First weekend of August is in the books, with the big Duluth Bike Festival and Maah Daah Hey 100 major events happening and another WORS race in the books. This weeks report includes recaps from both events and a look ahead to the weekend as we move through one of the busier months of the season with high school season practice already starting and racing approaching later this month. Also event highlights for the Seeley Pre-Fat later this month.
Duluth Bike Festival
Spirit Mountain was host to the two day Duluth Mountain Bike Festival which was highlighted by Enduro and Downhill races on Saturday and the MNMBS cross country race on Sunday. Like last year, warm weather greeted racers except for the downhill and short track events which were delayed because of late afternoon rain shower and cooler temps associated with the precipitation. The races went on, not slowing down the track but making the rocks a bit more tricky. The buzz from the downhill was 12 year old Bodee McFadden sending it hard through the Calculated Risk downhill.
Sunday brought race #5 in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series with a new course and even warming temp with highs near 90 by afternoon racing. The course was switched up from last year with Sport/Comp/Marathon and Elite riders climbing up the all weather switchback trail before descending down into old style rocky singletrack that included a A line with a rock drop and easier B line than swinging over to finish out the lap on the Duluth Traverse and flow trail which was also the loop the Kids Comp and Citizen riders competed on.
Not having raced since race #2 in the series at the local ski area in Detroit Lakes, I was looking forward to getting out after a very busy summer including extra amount of trail building at Maplelag which provided some great cross training in between a good summer of riding on the Laddies Loppet course and new trail that was recently completed. The course at Spirit Mountain has always been one of my favorite courses in the Midwest, having first raced there in 1990! Not only did we race there as part of the series but there was maybe a three year block when the Green Man Festival held a cross country race and used Spirit Mountain for the course. With the development of the flow trail and alpine slide to the west, much of the old style singletrack is a thing of the past but this years course designer, Mason Bacso did a fantastic job with help from family and friends, of laying out a really sweet course. It was disappointing to hear the negative vibe from some of the locals about the course knowing the hard work it takes to put on a race and the time involved to make sure the track is dialed in. Personally I thought the switchback climb made for better climbing than the puker climb and transitioned nicely to the old style segment which was the section I most look forward to each lap.
I arrived with about an hour to get ready and thankfully son Jake had my bib and within 10 minutes we were on the bikes and headed up the climb to check out the A line. I caught up with a few familiar faces which is always a highlight of the races including hooking up with the Bacs0 bros who were tuning and marking the course the night before and up early setting the course....and now ready to race. We stopped at the drop on the A line, inspected and watched Jake and a few others go off. There was a good technical ride around the drop which I opted for each lap.
Off the start I rode pretty conservative spending time at the back with Dave Christansen and Robert Kohl. With the heat and direct sunlight on the climb, I didn't want to blow up early. After the first climb we were treated to the first descent which was off camber, behind the saddle stuff with a good mix of rocks and roots. With recent dry conditions, the course was pretty dusty but nothing crazy that you couldn't see anything.
As the race unfolded, I ended up bridging up to Zach Goldberg and we eventually worked together to slowly move up the field and increase of lap speed.I was hoping to bridge up to Jake to ride part of the race but he was ripping apart the downhill segments anyways and riding behind him would of most likely been short lived. On the final climb, Zach made an effort to pull ahead and and put a small gap on me. Not helping out was I dropped my water bottle and had to stop and pick it up. I was feeling the best I had all race and felt confidence to make an attack to bridge up again and knew it would be good to try and get in front of Zach before the descent. I was able to do that and pulled Zach through the descent and start of flow track. On a flatter and more open part of the track, Zach attacked and got around. Nice move Zach! I jumped on to his wheel and we hammered to the finish, having to work around some lapped traffic but otherwise the finish was clean Zach holding me off by a second as we closed the gap down to riders in front of us. Thanks Zach for the sweet battle.
In the women Elite race, Eleanor Bacso who was second in the Long Enduro the day before, took an convincing win on the home course with a 6 and a half minute gap over second place finisher Beca Somerville. Moriah Johnson, Gabrielle Mazion and Meghan Conrad rounded out the top five.
After the race we spun down on cat track trail, and caught up with legends Jeff Hall and Hollywood reminiscing about courses of year past. A jump in Lake Superior and a round of 9 holes at the Enger golf course capped off a great day. Huge shoutout to Matt Johnson for covering the feed zone and providing cold water each lap. On a day like Sunday, it was huge. Also congrats to his son Cole who was racing in his first elite race and rode a smart race to finish 13th! Well done Cole.
The Maah Daah Hey ranks up as one of the most grueling events in the country. That is saying a lot with the hyper amount of ultra endurance events out there but talking to folks that have done Leadville 100, the Marj, to name a few, it's hard to top the rawness of the Maah Daah Hey trail. Not so much for the terrain but probably more for the extreme weather that can occur, mostly the sun and heat as was the case once again this year. It takes a special rider to finish the event and have a super positive great experience report after this type of event. John Peter of Pelican Rapids, MN. trained exclusively for the event this year and went into the event with high expectations. Mother Nature played her card and John recaps the day:
What a EPICALLY hard day on the bike at the Maah Daah Hey 100. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a harder day physically in any activity. From the start my body felt blocked, couldn’t make power and heart rate was still thru the roof...that’s what you want on a day like today right? .
Temps were in the 90s and my Garmin showed a high of 108 in the sun! Started having bad cramps at around 4 hrs and then I had two terrible crashes (actually my 2nd and 3rd of the day), one at about 25 mph on a descent just after aid station two and another about 20 min later when I spun out in some sand on a climb, cramped, couldn’t unclip and went over the edge...like the edge of the canyon! I rolled twice before I grabbed some brush and climbed back out.
At that point I was having a really hard conversation with myself about quitting but I just couldn’t handle the thought of texting Anna and the kids and telling them I quit. So I sat at the next checkpoint for 15 minutes and told my dad I was gonna start just worrying about one aid station to the next...by then it also felt like we were riding in a full on blast furnace. So it became a game of ice, gallons of water and small goals.
I suddenly understood all those marathoners who are just trying to finish the race...that became me. My dad being there as my sag support also was huge...he didn’t raise a quitter! (And no he didn’t say that ever today...just super supportive) . At one point I believe I climbed as high as 9th but I believe I ended up 14th overall, and of the 60 that started this distance only 29 people finished. I’m maybe more proud that I finished this than anything I’ve ever accomplished in sports as a coach or athlete...and now I might not ride my bike until October ??
The Borah Epic held its seventh annual event this past June and welcomed a record number of riders in both the half and full race distances. For year seven, the Epic generated a $17,500.00 donation to benefit the CAMBA trails, which now totals $107,000.00 since the race was founded in 2013.
The mighty Ore to Shore celebrates it's 20th year racing on the trails in the Upper Peninsula between Negaunne and Marquette. Michigan's largest point to point race always features good competition between top racers in the Midwest racing for big prize money but always good battles among the age categories and a great bucket list event for any rider looking to accomplishment a marathon mountain bike race. With the plethora of sweet singletrack expanding in the area, Sunday Funday is often the highlight of the weekend for many riders.
Rescheduled after inclement weather forced a date change, Mount Kato is set to host race #6 in the Minnesota series. MNMBS and MN High School Cycling League are joining forces to bring back the iconic Bluff Riders Charge. All proceeds from the race will benefit the MN High School Cycling League scholarship fund, which directly helps to get more kids on bikes in Minnesota.
Mountain bikers and Fat bikers are invited to race in the 24th PreFat Mountain bike race presented by Freewheel Bikes and the Seeley Lions Club. The event start and finish site will be at the “OO” Birkie Trailhead. A new bike Demo and mini-Expo have been added to the event. The fun Demo and Expo will take place at the race site on Friday, August 16 from 2 – 7 PM. Riders will have a chance to try out new bike models from Trek, Salsa and Surly. There will be food, beverages, music, mechanical help and a special kid’s skill course available to get you warmed up for Saturday’s races.
The PreFat event features three competitive distances; Citizen (10 miles), Sport & Fat Bike (17 miles), and Expert (25 miles). There will also be a fun “Cub” untimed event for riders 10 and under. The PreFat provides the perfect warm-up for the Chequamegon Mountain Bike races coming up in September. The race courses go north from the Hwy 00 trailhead using forest roads, and single and double track. These courses allow fast speeds and easy passing, while the CAMBA single track will test riding skills. Junior riders up to age 18 will receive a registration discount for the Citizen, Sport and Fat Bike races. More detailed information about the event and registration is available at www.seeleylions.org.
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 29th 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