Despite a scorcher of a weekend, riders took on the heat as an extra challenge in Midwest events including the Ore to Shore and Duluth Bike Festival. First hand report from the Duluth Bike Festival and highlights from the Powder Monkey, MNMBS race. Also a look ahead to a busy third weekend in August as series racing starts to wind down and High School cycling cranks up!
Duluth Bike Festival/Powder Monkey
The Duluth trails, in particular Spirit Mountain, was beaming over the weekend, not just with the sweet trail conditions but plenty of heat. This didn't stop over 200 participants in the Short and Long Enduro, Downhill and Short track events and a solid field on Sunday for the MNMBS XC race, Powder Monkey. Also taking place were non competitive events like the adventure ride and kids activities.
My son Jake has been dialing into the Enduro scene the past few years and as mentioned in previous reports, I have attended a few midweek Duluth Enduro series events to join him. It is a fun vibe with stages featuring the more technical trails, great riding in between and mountain bike fellowship among the stages. I signed up for the Long Enduro at the Duluth Bike Festival which was four stages on the downhill trails at Spirit Mountain. The combined time from all four stages determines the winner. Each stage was 3-5 minutes in length. The first and third stages were part of the Short Enduro, not as technical as the second and fourth stages but plenty of rock gardens and tight and twisty to challenge all riders. The second stage featured fresh cut fall line singletrack on the "Greenman" trail, named after the Greenman Festival held at Spirt a few years back, that included a super slow tech rock garden. The fourth stage was the super gnar "Calculated Risk" downhill specif trail that featured big gap jumps and a massive sketchy rock face that I hadn't ridden before and had me a bit nervous and hoped to get a inspection run in before the timed stage.
For the first stage, all riders had to ride to the top and it was a pretty sweet scene rolling with a couple hundred riders up the "puker" climb which was part of the XC course on Sunday. At the top I hooked up with Kasey Bacso and we decided to preview the super tech section on the second stage since we had time before our first stage start. We both crash/dismounted on the first try than did a couple more tries, and inspected the best lines before Kasey cleaned it nicely on his second attempt. We rode back up for the start of stage one and drenched in sweat before the start. Since it was early in the day, staying on top of the liquids would be key. Big shout out to the volunteers at the top and bottom of the hill providing ice cold bottled water to riders ALL DAY!
Not having previewed any of the runs, I was a bit more cautious and conservative on the first stage, breaking and slowing before many of the bigger rocks and jumps. The tight and twisty singletrack was the most fun and finishing the run cleanly with no dabs was a success. Since we had a bit more time before the second stage, we rode the chairlift up to ride the second stage. Jake coached me on the lines before we took off than I followed him down. We came to the section Kasey and I previewed, keeping the wheels moving and I was able to clean it without crashing or dabbing. A huge boast of confidence. To keep withing the guidelines, we rode back up to the top, not using the chairlift.
When we got to the top, we didn't have much time until our start and we were mainly getting fluids in and trying to cool down a bit. The starts ran 20 second intervals. Jake gave the same advice as he did before every stage. "Make sure your suspension is dialed and be ready to use the dropper post". The stoke was running high after having a clean practice run and when I got rolling I went with confidence and cleaned the run and buzzing at the finish. It would end up being my best placing on the day.
(Photo: Riding through a rock garden Duluth Bike Festival Enduro, Credit: Cove Flypaa)
After the second stage, we had a two hour break. We caught a bite to eat, chilled for a bit and caught up with other racers to talk about the stages that just occurred and the ones to come. The next two stages were lift assisted which was a relief considering the warm conditions. We used the next hour to preview both the third and fourth stages. The fourth stage was busy with both Enduro and Downhill riders dialing in the lines. We rode with Hunter Schleske who is relatively new to mountain biking and a natural at the big jumps and techy terrain. When we came to the massive rock face, we stopped to inspect lines. Both Hunter and Jake had ridden previously and were set on their lines and Jake said don't follow him as he would be taking the jump line. I didn't get the confidence to try and ride it so I hoofed it. We finished out the run than did a practice run on the third stage.
When we finished it was close to the start of the third stage. The third stage was similar to the first stage, rode clean and had a blast. It was getting really hot so we got some fluids in than decided to get back up to the top and wait as there was bit more breeze.
One more stage, appropriately called Calculated Risk. Dan DeRoma and I continued our conversation in between stages talking about lines, building up confidence and keeping the wheels moving. The cool thing about Enduro compared to XC, is the course talk, bike and suspension set up which is all so critical in riding cleanly and safely. We both pumped each other up for the next stage. Jake said to walk it if not certain. If I felt like "sending it" I was going to. Stage start, feeling the heat, came to the face and didn't do it. All good, finished out the ride cleanly and safely and felt good about the day. Jake and I were both buzzing after the last run so we took one more trip up and rode the first stage again for fun.
(Photo: Jake cleaning the rock drop on "Calculated Risk", Credit: Tone Coughlin)
Sam Kemp, who would go on to win the downhill, took the overall Long Enduro win. Jake was in second and Hunter in third. In the female long Enduro, Hanna Derby took the win by just one second over Abbigail Strigel as Maria Horton was third.
Special shout out to the lift operators at that top and the folks providing steady ice cold water at both the top and bottom of the hill.
After the Enduro, we fueled and hydrated and switched over to lyrca and the XC bikes for the short track. Both feeling the heat but we were committed to give it a shot. When someone makes the effort to put on a rare short track in the Midwest, this would be Mason Bacso and crew, we wanted to support. The short track course was sweet. A combination of access road, flowy singletrack and a jump line option on a rhythm section. The start started straight up the ski hill before getting on course. Of course it was faster than my body wanted to go so I settled in my own pace. I missed bridging up to Nordic skier Zach Goldberg and spent the rest of the race dangling 10-15 seconds off his wheel. I tried a few efforts to close the gap but the body was toast. I looked forward to the wooden ramp jump each lap, appreciative of everyone cheering on the sides. Great way to end a awesome day on the bike. Kasey Bacso took the win, followed by Jake and Jake Boyce.
(Photo: Enjoying the scenery in the Duluth Bike Festival short track, Credit: Tone Coughlin)
Sunday racing action saw riders taking on the most technical track so far this year, with a classic mountain bike course featuring long climbs, and a combination of fast and slow tech singletrack. The marathon riders piled up some serious elevation with all top five riders cranking out 8 laps. Bruce Martens continued is domination of the marathon this year posting the only sub four hour time. Chris Stewart and Nikolai Anikin rounded out the top three as Long Enduro participants, Jake Boyce and Mark Sams rounded out the top five. Holly Windschitl and Ronni Lajoie both pounded out 7 laps as they went 1st and 2nd respectively and Jaci Woinarowicz, Maah Daay Heh 100 participant was third. Constance Sjoquist and Cass Studer took the fourth and fifth spots.
The Elite race saw a few new faces on the line for this year including course designer Scott Kylander Johnson who used the home course advantage for a third place finish. Jeff Hall dominated the field taking yet another win after racing the Ore to Shore the day before. Junior rider Braedon Anderson was third, Ethan Depman fourth and Phoenix Leary fifth.
Scott's wife Sara Kylander-Johnson dominated the women's race taking the win. Megan Barr second, local Enduro star Eleanor Bacso third and Risa Hustad and Danielle Larson rounding out the top five.
The Ore to Shore provided tight and exciting racing this year with the dry and fast conditions. The Hard Rock 48 Women's group broke apart as Emma Swartz would power on to the win. WORS competitors Leia Schneeberger and Lindsey Kriete battled for the second spot with Schneeberger scoring sliver. Men's group saw a group of 8 riders sprint for the finish with Cole House taking the win over Peter Karinen and last years champion, Brian Matter.
(Photo: Start of Hard Rock, Ore to Shore, Credit: Mining Journal)
The Borah Epic held its sixth annual event this past June and welcomed a record number of riders in both the half and full race distances. For year six, the Epic generated a $17,500.00 donation to benefit the CAMBA trails, which now totals $89,500.00 since the race was founded in 2013. “We could not have asked for better conditions this year” said race founder, Chris Jackson. “Everything really fell into place, however, we could never pull this off without the support of our volunteers, sponsors, and of course, participants” added Jackson
Riders looking to get a taste of a few of the trails used in the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival or race on the fast flowing CAMBA singletrack will now have five options for racing this year including a separate fat bike race and a new three person team competition. The volunteers and race officials are some of the best around and the times I have participated in this event has always been a blast. The event will happen rain or shine, maybe or alteration of the courses is all. Complimentary lunch with beverage for post race.
The MNMBS series is winding down with only two races left! Keeping north but heading west, racers will take on the fast flowing purpose built singletrack at the nationally recognized Cuyuna Mountain Bike trails on Sunday. Saturday will feature the Crusher Happy Hour which is open to racers and the public. There will be live music by SOLO, and food provided by Maucieri’s Catering throughout the evening to celebrate the $3.6 million in bonding received for the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Mountain Bicycling Trail in addition to pre-registration.
(Photo: Crushing it at Cuyuna 2016, Credit: Adam Emanoff)
WORS also has two races left in their series as they will wind up before Labor day weekend. Race #9 takes riders back east to Suamico, WI. to race at the Reforestation Camp. Ashwaubenon Nordic Ski Team (ANST) is proud to host this event again for the NE Wisconsin mountain bike community and also a fundraiser for the trails. ANST makes Nordic skiing excellence affordable at the regional and national level for junior skiers. ANST invested 10% of the race proceeds back into the trails and more than matched the dollars with sweat equity from athletes and families as well.
We are still getting chased by a handful of deer flies but come late September, riders will be chasing them in western Wisconsin! Everyone's favorite, the Deer Fly Chase has slowly grown into fun and challenging grass roots feel race on sweet old school type trail with a touch of progressive. Pre-registration is now open for a race course organizers state "will be as epic as ever -- outstanding terrain, a mix of gravel roads, ski trails and the best singletrack around (new singletrack every year, that's our promise to you)."
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 28th 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