Bear Claw Epic: What a Day for Bikes!

Podium? More like bro-dium.

Podium? More like bro-dium.

One of the biggest fields in the race’s five-year history showed up to sample one of the hidden gems of Michigan mountain biking in the form of the Cadillac Pathway. The Elite fields were wide open, with the competition far too even to pick a clear favorite in either the men or women’s categories. But most importantly, the G&D pizza delivery was timed perfectly for the morning racers to tuck into an early lunch. Weird transition? Probably. But I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning.

Elite Men

The men’s race was stacked with a deep field, and the race’s opening salvos quickly set the tone for a relentless race. Local boy, Jared Dunham, made the early front group, with the pace being pushed on by Hagerty young guns Garett Jenema and Max Meyer, along with Norte’s Kyan Olshove. Rob Martin, Nick Zambeck, and Josh Zelinski were with the previously mentioned quartet of young people to keep the pace high and the median age of the front group able to buy beer.

To no one’s surprise, Alec Shau had also made the early selection and coaxed the lead group on after the halfway point of the race. With very little lapped traffic and the course in its fastest conditions, there was simply no slowing down a front group that seemed to only build momentum.

It came down to a sprint finish, with Garrett Jenema taking the win by a tire tread. Kyan Olshove took an incredible third place, confirming his transition to Elite field contender at any race he lines up at.

Kolo TC’s best finisher was Dan Ellis with an incredible 10th place finish. Way to represent, Danny boy.

Elite Women

Some of life’s best decisions come in an impulsive form, as was the case with Courtney Greening’s decision to bump up to the Elite category the morning of the race. Greening has all the horsepower and bike skills to hang with the best, but needed a little coaxing (peer pressure) from BFF/co-worker/life-coach Craig Fortuna. To say the move to Elite paid off would be an understatement.

Lined up against a small but exceptionally fast Elite class consisting of local legends Susan Vigland and Laura Webb, Courtney wasn’t dipping her toes it. She was diving headfirst. The first few laps of the race were a cagey stalemate, with the top three getting away from a tirelessly chasing Aime Elvie. It was only on the last lap that Vigland and Webb were able to distance Greening, with Webb taking a well-earned win in one of the most exciting races of the day.

Notable Rides

Kolo t.c. rider Craig Fortuna returned to racing after a hiatus of nearly two years to claim third in the Expert singlespeed class. Tuna had been hamstrung by concussion symptoms, but his recovery is seemingly complete. It was great to see one of the nicest dudes on two wheels back to pedaling in anger.

Melissa Ryba, also of kolo t.c., rocked the Intermediate class in a return to racing after a summer of preparing to send a son off to college. She then raced home after her podium finish to get her daughter ready for homecoming. Busy wouldn’t cover the half of it.

After a summer spent on skinny tires, Nick Zambeck figured out how to ride flat bars to excellent effect with a fifth place in the elite race. Good job, Nick. We like watching you ride mountain bikes.

We have to give a shout out to the Sisters in Singletrack for awesome rides, too. They had a big group of girls out on the trails, and they’ve improved so much even since last year. Keep up the great work, ladies!

Thank You!

Lastly, what can we say about the Bear Claw Epic that hundreds of happy races haven’t already said? Dustin and Michelle have created one of the most well-run and community-focused events in the state. They’re hard work, all to benefit the Cadillac Pathway, is simply incredible. Another huge thank you goes to the Cadillac community. The race has a small army of volunteers who bring so much energy and enthusiasm; their role really sets the race apart from any other. Also, a huge thank you to all of the sponsors of the race who help to keep the costs of putting on the race to a minimum so that all of our entry fees go right back to the trails. From everyone who rides in the woods, thank you for your support.

You can catch all the results from the race on the Endurance Evolution Timing page.

If you want to see what it takes to get 12th in Elite, check out my race on Strava.

We have pictures from the race here.

Wes Sovis