Cyclocross Action Returns to Copper Harbor
September 29, 2011
race | cyclocross
Fast-paced cyclocross action returns to the Keweenaw October 19&20. The sixth annual Keweenaw Cup, organized by Houghton's Red Jacket Cycling Team with support from the Copper Harbor Trails Club, will see as many as 100 racers lining up for two days of racing: Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Downtown Hoedown in downtown Copper Harbor, and Sunday, Oct. 20, in the Top of the World Smackdown at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor. Weekend champions in each of five classes will be awarded the illustrious Keweenaw Cup.
The races are open to everyone of all ages and all abilities on any kind of bike. No experience required! Typically 30 minutes to one hour in duration, cyclocross events are timed races held on short courses (1 – 1.5 miles) and feature surfaces ranging from pavement and dirt roads to singletrack and grass. Obstacles, which include everything from wooden barriers, logs, sand pits, mud bogs, and unrideable hills, add to the challenge — and make mounting and dismounting an integral part of the race. Scheduled for mid-October, anything is possible in the Keweenaw with respect to the weather — and the race will go on regardless of what it decides to do.
Though cyclocross races are typically contested on what are essentially modified road bikes with knobby tires and cantilever brakes, any type of bike will work and is welcome. In fact, given the torturous terrain found on the Keweenaw, mountain bikes have proven to be the bike of choice among many racers.
Though it may sound intimidating to the uninitiated, the festival-like atmosphere that surrounds every cyclocross race — with clamoring cowbells and cheering spectators — make it a unique sporting event and, for many, the highlight of the cycling season. The short courses ensure that there are nearly always racers in sight for spectators, and that the cyclists are never out of earshot of an encouraging word.
The $20 entry fee for Saturday's afternoon race includes a pasta dinner at the Mariner North and music to follow at Zik's by Frank and da Beans. Dinner tickets will be available at the Mariner North on Saturday for non-racers. Entry for Sunday's race is $10.
Proceeds from the weekend's events will benefit the Copper Harbor Trails Club.
The Keweenaw Cup will mark the fourth weekend of racing in this year's UPCROSS Points Series, a 7-race series of cyclocross events organized by Marquette's KMK Cycling Club and the Copper Country's Red Jacket Cycling Team and the Range Mountain Bike Club of Ishpeming. The series attracts racers each week from across Michigan, Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota from late September through mid-November.
Further details on the Keweenaw Cup at www.keweenawcup.com
Further details on the UPCROSS points series at www.upcross.net
Questions? E-mail Chris Schmidt – email@example.com
Anderson Claims Ronde van Skandia in Ace Sweep
September 15, 2013
The U.P. road racing season drew to a close this weekend with the annual running of the Ronde van Skandia. Traditionally the opener to the spring classics season, the race was postponed from its mid-April slot due to a severe, late-season snowstorm. Fortunately for all, the mid-September date bestowed moderate temperatures and sunshine on the peloton, a welcome change from the cold and blustery weather usually encountered in the Ronde.
Most of the usual suspects once again gathered at the Cycling Haus in Skandia for the pre-race festivities. There were, however, several notable absences: the start of bird season, the Cheq 40, and work obligations among the excuses used to dodge the inventible pain and suffering that comes with the Ronde. Nevertheless, there was considerable talent on hand for the race. Chocolay Ace Director Sportif Tom Mahaney was rumored to be in top form and ready to strike. His lieutenants Paul Johnston (defending champion), Derek Anderson (past winner), Mik Kilpela, and Steve Kuhl would sacrifice personal glory for their team leader. Blackrocks was also on hand with several contenders: Topher Chase, Brian Geshel, and first-time Ronde rider Jonathan Harbin. Michigan Tech’s C4 cycling team was present with a trio, including Bill Thomas and Dalton Guggemos. Also making the trip from the Keweenaw were a pair of Red Jackets, Chris Schmidt (runner up in 2012) and Bruce Pletka. The Zueger brothers, racing for D3Devo were expected to be a dominant force in the day’s action. Tyler Jenema, coming off an outstanding mountain bike season, would be closely watched by the Ace riders, as would a number of unknown factors, such as Jamie Smith, who had made long the trip to Marquette from below the Bridge.
Following the leisurely, 20-mile rollout, riders tossed their cold weather gear to the legions of fans who had gathered and prepared themselves for battle. If past editions of the race were any indicator, the attacks would come fast and furious as soon as the starting gun sounded and the neutral pace vehicles pulled away from the field. And so it was in the 2013 contest. No sooner had the race director signaled the start did Ace launch its first attack. Derek Anderson flexed his legs with a move off the front. Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt gave chase, though the pair was soon swallowed by the hungry field, not yet willing concede the race to an Ace rider. Topher Chase (Blackrocks) made the next move. Ace, aware of his danger, allowed him to gain only a minute on the field, keeping him within reach. Surreptitiously, Tom Mahaney rolled off the front and slowly drifted toward Chase. The elder statesman of the field, there was no immediate concern that Mahaney could pose a threat. Yet had the younger racers learned nothing of 41-year-old Chris Horner’s performance in this year’s Vuelta?
Approaching the first serious test of the day, a three-mile dirt climb on loose gravel, the field watched in surprise as Topher Chase turned off course, effectively changing the race dynamics. Would the field wait for Chase to realize his mistake and give him opportunity to regain contact?
The field crested the initial climb largely intact and with only Mahaney off the front. Not until Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt made a move to close to the narrow gap to the leader was the status quo broken. Still, the peloton did not respond. The leading duo conversed at a leisurely pace for the remaining three miles of the initial dirt secteur and, to their suprise, opened a considerable lead. With the field all but out of sight, the leaders decided that either the Ace squad was doing its job and slowing the pace or the Blackrocks riders were doing the same in hopes that Chase would rejoin the party. In any event, opportunity was knocking and the pair put their heads down for what was destined to be a painful afternoon of bicycle racing.
Well matched, the duo alternated turns at the front, breaking the relentless south wind for some 45 miles. Only on the longest of straightaways was there ever a sign of the poursuivants. For Mahaney and Schmidt, the only hope that their break might succeed was if the Ace squad could shut down any attacks from behind. Efforts were made, including serious digs by Logan Zueger, Dalton Guggemos, Jenema and Geshel. The watchful eye of Ace riders Anderson, Kilpela and Kuhl ensured that Mahaney's spot in the break was never endangered.
Climbing the sinuous Engman Lake road, the leaders knew that the wind was playing in their favor. Just one more significant climb, the imposing Mur de Sporely, and a strong southwest wind would blow them all the way to the finish line. As Mahaney and Schmidt cleared the summit and traversed the fan-lined, narrow streets of the K.I. Sawyer Air Base, they prepared for what is so often the deciding element of the Ronde: the Mur. A two mile climb over soft sand and dirt. An incorrect choice of line or failed shift can bring even the strongest rider to a stop. The soft sand makes standing on the steep ramps all but impossible as is restarting once bogged down in the quagmire of shattered dreams that litter the forgotten two-track in the Skandia hinterlands. The duo entered the climb togethe with a gentlemen’s agreement to ride it out together to the end. Midway up, however, Schmidt noticed that the now familiar echo of Mahaney’s well-oiled chain had fainted into the distance. Realizing he had inadvertently (he claims) opened a gap, Schmidt decided to push on and finish the business he hadn’t been able to complete in 2012. Cresting the summit to the chirps of crickets and rustling of leaves, he exited the dirt with no one in sight.
Further back, however, the tides were turning. Ace riders Derek Anderson and Paul Johnston had tested the legs of the peloton and quickly separated themselves from a now-discouraged field. Deciding to assess the situation further up the road, they pressed on with the intent of delivering their team leader, Mahaney, to victory. As they neared the summit, they caught a glimpse of red, though could not be certain if it was the red of Schmidt or of Mahaney. Closing in, they realized it was their D.S., which could only mean that the Ace stranglehold on the Ronde title was in dire risk of being lost.
With Mahaney in tow, the pair began the arduous task of removing Schmidt from the head of the race, by whatever means necessary. With less than five miles of road, a 1:30 advantage and a screaming headwind, they had their work cut out for them.
Schmidt, looking over his shoulder in the final miles of the race, could see the writing on the wall. Though the end was so close, he could feel the trio riders in the red and black of the Ace team closing in. Leg tiring and water bottles nearly empty, Schmidt opted to save what energy he had and ride out the remainder of the race with his three rivals and take his slim chances in a sprint.
Prepared for the Ace tactics, the Red Jacket rider sprinted all out as the trio bore upon him in an effort to dispatch him from the lead with no chance of recovery. Burning one his final matches, Schmidt held on for dear life and prepared for the attacks that were sure to follow. And they did. As the quartet crested the final rises before the treacherous, washboard descent towards the finish, Johnston and Anderson took turns accelerating until Schmidt could no longer follow. Anderson reached the bottom of the descent first with a 15 second gap and had a wide open path to his second Ronde win. Behind him, the trio played cat and mouse and battled it out for the remaining spots on the podium. With 200m to go, Johnston opened up the sprint, weaving across the road and turning the final 200m into 400m. With 100m to go, Mahaney came around Schmidt for third, securing another Ace sweep of the Ronde. First-time rider Dalton Guggemos (C4/Michigan Tech) took the field sprint for fifth.
Another Ronde is in the books and the Ace hold on the title continues. Spring will be upon us soon, however. Perhaps 2014 will be the year that Ace falters.
Thanks to Tom and Mary Mahaney for once again hosting the highlight of the U.P. race season.
Contents of the Blackrocks water bottles were deemed suspicious by race officials. Though results have not yet been returned, initial sampling reveals heavy concentrations of 51K IPA. 200SF fine waived pending delivery of further samples for testing.
IMBA Trail Care Crew Coming to Houghton Aug. 3 & 4
July 29, 2013
Author: Lori Hauswirth
This week the Houghton area will welcome the Subaru/International Mountain Bicycling Association Trail Care Crew to town. The visit is hosted by the Copper Harbor Trails Club and includes the following public educational events: Friday, Land Manager Training (Nara Nature Park Building @ 10 am) and Club Care Workshop (Swedetown @ 7:30 pm), and on Saturday and Sunday, the renowned Trail Building School (Nara Nature Building/Michigan Tech Trails). There are also a number of social events that are open to the public including the Copper Harbor Thursday night ride, social ride at Swedetown on Friday before the Club Care Workshop and a casual gathering at the Keweenaw Brewing Company on Saturday evening.
Register and see the complete schedule of events here: www.imba.com/civicrm/event/info?id=326&reset=1
MTU Ronde August 24
July 18, 2013
Author: Joe Haggenmiller
mountain | race
Michigan Tech athletics is pleased to announce the date (August 24, 2013) for the 4th annual Michigan Tech MTB Rondevous. The Rondevous is 1 or 2 lap mountain bike race around the Michigan Tech trail system.
“Rondevous” is a play of the Dutch word for lap – “ronde” and the word “rendezvous” - a traditional celebration of the French fur trappers. The “Ronde” is also a monumental European bike race in the Flanders region, notable for requiring very strong riding to win. The Rondevous race is a celebration of challenging MTB riding. (Also note, the Michigan Tech Winter MTB Rondevous will take place Saturday, February 1, 2014, mark your winter calendars as well.)
The Race will take place Saturday, August, 24, 2013, 12:00pm Start at theTech Trails (off Sharon Ave, across from Sherman Field in Houghton, on the Michigan Tech campus).
All proceeds benefit the Michigan Tech Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Nordic Ski Teams.
Matter, Kylander-Johnson Take 2013 Chain Drive
June 18, 2013
mountain | race
Nearly three hundred racers from across the Midwest poured into the Keweenaw this weekend for the 19th annual Chain Drive Festival and opening of the U.P. mountain bike race season. Competing over distances of 16 and 30 miles, the race always proves to be a true test of skill and endurance, with technical singletrack giving skilled riders an opportunity to shine and wide open sections of two-track a chance for roadies to try and limit the damage.
Thanks to the tireless work of event organizers, the trail was in nearly perfect shape. Just a week before the event, pumps had been dispatched to water-saturated sections of the course to drain puddles and new sections of singletrack laid down to bypass recent logging operations. Mother nature came to the rescue as well with a few sunny days to dry up all but a few mud holes.
An early-morning shower on race day left bridges treachuerous and root- and rock-covered sections unpredictable, however. Even so, racers reported near-ideal conditions.
Taking his fourth Chain Drive title in as many years in the 30-mile race was Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Jorden Wakely of Grayling, Michigan, competing in his first Chain Drive, notched second place, outpacing Ishpeming rider Tyler Gauthier in the final miles. Chris Peariso, no stranger to Keweenaw racing, took fourth ahead of 17-year-old Pete Karinen of Painesdale.
Among the women, it was Sara Kylander-Johnson who once again climbed to the top of the podium in the long race. With perhaps more first place finishes than any other Chain Drive racer past or present, the Duluth-based racer was able to separate herself from up-and-coming pro Cooper Dendel of Marquette. Finishing third was former champion Diana McFadden of Duluth.
How it Happened:
A select group of five formed in the early miles of the race: eventual winner Brian Matter along with Jorden Wakely, Tyler Gauthier, Chris Peariso and Pete Karinen. As the quintet exited the first long section of singletrack some six miles in, they had already put close to a minute into a determined group of chasers which included a number of powerhouses, including Todd McFadden, Scott Kylander-Johnson, Mike Bushey, Aaron Swanson and Tom Carpenter.
Coming out of Drunken Sailor, the outer-most section of the race, the leaders eased up on the pedals to refuel. Led by Border Grill rider Tyler Gauthier as they crossed Lake Annie field, the racers prepared for the battle that was about to begin in earnest. At the midpoint of the race, a relentless series of climbs and technical descents awaited. Brian Matter, well acquainted with the course, moved to the front as the group of five exited the Christenson Road trailhead. Cresting the first climb less than a mile later, he had only Gauthier in tow, with Jorden Wakely digging deep to get back on. Down for the count were Chris Peariso and Pete Kerinen. By the time they leaders descended and reached the top of the next climb, Wakely had rejoined the pair at the front. Peariso and Karinen, hoping the leaders to relax, pushed the pace as best they could. Though they would never close the gap to the leaders, they came within a minute of them with as little as five miles to go.
Aware of the danger behind them, the leading trio pushed a high pace, Matter making his compatriots suffer time and again. The group crossed Swedetown Creek together with just three miles to go. The long, gradual climb to the finish left nowhere to hide, however, and Matter was able dig deeper than others, finishing half a minute ahead of World Snow Bike Champion Jorden Wakely and more than a minute faster than Gauthier. Peariso and Karinen finished just fifteen seconds apart, nearly three minutes down on the winner.
For Karinen it marked a coming of age. Holding his own in one of his first races among the elite men, Kerinen looked strong to the finish and will be a threat for many years to come - in the Keweenaw and beyond.
Among the women,
Sara Kylander-Johnson and Cooper Dendel went mano-a-mano right from the gun. Riding nearly pedal stroke for pedal stroke for the majority of the race, the younger Dendel faltered in the closing miles as the more experienced Kylander-Johnson turned the screws when it mattered most. Though she trailed by just a handful of seconds as the pair crossed Swedetown creek for the first time with five to go, Dendel lost over minute after riding the punishing hills that laced one of the final sections of technical trail. After making the river crossing by foot, Kylander-Johnson took no chances and drove a solid pace to the finish, taking a second minute out of Dendel. Finishing third was another former CD champion, Diana McFadden. Andrea Matter of Sheboygan took fourth place finish and Nicole Alexander of Marquette claimed fifth.
The Chain Drive will be back next year the Saturday before Father's Day. Check out chaindrive.org for the latest information on the race.
Full results at: itiming.com
Race photos: xmatic @ flicker.com and brockit.com
Gauthier, Alexander Claim La Fleche du Nord Titles
May 14, 2013
road | race
Claiming his second victory in the prestigious La Fleche du Nord this weekend was Tyler Gauthier of Ishpeming. Riding for the upstart Border Grill / Quickstop Bike squad of Marquette, Gauthier was able to outpace 2012 champion Paul Johnston (Chocolay Ace) in a three-man sprint on the edge of Copper Harbor. Ryan Tervo (Dorfblick Training Center / Flyer Cycles), saved the Keweenaw’s honor with a strong third place finish.
On the women’s side, it was Nicole Alexander of the Chocolay Ace squad who continued her dominance at the queen of the U.P. classics. Finishing second in her first LFdN was fellow Ace rider Christina Bennett. Third place was awarded to Adina Christian of Marquette.
How it Happened:
On hand for the third edition La Fleche du Nord were over forty elite cyclists from across the Midwest, many of whom braved driving snow and gale-force winds en route to the race. Fortunately, the morning snow squalls had been blown eastward by a strong west wind and gave way to intermittent sunshine by race time. Temperatures, as they have been throughout the classics season in both Europe and the U.P., remained frigid.
With much of the Keweenaw still encased in a covering of snow and ice, race officials had been forced to make considerable modifications to the traditional course earlier in the week, eliminating the mountain-top finish on Brockway Mountain as well as two of the more challenging dirt secteurs: Garden City Road and the Delaware Crosscut, both of which were still under two feet of snow on race day. Nevertheless, race directors dug deep to find roads that were worthy of a classic. The Gratiot River Park secteur included sections of dirt, sand, running water, gravel and snow. Though short in length, the section packed 50 miles of heartache into two short miles and would see more than one rider lose time to a mechanical.
All of the U.P ProTeams were represented: Border Grill, with the bookmakers’ favorite Tyler Gauthier and teammates Danny Hill and Brad Jalonen; Chocolay Ace with the 2012 winner Paul Johnston and teammates Colby Lash, Steve Kuhl, Andy Stevens, Matt Colligan, Dave Grant, Mik Kilpela and peloton patron and Ace D.S. Tom Maheney. The Ace roster also included two of the favorites for the women’s race: two-time champion Nicole Alexander and Christina Bennett. The Red Jacket Cycling Team and LFdN host team was represented by cx standout Kit Cischke, past Ronde van Skandia podium finisher Chris Schmidt, and a well-trained Steve Webber. Though they brought only one rider to the race, Dorfblick Training Center / Flyer Cycles was always a threat, particularly if that one rider was Ryan Tervo. And it was. Leading the Machine Star Factory Team was dark horse Logan Zueger along with father Karl and his younger brother. There were also a number of other riders capable of inflicting pain: Keweenaw native Sam Kilpela, in particular, was a wildcard.
After exchanging pleasantries and fueling up on vitamin B(acon) at the Suomi, the peloton slipped out of the sleeping burgh of Houghton without fanfare. The town, having been emptied of students a week ago, had been transformed into a ghost town. Streets were vacant, sidewalks void of spectators. Had it not been for the whistling wind through the wrought metal grating of the city’s bridge, there would have been no sound at all as the riders embarked on their 70-mile excursion into the deepest bowels of hell.
Though all aspired to victory as the peloton searched for its legs and the embrocation began to work its magic in the early miles of the contest, there could be but one champion. Like an obscene Rube Goldberg contraption, with cyclists as the centerpiece, there was no stopping the inevitable, cataclysmic course of events that would lead the riders to the finish. Destiny, fate and luck would all play a role for each of the competitors along the hazard-ridden parcours. It would be the rider who cleared the dirt secteurs without puncture, who could both feign and endure pain, and who had the extra dose of speed, power and endurance when it mattered who would be the victor.
Cresting the end of the first dirt section and the end of the neutral zone, most of the riders made the customary stop to remove extra layers of clothing, burrow into back pockets for packets of energy – in numerous forms. Unaware of what was happening behind them, however, a few riders carried on past the designated stopping point and on towards the finish. Those who had stopped were equally unaware that riders had carried on. It was not until the group resumed the race that it became apparent that racers were missing. It was fuel on the fire, and the main group set off in chase.
The offical support vehicle was informed of the transgression via race radio and motored up the road in search of the missing riders. The duo of Matt Colligan and Logan Zueger were eventually found, and they were requested to wait for the peloton. The strong northwest wind that bore upon the pair on the exposed Lake Superior shoreline, however, drove them to continue onward to the finish line. In a decision reminiscent of the 2008 Paris Roubaix, which saw Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan, and Juan Antonio Flecha relegated for having failed to stop at a railway crossing, LFdN commissaires were similarly forced to relegate the renegade riders, though the decision was not an easy one: fellow racers, spectators, friends and family had waited with anticipation to see how the young Logan Zueger would fare against the top cyclists in the U.P.
Reports gathered from undisclosed sources indicate, however, that the U.P.’s aging peloton is for a lashing when Zueger finally gets his chance. Matt Colligan (Ace), in top form following a week of intense training in the North Carolina mountains, was reported to have faltered numerous times as Zueger effortlessly pedaled up the Keweenaw’s countless ramps. Not yet willing to crush his mentor’s spirit, Zueger repeatedly fell back and coaxed the aging rider on. At the finish line in Copper Harbor, Colligan was spared the agony of finishing second to a rider one third his age by an unfortunate mis-shift suffered by Logan on the final rise before the finish. Riders of the U.P. be warned: the tables will soon be turning.
Though unaware that they would be racing for the win, the peloton was burning up the miles further down the Keweenaw in search of the apparent leaders. A number of other riders who had neglected to stop following the neutral rollout were gradually reeled in and again ejected out the rear.
The dirt secteurs claimed their victims as well, with Black Rocks favorite Brian Geshel losing a chance to lay claim to the title with a puncture. Tyler Gauthier lost one of his key lieutenants, Danny Hill, who suffered a pair of flats.
Eventually, an elite group formed at the front, with Tyler Gauthier, Paul Johnston, Ryan Tervo, and Colby Lash leading the way. In the end, Gauthier outpaced Johnston for the win. Tervo fended off the advances made by Colby Lash and held on for third.
Not long after the remnants of the men’s peloton crossed the finish line, Nicole Alexander (Ace) finished as the first woman. Christina Bennett and Adina Christian followed shortly thereafter.
Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time to help make the race happen and to the Bike Shop and Mariner for hosting us at the start and finish. Thank you as well to everyone who came out to race!
Photos: thanks to Adam Grififs
Copper Country Color Tour!
Sept. 6, 2012
Well into its fourth decade, the Copper Country Cycling Tour is an institution. Rides of 50k, 100k and 200k showcase some of the Kewenaw's finest scenery. And, if Mother Nature plays along, some of the best fall colors anywhere. Details on the C4 site.
March 1, 2011
A lonely peninsula jutting into Lake Superior at the northern tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Keweenaw isn't a place one passes through by accident. You need to want to come here. And if you ride a bike – road or mountain – this is a place worth wanting to get to. Hundreds of miles of low-traffic roads, six top-notch mtb trail systems, endless water and temperate climes, it's worth discovering if you haven't already checked it out.