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High School

Midwest MTB Racing Recap

by Jay Richards
September 21, 2010

Recap of the mighty Chequamegon and a look ahead to the busy bike weekend in St. Cloud highlights this weeks report.

Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

Rolling down Main street, Chequamegon 40, September 18, 2010

I haven't kept track of exactly how many Chequamegons I have been to. The first one was in 1990, racing the Short and Fat the first two years which were complete mud fests including a win the second time, followed by a half dozen or so cracks at the 40 and most recently on the tandem with Jonell doing the Short and Fat. The past two years I have been a spectator, thanks to Lyme recovery, watching the start and finish of the S and F and catching the finishers in the 40. Like many racers in the 40, I dreamed of winning the big race, pounding out countless miles on rolling gravel roads during the summer hoping to put myself in position for good form but a 11th place was the highest I ever achieved. All good, every year was a great experience and memory. Even though I haven't been racing the past two years, the CFTF is definitely one of the highlights of the mountain bike season and this year was no exception.

Friday afternoon we headed east to Cable, arriving mid afternoon to the start of the S and F course for a pre-ride of 5 miles out and back. Everyone was expecting "muddy" conditions but instead we found "wet" conditions with sand that was packed in nicely and a few water holes that were easily avoided. Once again, I shared the story with Jake on how "real mud" conditions found in the early 90's when heavy rain during the night and leading up the race truly created fun in the slop and slime. I did a few jumps with Jake to open up the legs and ran into the Hollywood clan at the end, which capped off a great pre-ride.

We headed to Telemark to register, wondering how the scene would be with the "big top" tent. Pulling into the parking lot, noticed a long line and waited a few minutes before hooking up with Jake. When I made my way up he was already through and picking up his chip and the whole registering process looked to be running smoothly and proper. Ran into the familiar faces and listened to varied reports of the course. On the way out, bumped into Jason Sager who had ridden the last 10 miles out and back and he shared his pre-race plan and spots he thought best to attack if all was going well.

Race day we awoke to a beautiful Fall morning, as the clouds pushed by allowing for brilliant sunshine to ray on through. I have to admit I was nervous for Jake waiting for the start but he remained calm and cool as he prepared to defend his title in the Short and Fat. I noticed a rider chugging down a 5 hour energy and wondered if he was readying himself for the Chequamegon 100. Ha! All good. Race rolled out of Cable 10am sharp with two quads leading the way. Jake reported the start was slow but opened up once they rolled a mile out on course. Jake kept the front in check, watching any moves and once they hit the Birkie trail, made an attack to see who would respond and kept attacking the hills en route to his third title in as many years. Waiting near the finish, the nerves were running high but after hearing the sound of the quads followed by Jonell's hollering, I knew the racers were fast approaching with a good chance Jake was in the mix.

I watched most of the finishers cross the line in the S and F while getting reports from the trail on the update on the 40 and the exciting race unfolding at the front. As the lead riders made their way towards Telemark, Brian Matter broke free from Tristan Schouten after the two chased down Jason Sager who made an attack kinda where he talked about the night before. Post race I caught up with Sager who described the racing and highlighted his time at the front. "Out in front I was thinking I was going to win this thing but I slowly ran out of gas in the tank and thought I could fake it until the end but Matter and Schoten working together was too much to pull off....happy with third" Sager continued. "I enjoy racing these types of events and the Chequamegon represents grass roots racing at its best with the area fast guys always making it a hard race". At the awards ceremony that evening where Trek announced its continued support of the CAMBA trail efforts, matching the efforts of Festival director Gary Crandall. I ran into Doug Swanson who shared his story on the race including the point of loss of contact with the front group when he tried to blast through a water hole, coming to a complete stop (not flipping over). "My feet got cold and it was hard to chase the front group down. But those four guys at the front deserved to be there, they were the strongest on the day and raced hard...I'm very happy with my race though", Swanson stated.

Sunday Funday is definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for us and a great way to cap off the weekend. I always remember Sunday superstar Dan Swanson saying "I don't care what happens on Saturday, I'm here for Sunday". Although the numbers have been down in recent years, Crandall and crew have done a nice job making some adjustments to improve participation. I talked to Gary about it a bit on Sunday and think a lot more people are riding the extended network of trails in the CAMBA system. Saturday and Sunday, for the first time while attending the CFTF, I was able to check out some of the area trails, riding the Rock Lake singletrack on Saturday and hitting the Ojibiwa trail with Jens Sunday morning. Sunday changes including moving the "hill climb" to the slope bringing riders right up to the spectators and moving the straight line, bunny hopping and limbo up near the big top. All great ideas and anyone who was in the area but bailed on Sunday, missed out -- make plans to participate next year!

The Cable Crit Cross returned for the second year with a few nice changes and the racing was intense and exciting as Jack Hinkens displayed his mad cross skills to the bowl spectators en route to the win. The highlight for me was watching Jake bunny-hop, clearing 26" on the day and basically having fun on the bike. That is what its all about. Jake doesn't practice "bunnyhopping" but instead probably cashed in on skills learned over the years at the dirt jump track, pump track and lake jump we had on one of the docks this summer.

After traveling across the country with Jake hitting National events, in effort to race against more Juniors, the Short and Fat has been the best race experience for sure. The racing time is exactly what Juniors should be doing, in my opinion, and not racing two sometimes three hours. Our younger riders will be best prepared to exceed, and more importantly develop a love for racing, by racing shorter distances as Juniors before making the transition to the Senior ranks. Thanks Gary and crew for putting on a great event.

Chequamegon Coverage on Skinnyski:

Looking ahead

Single Track Escape

A busy weekend of cycling and fundraising on tap in the town of St Cloud as the Minnesota wraps up its season with the Revolution Cycle and Ski Single Track Escape on September 25th. The event is also a major cycling and Nordic skiing trail fundraiser as all proceeds from the event will be directed back towards ski trail and single track trail development, grooming, snow making and maintenance in the St. Cloud area to benefit all area silent sports enthusiasts.  This years version is the final race of the Minnesota State Championship Mountain Bike Series and is being run on a single track course in St. Cloud at the Graystone North Loop.The Mid Min Cycling Club has been working hard preparing a great course and racers of all ability from newbies to pros will find a fun and exciting course with lots of single track and open areas to pass. The trail system is open for riders wishing to try out the course in advance of the event. The race will also host the MN State Single Speed Championships to be run in the Sport Race and a male and female state champion for single speed will be crowned. Sunday the cyclocross season cranks up with the PorkChop Challenge.

Check out the full press release

Red River Bicycle Festival

The Red River Bicycle Festival will be held this weekend featuring cyclocross and mountain bike races on the new MB Johnson mountain bike trail. The Moorhead Police Department will also be hosting a bike rodeo.

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/Paramount mountain bike team and enters his 20th year of racing and promoting mountain bike races.

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