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High School

Midwest MTB Report

by Jay Richards
September 3, 2019

August is in the books with Labor day weekend sending the shredding into fall and capping off another sweet summer of mountain biking. A busy weekend with multiple events including the Copper Harbor Mountain Trails Festival, the Dakota 5-0  and the Laddies Loppet two day event at Maplelag Resort as part of the Minnesota Mountain Bike series. It was also a big weekend on the World Cup level with the World Championships taking place in Mount Saint Anne, Canada. First hand recap from the Laddies Loppet weekend, highlights from weekend races including Worlds, couple mountain bike related items to note and the look ahead include information on the mighty Chequamegon which is less than two weeks away.

MNMBS - Laddies Loppet

Maplelag was host to the 29th Laddies Loppet this past weekend featuring cross country racing on Saturday and short track racing on Sunday. The weekend is one of the highlights of the year for me personally at Maplelag. Since 1990 when I first started riding and racing, and building new trail for the first race, we've met so many amazing people along the way and always a treat to see the familiar faces each year, many with growing families, and of course the new faces. Going into the weekend the forecast was too good to be true but Saturday turned out to be as advertised and an unexpected mist on Sunday morning did little to slow down the exciting short track racing action and the enthusiasm of the racers and spectators. By afternoon the skies cleared allowing for nice conditions for other activities including paddleboarding, yoga, lake jumping and riding on new trail built this summer, to name a few. The day was capped with live music and the now traditional "around the world ping pong" that lasted well into the evening.

Hot off the start

Saturday cross country racing was highlighted by the continued strong showing by junior riders in all classes and divisions this year in the series that has motivated the 40 and 50 somethings to train a bit harder and smarter, based on conversations with those folk. In the Elite female race, Eleanor Bacso took her first win in the cross country race at Maplelag over junior sensation Zoe Camp. The victory was special to Bacso who took some hard falls on the challenging course in the early years but continued with a positive attitude, keeping the wheels moving and being a great role model along the way for younger riders to always have fun and keep what truly is important in life in perspective and the results will follow. Rounding out the top five was upbeat Jenny Beckman, junior rider Gabrielle Mazion and Erica Wagner.

The men's Elite race was a strong field with seasoned riders including out staters Erik Tonkin who was one of the Pros to compete at the spring UCI race held at Maplelag back in 2007 and John Wessling who flew in from Calfornia with the stars and stripes on his chest after winning a Cat 1 National Championship earlier in the summer. The rest of the field was peppered with the fast juniors and long time racers of the technical Maplelag track. Jeff Hall continued his dominance of the Maplelag track and put on a blistering pace right off the bat, riding his pace as he new the relentless attacks from the junior riders might make it more difficult to take a lead if the front group stayed together. Tom Beyer and Colin Freed were the two junior riders that couldn't match Hall's early pace but rode impressive races to keep the gap to Hall in check, despite not being able to chase him down. Brendan Moore rode consistently to secure the fourth spot a notable finish, in that his riding and racing hasn't been on par with earlier years when racing full time. Possibly the story of the race was the fifth place rider, 18 year old Cal Sandberg, who crashed on the Expert only segment lakeside drops and found himself dead last. After being attended to by his dad John, Cal got rolling again and quickly moved his way up the field to pass nearly 15 riders and complete the final podium spot.

Kids Comp short track start

Sunday Short track saw a light mist that only kept the dust settled in the start finish area and didn't alter the track as far as greasiness. With over 10" of rain in August alone, the ground was naturally moist and as more riders turned up the soil putting the track on the border of being tacky with just a bit of slipperiness. Every class had some fantastic finishes with the junior riders again making for exciting action with the impact of high school cycling clearing making a presence.

The Elite women were mixed in with the Comp men and despite the merge, it was Camp and Bacso battling for the top spot, trading places in their group and riding together the entire race. Bacso made the move on the final turn standing up and sprinting to take the win over Camp. Jenny Beckman, Ashley Busack and Leslie Hale rounded out the top five.

Eleanor Bacso sprints for the win over Camp

The Elite men was an electrifying race with the field of nearly 20 riders grouped together for the early stages until two key groups broke apart. The first group contained Jeff Hall, Calvin Sandberg who had something to prove after the cross country mishap, and flyweight Tom Beyer. The chase group that ended up battling for the final podium spots would be Colin Freed, Mason Bacso, Brendan Moore, and marathon rider Adam Koble.

Hall makes his move

Hall, Sandberg and Beyer rode a honorable race, each taking turns at the front before Hall made an attack just into the woods on the final lap that would stick. Even though there was a steep hill in the "back bowl" that favored Beyer and Sandberg's prowess climbing abilities, they couldn't match Hall's power. The sprint finish for fourth would go to Freed with Bacso nailing the final podium spot.

A exciting day of racing was capped in the afternoon with yoga, paddleboarding, lake jumping, crafts with Meredith, live music and riding on new trail completed this summer. I was able to hook up with a group of nearly ten riders to introduce the new trail and was one of the highlights of the weekend for me, not having the chance to do big group rides like that. Special thanks to all the sponsors, the racers that make it the atmosphere and big shout out to Denny Barry who did so much last minute trail tuning, Matt Johnson handling sponsorship among other things and my wonderful wife for so many behind the scenes duties along with my entire family who all had important roles.

Fun group ride on new trail after the races


Saturday XC Coverage on Skinnyski 
Sunday STXC Coverage on Skinnyski 

Copper Harbor Trails Festival

Four main events were contested over two days on Saturday and Sunday of the Labor Day weekend at the Copper Harbor Trails Festival. The mountain bike cross country races, with a long course of about 30 miles and the short course of about 14 miles both started in downtown Copper Harbor and proceeded along the extensive trail system of the International Mountain Bicycling Association Silver Level ride center. Downhill and Enduro races on Sunday.

Daily Mining Gazette: Full article

Samuel Kilpela, of Atlantic Mine, descends in the long-course cross country mountain bike race in the Copper Harbor Trails Fest on Saturday. Kilpela finished third. (Credit: Chris Schmidt)

Dakota Five O

In its 19th year, the Dakota Five-O continues to entice riders from across the country. From the pristine, hand-built, singletrack that graces much of the course, to the high spirited after party, riders are impressed with the event and the beautiful town of Spearfish in which it is held.

This year's race graced riders with warm temps, for a beautiful day on the bike. On course, riders were graced with 3 aid stations and one 'Bacon Station', which was so named, as over 80lbs of bacon is handed off to riders passing through or stopping in for a rest. After the ride, everyone who participated was offered a free plate of food and many fine beers, courtesy of Barbacoa's Burritos and Crow Peak brewery. There was also plenty of live music to enjoy throughout the day.

Tinton trail, course for the Dakota Five-O

This year Corey Stelljes from Madison, Wisconsin took home his fifth title with the mens win and a time of 3:52:48, while Christy Olsen from Casper, WY took the womens win for her fifth title as well, with a time of 4:43:50. Over $20,000 in cash and prize merchandise was given away to overall winners and other race participants lucky enough to have their name drawn at the prize raffle.


World Championships-Elite Cross Country

Tack one more title onto Nino Schurter’s already cluttered resume.

The Swiss mountain biker and reigning Olympic gold medalist won his eighth world title and fifth straight Saturday afternoon. His 10th world medal also broke a tie for the career record with recently retired mountain biking great Julien Absalon. NBC Sports Full article

Nino Schurter repeats as World Champion (Credit: Sven Martin)

In the women's elite cross country Catherine Pendrel was going strong through the first half of Sunday's race at the UCI mountain bike world championship in Mont Saint-Anne, Que.

But a spill on a mound of boulders in the third lap proved a setback, and left her needing stitches on her elbow en route to a 14th-place finish.

France's Pauline Ferrand Prevot won gold, pulling ahead of the pack in the middle of the gruelling, six-lap, four-kilometre course to finish 43 seconds ahead of Jolanda Ness, the Swiss national champion, and 1:17 ahead of Australian national champion Rebecca McConnell, who led the race for most of the first half.

Pendrel, from Kamloops, B.C., was ranked 10th in the world going into the race and is one of Canada's best hopes at next year's Tokyo Olympics. The others, Emily Batty and Haley Smith finished ninth and 12th respectively. CBC full article 

E-Bikes Allowed in National Parks

The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other public lands administered by the Interior Department will now allow pedal-assisted e-bikes on all approved bike trails following an order issued NFS approves e-bikesby Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Thursday. The order opens approximately 400 national parks and other federally managed backcountry areas to e-bikes. 

Related: First ever UCI E-Bike world championships 

Trails in Tonka

The Minnetonka City Council approved a controversial mountain bike trail through Lone Lake Park on Monday night that some opponents fear will compromise habitat for an endangered bee. The 5-2 vote came well after midnight. Council members Bob Ellingson and Rebecca Schack were the no votes. Dozens of people testified for more than two hours at a council meeting packed with off-road bike enthusiasts and environmentalists.

Looking Ahead

Chequamegon Changes

Heading up Fire Tower Climb-Chequamegon 40

The mighty Chequamegon is less than two weeks away and the course has been marked and anxious riders have been pre-riding the course. The Fat Tire 40 will have a new feel this year with the new Pro/Elite division slated to start later in the day at 1:00 pm. A field of nearly 50 riders will be battle for cash prizes after the age class mass start race at 10 am. 

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

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