Finally, Traverse City is back to racing. Hope springs eternal and few events allow riders to hope like MSB.
Now in its 12th edition and coming off two tumultuous years due to COVID-19, Mud, Sweat and Beers is back to normal operating protocol. Back to its traditional spring date, we’ve been treated to the traditional agony of waiting for decent weather and certainly hoping for comfortable, if seasonal, temperatures on race day.
To that end, racers get an ‘extra’ week to prepare thanks to the first Saturday of May coming a full 7 days into the month. For anyone short of outside-ride time (raises hand) that extra preparation time is certainly appreciated.
The MSB Course: Two Finish Lines
The 2022 Mud, Sweat and Beers course is the same as 2021 but in reverse. That offers up a few curveballs, with some of the segments offering very different challenges. As NMMBA noted last week, climbing Toms Cruise Up, Up and Away! Is a very different proposition than flying down it. Combine that with its early position in the race this year and it becomes one of the most important sections for racers to look at next Saturday.
Getting to that important section of singletrack, however, is wide open. After the familiar hurdle of Huma Hill and the dash on pavement through the Holidays Hills neighborhood, there is still plenty of fast riding. While some sections are tight and essentially rule out passing, much of it is on pathway or two-track.
Tactically, the 2022 Mud, Sweat and Beers is the same we’ve seen year after year; the first finish line is the entrance to the longest section of singletrack. The second finish line is the real one at Mt. Holiday. Who you enter the woods with is almost certainly who you’ll spend the rest of the morning with; make it fast company.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of both Elite fields is the youth. That’s even more pronounced on the women’s side with Abby Jean, Emma Schwab, and Gwen Urbain all under 23. It’s a deep field with past winners Bridgett Widrig and Lauri Brockmiller confirmed, plus Courtney Greening and some important talent, too. Bethany Abeli, Tory Cane, and Heather Compton round out a strong field.
It’s tough to underscore the importance Huma Hill for the women and those who have raced here before know that the gaps opened on the climb and in the neighborhood are very tough to erase, even with exceptional singletrack skills.
Aside from race favorite and multiple-winner Jorden Wakeley, this is very much a battle of the kindergarteners. It is truly a reflection on the bright future of Michigan cycling that riders like Garrett Jenema and Max Meyer (fresh off the Belgian Waffle Ride) are the ‘old hands’ at just 21 years old. They’re joined on the line by Drew Cummins and Hunter Post, making it a real possibility that a substantial portion of the Elite podium in both races won’t be able to partake in the ceremonial sip of Short’s.
It’s too soon to count out some of the senior citizens, though. Also coming off Belgian Waffle Ride, Sean Kickbush will be tough to beat and should be in touch with Wakeley and the rest on the pavement. Dan Kannegieter, Scott Quiring, and Jeff Koch have all proven themselves more than capable of winning this race in the past and won’t need much help to be in the mix.
Keep your eye on Allen McLain, as well. He’s put in a ton of work over the winter and has had MSB circled in his diary for months.
There’s also the exciting Battle of the Bike Shop Owners. Brad White (Velo City Cycles), Nick Wierzba (Suttons Bay Bikes) and Andy Weir (Brick Wheels) are all registered for the Elite race and will likely be on the line discussing product availability, profit margins, and negotiated day rental price like members of OPEC.
If you’re in town, grab your packet Friday afternoon from Mt. Holiday and make life a little easier for the race organizers (and yourself). While there is plenty of parking, consider riding up to the race if you live nearby.
More race info is on the site and will be emailed to participants later this week.
Check back for a MSB race recap by May 8, or sign up for our weekly “Off The Back” email to get caught up on local and WorldTour race results, product reviews, and other, you know, stuff. We’ve also got more events on the horizon.
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