A full plate of racing and sweet riding this Labor day weekend in the Midwest as we enter some of the best times of the year for mountain biking. This weeks report includes a full recap from the Laddies Loppet mountain bike weekend at Maplelag Resort, a recap from a wet Copper Harbor mountain bike festival and a look ahead to a quiet weekend outside of the high school cycling scene.
Laddies Loppet MNMBS #10
Laddies Loppet is a mountain bike race I've been promoting at Maplelag Resort since 1990. It is hard to believe it has been 28 years since the first one. The first year I started mountain biking was also in 1990 and after I did a few races that summer, I was hooked and was motivated to build trail and put on a race. When we started building trail, I wanted to build trail similar to what I was racing on and a bit harder, good training to get stronger and build the skill set for the technical courses back in the day found at venues like Quadna Resort, the original Welch Village course, the original trail at Buck Hill that is now covered by condos, Millville and the powerline trail that was part of the Cherry Bomb course near Winona, to name a few. Flash forward to today, the course at Maplelag remains mostly the same with yearly tuning and additions that don't have quite the steep up and down fall line singletrack like the earlier trail. The course provides a good test of technical skills thanks to the peppering of rocks and roots. Even though many people were commenting of the "rootiness" we actually spent quite a bit of work this summer tuning, eliminating a diagonal running roots and cleaning out lines, corners and the hand built berms. In the process of trail tuning, there were a lot of fun group rides testing the new lines and culminated to a Wednesday night time trial the week of that gave the full course a good test as nearly 30 riders showed up to test the legs and skill set on all courses.
Labor day weekend, weather wise, can always be up in the air as we enter the transition of seasons. Forecast was calling for rain on Friday which I was hoping we would miss as it would prevent any pre-riding. The rain held off and folks were able to get out on course and we were able to blow out the entire course, (thanks to Denny Barry and Ben and Marcus Olson for helping out). As it would turn out, the rain would miss completely setting up pretty much perfect racing conditions for the cross country race on Saturday.
As usual, the Kids Comp kicked off the racing. The Kids Comp debuted at Maplelag 6-7 years ago for the series and was great to see a nice size field as both boys and girls were on the line. The top five overall included a girl as Emily Broden took the fourth spot. Hayden Leiseth went on to take the overall win. Local rider Marcus Olson was second, Edison Binsfeld third, and Nathianel Halverson rounded out the top five.
Citizen class was up next and the course was drying out from the morning dew making for a fast track after the kids compers buffed it out. The top three places in Citizen male were led by junior riders Isiah Wilson, Christian Barten and Owen Hall. Female girls followed suit as the boys with junior riders Elizabeth Yray, Selah Scherman, and 12 year old Gracie Gujer rounding out the top three.
The Sport race has been a battle of Junior riders as well for the overall this season but was missing a few riders at Laddies Loppet as a few of them opted up to race in the Comp Class. Local riders put a damper on Barret Hall who has dominated the Sport class this year with Fargo rider Tom Heilman edging out Hall at Maplelag by just four seconds. With different start times for both of those riders, it would of been interesting if they had been racing head to head! Taking the third spot was Peder Arneson who has put many miles on the Maplelag course, especially in the winter time! Sport female once again saw Gabby Gujer take a win over fellow junior rider Isabella Mazion by around 45 seconds. Canadian rider Nicola Bistyak rounded out the top three. Also in the mix of it all was Fargo, ND. rider Steve Wenzel who was the only rider that has competed in every Laddies Loppet since 1990.
The Comp class had a nice battle at the front as Cole Johnson, who was racing up in his first Comp class of the year had a exciting sprint finish with fellow junior rider John Eric-Klecker. Post race chat with Cole's dad informed me that the two riders didn't know each other. Cole's liking to the Maplelag course played to his favor in not only handing the technical trail but giving the confidence to perform well moving up a class and racing almost a hour longer than usual Sport races. The battle for third wasn't really a battle, as the father son combo of Stas and Piotr Bednardski started in separate waves with Stas just edging dad by 38 seconds and would be a foreshadow of things to come in Sunday's short track. Rounding out the top five was Canadian rider from Manitoba Drew Romanovych who edged up retired Snow cross legend Tucker Hibbert.
Drama would unfold in the Marathon class as series leader Bruce Martens came across the line under four hours after completing four laps. As Tom Camp and David Jensen crossed the line, the three riders had a meeting to decide if they would call the race. They made the decision to end the day and made way to the waffle station that the Maplelag staff was preparing hot fresh waffles for the racers.
As they collected themselves, Jeremie Van Ryswyk came rolling through still under 4 hours and kept on rolling through. Camp, Jensen and Martens looked in disbelief and realized if they wanted to keep their placing, they would have to continue on. Camp would eventually catch up to Van Ryswyk and take the lead, putting Jeremy in second spot for the final as Jenson and Martens called it a day. Rich Omdahl and Gnate Hackensack would take the third and fourth, only other riders to crank out a very impressive five laps and over five hours of race time. Martens and Jensen slipped to 5th and 6th respectively. In the female class, two riders took on the challenging course, both ripping out four laps. Ronnie Lajoie edged out rookie Jaci Wainarowicz. At the end of race weekend, my wife and I Jonell hash through the weekend while still fresh in our minds to discuss feedback we receive on how to make the event better and one of the items is to have a cash payout for the Marathon riders. They. Deserve. IT!
The Elite class would be the last group to start on the day. A starter loop was added that included the lakeside drops, the first segment of singletrack built in 1990. Highlights from the Elite group was the women's field that featured 14 starters, the largest ever for Laddies Loppet, including five junior riders, one of them 14 year old Lily Green. The ladies would be assured cash payout provided they finished, a customary act for Laddies Loppet. Sara Kylander-Johnson who has multiple wins at Maplelag, notched another one as she edged out fellow Duluthonian by five minutes. Danielle Larson, Tiffany Edholm took the third and fourth spots as junior rider Zoe Camp rounded out the top five.
The Elite male division had a diverse field of seasoned vets, twentysomethings and a peppering of junior riders. Also in the mix was former Minnesota resident John Wessling who flew in Wednesday to partake in the time trial and inspect the course the next few days leading up to race day. Off the start Wessling got the whole shot but at the end of the start lap, Jeff Hall moved to the front and would stay there the rest of the race seeming to find yet another level of domination. Hall was humble like always giving compliments to the bike, stating how riding a full suspension allowed him to power through the rough sections. Brendan Moore also rode his own pace which was too much for Wessling as those two riders went second and third respectively. Junior riders Calvin Sandberg and Tom Beyer battled for the final podium spot with Sandberg just edging out Beyer by 30 seconds.
Sunday Funday brought exciting short track racing. In the early morning hours, a quick moving cell dropped over a half inch of rain. The rain actually would improve the conditions for the short track course. A new addition to the course featured s turns in a soccer field before getting back on fast double track that featured a dip into a "bowl" that allowed for great spectating for most of the race.
As usual the racing was fast and exciting, culminating to the Comp and Elite races. The Comp class was probably the tightest of the day with the Elite women also in the mix and providing some great battles in between the men. After multiple lead changes in the Comp men, Stas Bednarski made an attack on the second to last hill on the last lap holding off John Peter and Stas's dad Piotr. Tucker Hibbert and Wallace Alexander rounded out the top five after each of those riders took time at the front. After an early lead by Sara Kylander-Johnson, Eleanor Bacso made her way to the front after the fourth lap and was able to slowly build on her lead en route to a 9 second gap at the finish line. Junior riders Zoe Camp, Kasia Bednarski and 14 year old Lily Green kept each other in contact to round out the top five. Should be noted mom Laura Bednarski was also in the race giving spectators the chance to watch the entire Bednarski family race at the same time on the same track! Good stuff.
Previous years in the male Elite race have seen similar race tactics as witnessed in the Comp race this year. However, Jeff Hall made an attack in the second lap which would be the fastest on the day with a 2:32 lap time and completely shatter the group.The rest of the group could only watch him ride away and continue to build on his lead but it was the second lap that did the damage. Hall's last 6 laps were all the exact same time! The race for second continued on within the chase group with most of the group staying together until John Wessling made an attack with two laps to go and would stick for the rest of the race. Calvin Sandberg improved one spot from his cross country finish to take third, Brendan Moore was fourth and junior rider Tom Beyer rounded out the podium.
The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying beautiful summer weather on the lake which including lake jumping with the bmx bike, paddlboarding, and swimming. Other activities outside of racing including yoga, live music, yard games, fireside chats and the traditional Sunday evening "Polish Pong".
The Laddies Loppet weekend is one of the events we most look forward to at Maplelag. We have forged some great friendships among such a fantastic cycling community in the Midwest. One of the highlights for me is riding on the buffed course the next day with some of the riders. We are constantly trying to improve the event to keep interest for our long time guests and attract new riders. We greatly appreciate the support and can't wait for next year. Special thanks to Matt Johnson for his help again this year and my wonderful wife Jonell for all the behind the scenes work she does.
Jason Kask was one of nearly 250 riders to take on wet conditions in Copper Harbor. Jason reports:
Some rainy nights greeted those at the Copper Harbor Trails Festival this weekend. This made for some wet riding conditions. The long XC race incorporated many of the enduro stages that would be raced on Sunday. Pete Karinen and Lexxie Mapes won the overall categories in the long XC. Sunday's enduro race had over 250 participants racing in three categories, expert, sport, and beginner. Due to the wet conditions, some of the stages were changed to drier trails. Pete Karinen again took first with Abby Strigel taking the women's victory in the expert category.
On the Snow Top 10 Mountain Bike Trails in North America
Every time a new top list comes out, I always look for trails that I have ridden, and the ones I haven't that are maybe off the beaten path. On the Snow recently updated their top 10 list after coming out earlier in the summer. The list includes mostly mountain trails out west, two out east and nothing in the Midwest.
Didn't get into Chequamegon? Check out the Gitchee Gumme Traverse featuring 50 miles of urban singletrack crisscrossing Duluth hitting up the diverse complex of trails on the hillside.
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