After an incredible fat bike/winter riding season, another mountain bike season is off and rolling!
It’s been a great start, relatively speaking, with trails opening the first week in April which for some locales, is 2-3 weeks ahead of normal (if such a thing exists in weather). The popular mountain bike destinations such as Duluth and Copper Harbor are still 1-2 weeks away from trails opening but overall in the Midwest riders have been getting some dirt riding in in between the rain events.
This weeks opening report will feature links from mountain bike related articles I’ve gathered the last few weeks, including the sad and shocking loss of cycling legend Steve Tilford who lost his life in a car accident earlier this month. A few races have already occurred including the opening race in the Wisconsin Endurance Series and the popular season opener Decorah Time Trials. Series races in both Wisconsin and Minnesota kick off this coming weekend with both races occurring in Wisconsin, the Woolly in St Croix Falls in the MNMBS, and the Englewood Opener in Fall River, WI. for the opening race in WORS.
Steve Tilford passed away earlier this month on April 5th in a horrific car accident on interstate 70 just west of Grand Junction, CO. He was en route to his home of Topeka after a trip out west. It is hard to equate what has been written since the passing weeks the influence and impact he had on the cycling world. Not only through his cycling efforts but the following he had on his blog that would look to Tilford for opinions and thoughts on not only cycling but more recently life and political events. I was fortunate to race against Tilford a handful of times including the Chequemegon in Hayward, WI, of course, and two events that stick out the most, the Cactus Cup in Galena, IL. and the Prairie Knights Casino race just south of Mandan, ND. The casino race was most memorable as this event only occurred two years. It was actually a demanding punchy course recently built by area trail builders specifically for the race. The cash payouts were huge with big checks and the awards ceremony held near the buffet table in the actual casino provided the best memory as the riders mingled with the casino goers. It was this time I had my first conversation with Tilford. The latest post on Tilford’s website was by Seth Davidson who wrote a great eulogy.
The Levis Mound trails were host to the Buzzard Buster which was the first race in the Wisconsin Endurance Series. Duluth riders Mason Bacso and Matt Lee made the trip east for some early racing and came home with the win in the two man team division. Bacso reports:
In and effort to test out and beat down our legs and lungs, good friend Matt Lee and I headed south and east to the first race in the Wisconsin Endurance Series, the Buzzard Buster. The race took place on the Levis Mound trails about an hour east of Eau Claire. With a few solid climbs, some technical descents, and fast and flowy singletrack, the crew put together a challenging but enjoyable race course. Matt and I raced the two person 10 hour race. It ended up getting shortened to 9 hours as the race director didn’t show up on time! (The endurance folk are a laid back crew!) We started le mans style and we were off. In an effort to make myself hurt, I went right to the front and pushed the whole lap. Tagged off to Matt and we were on a roll. Laps were taking about 35 min or so. It made for an awkward waiting period. I would usually enjoy some music, read a book and take in some food and fluids. We were able to complete 14 laps (7 each) of the 8 mile course in 9 hours. We both ran into some great feeling laps and some not so great feeling laps, but survived and finished strong. We finished with a big win, tired legs and smiles all around. Great group of people and enjoyable event.
One of the longest if not longest running mountain bike event in the Midwest, the Decorah Time Trials has been a traditional season opener for many mountain bikers. Cooler temps but a tacky track made for great conditions. Mike Schroden of Revolution Bike shop in St. Cloud made the trip south and reports:
I love the race and the individuals that host the Decorah are a great group of people maintaining the trail system down there.
The course is a humbling experience and it will tell you the truth of ones spring fitness. There are lots of hills and it reminds me of the old school way of mountain bike trails; Tight And twisty! I decided to give the TT another go since last ear was the biggest mud fest ever- although it poured the night before the course was almost dry. Perfect day for racing in the spring."
(Photo: Racing action in Decorah Time Trials. Credit: Nick Chill)
Loppet manager hooked on Minnesota's culture and camaraderie
Amy Oberbroeckling is something of a Renaissance woman of endurance sports. Adventure racing, 100-mile mountain bike races, cyclocross, ultra trail running races, ski marathons — she dabbles in just about anything that requires her to hop on the pain train for extended distances. An Iowa native and former Hawkeye, she moved to the Twin Cities in 2012 to join the staff of Minneapolis-based Gear Junkie. Blogging about outdoor adventure and gear from her outpost in a town well-known as a cycling mecca was a dream of sorts for the recent college graduate. Since then, Oberbroeckling has brought her talents to the Loppet Foundation, where she serves as its marketing and communications manager. Read the full article Loppet manager hooked on Minnesota's culture and camaraderie | Star Tribune and note: Loppet Foundation To Offer Women’s Mountain Biking Classes
Mountain bike categories these days grow as fast as bottom bracket standards change. XC, Trail, Enduro, All-Mountain…QBP gave some of their engineers and product managers a few beers and asked them to try and make sense of it all. The full article on QBP.
Ability Based Racing in Minnesota High School Cycling
For the 2017 season, the Minnesota High School Cycling League will pilot a program dubbed “ability based racing”. The objective was create a category and upgrade system that was based on rider ability and not solely their age. The NICA category placement system was developed almost 20 years ago and while it has worked well, has seen little change.
Buck Hill Wednesday Night Series
The popular and family friendly Wednesday night at the races at Buck Hill starts May 11th. Penn Cycle's long-standing tradition of mountain bike racing at Buck Hill returns in 2017 for the 26th season. What started out with 45 riders the very first night a long time ago has grown and evolved into something truly special. "Whether you’re a first-timer or local hero, these weeknight races continue to rank as the best bang for your entertainment Buck by every mountain biker in the world." Thursday Night at the Races brings together beginner, intermediate and advanced mountain bikers for some great racing and good times. This family friendly event is also a great opportunity to get the little ones into mountain biking with a free kid's race after the adult races. Penn Cycle's 26th Season of Thursday Night at the Races Starts May 11th - MN Bike Trail Navigator
eMountain bikes are gaining big popularity, especially out west with races for the three different categories. Talk is in the works for bringing a eMTB event to the Midwest in the near future. Some trail systems are closed to eMTB and there is a little bit of controversy but they do allow certain users an opportunity to get out on certain terrain they might not otherwise.
Local mountain bike manufacturer LaMere cycles with a new new 3000w electric full suspension fat bike on the stand.
Race #1 in the Wisconsin Off Road Series hits up a new venue not used in recent years that offers to be a unique experience. Englewood Farms will be host featuring the typical terrain and features that mountain bikers love and will also grass fed beef post race. Note to participants and spectators, no dogs allowed and do not touch the fences, they will shock you.
Race #1 in the Minnesota Series jumps across the river to hit up the popular Woolly trails in St Croix Falls, WI. The Woolly folks handle the trails as careful like the babies local trail manager Mat and his wife Alicia Fisk keep pulling out of the oven. The trails have been open whenever possible in between the recent rain events and come race day riders can count on a perfectly manicured course that has a old school feel but new fast and flowy singletrack to put smiles on everyone faces. Sweet custom mugs to the first 400 registrants. Register now!
(Photo: Woolly racing action 2016, credit: TMB Images)
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 mountain bike team and enters his 27th year of racing and promoting mountain bike races.
Have an event or mountain bike related information to share from the Midwest? Feel free to contact Jay at