Days are getting a bit shorter, nights cooler and leaves are showing signs of changing. This all means we are approaching some of the best mountain bike conditions of the year! Racing and event action is in the big ring and last weekend was no exception. This weeks report includes a recap from the Hixon Forest Epic, Duluth Enduro #4, a couple of news and notes items and the look ahead.
Hixon Forest Epic
A good ol’ fashioned mudder greeted riders in LaCrosse for race #8 in the Wisconsin Off Road Series.
Holly Lavesser rode to a convincing win in the Elite women field, finishing nearly 8 minutes in front of McKenna Dwyer. Leia Schneeberger, Anna Ganju and Kristina Navarro rounded out the top five. Elite male 2nd overall finisher Isaac Neff provides a recap on the mens race:
LaCrosse’s Hixton Forest played host to the 8th stop in the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS). Known for it’s climbing, LaCrosse is often considered one of the most difficult races in the series. However, this year, due to a number of storms that traveled through the area the course had to be changed and a number of climbs had to be taken out. The result of the modified course was a track that had less climbing than normal which promised a fast race. What wasn’t planned was the storm that moved in shortly before the start of the afternoon Comp and Elite race starts.
Just as the racers were starting to get organized and head for the start line the skys opened and the rain fell. The gun went off, or shall we say Don yelled his infamous GOOOOOO as a steady rain fell and soaked the course.
The start of the Elite men’s race was a standard jockeying for position around the first corner and finally, after a significant lead-out, entered the first section of single track. Cole House took to the front and set a blazing pace considering how slick it was, followed by Pete Kairnen and myself. Cole quickly opened up a small gap and seemed to simply have more traction than the rest of us.
(Photo: Isaac Neff and Cole House)
A chase group formed consisting of myself, Pete and Mark LaLonde closely followed by Caleb Swartz and the rest of the field.
Pete and I found ourselves with a slight gap on the chasing group, a few second behind Cole. In a fast slick corner Pete lost traction and took a ride on a slip and slide, and I made the pass and continued in pursuit of Cole and the front of the race. Meanwhile is seemed that Mark had found his mud rhythm and made the bridge to me.
Soon after, towards the end of the first lap (of four) Mark and I made contact with Cole. Not wanting to waste the momentum I seemed to have gained, I went straight around Cole and opened up a small gap. At first the gap seemed to be growing, but as the laps ticked off I was never was able to extend it by more than just a couple corners of half of a “section”. Never out of sign, Cole kept within striking distance.
As the race progressed so did the accumulation of mud on our bikes, by the end of the third lap bikes had, it seemed, doubled in weight and wheels were starting to slow down due to mud accumulation. As we rolled into the final lap, Cole only feet behind me, I took a pedal stroke and could feel my chain ride up and off my big ring. I did my best chainless riding through the next downhill, but then I had to hop off and put my chain back on. Cole sprung at the chance and took the pass opening up a sizable gap.
I chased hard and was able to close back in on Cole by about half way through the last lap. Trying to make a pass, I wasn’t able to. I knew didn’t have a lot of opportunities left. The middle half of the lap was spent trying to safely get around lapped traffic and we closed in on the end the finish line. Finally Cole ramped up the pace from the front. In the very next section I didn’t clean a ”A-line” feature cleanly and a gap formed. Cole sensed it and kept the pressure on, I worked to close the gap, but couldn’t. As we entered the final climb and grassy straight away towards the gap stayed steady and I wasn’t able to close it. Cole rolled in for the win and I had to settle for 2nd, 11 seconds back.
Morning rains shortened the course in the Maah Daah Hey and cooler than normal temps made for better conditions for the racers. Evan Plews won the long event in 3:49:11 edging out Tinker Juarez in the male division and Sonia Pond won the female division in 5:10:49.
Last week I made it over to the Duluth Enduro series for the third time this summer, hitting up race #4 which was held at Brewer Park. Before the racing, I met up with Scott Kylander Johnson to ride a lap of the proposed comp/expert loop for the upcoming MNMBS race. Scott along with his wife Sara and fellow COGGS members have been working hard creating a longer loop that features a healthy dose of climbing, old school singletrack and a sprinkling of flow trail to make for one sweet course. Had a great ride and always fun to hook up with Scott and chat mountain biking.
(Photo: Scott Kylander Johnson on on technical descent at Spirit Mountain)
The enduro was the best one yet, in my opinion. Although there was a bit more grumbling from the racers about the course, personally I thought the two stages were a great representation of what enduro is. The first stage was a descent down the climb of Kissing Booth trail, one of the more technical trails in the Duluth trail system. It wasn’t as fast riding as previous stages and required 100% full on attention. One key highlight was a rock face to ride up. The second stage was fast rolling flow trail, lot of pedaling at the top. After the run the adrenaline was riding and continued as we rode our way back to the parking lot. The Duluth Enduro series will continue this week, giving riders a preview of the Enduros this coming weekend than wrap at Mon Du Lac the end of the month. Super fun event, highly recommend hitting it up if the chance. Big shout out to the organizers and coordinators putting the event on.
Cuyuna was host to the Surly Red Dirt Fest last weekend and TouchTheSkyBlue capture the event nicely with a ton of photos. In addition to riding, there were all kinds of events for all ages and abilities.
One of the longer running point to point races in the UP, the Ore to Shore takes place in the communities of Negaunee, Ipsheming and Marquette. The course features a mix of fast rolling doubletrack, forest roads broken up with challenging climb on bedrock. Always a strong field racing for big prize money.
Duluth is host to a full weekend of mountain biking with the Kraus Anderson Bike Festival. The Festival will feature downhill racing, enduro racing and highlighted on Sunday with race #8 in the MNMBS. The cross country race is guaranteed to be unlike anything in the series this year and will be a great challenge with some old school trails along with flow trail catering to all ability levels.
The Leadville 100 might be in Colorado but the event always sees good representation from the Midwest in part with the connection to Lifetime Fitness. The 100-mile out-and-back course is in the midst of the Colorado Rockies. Low point, 9,200 feet; high point is Columbine Mine, 12,424 feet. Majority is on forest trails with some mountain roads.
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