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High School

Midwest MTB Report

by Jay Richards
October 23, 2018

After a cold and wet start to the month of October, the tables have turned somewhat, to most importantly dry weather. Although it continues to be a bit cooler, there has been some great late season riding. Still a few races occurring as the season winds down including the high school scene which wrapped up in Wisconsin last weekend and will conclude in Minnesota this coming weekend. This weeks final report of the season includes a recap from the Black's Grove River Crossing mountain bike race, quick highlights from the Wisconsin State High School Championships, Collegiate Nationals, and a look ahead to the final big point to point in the race, the Iceman Cometh.

Black's Grove-Gnarl of the North

Black's Grove trail system was host on Sunday to a trail run and mountain bike race on the hand built trails that follow along a gurgling creek amongst old growth spruce trees. The trail is one of the more if not most technical cross country trails in the state. It remains a hidden trail system, for the most part, but slowly more riders are discovering this gem that is tucked away just a few miles off the busy hiway 10 interstate. The Black's crew is a devoted group or riders, mostly families, that take great pride in the trail system and what really sticks out, to me, is the no ego vibe. For the size of the community, the group has done a fantastic job bringing in new riders to the sport with weekly group rides that occur throughout the entire year, outside of the thaw in the spring. Before the start of the Sport race, the group honored Denny Barry and Terry Olson for their priceless contributions to the trail and special t-shirts were made in their honor.

Frosty morning for the start of the Gnarl of the North (Credit: MN Trails)

Although I had intentions to make it to the race, earlier commitments in the day prevented me from making the 12:00 start. However, I did stop by in the afternoon to enjoy the beautiful day and perfectly buffed out track. A hard freeze overnight than a mid morning thaw made for some greasy conditions in some sections but slowly was tacking up as the day passed.

The fifth annual event saw it's largest turnout ever with the young riders stealing the show in the overall in each division, appropriately, as the youngans fine tune before the state high school cycling league championships in Mankato this weekend. Post race riders enjoyed an arrangement of recovery food amongst the smell of burning pine sifting through the air form the large timber built shelter.

Sport Winner Jacob Olson creekside (Credit: MN Trails)



NICA Race #5 – Wisconsin State Championship- Trek Trails, Waterloo WI

Joseph Fitzgibbons reports from the final NICA race in Wisconsin:

Mountain bike racers, coaches, parents and spectators made their way to Waterloo Wisconsin on Sunday for the 5th installment and final race of the 2018 NICA season. Pre-race events included a pre ride, homecoming dance, movie, and autographs with Emily Batty. Race day competition was stiff as hundreds of student athletes showed the skills and endurance they have gained since the start of the season.

The Pre-ride weather conditions were described as “memorable” by some and “character building” by others. Though whipping winds and light snow made a brief appearance for the first practice lap on Saturday, race day conditions were really good on Sunday. Race time temperatures started in the 30’s and rose to the high 40’s with clear skies and light winds. The cool weather made it a good day for a hard effort.

Rolling to the start on a chilly morning (Credit: Joseph Fitzgibbons)

The Trek Trails race course can be described as a true physical challenge set in pine shadows and prairie. Riders start out on double track that leads to a right turn and steep climb. Next is a long section of single-track that tests the riders cornering skills over and over and over again. After crossing through the prairie, riders re-enter the woods and meet with a sustained climb to the top of a large drumlin. Racers are tested on single and double track circling the drumlin. Then an exciting downhill decent toward the finish line. For most riders this first visit to the finish line is just the beginning, marking the first of two, three, or four laps.

Rolling through the Trek Trails

Sunday’s race caps off a five race season that started on September 9th. Racers have encountered all sorts of weather conditions and race courses. NICA volunteers and staff have marked courses, marshalled checkpoints, photographed and recorded results for hundreds of race finishers. Coaches have covered hundreds of miles of trail in practices and parents hundreds more on the road traveling to the race venues. All this effort is rewarded with countless memories of a fun and successful season. Many thanks to all who contributed to the 2018 season!


Collegiate Nationals

Missoula, Montana was host to the USA Cycling Collegiate Nationals under classic autumn weather. Wisconsin native Marian College student Caleb Swartz posts on Instagram:

Caleb Swartz full gas to the finish line for third place in the short track

Made some memories that will last a life time this past week in Missoula. It was great to see friends from around the country and throw down in the mountains. The entire Marian Cycling squad gave it everything to take 3rd in the team omnium and I also had a blast battling for 3rd in the stxc and leading out our team relay squad for another podium.

USA Cycling Coverage
Social Media Coverage
Related: A Mysterious Fire Destroyed Their Bikes. Here’s How They Made It to Race Day

Spend Money on Trails or Roads

American Trails recently came out with a report on the impact of trails.

"There are few studies that directly compare trails benefits to road benefits, but we've gathered some quotes from various research that have come across our plates. The most common arguments center around economic impact of trails on property values and local economic benefit.

Tight and Twisty singletrack trail at Blacks Grove

"There is a huge amount of evidence that trails add value to properties and bring in significant increases in tourism spending, that roads just do not have. Quite the opposite, actually. It is clear that owning a home near a busy road automatically decreases property values. This is most evident as you notice that expensive properties are located in cul-de-sac communities with small, narrow, winding roads, while low-income housing is often found immediately adjacent to expressways and large arterial roads. In contrast, homes located adjacent to trails have documented increased property values."

Read the full report 

Looking Ahead

Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh Challenge is a point to point mountain bike race held traditionally on the first Saturday of November. The race starts in downtown Kalkaska, Michigan and finishes thirty miles later at Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort on the eastern edge of Traverse City, Michigan. The course consists primarily of dirt roads, two-tracks (the majority of the course), abandoned railroad beds and the world famous Vasa Nordic ski trail. It crosses only one paved road (Williamsburg Rd at mile 17) as it winds through the breathtaking terrain of the Pere Marquette State Forest in Northern Lower Michigan. In 2017, 5393 athletes participated!!

The Bell’s Iceman events attract competitive cyclists from Mexico, Canada, and 38 states. Ages range from 1.5 years to 80 years of age. Their ability levels vary from first-time racers to Olympians


This concludes the Midwest Mountain Bike Reporting of the season. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the reports, all the race promoters, trail builders and everyone who helped make it another great year of mountain biking!

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

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