all and struggled to get any air over gaps. The rest of the team did awesome all weekend, from xc, downhill, stxc, and ds. It was a blast and can't wait for this coming weekend at the Univeristy of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Have a great racing weekend everyone...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.