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High School

Midwest MTB Report

by Jay Richards
June 20, 2017

A busy weekend of mountain bike racing and riding under pretty much awesome conditions. This weeks report includes recaps from the Menacing 40 at Elm Creek Park, and both Minnesota and Wisconsin series races. Also, a look ahead as we enjoy the longest days of the year.

Menacing 40

Elm Creek in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis was host to 40 miles of racing on it’s trail system. Chris VanErt provides a recap:

The Elm Creek trail system is a good mix of tight, twisty woods, open prairie, punchy climbs, and enough technical sections to keep a person on their toes. I ride there all of the time, but Saturday’s “Menacing 40” (actually about 43 and a half) was my first opportunity to race there. Conditions were great: sunny and warm, and the trails were buffed and race-ready.

Racers can tackle the entire thing solo, or do a relay on a 2 or 4-person team. There were about 30 racers in this year’s field, with the majority opting to go it alone, myself included. I decided to increase the difficulty factor by forgetting all of my water bottles in the fridge at home. I was able to score a bottle from Maple Grove Cycling (thanks!) so at least I would have some water for part of the day, but no energy/electrolyte drinks.

We were off at 9:00 A.M., with a prologue start from the parking lot onto a horse trail, back onto the service road and then into the singletrack for the rest of the race. This separated the field pretty early, with a lead group of about 5 and a couple of smaller chase groups, followed by the rest of the pack. I think top ten was pretty much decided right there, with a few position changes over the course of the race.

(Photo: Chris VanErt catching air at Elm Creek, Credit: Brent Prenzlow)

I unhitched from the back of the lead group about a quarter of the way into Lap 1, and settled into no man’s land for the rest of the day. First two laps felt fast and fun. Lap 3 is where I started to pay for forgetting my water bottles, with foot and leg cramps setting in. There was a water/Gatorade hand-up at the entrance to the Grizzland expert section, which was just enough to save my bacon. Mmm... bacon...

I caught a glimpse of Dave Hoglund flying out of Grizzland as I was starting the first climb through there on the fourth and final lap. That put him and the other leaders about 10 minutes up the trail from me. I managed 7th on the day, which I was happy with. Jeff Colbert took the Individual win with a solid ride, holding on to first place, even with a late-race crash. Chris Stewart and Dave Hoglund rounded out the podium spots for the men, with Pam Nielsen and Chelsea Strate taking top honors for the women.

This is a great event, right in our backyard for most of us. Put it on your calendar for next year. I plan on being there, and plan on checking my fridge before I leave next time.


Red Wing Classic

After having to cancel the previous weekend due to stormy weather, the Red Wing classic went down after a little bit of uncertainty with the weather Saturday evening. A fresh shot of precip made for humid conditions but cooler temps kept temps from getting to crazy hot.

Cole Johnson comes through again for a nice recap of the day:

The red wing classic was raced on June 18th after a rescheduling due to weather one week prior. It was a cooler 60-70 degrees and partially cloudy. The course raced over rolling double track and tight single track with several punchy climbs, that finished on descending fast single track before a 180 degree turn and an uphill finish to the lap. Conditions were greasy at the beginning of the race but the dried out as the race continued. I raced in the sport category, in the men 15-18 age group. The race was three laps or 17 miles long for the sport racers.

(Photo: Sport wave start, Credit: Marilyn Barry)

The start was fast when Tom Beyer (15) of WEDALI racing went to the front, with Chihiro Gustafson (17) of the Mounds View area mountain bike team and I close behind. We encountered wave traffic almost immediately in the single track after a long loop of double track to space out the field. The 18 and under wave is third to go, and the top 5-10 of us regularly pass most of the second and some of the first wave in a race. The top 3 of Beyer, Gustafson, and I were close to each other in the first section of single track with Tom only a few bike lengths in front. I felt good in the single track and was looking for a way around Gustafson just before I stopped paying attention for a second and hit the deck on a greasy corner. I lost one spot to Emmett Donahue (16) my teammate on the Highland Park mountain bike team. I raced to get back up and recover my rhythm to catch Donahue, and Gustafson before I noticed that in the crash I had offset my handlebars by maybe 30-40 degrees from my front wheel, and I still had 15 more miles of racing to go. My focus shifted from a win to catching Gustafson as I knew I needed a perfect race to best Beyer and this was immediately not perfect. I caught Gustafson and Donahue by the end of lap 1, and we raced lap 2 together. None of us had what it took to chase Beyer and he raced away for an overall win by 5 minutes. I was struggling to stay with Donahue and Gustafson as my usual advantage of my speed in the singletrack was gone, as I was preoccupied trying to somewhat maneuver corners with my new bike fit. But by the end of lap 2 Gustafson and I had dropped Donahue and were racing each other for second. I made a move after the start of lap 3 to hopefully drop Chihiro in the woods, because that is usually where I can make my time, but my slow corners and his strong legs proved to much and I watched him ride away from me on the last lap as my tank was running low, big time. I rolled in one minute behind Chihiro and a huge six minutes behind Beyer. He had a great day on the bike, so hats off to him. My race wasn't what I had hoped for but a third overall for Sport isn't a bad result, all thing considered. Tom Beyer finished first overall and Chihiro Gustafson second, Emmet Donahue had one of his best races and finished 9th overall in sport with 4th in the men 15-18 age group. In the elite race Jeff Hall took the win over a newly returned Josh Bauer from China, by over a minute. Josh has been racing high level road races over in China and is back to spend time for a few months in Minnesota racing Mountain and Road bikes.


Mt Morris Challenge

The good ol’ mountain bike course at Mt Morris was host to race #4 in the Wisconsin series, Mt Morris challenge. Elite female winner Leia Schneeberger took the time from her busy schedule to provide her take on the day:

The race venue at Mt Morris offered camping for the racers and their families. There is a watering hole where racers like to dip and kids play all day. Ryan, my boyfriend, and Cole, his son, arrived around 1pm on Saturday, set up camp and headed out to preride. I participated in the King of the Mountain Challenge, a race to the top of the mountain. 8 minutes in the red zone and done. Then all the campers feast, reminisce about past races, discuss bike set ups, and smack talk while the kids are off in the woods. The Saturday vibe at these races is light and fun, just like a normal camping trip.

(Credit: Leia Schneeberger)

The Mt. Morris Challenge is held on one of the toughest courses in the Wisconsin Off Road Series. It's both physically and technically demanding. A 5 miles course made up of extended 10% grade climbs and descents loaded with obstacles, features and rock gardens. Racers must pace themselves on the hills so they have enough energy to tackle the descents safely. After the initial start climb we plunge into the first gnarly section that includes the ever famous Bontrager Boulder and a rock garden where even experienced riders might dab. There is a 2 miles section of flow in the pines which gave us a chance to sit in and slow down our hear rates. After the pines we climb up to the top of the mountain. A tornado had rolled through the Wednesday prior to the race and volunteers worked diligently to clean up the trails in time for Sunday's race. They cut up and moved over 60 trees that had fallen over the course. It looked like someone had taken a box of matches and dumped them out all over the mountain. After cresting the mountain we were able to have some fun going down steep, root covered switchbacks. A short mowed grassy section where riders would get their hand ups was followed by one more excruciating climb before our final decent to the lap or finish.

The start line had a few of the usual suspects. Myself and Lindsey Guerra pull up side by side. We've developed an intense rivalry and an even stronger friendship over the years. We give each other the fist bump and good luck. Other series contenders, Holly LaVesser, Katrina Hurst, Kristina Navarro, Becky Mikrut, Katie Kimberling and Jennifer Uttendorfer follow in suit. McKenna Dwyer, her first race in Elite after stepping up from Junior Elite, the rest of the elite women and the junior elites took their place at the line, all of us dreading the notorious up hill roll out. Immediately off the front it's Lindsey and me. She sets the pace until we approach the pines. I take the lead through the pines and she matches. After the pines its time to start climbing so I ease up, let her pass and dictate the speed.

(Photo: Rolling over the rocks, Credit; Extreme Photography)

There was a rock garden just before a long single track climb where she dabbed just a touch, I maneuvered around so I could slow the tempo up to the top of the hill. I was able to create just a tiny gap on the decent but it didn't last long, she bridged it the second we started going up. This time she let me hold the lead up the final climb before we started our second lap and then up the start hill. We dropped into the area with the Bontrager Boulder together but once I came out I never saw her again. I had been looking for her in the pines and realized something must have happened but didn't know what it was. I heard an announcement on the loud speaker that she was out of the race as began my 3rd and final lap. She crashed in one of the rock gardens, hit her head hard, got a concussion, and was taken to the ER. She is ok now. I admit I backed off the burners after I heard the news. I had 4 montster climbs to tackle so I took my time on the first and slowed my pace in the pines down substantially from my first 2 laps. I was saving it just in case I needed it. I was half way up the single track climb when I saw Holly at the bottom. Uh oh, It's GO Time! I turned on the jets, rocketed til the finish and held the gap for the win!

WORS and the local volunteers always put on a great event. Big shout out to my Broken Spoke Racing teammates for the support, Funkier Bike International for the feminine kit and Integration Bodywork.


Looking Ahead

Lutsen 99er

(Photo: Group of riders in the Lutsen 99er)

One of the biggest endurance events of the summer in the Midwest takes place on the north shore at Lutsen mountains which is host to the Lutsen 99er, presented by Blueprints Athletes and Lifetime Fitness. There are also shorter events for those not up to 6-10 hours of racing. The course features rolling deep woods logging and forest trails through the ancient Sawtooth Mountains, around inland glaciated lakes, across glacial eskers after a nice climb at the start.

Revolution Singletrack Escape

The Minnesota Series goes back to back heading north just a bit to the Jail Trail in St Cloud for race #5 in it’s series. Typically held in September, the Singletrack Escape gets a June date in order to accommodate the Series goal of hosting all the events before Labor day weekend. Fast, tight and twisty singletrack with some classic hand built technical features signatures this long time event that always is full of character, thanks to the spirited Mr. Anderson directing logistics. All proceeds from the race are directed straight back to the trails. This years fund raising raffle give away will be a Salsa Bucksaw GX1 Complete Bike (valued at $3,999.99)! In the event of rainy weather alternate course plans have been made so rain or shine a great course is set for racers. A pair of MMCC Jail Trail socks will be provided to all finishers of both the Lutsen 99’r on Saturday and the Single Track Escape on Sunday!

(Photo: Rock garden action at the Jail Trail Singletrack Escape 2010, Credit: Thomas Warner)

Kyia Anderson’s latest report from the course:

I got in a full lap of the Single Track Escape course at the Jail Trail yesterday and the track is fast and in great shape. We will be running the same course as 2016 with two new additions that were left out last year due to the construction at the prison. We will run a little bit of Twisted Sister in Elite and Marathon if it continues to stay dry so you'll get to experience a little bit of one of my personal favorite sections! As always we will keep the start/finish area lively and entertaining, with some good food and the day will be topped off with the raffle of a $4,000 complete Salsa Bucksaw from Revolution Cycle and Ski. We have a special prize pack for the Marathon Men's and Women's winners and to encourage Women to race we will have equal payout in the Women's Elite Race. Please remember to bring an extra $20 for the raffle, you'll get a sweet hat and help out our lawnmower collection!

Red Flint Firecracker

The WORS Firecracker is a long time racer favorite, hosting races since 2005. A full weekend of mountain bike fun with great eats, riding and a mountain biker community throw down. The course continues to improve each year featuring fast doubletrack, tight and twisty singletrack and unique features to keep riders dialed in the entire race.

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

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