Midwest MTB Racing Recapby Jay Richards
October 3, 2012
Even with cyclocross season heating up, a busy last weekend of September with three mountain bike races in Wisconsin keeping mountain bikers content until the transition to skiing, cyclocross or eating! This weeks report includes a recap from the Deer Fly Chase, report from St Croix Falls, WI. where the Minnesota Mountain Bike series race, "Woolly" went down, a full report on the new downhill "flow" trail at Spirit Mountain in Duluth and a look ahead to a few more events to close out the season.
Flying Deer and Chasing Flies
Whether riders were flying along the trails with the deer or chasing an errant deer fly that survived recent frosty nights, good reports coming from western Wisconsin where summer-like temps greeted riders last Saturday for the Deer Fly Chase. Kevin Roytek provides a nice full report:
75 degrees, sunshine, a lunch, beer, awards, a race course that is one continuous loop with no laps, and some of the best single track in western Wisconsin for $20.00! That’s what you received this past Saturday at the 2nd Annual Deer Fly Chase. Thanks to Noah Michaelsen and all of the great volunteers who helped make this race happen. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to attend this race it is definitely one to put on your list.
I normally do not provide race reports but it was such an awesome day I figured I had to.
I like to break this race into four segments, section #1 is 7 miles of gravel, ski trail and a short segment of single track. After the mile and a half ATV controlled lead out the race was on. A group of 4 emerged after the first climb with Mike Wenzel charging hard, I settled in 3rd position because the pace was fast and I was just trying to recover from the climb. We all hung together through this section although I did struggle some on a climb or two.
The next section is 5 miles of awesome flowing single track that I know well. Just before we reached this section of single track , Aaron Swanson took over the lead. I did not follow Aaron thinking this group I was with would stick together through this section. As we rode, I could see Aaron pulling away. Pretty soon he was out of sight. I began to panic a bit but I knew an area was coming up that I could pass. We reached the opening and I was able to get around Mike and start the work of trying to reel in Aaron. After chasing Aaron for 3 miles I finally was just about to his wheel when I stood to climb and I dropped my chain (no wonder I race SS 99% of the time). I quickly got it back on and continued to chase. I must not have lost much time since ½ mile later I could see Aaron once again and quickly closed the gap. I was feeling OK at this time and I was able to get around Aaron and lead through the rest of the single track.
The 3rd section of the race is once again a mix of ski trail, gravel roads, and logging road lasting approximately 7 miles. I know Aaron is stronger than I am on these types of trails so I just needed to hang with him. I started to get some twinges in the calves and was very happy to hang with him through this section. I played my best poker face as to not let Aaron know how I was hurting. I was fading but knew there was another stretch of single track to come. And that was my only chance to try to get a gap.
We hit the 4th and final section consisting of single track, gravel road and ski trail. I led into the single track with the thought of trying to open a gap to make him work. Unfortunately for me, he stuck to me like glue. I finally gave up my tactic and let him by so I could sit in and rest before the last road section in to the finish. We exited the single track, Aaron looks at me and asked how we were going to do this. He mentioned something about each of us doing 30 second pulls. I was cooked but still tried my best poker hand and said “OK”. He took the first pull and put me into the hurt locker with a gap of 20 feet. I caught back up just before making the left turn for the final 2 miles. He looked at me and once again, put his head down and began to pull away. This time all I could do is turn over the pedals and watch him ride away.
Congratulations to Aaron, 1st place couldn’t have gone to a better rider. Also congratulations to Sara Morse for taking 1st place in the women’s long race. In the Short race, 1st place was taken by Eric Schoenberg for the men and Katie Misner for the women
This truly a 1st class event and I really hope some of you add this race to your calendars next year. You will not be disappointed!Skinnyski coverage
Winner Aaron Johnson's recap
St Croix Valley "Woolly"
The Minnesota series wrapped up last weekend, hopping over the river to compete on the Woolly trail system on the edge of town which would be St Croix Falls, WI. Overheard in the parking lot from riders was the course was a bit of old school with sections of fast flowy singletrack with a few hard turns mixed in to make things interesting linked by paved by bike trail, and crushed limestone paths.
A small window was open for me to head down to catch out the action as my youngest son Jens was itching to get another race in after being bit by the racing bug at home during the Laddies Loppet weekend. Combined with the fact it was a course I had not ridden before, the Woolly folk are some of the nicest I have met and I had not been to a single mountain bike race this season, the mountain bike priority factor was at the highest level it had been all year.
With Jensies race at 9am in the Kids Comp class, we went down the night before to make for less stress Sunday am. A nice crisp fall morning greeting us with frosty fields and fantastic fall color highlighting what would be a beautiful autumn day. When we pulled in to the high school, the parking lot was filling with parents and kids with kids making the usual laps in the lot while parents made the frantic last minute registration to get their children set up, ourselves included.
The Kids were off 9am sharp, always a highlight of the day to watch. When the announcer made the usual "and all riders with a permanent number series plate can roll to the line" there was some looking around and Cole Johnson jumped to the plate nicely exclaiming "if your race plate is made of plastic, get up here". Love it, absolute beauty. Anyways, eager and full of enthusiasm, the racing is fast and tight just like the other classes. Henry Hall and Josie Welsh would go home with the overall titles on the day.
At the Sport class was approaching start time, the buzz was the need to make the move to the front right away if you wanted to ride the singletrack with as much as of a clean track as possible. Matt Johnson racing in the first wave did that just nicely taking advice from son Cole "just get to the front, simple as that".
When the time came for me to roll up to the line, I had a more conservative approach, not having raced for a few years (mostly being sidelined by Lyme disease) and would "ease" my way in to the race. When I came around the outside after the fast start through the football field, there were riders down and I went around and found myself in the top 10 going in to the singletrack. A bit higher up than I expected, but I rode the first singletrack section in that position, focused on keeping smooth and fluid before coming out to the first open area.
As expected, there were a group of riders eager to move up and I jumped on to the back of this group before realizing the pace was just a bit faster than I wanted to roll at on the first lap and there was plenty of dust consumption so I backed off a little bit.
Eventually I found myself riding with two other riders, Barry Tungseth and Justin Rinehart and our little group seemed to slice and dice the fast flowing course just fine. Justin was doing a lot of work at the front and riding beautiful in the process. At one point in the singletrack I was fighting an off camber turn and instead of risking a missed upppercut and hit a tree or crashing and taking out Barry, I made a slight detour but didn't alter the placing so it was all good.
Going in to the third lap, Jan Rybar bridged up to our group and as expected, he made a move before the last section of singletrack to get in front. We stayed with Jan until the gandy dancer trail where he took a hard pull, dragging us along. At top of one of the downhills, I heard a voice through the woods "watch out for loose dirt at the bottom.." rounding out the corner, it was race director Matt Fisk moving course tape, giving heads up to riders which was nice form.
The last lap Justin, Barry and I were content to keep it moving like we were until the finish. When we came to the most technical part of the trail, fun challenging rock garden, I slashed the sidewall on my front tire which was a tubular, and last all the air just like that. A shot of CO2 went out as fast as it went in and made the decision to take 10-15 minutes more to ride and run out the rest of the four to five miles that remained.
Despite flatting, it was good to be in the mix a bit and burn the lungs. I can't complain much on the tire as I had put an incredible 1300 miles on the pair this spring, summer and fall, getting tremendous use out of them.
All in all it was a great day, fun venue and big thanks to the race organizers, cowbell ringing volunteers and people cheering on the course. It was awesome!Woolly Photos
MNMBS Series Party
The final awards party for the Minnesota series is scheduled for November 10th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm at. Quality Bicycle Parts, Inc. There will be light snacks and beverages, and SWAG. Check the MNMBS site for the latest.
Spirit Mountain Flow
After the race on Sunday, we went north to Duluth for phase two our our triangular trip in Minnesota and a good visit with Jake who is at the college of St Scholastica, gearing up for a great winter of skiing. Monday morning before heading home, we stopped by Spirit Mountain, home to many Minnesota series races in recent years and even back in the early days of series racing in the 90's, to check out the new downhill flow trail that is just finishing up with construction and close to being ready to open for riding.
We hooked up with IMBA Midwest guru, Hansi Johnson, who gave us a walking tour of the bottom part of the course and got the run down on construction and other behind the scene tidbits. Highlights from the conversation included the course length which is right around 1.5 miles, 700ft of vertical drop, future lift service access, cost of the trail which was around $50,000 and the development of trails such as this in the future. As highlighted in earlier reports, plans are in the works for the Duluth Traverse which is in waiting mode since an environmental assessment is being conducted. Mountain bike trails were in the "master plan" at Spirit mountain so the cash that was readily available for trail building from the variety of sources went to work at Spirit right away since existing trails were already in place.
With that said, it was with a bit of heavy feeling, for lack of better words, to see the old singletrack covered with berms and pumps section. Don't get me wrong, this new trail is a thing of beauty and currently nothing compares to it in the Midwest but the Spirit Mountain XC course was my favorite in Minnesota. Scott Kylander Johnson, a nearby resident and builder/designer of a lot of the early trail summed things up nicely in a recent coversation "The Spirit trail is super sweet. It is a beginner "flow" trail that is designed to withstand the elements over time and to be enjoyed by all levels of riders. It has huge berms, little rollers, rounded jumps, and ZERO rocks, roots, ruts, etc. It is like no other trail in Duluth and one that is desperately needed to entice the beginner or young mountain biker to get involved in the sport.
I will enjoy going down it, as would you, but I am most excited about having an easier ride UP from the bottom of the Spirit Mountain ski hill. I still enjoy a trail that constantly taxes my skill set, with fall line drops, nasty rock outcroppings and the like, but since we have plenty of tricky stuff, this trail will help put us on the map." Both Scott and Hansi mentioned a more advanced downhill trail being built by the locals with big gaps, jumps and hits that is in working progress.
Although the trail is closed for now, waiting for moisture and final tuning, Hansi gave us the go ahead to ride the top half. That would be Jens to have all the fun as my front tire occupied the back seat of the car but no complaints, seeing your kid grinning ear to ear, taking a break from schoolwork for some education in beautiful fall colors and getting some fun pictures to capture the moment, is as good as it gets. Heading back to the parking lot, I took Jens to sections of the old course so he could ride some of it and relived some memories from races back in the day...
Photoset: Spirit Mountain Trails 17 photos (from Jay Richards)
Race #3 in the Minnesota High School Cycling league jumps across the river to rip up the White Tail Ridge trails which might be the most technical course kids will face on the season. Officials are encouraging riders to pre-ride if possible. If you haven't had a chance to check out a high school race this year, the word is the energy, scene and enthusiasm is fantastic and the White Tail venue is a great course to check out before the season closes out with the state championships at Buck Hill later in the month.
Scott Putman checked in with a report on the Stump Farm trail race and duathlon: This year the stump farm is on 10/28/12. The Du is an easy ski trail 5k run followed by a harder 21 mile (2 – 10 mile laps) mountain bike, a real worthy combo!
Putman goes on to state; "Superb Ice man training/sharpening opportunity!"
New this year: Our local mountain bike crew built about 2 miles of additional really fun single track in the reforestation camp so I am proud to say we are about 80% single track on the 10.6 mile loop including the new. The course is more fun/technical than the refo rambler I think. Because of the duathlon aspect we need less passing so the single track works good. We still leaf blow the trails and have a nice feed in the warm ski lodge.
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.