It’s almost here. Michigan’s first true, massive and rockin’ bike race is this Saturday. Mud, Sweat and Beers has been sold out for months, and anticipation has only been growing as the date approaches.
The race has become the official kick-off of the summer with its perfectly positioned May 5 date. Riders from all around the Mitten will converge on Mt. Holiday for a variety of events ranging from the Ginger Ale kids race (I’m predicting a young man on a lime green bike named Wyatt for that one) to the Pale Ale to the 20 mile Stout.
The course itself has officially been altered, but the Powers That Be have kept the details of new course sections under wraps. Trails on the 25km loop have been ridden to perfection all over as riders check for any indication that their favorite single track has been included. The official word is that the new course will include a bypass of the infamous Wall climb (or jog, for many pushing their bikes) as well as a jaunt through the beautiful Timber Ridge property that borders a section of the trail. Some of the possible bypasses of the Wall include a rather lengthy single track or a shot through sand, but no one has confirmed that new route. Even those in the know admit the course was changed again as recently as Monday.
The big names of the spring will be on hand. With no Elite category, the Expert Men 20-29 age slot will see the return of riders like Chad Wells, the North Country Cycle Sport duo of Mike Anderson and John Cowan (Riders 1 and 3 in the Top Banana competition), and Tyler Jenema. Traverse City always defends home turf as best as possible, and its two top teams send legions to this race. Einstein Racing will be represented in the 20-29 Expert category by Jorden Wakeley, fresh (or as fresh as possible) off a twelfth place finish at the NUE Series #1 race, the Cohutta 100. The 20 or so mile course is going to be a sprint for all the top men and top women, but for Wakeley, it’s going to be especially brief. He’ll be anchored by teammates Jason Lowetz, Ty Schmidt, Ron Sanborn, Ryan Kennedy, John Leach and a host of others in the first wave in different age categories.
Hagerty Cycling will send Mike Okma, Brian Hofstra, Brian Carps and both Sovis Brothers for the Expert 20-29 start line, as well as Tim Barrons, Don Fedrigon, Dan Hofstra, Pete Warden, Dave Bucholtz, Steve Andriese and more in the various “Old But Fast” age groups.
Epic Happens Race Team, too, will make its debut in force, slotting in with a strong roster including Spencer Payne (The Man Born With A Nickname), Jack Kline, Nathan St. Onge and under orders from director sportif Matt Hodges. The squad is down two men to medical issues. Josh Plowman broke his leg lifting a house to save children from a fire (his version of events), while Shawn McNamara is under orders to sit it out for the safety of other riders. He is just too fast.
The Women’s race looks to be a TC affair. After last year’s battle, expect absolutely nothing but a street fight as Hagerty Cycling rounds up the gang to take on Einstein’s Johanna Schmidt. In 2011, Schmidt took the win ahead of the chasing Hagerty trio of Susan Vigland, Lauri Brockmiller and Bridget Widrig. With Fusion’s Kim Thomas skipped MSB to attend Sunday’s Cone Azalia Road Race, it looks like another TC Showdown for this Sunday.
It’s an eternity in Northern Michigan weather, but the forecast calls for rain on race day. Rain Thursday would be beneficial, but showers the day of would leave trails slick and sticky. At the very least, the race’s name would live up to expectations. On that note, a special reminder that Hagerty-TOLaw U-25 team will be hosting a bike wash immediately following the finish of the race (or, as soon as Yours Truly gets to the hose) all for donations for the Youth Cycling program. Donations are accepted, encouraged and shook out of you, all for the noble end of purchasing road bikes for the program to offer for kids to learn to ride on. The person that donates the most at the wash will get recognized right here on kolo t.c.
The race recap and photos will be up late Saturday night, complete with Strava data and interviews from Einstein, Hagerty and Epic Happens team members. Get ready, get tuned up, and bring your bottle opener….