Midwest MTB Report

by Jay Richards
September 29, 2021

As far as fall riding goes, gosh darn the month of September is going down as one of the best ever that I can remember. Temps have been running a bit warmer, the fall colors have exploded in the northern locales, and the dirt has been pretty much as good as it gets with just enough moisture to keep things fresh and magical. This final report takes a look back at the Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival and the two favorites I had for the 40 race and how their races played out; a look into a couple of mountain bike related links including recent press covering the hype of all the new trail build in Minnesota; and a look ahead to the rest of the season that is pretty quiet on the racing front, but features another month of potentially primo riding (although my gut tells me things could change quick weather-wise once we get through a week of October).

Fall riding in the Paul Bunyan State Forest

Chequamegon Recap

Another Chequamegon in the books! With Lifetime Fitness taking "control" of the event under the guidance of race director Peter Spencer, the weekend has had a different feel and twist. Gone is the Sunday Funday, but the legendary 40 and Short and Fat remain, and with them a gathering of mountain bikers from across the country to celebrate riding in the Northwoods Wisconsin on the famed Birkie Trail. Each year the course has a few tweaks and changes, but ever-present are the epic Seeley Fire Tower climbs and leg burning rollers near the end. The last Midwest Mountain Bike Report featured a preview of the race and included the favorites for the 40. In the main event, I predicted Jeff Hall would win the men's 40 and Jenna Rinehart the women's division. Unfortunately for both, Jeff Hall ended up falling victim to a mechanical and Rinehart fell just short of adding another title to her record number of 6 wins. Rinehart posted on Instagram a recap from her race:

Race director Peter Spencer offering congrats to a racer (Credit: Christina Spencer)

"So many mixed emotions about my 11th Chequamegon race. This years race format was the first time they started the women’s field separately from the men. This really changed the dynamics of the women’s race. It was much harder to break away. I put in a bit of an effort in Rosies Field and Melissa Rollins was the only one to come with me. We worked together for the first half of the race to build up a gap. 30 miles in we hit Fire Tower climb and I rode at a firm effort knowing that while Fire Tower is hard the race gets even harder when you hit the Birkie trail after that. Once on the Birkie trail we both started to put the pressure on each other up the steep grassy climbs but neither of us could manage to break away. I got a couple small gaps on the atv trail after that but Melisa managed to come back to my wheel when we hit the gravel road. I sat up on the last gravel road knowing it was going to come down to the last few miles of ski trail. With 1.5 miles to go my front tire slipped out on a rut and I found myself on the ground watching Melisa ride away."

Melissa Rollins punches the win, Chequamegon 40, 2021 (Credit: Chequamegon MTB Festival)

"I got back up as quickly as possible but was feeling discouraged that I had just made a major mistake. I started to pedal a bit more and rounded a corner and realized I could still see Melisa up ahead. I gave it everything I had up the last 20 second climb before we rounded the corner to a big downhill finish. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough time left and I ended up finishing 1 second back. I’m proud of my hard effort I put in at the end of Melissa for a super strong ride! It was so much fun to ride and race with you out there. Major thanks to my husband Justin who was all over the course supporting me."

I touched base with Mike Hall, Jeff Hall's dad about Jeff's race. Mike was in support of Jeff, providing feeds and encourage maneuvering through the woods like no other support person, that I am aware of:

Jeff Hall in the mix with the leaders before an untimely flat (Credit: Mike Hall)

"Jeff flatted about 25-26 miles in. Sharp rock slashed a gaping hole in sidewall. Pack just started ramping it up and Jeff was at the front with a couple other riders. A large pack the first half of the race. Took a while for his legs to get going but he was feeling pretty good after the first hills just past OO. I got the news after the Fire Tower. That's where I was going to hand up his final bottle. Bummer to flat but that racing!"

CAMBA Chequamegon MTB Festival Recap

"The Chequamegan MTB Festival -- a spectacular day in so many ways. A bluebird sky, perfect temps, an appropriate amount of mud, and lots of fun for riders and spectators alike."

"Thank you for supporting CAMBA and visiting us at the booth. We enjoyed serving up beer, having a chat, and increasing your odds of winning the Bikepalooza drawing."

More money for the trails!

"One amazing aspect of the day was the announcement by the organizers of Chequamegon MTB Festival of a $20,000 donation to CAMBA. Thank you Cheq MTB Festival - you're the best!"

Complete CAMBA Recap

Rolling through a machine-built rock bed on the Split Rock Wilds Trail

Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival Results

Blevins Blowing Up

Chris Blevins has had a heck of a summer. The Durango native made his chill and skill known worldwide with a world championship victory in the short track last month. Last weekend Blevins won the World Cup at Snowshoe which has helped catapult men's mountain biking to the forefront after the women were stealing the show, thanks to Kate Courtney and the strong women's field. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on Blevins and what his wins means to the sport that has seen a growth in trail building and riding:

Blevins charging at the line en route to a World Cup win at Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia (Credit: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

"Christopher Blevins, 23, of Durango, Colorado, stunned the sport of mountain biking on Sept. 18 by winning the final men’s cross-country World Cup race at Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va., becoming the first U.S. man to win a World Cup “XCO” race in 27 years. It was the climactic finish of a breakout season in which Blevins finished 14th at the Tokyo Olympics and won a world championship in “short track” mountain biking."

Continue Reading

Pro Builders Meet the Demand for New Trail

MPR News recently posted an article on trail builders and details into building trail:

"Professional builders have constructed more than 100 miles of trails in northeastern Minnesota in just the past five years, fueled by a surge in interest in the sport, local volunteer groups that maintain the trails and hefty public investments to fund the construction of the trails."

Rolling through a machine-built rock bed on the Split Rock Wilds Trail

"'That kind of trail-building renaissance has really changed the sport,' said Scott Linnenburger, a Colorado-based consultant who’s overseen trail development around the country, including at several mountain bike parks on the Iron Range."

“'The quality of the trails that have been created have really made it more accessible to all levels of riders.'”

Full Article

Related: Rugged terrain lures mountain bikers to northeastern Minnesota's booming trails.

Looking Ahead

Scenic Blacks Grove Trail won't be hosting their fun "Blacks Grove Crossing" race this year

The race calendar is a bit lighter this fall compared to recent years. Small grassroots, low-key races have given way to more trail riding options as many race directors and volunteers are involved with high school racing.


Join the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew for the 2021 Virtual Oremageddon fundriding event from October 2nd to October 9th, 2021. Choose your race distance and enjoy the beautiful fall colors as you cycle the 12, 25 or 50 mile race routes!

We’ve added more than 24 miles of new single track trails in the past year and holding the Virtual Oremageddon allows the CREW to logistically include many of the newest trails without exceeding our local volunteer capacity to host an event.

Cuyuna offers primo conditions almost daily, and the fall is even sweeter (Credit: Aaron Hatula)

This year’s virtual event will help raise a portion of the necessary funds to build additional natural surface trailhead parking near the Cuyuna Connector trail just north of the city of Cuyuna.

Iceman Cometh

Greasy conditions in the Iceman Cometh, 2014 version (Credit: Jan-Michael Stump/Record-Eagle)

The last big point-to-point event of the season, the Iceman Cometh Challenge, takes place in Traverse City, MI and always draws big time riders to compete for some serious cash. Being held in November, the weather can always be an unknown with snow, ice, and cold, or a late season warm spell. Not as long as the Ore to Shore or Chequamegon, but still a challenging race nonetheless.

Thanks everyone for another great season of mountain biking and racing. Appreciate everyone who contributed to the reports. Enjoy the fall riding and . . .

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 31st 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