As we close upon the 2019 edition of Mud, Sweat and Beers, I can’t get out of my head the defining moment of the illustrious Julius Caesar’s life and its relation to our current state of affairs just days before MSB 2019. 800 spandex-warriors journey home to Traverse City to compete for triumph and glory. With just two days before the race, we’ve crossed the point of no return for preparedness; this close to the race, you’ve got what you got and there’s no going back. Is this scenario entirely unlike Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C. when he and his army crossed back into what is now northern Italy, thus starting the extremely long and bloody civil was against Pompey? As Suetonius said to his commander as the army crossed the famous landmark delineating Rome’s territory, “Alea iacta est.” The die is cast. Like Caesar and his legions, we’ve only to continue forward to the start line and let the chips fall where they may.
BOOM. That $45K history degree was totally worth it.
In the ten years this race has been around, the Elite field has grown exponentially in both quality and quantity. In year ten, we’re witnessing the zenith of competitiveness for the race. If picking a winner is tough, picking riders to fill out the top five and even the top ten is a task too difficult to even attempt. Jorden Wakeley returns from almost two weeks of riding in Arizona to take on this deep field of contenders, and with the preparation he’s had, he has to be the main favorite. If anyone can give him a run for his money, Jeff Owens is the guy to do it. The TC local can ride with anyone in the state, and can push Wakeley to his limit when on his day.
Wakeley’s usual nemesis at this race, Alex Vanias, is taking a well-deserved rest after a long XC skiing season, so there’s one less perennial power to content with. But Wakeley won’t have everything his way on Saturday. Brad White comes up north fresh off an impressive win at the Yankee Springs TT, with top five finishers from that race, Chad Wells and Scott Quiring, also lining up. With the increase in the amount of singletrack in the race, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a strong performance at Yankee Springs will correlate to a strong ride this weekend. A few other names to watch are Kyle MacDermaid and Nick Weirzba. This duo can ride singletrack with the best of them, and can threaten the top step if things play out in a certain way.
Susan Vigland took an impressive win in 2018 and is likely the top favorite in the women’s field. But this could be the year when the young guard asserts itself in the top five of the race, and could dare to step atop the podium. Emma Schwab won the Elite category at the Yankee Springs TT last weekend, and a race on more familiar terrain could be even more suited to her riding style and increase her chances of victory. The parcours suit her style immaculately, with her singletrack skills more than advanced for her age, with the climbing portions of the course serving as her area of expertise. Maddy Frank is also ripe for challenge for the honors on a course that she should be exceedingly competitive on.
Lauri Brockmiller blows hot and cold at MSB, and she’ll be looking to improve on last year’s result. But never count out the Queen Bee; this course is one of the most challenging yet, which plays into Brockmiller’s hands. Megan Doerr represents another rider who is more than capable than taking home the win, with City Bike Shop duo Christa Clark and Beth Grassa threats to the status quo at any event they contend.
A betting man would put money on Vigland to take home the win, but almost any combination of these riders could make up the top five on the results sheet and surprise no one. It should be a wide-open fight, and probably the closest category of the day.
Names to Watch
Jon and Josh Zelinski form one hell of a duo in the men’s expert 40-49 age group. These two have insane singletrack skills; if they can reduce the group getting out of the neighborhood, good luck to the rest of the field trying to catch them.
The Expert women 50 and under class is positively stacked. Look out for Jenny White, who will almost certainly threaten the podium. Chesley Schlict, Erin Reicha, and Anne Schwartz are also in incredibly good shape and should garner more than a little attention. But the name to keep an eye on for Saturday is Courtney Greening. She’s really new to the sport, but she’s taken to mountain biking faster than almost anyone out there, and she’ll be laying down a really fast time. We need to give a little love to Chelsea Lubben as well, who is certainly be up to the task of hanging with the athletes in this extremely fast category.
Ten years of mud, Sweat, and lots of beer
A full decade has come and gone since this race began, and it’s become the season kick-off race for almost everyone in northern Michigan. The race is a fundraiser for Mt. Holiday, and is run by an awesome group of tireless volunteers. We want to give a special shoutout to Short’s Brewing Company for stepping up to become the title sponsor – we can’t wait to drink to another successful race in 2019. Also, our buds at Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association designed and made the course, so thanks to all the volunteers for making this possibly the best version of the course yet.
Win a gnar. shirt
Our sponsor, Breakaway Cafe, is all about slowing down and coasting. Living a little bit, if you will. So, we came up with a giveaway for this race that Bre and her crew will love. We’re going to give away one of our of GNAR. shirts, not to the fastest, but the slowest rider on the newly-named Huma Hump segment. So go ahead, man. Just coast. We’ll check the segment after the race and let the winner know via Strava.
Oh, and Breakaway Cafe is offering 10% off your orders all day on Saturday. Located just a few miles west of Mt. Holiday on Four Mile, it’s the perfect spot to fuel up or get some recovery grub after the race. Just say “You said you’d give me 10% off if I race or watch Mud, Sweat, and Beers.” The Breakaway staff will know what that means. WINK.