Midwest MTB Racing Recap

June 14, 2011
There were no shortage of mountain bike events this past weekend in the Midwest -- most likely the busiest weekend of the season. Exclusive reports coming in from the Lutsen 99er, Woolly race, the Race to Sunset, the Cuyuna Festival, and the Big Ring Classic, and the usual look ahead as we move in to the summer season of racing.

Lutsen 99er

The Grand Marais area was host to the Lutsen 99er which featured a race start at the ski area of Lutsen. Riders climbed a "category 3" climb before rolling along the scenic north shore including glacially sculpted terrain, rolling hills, and numerous lakes and streams. Rebecca Sauber, winner of the 99 event and 16th overall among the 43 participants in the long event, provides the recap:

My husband Lonie and I decided to race first Lutsen 99er mountain bike race! The race started and finished at the beautiful Lutsen Mountain Resort. Two words to describe this race; "epic" and "fun!" The race started out going down hill and then lead to a category 3 climb. The race also consisted of very technical rocky sections, fire roads, bogs, snow mobile trails, water crossings, and gravel roads. We even saw a HUGE bull moose!

I was with the lead group for a few short miles and then I got dropped! I ended up riding by myself for the majority of the race. In one of the bog sections I fell off the bike and I was completely submerged underwater to my neck! I looked liked a "mud monster" with pink lipstick on my lips (but that is what matters right)? Then a few miles later, in a rocky section I looked up, hit something and did an "X-Games Endo!" I flew over the handlebars, I guess the rigid fork was not the ticket. I eventually got back on the saddle and continued to race.

I had one flat around the 72 mile mark, not bad considering all the technical sections. I ended up finishing with Ryan Fitzgerald and Jason Scherman with a time of 7:13. I was happy to pull off the win and congratulations to Sam Beveridge to take the men's win! Second place was Dan Dittmer, Third place was Todd Mc Fadden, fourth Lonie Sauber, and fifth Rod Raymond.

The post race party was just as good as the race! There was a great band and fun people! This race was "no walk in the park," Lonie cracked his bike frame to prove it! I highly recommend this race, I can't wait to do it again next year!


Woolly Race

The Woolly race continues to step up to the plate nicely each year and deliver a great, grass roots race with lots of schwaag and great course for participants. Race director Matt Fisk provides the run down (and photos) on days leading up to the event and race day:

The week of Woolly prep started a week early. We finally received approval from the City of Saint Croix Falls to start building additional trail in Riegel Park. A few dedicated volunteers spent hours and hours right up until Friday afternoon to complete almost a mile of new single track, while still preparing all our existing trails.

We did receive some rain late Friday and early Saturday, but Saturday morning greeted us with cool and cloudy weather, ideal for racing. It is always fun to watch the youth soccer player and parents, as they are surprised to see the school's parking lot filled with lycra-clad cyclist. We have always co-existed peacefully, even if a few soccer-watching Grandmas wondering across the race course oblivious to the cyclists passing through at high speed.

The Comp race quickly developed very early into a 5-man race with Chad Sova, Joshua Tesch, Nathan Lillie, Maury Malanaphy, and Barry Tungseth leading everyone through the 7 mile course, which combines single track, double track, ski trails, walking paths, paved and limestone trails. The group was able to keep its gap on all chasers as they traded pulls through the first 2 1/2 laps. Joshua Tesch decided to attack through the new single track on the second half of the third lap. He was able to solo through the second half of the course ahead of the other four, who were battling back-and-forth behind him. Second and third was decided with an exciting sprint finish with Maury besting Nathan by inches. The women's race may have lacked a sprint finish, but it wasn't any less exciting as Linda Sone was first across the line ahead of Corey Coogan, and Kris Brazil was able to fill out the ladies podium.

The high point of the Rec Class was when this year's winner, and local legend, "Wayne-O" Smestad crossed the finish line with only one crank arm. His other crank arm fell off his bike as he was crossing the school's driveway approaching the start/finish shoot. Sara Bisso was the first lady to finish in the Rec Class and was also third overall after being narrowly beat to the line by Dave Gray.

The post race activities were enjoyed by all with the Baby Mammoth kids race and enough schwag for everyone involved to take something home from some of our generous sponsors like Park Tool, Penn Cycle, Amery Pedal, Paddle, Ski, Peace Coffee, STOKE! Seats and Maplelag Resort.

The Woolly Race might be over for another year, but our trail network is open all year. We are currently enjoying the fruits of Saturday's labors as the trails are in the best shape of the year so far. We will have a trail map posted soon on woollyrace.com and plan on having permanent signage up by the end of summer (Thanks to a grant from Clif Bars and IMBA!). We are also starting a group ride every Tues PM at 6:30 meeting at the St. Croix Falls High School Parking Lot. The ride will be open to anyone and everyone that wants to join us.


Race to Sunset

The race to Sunset is the largest mountain bike event in North Dakota with 10 hours of racing at the Sleepy Hollow park outside of Bismarck. Riders were competing on a 4 mile loop with rolling hills and swooping GS style turns. Riders report nothing technical but challenging in that the hills were deceiving in a sense they were longer and steeper than what they appeared. Tom Heilman who files a report, sums up the course. "For the most part it was 3.8 miles of singletrack through prairie grass and a few spots where it dipped into low lying trees that became a bit tighter requiring a bit more skill steering the steed at speed."

Tom continues: "The Race to Sunset endurance event was held in Bismarck ND over the weekend. It was well attended with 108 partipants from a number of different states. A number of Fargo Moorhead mountain bike enthusiasts made the trip to attend. Paramount Maplelag was well represented with a number of racers.

Grimsley's Garage took home top honors in the 10 hr relay event with a team made up of John Morgan, John Goddertz, and Chad Weisgram. 2nd went to Island Park with Zach Johnson, Asa Jacobs, and Taylor Krosbakken. 3rd was one of two Paramount Maplelag teams consisting of Jeremy Dirk, Tony Schmitz, Tom Heilman, and Kevin Fitz.

Kelly Magellky won the 10 hr solo event. All in all it was a perfect day for racing and everyone had a fantastic time riding, racing, and hanging out with a bunch of bicycle folk."

Results (posted soon)

Cuyuna Festival

The grand opening of the Cuyuna trails took place last weekend including a time trial and cross country race as part of the weekend festivities. Former Minnesota Pro, Kyia Anderson files the report and photos from the Crosby area:

This past weekend Kris and I attended the Cuyuna MTB Festival so I could set up at the expo for Hidden Bay Sports, check out the new trails and so Kris could participate in the Time Trial and the XC race of the Festival. With events scheduled both days the Festival had things for newbie mountain bikers to the seasoned mountain biker. One of the many highlight to the festival was the attendance of Mountain Biking Legend Hans “No Way” Rey who led some clinics and seminars on Trials riding and Mountain Biking also creating a big “buzz” among the cyclists new and old wanting to get a photo’s and autographs with this icon and pictures.

Saturday’s Trek Time Trial on the Yawkey Mine Lake section was a short 3 mile TT in the afternoon. I’m not aware of the results at this time but it seemed like racers commented that this section of trail seemed built for slower speeds (a nice beginner family MTB trail) so a lot of people were overshooting the corners.

Sunday afternoon the XC racers left Serpent Park at 12:30 p.m. (delayed start due to some timing issues) with a controlled parade roll out. Once all the racers got to the Pennington Mine Boat Launch parking lot they were re-assembled and the 2 lap race and the 1 lap race began. With a fast open road start and a few quick pedal strokes up a hill riders were shuffled into the “Easy Street” single track. Aaron Swanson of Ashland, WI got into the single track first with Doug Swanson (Grandstay) hot on his heals. The Elite women’s racer Jenna Rinehart (Specialized) filed in about 5th overall in the field and Dianna McFadden (Trek Co-op) was top 10. Through the feed zone we saw Doug Swanson with a comfortable lead, followed by young Peter O’Donnel, Tom Miller, Mike Bushy and Aaron Swanson all riding strong. Rinehart was riding with a solid lead (12th position overall) in the women’s race and McFadden was settling into her race (around 16th). Once bottles were handed out spectators shuffled down the hill to watch the racers come through and start their second lap. Doug Swanson was seen slaloming down the “Trammer” single track still in the lead and crossed the road to the start his second lap, and then 2nd and 3rd place riders O’Donnel and Miller came from a different direction down the road, then Rinehart came from that same direction seeming very confused (rumor had it a truck went through the course tape). It seemed like the rest of the racers managed to stay on course at this point and begin lap 2, except for the handful of racers who were victims of untimely flat tires and cut sidewalls from the sharp rocks.

Bottle hand ups never happened on the racers second lap as somewhere after the start of their second lap everyone got directed to either the 1 lap race trails or back up another section of the trail multiple times (Kris and many other racers did one section 3 times that was only supposed to be once). Swanson came back to the feed zone and told us the race was over and that everyone had gotten directed in the wrong direction and racers were all over and not necessarily racing the correct courses. Once I returned to the finish line there were many confused racers. From my understanding the results for the 2 lap race were “neutralized” and everyone was to receive a medal for participating.

Photos from Kyia

WORS Big Ring Classic

Race #3 in WORS headed to the eastern part of the state to the popular 9 Mile Nordic trail system. The course is fast and furious and always seems to provide its share of mechanicals and bumps and bruises on the day. Comp racer Aaron Sturgis files a report from the day:

Big Ring Classic = fast trails, fast riders, and a great racing venue. Sunday did not disappoint. We rolled into Nine Mile with temps hovering around 70°, sunny skies, and light winds. The sport racers were just finishing up and were talking about how dry and blazing fast the trails and single track were. I was stoked to get out there and push the limit on a course that sets-up well for the 29ers.

I threw on the number plate and got a descent warm-up in and rolled up to the start that touted a pretty strong field. Not long after the elites took off we where off and redlining it through the woods on some sweet double track. What makes the Big Ring a classic is how open and fast the course is. The roll out is brutally fast and long. It felt like we rode a good three miles before we hit the first single track. By the time we shot out of the first rocky single track I had lost the wheels of the lead group and began the fight to catch back on.

By the second lap a group of five formed that included Rhinelander native, Chris Cook. Each one of us took a pull here and there and before we knew it we began to reel in riders and drop others off the back. By the last lap our group was down to just me and one other rider. We took it easy through the single track and then would let loose on the ski trails. Half way through the third lap we started to hit traffic from the elite riders and eventually caught two more comp riders. The last ski trail section I decided to put in a hard effort to see what everyone had left in the tank. No one was able to jump on my wheel and I was able to solo in at 16th. I’m still looking for that race where I put together the perfect start, the perfect laps, and the perfect finish. Either way, Sunday’s Big Ring race lived up to its name…Classic.


Looking ahead

After the super busy weekend, things quiet down a bit but the racing is far from quiet at Afton Alps as race #3, the Afton Avalanche, provides one of the most demanding events in the series, in my opinion. Although the course isn't particularly technical, the lung busting climbs make it one of the hilliest in the series and some sweet flowing singletrack for sure. Naturally, the course is adjusted for each race class so don't be turned away from another great venue in the Minnesota series.

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/Paramount mountain bike team and enters his 21st year of racing and promoting mountain bike races.