To all those naysayers that say that Copper Harbor is too far to drive for mountain biking is crazy. It is only a 10 hour drive to some world class trails that are in my opinion better than many of the trails in North Carolina! Toss in the Marquette trails on the way up to split up the drive time and you have a vacation in the making.
We (Jeff, Earl, Brad, Paul, Matt, Rick) loaded up the Michigan Coast Riders van early Thursday morning and made the trip to Marquette. We arrived in plenty of time go go for a ride with the guys from Lakeshore Bike Shop. The South Trails were a blast and far exceeded my expectations. The last time I was up there I wasn’t that impressed but some locals have taken the trail system seriously and began mapping and marking everything very well. You can also tell they know how to build sustainable trails now. Very cool.
The next day we arrived in Copper Harbor after about 4 hours of driving. We checked into our cabin and then rode some of the trails for a few hours. Wow! More awesome singletrack and unbelievable cedar bridge/boardwalk work in many places. Copper has so many rocky areas that they need these boardwalks to crest some of the climbs and span some of the swamps. One in particular has a corkscrew effect, see below.
On Saturday Jeff, Earl and Brad wanted to do the Super D race, a time trial format down the “Flow” trail which is 2.65 miles of downhill banked turns and whoop de do’s. Jeff and Earl tied for 8th after it was all said and done! How the hell does that happen? Brad place very well in his age division as well. Later that day we all enjoyed some more riding but Brad broke a shifter and Paul pulled a muscle in his back. Unfortunately that took both of them out of the XC race on Sunday. After riding for 3 days in a row I had determined I was just up there for the riding and could care less about “saving” myself for the race.
The race on Sunday started at 2 pm and made for a very strange start to the day, being a lazy morning person, it suited me just fine. We had pasta for brunch and hit the town about 1pm. It was a steady drizzle for most of Saturday night and early Sunday morning but by 2 pm we just had cloudy skies and temps in the 60’s. Perfect weather for racing!
Results came in while we drank our generous team beer supply. Earl, 3rd of 16 in his class, Jeff was 12 of 27, Rick placed 9th of 14 and Matt took 16 in the same class as Jeff. The 27 mile course was the best I have ever raced on. The course would best be described as a mountain bike trail, that may sound funny but considering the courses we have under the bridge I would call most of them road races on dirt. You need skills for this one!
I really recommend everyone check this area out. With Marquette, Copper, Swede Trails, Mich Tech trails you can be busy for a week. And for the race itself, that was top notch too. The locals know how to have a party! Plan you trip north now and tell Sam and Aaron I sent you.
I completed the Shenendoah 100 mountainbike race Sunday-making that my
fifth race in the National Ultra Endurance Series (having completed
Cohutta, Lumberjack, Wilderness and Fool’s Gold).
The race was as grueling and tough as I remember in 2010. While I was
not able to break the 12 hour mark (again) I was able to take 4
minutes off my time with an unofficial finish of 12:14. We also lucked
out with the weather. It didn’t rain on race day but the area did have
some rain the day before. It subsequently rained the night after the
race concluded as well. Race day was 90-92 degrees and humid.
The first climb wasn’t as tough as I remembered and I rode to keep my
average speed at about 5mph at least, sometimes 6mph. The second peak
on the elevation was tougher and steeper as you can see from image
above, but I made steady progress.
The toughest section, actually, was the peak shown approximately mile
50. This was the longest walking section and really ate into my time.
This section has long rocky stretches difficult to ride. This was more
difficult with the wet rocks and roots from Saturday’s rain.
Fortunately no part of the trail was too soaked, with only a few muddy
sections. This section of the trail also included a very steep narrow
singletrack. It was so steep that if you didn’t keep momentum you
ended up walking long sections. Even when riding, if you didn’t go at
least 4mph, your front wheel would wander and the narrow benchcut had
a soft outside berm and the tire would go in to it and you’d stall…
and be walking. At one point there was a line of riders hiking the
bikes up the hill like convicts on a chain gang. Finally, we reached
the peak and began the pounding, jarring downhill.
Probably the worst point was the last descent on the BIG climb after
mile 80. Jarring pounding rocky rooty downwhill and you are braking to
keep your speed under 20mph for safety. Brake pads and rotors heat up
so much you can’t touch them. Part of the way down I hear an odd “ting
ting ting ting” sound. What the hecks? Broken spoke? I had to pull
over and check- no spokes. Then I noticed it- My caliper for the front
brake was coming OFF the fork! WHAT!? If you know Lefty fronts, the
caliper needs to be loosened and removed to take off a tire. You then
re-install it and tighten two bolts to hold the caliper onto the fork
to engage the rotor. Well, one of the bolts had loosened and the
caliper had rotated off the fork and nearly off the rotor to where I
only had partial engagement. Since it was loose, the caliper was
flopping a bit side to side resulting in the odd sound that alerted
me. I pulled my tools and re-installed the caliper and seriously
tightened the caliper. WOW- had the whole caliper become loose it
would have likely swung into the spokes and “endo’d” me on this ugly
downhill. Serious injury avoided.
(Side note- when I finished, Joni told me Michigan racer Mike Simonson
had a bad crash while holding a third place spot on the course and was
taken to hospital by helicopter- Facebook updates indicate he’s okay
but still in hospital. Michigan racer Christian Tanguey took first
place at the race and for the Men’s Open in the NUE series).
Until about mile 45 I was holding nearly a 10mph average and hopes of
beating the 12 hour mark. But after completing the steep peak and
downhill after that I’d lost quite a bit of time. There was a respite
with a long steady climb up again on the last peak. I really wanted to
beat last year’s time so I rode harder than I did last year, I think
and kept trying to keep the MPH up on the incline. In the end I
reached the last checkpoint at mile 88 with 12 miles to go at 530pm.
As I rode out on the paved section after the aid station I knew I
would not make the 12 hour mark because there was no way I could
average 12mph that last section given the couple of steep climbs still
yet ahead. The little hump at mile 92 is in the woods with the last
portion so steep it’s a walking section. (We actually do this climb
earlier in the race at about mile 12, and it’s rideable, but tough,
then with fresh legs. But with 90 miles on your legs, everyone around
me was walking).
Almost home- the downhill floats onto the two track cutting around the
mountain. I was actually catching and passing a few riders the last
five miles as we climbed the two track. This two track eventually
peaks and becomes a shallow descent which really gives me a break.
Small breaks and my legs can motor on so I again did a short climb
past a couple more riders, turned left onto the single track which
swoops down about 1-1/2 mile through taped lanes into the campground
and around a large field to the finish!
As of last week and all but this Shenendoah race on the NUE standings,
I am in 9th place, last place of racers that did at least the four
qualifying events. Depending on my finish here at Shenendoah (which I
guess is 16th or 17th) I will have more points since my worst of five
will be dropped. But whether it’s enough to move me up to 8th place
remains to be seen as I don’t know if the current 8th place rider
raced Sunday and if so in what position he finished.
It’s been a big BIG season for me concentrating on these five events.
I will do Pando on Sept 28 and then Iceman in November to complete my
mountain bike season which I consider highly successful!